His Secondhand Wife / Cheryl St. John. 2005
I haven't really been interested in reading too many frontier-set romances, and I'm not sure why that is. After reading this one and Maureen McKade's A Reason to Live I suspect I really should make the effort to seek out more of them. This is another of those character-driven stories that are my favorite. Noah and Katherine are two very lonely souls, and this book works for me because the author succeeds in letting us see who they are and why they're so lonely without resorting to melodrama or overblown prose.
As someone who's probably been reading way too many European historicals, one of the things that made this interesting to me is the pragmatism that undoubtedly ruled frontier living. When Noah proposes to Katherine, she'd been widowed for a relatively short amount of time. In a Regency or Victorian, it would be scandalous to marry again so soon, and I believe even illegal to marry one's brother-in-law. Yet everyone from Katherine's mother-in-law to the local preacher see Noah & Katherine's marriage as a right and expedient thing to do. I loved the stark contrast to what I normally read in a historical.
This was a short, easy read. It only took a couple of hours. But I was pretty absorbed from the first page. I gave it an A-. My only complaint was that somehow the final resolution lacked the emotional punch I'd been hoping for. It seemed too easy.