The Patchwork Bride, a new novel by Sandra Dallas, is a page-turning historical romance following one woman in her quest to find love without losing herself. At the same time, it is also the story of a grandmother trying to help her granddaughter through an emotional struggle about marriage itself.
The story starts in the 1950s at Ellen and Ben’s Colorado ranch. Ellen’s granddaughter, June, has fled her own marriage preparations because she is having doubts. June explains her fears to her grandmother: her fiancé is about to go fight in Korea, she isn’t sure about marrying a soldier and she is especially concerned with losing herself in marriage. June’s fears set the stage for Ellen to tell her the story of Nell, a woman who ran away from three marriages to three different men 50 years earlier.
Nell’s story starts in 1897, when Nell decides to move from her grandparents’ home in Kansas to work on a ranch with her aunt in New Mexico. In those days, an unmarried woman of 22 was already considered an old maid. An opportunity to work as a biscuit-shooter was an answer to both her restlessness and her desire to find a husband.
Like women of her age, Nell feels an intense need to get married. What sets Nell apart is that she is a strong, independent woman who refuses to settle for a life that won’t allow her to be her own person. While most women in her day are content doing whatever their husbands told them to do and pushing down their own opinions, Nell wants to have her own voice.
Upon arriving at the ranch, she is quickly taken with a cowboy she calls Buddy. He is an anomaly on the ranch, being more educated than the other ranch hands and filled with ambition. However, both Nell and Buddy suffer from jealousy and a tendency to jump to conclusions rather than talking things out. Ultimately, she runs away from their impending marriage.
Her second venture out is as a waitress in Denver. Here the reader gets to learn why Nell runs away from her second fiancé, James. We also meet Betty, 20 years Nell’s senior, who has been through an abusive marriage herself and therefore distrusts men in general. As for James, he comes to Nell’s rescue one night and a relationship blossoms. There is more to him than she realizes and again she returns home to Kansas.
The final failed engagement takes place after Nell had “lowered her standards.” Instead of looking for love, she is just looking for someone decent. She moves to Kansas City to work as a teacher and meets a man who knows her family. He isn’t exciting, but he is stable. However, even that proposal doesn’t work out, but it does lead her to the man she finally marries.
In between each of the stories, Ellen and June talk about the decisions that Nell had made and consider what might have happened to both parties. Nell’s story helps Ellen connect with June and also helps June realize that she needs to trust her heart and her gut.
Readers that enjoy historical fiction with a romantic bent are likely to enjoy this engrossing novel.
Michelle Goetzl writes an online blog—“Books My Kids Read.” She loves books and sharing that love of reading with children. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .