I really liked the book. I liked the added twist of the culture clash. In addition, both hero and heroine are such different personalities.
Emily, our heroine, is the proverbial doormat at the start of the book. Don’t get me wrong, she is not happy about it and believes she deserves what is coming to her. She has been shy all her life and just does not know how to change her lot. Her father died during the Civil War leaving her mother and her two-year old self to fend for themselves. They live a quiet life; we are not exactly told how they survived, only that when the Emily is old enough, she starts working as a cook for a family to help support mom and herself. The family she works for takes advantage of her shy, doormat personality and gradually has her doing the job of three, cooking, cleaning and looking after the children.
Benjamin, the hero, comes from a boisterous, large Norwegian family of seven brothers and four sisters. He had married his high school sweetheart, Anna, a Norwegian girl. She dies of scarlet fever during her third pregnancy. This leaves the hero with two little girls to raise and his mercantile store to work in.
The story begins when after another frustrating day for Emily, her mother tells her that she is engaged to a man she has been seeing for a while and that said man wishes for Emily to move out of the home she had shared with her mother. Emily comes across an ad for mail-order brides, placed by Harriet Long. Today we would call Harriet a professional matchmaker. Meanwhile, Benjamin serves his children for the umpteenth time bacon sandwiches, the only thing he can cook. His mother has been helping with cleaning, looking after the children and bringing over food, a la Norwegian cuisine (that’s a rather important bit). During that meal, Benjamin and his daughters decided to advertise for a mail order mama.
We learn pretty quickly that his mother is horrified, having hoped he would marry her best friend’s daughter, another Norwegian girl.
Benjamin had not given much thought about how he would relate to his new wife; he had sworn at his late wife’s grave that he would not love his new wife but that he missed having a wife (someone to warm his bed as he admits to himself and his late wife). However, he is marrying mostly to give the young girls a new mother.
When Emily arrives, Benjamin is first dismayed; she is so totally different than Anna. Anna was loud and boisterous, tall and blond. Emily is a shy, petite brunette. He is an affluent store owner, she arrives in an older mended dress. They get married right away, thankfully, Emily has her own mother’s wedding dress to wear and Benjamin’s sister helped her to get ready and make her feel and look beautiful. After the wedding at the wedding breakfast, Emily gets a quick taste of her MIL’s venom but chalks it up to the normal worry a mother would have for her son and grandchildren.
Benjamin and Emily settle into married life. He enjoys her (non Norwegian) cooking and the way she relates especially to the older daughter, Abby who is quite shy as well. There are some minor arguments about him wanting her to have nicer dresses and her frugal nature. Emily is dismayed that he feels she needs to dress expensively in order not to embarrass him, he is appalled that she does not see how her dresses might affect his standing as a businessman in the community. Otherwise, their first week together is joy for both as well as the children.
His mother continues to belittle her and outright insult her, telling her to leave so Benjamin could marry the “right” girl, of course all out of hearing of anyone else. Being a doormat, Emily lets it slide, only slightly trying to defend herself and Benjamin, of course, in typical male fashion, does not notice a thing. At another get together, when MIL again insults and demeans Emily, Emily stands up for herself and leave her MIL’s house and plays with the children outside.
MIL tells her beloved youngest son a whole lot of lies and Benjamin believes her. After all, he only knows Emily for 6 weeks while he has known his mother for 28 years. Emily is really upset that he believes his mothers and does not even consider her side. Emily tells him, he can go and visit his mother, however, she will not from now on. For a while, they just live politely together, Emily doing her chores, growing closer and closer to the girls but shutting Benjamin emotionally out. He begins to realize how much Emily means to him but still believes Emily hates his mother and simply does not want to get along. During this time Emily realizes she is pregnant. She does not quite know what to do but in her mind, she is considering writing Harriet Long, who had told her before she left Massachusetts to write if she ever needed help.
Quite by accident, Benjamin overhears his mother talking down to Emily, insulting and threatening her. He walks into the mess and his mother makes one last ditch effort to turn him against Emily. However, he had heard more than he had admitted to and stands up for Emily.
Of course, in the end, all is well and good and everyone gets along. Benjamin’s mom has an epiphany with dad’s help and Emily’s mother and stepfather come for a friendly visit. I am not sure I would have been as forgiving to either MIL or mother. Emily wants her mother to have a good live and rightly so but would a mother not have told any potential beau not to make her chose between him and her daughter? I certainly would but then I realize I see the world as it is today. Certainly women had less choices then but to tell her daughter who she must know is too shy and scared of her own shadow, she has two months to leave the only home she has ever known and make it on her own seems rather cold blooded whichever way one twists and turns it. And I certainly would stay on the cautious side with MIL.
There were numerous punctuation problems and I had to go over certain passages more than once but it the book was much better than many other self-published books I read. I will be buying the two other books in the series.