Steadfast Heart – Brides of Seattle – Book 1 Refining Fire – Brides of Seattle – Book 2 Love Everlasting – Brides of Seattle – Book 3 by Tracie Peterson Bethany House Publishing, January, July, and October 2015 ~ 4 Stars
Blurb – Steadfast Heart – Brides of Seattle Despite her spoiled upbringing, twenty-year-old Lenore Fulcher isn’t pretentious. She simply believes a marriage should be built on true love. Her father, however, thinks she’s wasted enough time searching for the perfect husband. He wants to marry her off to one of his business partners–who is seventeen years her senior–an idea that is out of the question for Lenore.
Blurb – Refining Fire – Brides of Seattle – Book 2: Twenty-two-year-old Militine Scott is in training at the Madison Bridal School in Seattle, yet she has no intention of pursuing marriage. What respectable man would have her? But she has found the school provides the perfect opportunity to keep her unsavory past hidden.
Thane Patton, though fun-loving and fiercely loyal to his friends, hides a dark secret, as well. He finds himself drawn to Militine, sensing that she harbors a haunting pain similar to his own.
Will they allow God to make something new and beautiful from the debris of their past?
Blurb – Love Everlasting – Brides of Seattle – Book 3 Abrianna Cunningham has always viewed her longtime friend, Wade Ackerman, as a protective brother. Lately, however, she’s begun to see him differently and finds herself attracted romantically to him. But she’s confused and overwhelmed by these unfamiliar feelings.
Wade, on the other hand, has loved Abrianna for some time and has been waiting for her to realize they are more than just friends. When he asks her to marry him, she asks for time to adjust to their changed relationship.
And then there’s Priam Welby, who has been relentlessly pursuing Abrianna. Will his underhanded tactics succeed in luring Abrianna into marriage with him?
Review: Based in 1888-1889 Seattle, this inspirational, historical New Adult series revolves around events at the Madison Bridal School. Because of their limited financial resources, three elderly ladies operate the school to teach young women how to become suitable wives. While some activities draw single men to the school for entertainment, most of what occurs are classes in cooking, cleaning, sewing, and household management – not easy tasks in the late 19th century.
The biggest flaw in these books is that the “blurbs” or back cover copy doesn’t conform to the actual stories. The first book should have been about the love story between Lenore Fulcher and visiting attorney, Kolbein Booth who arrives to look for his runaway sister. Instead, most of it was about Lenore’s friend, Abrianna who is the niece of the owners and has a passion for helping the downtrodden. She continually escapes the school to run around the frontier city and visit the docks providing food to the homeless. A spirited heroine with a taste for adventure will definitely appeal to readers, especially when she helps Lenore and Kolbein find each other. Still, there isn’t any romantic conflict between our supposed hero and heroine. They meet, fall immediately in love and that’s it except for a few contrivances by her parents who want stability for her. Meantime, Abrianna is off to solve a few murders and attempt to keep Priam Welby, the “Snidely Whiplash” of villains from destroying the school in his takeover bids.
The second book is supposed to be about another would-be bride, Militine Scott. She has issues with God, always a good conflict in an inspirational romance and successfully attempts to fail her classes at the Bridal School. Once again, Abrianna strides onstage and makes off with the story. She does help Militine find her true love, fireman Thane Patton and once again, there are few conflicts between our lead couple. They talk about what brought them to Seattle and everything is resolved between them. Most of the story describes the efforts that Abrianna makes to build a “food house,” what we would call a “soup kitchen” to feed the homeless. Both Thane and the boy next door, Wade Ackerman who loves Abrianna are enlisted to help with repairs and she starts her mission, growing up a bit in the process. She is still the same sassy, smart-mouthed young woman called upon to help those less fortunate and believes that training to be an appropriate wife and mother must come second. Readers will connect with her struggles especially when Thane’s concerns about fire prevention foreshadow an upcoming tragedy. Priam Welby continues his devious antics which range from opium smuggling to the Chinese slave trade to convincing Abrianna’s aunts to trade their school in downtown Seattle to a more favorable location on Queen Anne hill.
Finally in Book 3, Abrianna has grown up enough to admit that she’s fallen in love with Wade and the two of them plan a future together. They really don’t have a lot of conflicts between them except for those manufactured by outsiders. Her naiveté and innocence begins to wear thin since she’s survived so much in the past year. Every once in a while, some elements of the old Abrianna rise to the surface and she’s the same heroine who engaged readers in her quest to save the world in previous books.
Since these are inspirational stories, a great deal of time is spent understanding religious concepts which often led to additional conflicts among the secondary characters. While the quest to live by Christian ideals concerned most of the ensemble cast, this didn’t overshadow the plots or slow the pacing. As a native Washingtonian, The Brides of Seattle series was especially fun for me to read with its references to old-time Seattle.
However, a short course in state history wouldn’t come amiss with this series which is another downfall. A skilled writer like Ms. Peterson shouldn’t count on her readers knowing that overt discrimination led to vicious race riots toward the Chinese immigrants in the 1880’s. More mention could have been made of the efforts to join the union and Washington’s impending statehood in November 1889. Since the setting was a “bridal school,” why wasn’t there more mention of the fact that women had won the vote in 1883, then lost it in 1888? Wouldn’t these women have at least discussed it? And of course, the emerging town was named after Chief Sealth, a name changed to Seattle by the first settlers, but there isn’t a mention of that either.
Seattle has an extremely colorful, very well-documented past. While Asa Mercer, the man who arranged to bring brides to Seattle earns a mention, what about the others who helped create the city? At the time this series takes place, Seattle was barely thirty-some years old. I would have loved to see some details about the Terrys, the Dennys and of course Doc Maynard, the drinking bigamist who helped lay out the streets.
Review provided by Shannon Kennedy for her column Shannon’s Space in the Feb/Mar 2016 edition of The Book Breeze.