Tenth in Johnston’s Bitter Creek saga and third in her Mail-Order Brides series is this lovely, sweet and sensual story of a couple slowly progressing from strangers to friends and lovers. It is quite touching to watch the heroine change from a slightly naïve, selfish girl into a strong, passionate woman who sees beyond a plain-faced man into his kind heart. Though not as emotionally powerful as many of Johnston’s past novels, this tale will easily win readers over with darling children who steal the show and the chemistry between the lead characters.
Hetty Wentworth assumes the identity of Karl Norwood’s deceased mail-order bride, taking on the care of orphans Griffin and Gracie and hoping to give them a home. Karl is a botanist, trying to manage a lumber camp. He isn’t fooled by Hetty’s masquerade, but he is drawn to her beauty and curious about her motives. He agrees to postpone their bedding, giving them the opportunity to build a relationship. They have much to contend with, including Griffin’s hostility, Gracie’s feelings for a young logger and their own growing desire. Then problems with the camp and a friend-turned-enemy thrust Hetty and Karl into danger. (DELL, Jan., 416 pp., $7.99)