Nov 26, 2012

Short-straw Bride, by Karen Witemeyer

If you think of the typical fairy tale, what comes to your mind?  Well, in my version, there’s always a damsel in distress that falls in love with the strong, handsome fellow, the one she hopes will sweep her off her feet one day – their wedding day. Short-straw bride has all that, along with boots covered in mud, horses swiftly galloping to the rescue and even “Indians.” The only difference is that fairy tales generally end in a wedding, but this novel has one at the beginning.

Meredith first meets Travis when a bully throws her lunch pail in his land – the forbidden Archer Land, dutifully and fiercely guarded by the four orphaned Archer brothers. Her leg gets caught in one of Travis’s traps, and injures her leg in such a way that even its natural growth is hindered.  However, that day is when Travis becomes her first love (Maybe first crush?), and she never stops daydreaming about him.  Some years later, after Meredith has been sent a way with her uncle, she overhears a plan to take over Archer Land.  Meredith feels it’s her duty to warn the brothers about the tragedy about to fall on them, and she ends up spending the night at the Archer’s cabin.  With her reputation soiled, one of the brothers is forced to marry her, and they decide to draw straws to make the final call.  However, Travis hasn’t forgotten Meredith either, and he feels it’s his duty as the oldest brother to marry her; he ends up fixing the straws and marrying Meredith.

Day by day, they all have to face situations that will test their faith. For one thing, they live together, but they decide that it would not be correct to “be married” without the proper courtship – so they don’t sleep together.  On another hand, Meredith finds out about the straws and believes Travis will never love her.  She decides to prove herself, and the ever independent and problem solver, her naive intentions translate into disappointments after her plans generally end with her repeatedly injured.  Travis, the ever handsome, strong husband, comes to her rescue, but is willing to forgive – sometimes, just because someone else intercedes for Meredith. I enjoyed reading about their conflict, and how they gave in, in order to better love and serve the others. Even Meredith finds daily household chores an opportunity to be a dutiful wife that will honor God with her marriage. It was refreshing to read a story where the link between a married man and woman is so truthfully depicted, pointing to God providing opportunities to shape their characters. 

Obviously, the more they get to know each other, the more Meredith and Travis are actually attracted to each other and they start making silly mistakes, which gives the story a funny note.  However, sexual tension also rises. Generally, I would not comment on this particular feature, but the fact that there is a point where there is a repetitive and continuous description of physical demonstrations, actually harm the quality of the story to my taste.  A very classy, romantic story turns tacky and distracting from the main plot.  This is the main reason why I’m not giving a 5-star rating in this review.

I do commend Mrs. Witemeyer for the inclusion of the Native American community. This story is a beautiful reminder of how we all share ups and downs in life, face challenges, and come together when there is someone in need – no matter our backgrounds nor skin color.

I would recommend this book for anyone interested in a fast-paced, easy to read romantic story. Also, there are enough situations that could be used in a teenagers class to talk about Biblical principles and godly decision making. Just exercise caution regarding all the sexual implications. I think that it could also be a good teaching tool for couples who want to get married; it might require a resourceful facilitator, but the multiple events that will try Meredith’s and Travis’s relationship could be good examples of how marriage is constantly tested. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.  This has not biased my opinion on the book, nor on the author.

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