The Short-Straw Bride
By Karen Witemeyer
Bethany House, 2012. 363 pgs. Romance
The Archer brothers have fiercely defended their land every since their father's death, running off anyone who dares to cross onto their property. As a ten-year-old girl, Meredith Hayes got caught in one of the traps on their land and teenaged Travis Archer rescued her and took her home, an act that spurs an infatuation on Meredith's part for the eldest Archer brother.
Twelve years later, the Archers are still fiercely protecting their land, so when Meredith overhears a plot to try to burn them out when they refuse to sell, she sets out to warn them of the impending danger--and stays to help them fight it. When she's injured and must stay under their protection, her uncle insists that one of the Archers will have to marry her. Although Meredith has long had feelings for Travis, when she catches the brothers drawing straws to determine who her husband will be (with Travis drawing the short straw), she agrees to marry him but isn't sure how to convince him that she's anything more than an obligation. Meanwhile, Travis isn't sure how to deal with a wife he never expected to have and how to keep his new wife and his brothers safe from those who are set on driving them off their land.
This is a thoroughly pleasing inspirational historical romance. Witemeyer is probably my favorite author of the genre, and her newest book didn't disappoint. Readers will love watching tough-on-the-outside but soft-on-the-inside Travis deal with a new bride and figuring out his own heart, and Meredith is a heroine worth cheering for, as she's more than willing to do her part to help her husband and her new brothers-in-law. Travis's brothers add a whole bunch of humor to the story, especially Crockett, who can't help but goad his brother a little as Travis is blundering along in his marriage (which is good, because it helps Travis figure out his feelings). The plot's probably somewhat predictable, but it still totally works--it's one readers are going to want to finish in one sitting and will leave them hoping that the other Archer brothers will get books of their own.