Contract to Wed
by Holly Bush
GENRE: Historical Romance
1891 . . . Jolene Crawford Crenshaw, heiress and Boston socialite, went from her family home directly to Landonmore upon her marriage, the mansion she shared with her handsome and charismatic husband. She’d never in her life worried in the slightest over anything as crass as the dollars required to maintain that home or the lifestyle she’d been born to. Her extensive yearly wardrobe, the stables and the prime horseflesh within it, even the solid silver forks and knifes that graced her table, were expected and required to maintain the social standing that she’d cultivated over the years. But suddenly she was a widow with little money and just her pride and her secrets to keep her upright.
Max Shelby made his fortune in oil wells and cattle, but lost the love of his life the day his wife died. Now, his happy, carefree daughter needs instruction and guidance as she grows into a young lady and his dream of becoming a Senator from his adopted state of Texas seems out of reach with few political or social connections. The right wife would solve both problems. As it happens, his sister knows of a woman, a recent widow, charming, beautiful and socially astute, but in reduced circumstances, who may want to begin again. Max signed the wedding contract sight unseen.
Will Jolene be able to shed her sorrows, anger and fears to begin anew away from the censure and hidden tragedy that marred her life? Is her new husband, confident, strong and capable Max Shelby, the man, the only man, to see past her masks to find the woman beneath?
“Come in,” Jolene said and picked up her brush from her vanity. She wanted to think, and she didn’t want to make small talk or even acknowledge that someone else was in the room. “You may go to bed, Alice,” she said as she turned.
Maximillian Shelby stood in her doorway. She gasped. “What are you doing in here?” she said as she cinched her satin robe. “What do you want?”
But he just stood there staring at her. It was disconcerting and strangely provocative. She was covered but felt as if she was naked in front of him. She could feel the cool shimmery satin against her breasts. One strap fell away from her shoulder under her robe, and she forced herself to let it alone. He swallowed, cleared his throat, and walked within inches of her until she had to look up at him.
“You are the most gorgeous woman I’ve ever set eyes on.”
With those words, Maximillian wrapped his hands around her upper arms, touching the sides of her breasts as he did. Every bit of her being was focused on the pressure of his fingers where he held her. She was aware of herself. Sensually aware that she was taking short breaths and that her lips had parted and her eyelids had drooped. Her mind was screaming that she should twist out of his grasp, but she made the ghastly error of looking at his face, at his tanned skin with a shadow of a beard, dark brown eyes and a well-defined mouth filled with even white teeth. He was breathing hard, too, and she could smell the whiskey on his breath. He was magnificent.
So I must be the only person to have not read the first book in the series. A friend of mine said that I needed to read it to understand Jolene’s story but honestly…you don’t. Ms. Bush weaves the other sisters and life in Boston throughout the story so for me I was never lost. In fact, I don’t think that I would have read Jolene’s story considering that many people thought she was the most awful person in the world and didn’t see how she would be redeemed in her own story.
For me, I liked her from the start. She is Boston upper crust with a horrid mother, a father that doesn’t care and sisters that she can’t relate to. She is written they way that she should be. It wasn’t until after she gets to Texas that the mask starts coming off, the layers get peeled away and you can really start enjoy her as a heroine.
Max is such a wonderful hero. So sure of himself when it came to the ranch and Melinda but dealing with Jolene at first was a bit of a challenge. I liked how he challenged her but also backed off when needed. It was also nice that he was originally from Boston so he understood Jolene and the customs that she would be bringing with her to help him with his campaign but more importantly his and Melinda’s lives.
As a couple, Jolene and Max like and respect each other. Love comes later and its sweet. Finding love was much harder for Jolene in the end. Feeling nothing at the end of her marriage and of course, growing up never getting it from home will do that to a person. Jolene’s interactions with Melinda were spot on throughout the book. There is a big secret, actually two, that shaped Jolene and her ability to love someone much less a child. Its sad and I felt for her but at the same time, I think it was a little drawn out.
This is not my first book that I have read from Ms. Bush. I highly recommend Red, White and Screwed (hilarious) and The Maid’s Quarters from her. Ms. Bush writes engaging characters and her attention to detail is fantastic. She draws you into her story and doesn’t let go into the end. And then you are bereft because it’s over.
There is anguish and sadness in the book. I’m not going to sugar-coated for you. There are parts of the book that I held my breath. I will say this, I can’t wait for Jennifer’s book. For no other reason to see their mother finally, maybe get what’s coming to her. When you read the book, you will understand.
Overall, I loved the story. Keep my attention and I can finally breathe again. 🙂
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Holly Bush writes historical romance set on the American Prairie, in Victorian England, and recently released her first Women’s Fiction title. Her books are described as emotional, with heartfelt, sexy romance. She makes her home with her husband in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Connect with Holly at www.hollybushbooks.com and on Twitter @hollybushbooks and on Facebook at Holly Bush.
Twitter – @hollybushbooks
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn#!/pages/Holly-Bush/247399131941435
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Holly-Bush/e/B006ZDTQ1A/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE
Holly will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.