Sunday, June 14, 2009

Small-Town Brides

Janet Tronstad and Debra Clopton
Love Inspired Contemporary Inspirational Romance
Steeple Hill Books – June, 2009

Small-Town Brides is a Steeple Hill coupling of two novellas, one by Janet Tronstad and the other by Debra Clopton. Both are fine writers and this coupling does nothing to harm either reputation.

Both stories begin in Mule Hollow; but the first story, Tronstad’s A Dry Creek Wedding, migrates to, you guessed it, Dry Creek, a small town in Montana. As the collection’s title suggests, both stories end in obligatory weddings and the ever-present happy ending; but the journeys for both pairs of characters offer good reads.

In the first story, Rene Mitchell, 32, is a waitress at the truck stop in Mule Hollow. She was a hopeless romantic. For her romance was everything; but her boyfriend, Trace, only offered a “practical” marriage. Romance, per se, was not on his plate. The marriage would be a practical one in which Rene’s primary responsibility would be to care for Trace’s young niece who had just arrived in town. Her parents had just died.

Rene went ballistic! In a fury, she shook Mule Hollow’s dust from her feet and packed her car for her aunt and uncle’s place in Dry Creek, Montana. She would have made it, too, except that the piece of junk broke down at the city limits. Enter Clay Preston, 41, and his trusty wrecker.

Clay liked to watch Rene when he ate at the local truck stop; but his foster home upbringing left him too shy for anything overt—until Rene’s sick vehicle offered him the hero’s mantel. Yes, he agreed to tow her all the way to Dry Creek. (A beautiful damsel in distress? Come on, gentlemen, what would you have done?) And what a tow it was, Rene dealing with her anger and disappointment and Clay dealing with his shyness. By the time the two made it to Dry Creek, Rene discovered the romance she craved and Clay set aside his shyness.

In the second story, A Mule Hollow Match by Debra Clopton, we meet Rene’s cousin, Paisley Norton. The two women had been close. When Rene left Trace and his offer in the dust, Trace tried it out on Paisley. She was angry at Trace because of how he treated Rene, but she did agree to care for the little girl, feeling that the child should not suffer because Trace was a jerk. Any relationship with Trace was out of the question, but Paisley’s care for the man’s niece brought her into Trace’s daily life much as the close quarters of the wrecker’s cab had brought Clay into Rene’s life.

Close quarters have a way of overcoming obstacles, especially in romance novels; and the more Paisley was around Trace, the more she liked him, especially the marvelous man she was now seeing through the eyes of his little niece.

Both novellas are fast reads by good writers. Their character’s problems are far from earth shaking, but they were important to the two sets of characters and they are true to life.

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