Click here to buy the book on Amazon
Charlie has just arrived in Cold Springs, seeking a fresh start for herself and mistakenly thinks Michael West is a porter and asks him to get her luggage. She eventually realises that he's the owner of the town's convenience store and quickly apologises for her error. It's the beginning of a conversation that proceeded with an invitation to dinner and ended with a proposal for marriage. Merry Farmer's Our Little Secrets features a very different spin on two tropes: the mail-order bride, and the marriage of convenience.
...Was she really mad enough to marry a stranger in a frontier town?
Of course she could, she answered herself. Michael West presented her with the opportunity to start over with everything she wanted, a job, a home, and a purpose. It was more than her step-father had ever tempted her with.
- p. 42
Charlie really isn't a mail-order bride, but just happened to be in a train-full of them -- she is, however, like the women onboard the same train, desperate for a new beginning. What's inside her carpet bag? Why is she running away from her step-father?
She's a character with so many secrets, which is fine with Michael West, who also has secrets of his own. He also came from Philadelphia three years before, and the author did a good job of hinting at Michael's secrets: who is Emily? Why did Michael leave Philadelphia? While Michael has done well for himself and has succeeded in Cold Springs, his present life isn't free of trouble: there are the persistent rumours regarding his sexuality, and thugs his competitor hires to intimidate him. I appreciate the balance that Merry Farmer has brought to portraying life in the Historical West: it isn't perfect, but it is, sometimes, people's best option.
It's interesting to see how Charlie and Michael's relationship plays out, agreeing that the past isn't part of their bargain and the compartmentalisation of past/present/future is curious -- and I read on, wondering if it was possible to live a life just in the "now" -- with no thought to the past or the future. It worked for a while, as our hero and heroine go through the honeymoon stage of their marriage -- when that's over, however, is a different story altogether.
..."Is there something you're not telling me?"
She forced a laugh. "There are lots of things I'm not telling you, remember?" She caught her breath and distracted him with, "Will you show me how to fill out the deposit slip?"
- p. 168
We cannot escape our past. We cannot hide our secrets forever. It was riveting seeing Charlie and Michael wrestle with truths that slowly emerged and they became confronted with questions that tested the promises they made to each other before they married and the affection and love that has grown since then.
Overall, I enjoyed reading Merry Farmer's Our Little Secrets. I did get confused by all the characters/people she introduces in Cold Springs, and wished she had taken some time to deepen each character's story, but it did serve to show the greater community (and life) that Charlie and Michael belong to. The author stayed true to her purpose and played up the "secrets" between Charlie and Michael very well, and she did a good job with all the surprises and twists that happen in the story.
The breakthrough character for me was Phin Bell, owner of the bank, and Michael's long-time friend. He left Philadelphia with Michael and has stayed his loyal friend throughout. His story, Somebody to Love, was published this April 2014.
Our Little Secrets is Book 1 in Merry Farmer's Montana Romance series. To find out more about Merry Farmer and her books, click below:
Disclosure: I received this review copy as part of the blog tour event. Thank you to Merry Farmer for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.