Friday, September 18, 2009

Girls In White Dresses

I was sharing some of my writing dreams with a friend earlier this year, in particular my desire to write in the historical romance genre. My friend, obviously not the biggest fan of historical fiction (yet), made this comment.

"Do you mean those books with the ladies in long dresses on the cover?"

Ah yep. Those ones.

I must admit there are a lot of book covers right now that look alike. Corseted ladies abound, in their bustles and bodices, beckoning from the shelves to readers who might be tempted to, "judge a book by its cover."

But what about the inside?

Christy award winner 
Deeanne Gist's latest novel,
A Bride in the Bargain
(Bethany House) takes the reader to Seattle in the 1860s, where frills and frocks were as insufficient in number as the women who wore them. Joe Denton, the poster boy for lumberjacks, is watching his land and livelihood slip away from him in a legal tangle. The only solution to his problems is to find a wife and comply with the laws regarding land ownership. It seems the purchase and delivery of a bride is the simplest answer.

When Anna Ivey arrives on a ship of brides-to-be, Joe's troubles intensify. Believing she has been hired as his cook, Anna is stunned to discover Joe has other plans for her. But the task of convincing a reluctant bride to wed becomes an undertaking more challenging than the tree felling Joe normally breezes through. Can he persuade Anna in time to secure his land? Will Anna agree to marry without love?

Deeanne Gist writes about this dilemma so well. The dialogue and romantic energy are delicious in both humor and drama. There are layers to this story which peel back to reveal the false notions under which people labor and struggle. Blame, guilt and punishment are strong motivators and Gist tells the tale of yesterday's mistakes, standing in the way of freedom and peace.

I loved A Bride in the Bargain. I could've read it in one greedy sitting. Instead I made my way through it slowly with the eyes of a reader and those of a writer as well. I re-read passages which painted scenes in beautiful detail with the greatest of word economies. I became lost in the story as well as mesmerized by the craft of writing.

This was my first Deeanne Gist novel and I am sorry it ended when it did. Good thing there are more books with tea gowns on the covers and Deeanne Gist's name on them. And this one came with the generous admission, that the 'cover-girl' is none other then Deeanne's daughter!