I read this book in almost one sitting. I loved it; Karen Witemeyer has done it again, spinning a beautiful western romance. Her past three books, all stand-alones, The Tailor-Made Bride, Head in the Clouds, and To Win her Heart, have also been wonderful. This recent addition to my collection has not let me down!
Meredith Hayes is an orphan that is sent to live with her business-minded aunt and uncle, who want her to marry Roy Mitchell to further their business. Meredith does not agree to the match because of an incident that happened twelve years ago, that only her cousin Cassandra has been told about.
Meredith was ten years old, being bullied, same as ever, when the bully goes so far as to throw her lunch pail onto the forbidden Archer land. Everybody knows not to go onto the Archer's land for fear of being shot as all the signs around the Archer's land warn. Meri bravely makes her way to retrieve her pail, and almost makes it safely when her leg is caught in a steel trap and she is unable to flee. Meri hears dogs coming towards her and is afraid that she will be caught when Travis Archer approaches her with a shotgun pointed at her.
Travis Archer's father's dying wish was to keep his brothers and their land safe, and that's exactly what he does. Barbed wire fences are put up with signs warning the trespassers will be shot on sight. Travis and his brothers stay on the land, never once going into town, and take care of the land. So when seventeen-year-old Travis sees a little girl caught in one of his traps, he is horrified by the result of having set them. He immediately goes to help her, and breaks his promise to his deceased father for the first time by carrying her off his land into town.
Twelve years later, Meredith Hayes is being forced to marry a man she does not love, with lingering fantasies about the kind man she met on Archer land a long time ago. So when she hears her fiancé-to-be plotting to burn the Archer's off their land to convince them to sell it, Meredith jumps into action to pay off her twelve-year debt to Travis Archer. She runs off to warn them and ends up getting hurt, being forced to stay at the Archer's house until she recovers.
Travis Archer is shocked to see Meredith again; even more shocked when he finds out that she risked being shot to warn them about a plot against him. So when Meredith's uncle arrives a few days after Meri's accident, and sees that she has been living with the four Archer brothers for several days, and demands that she marry one of them to save her reputation, he secretly volunteers. He's not sure why he did it, but he knows he feels a responsibility to take care of her. What Travis is not counting on is all of his brothers wanting to marry her too. They end up drawing straws, without knowing that Meredith is watching them from the doorway. Her uncle comes back the next day, and Meredith becomes a married woman.
Meredith has always dreamed of Travis, ever since the day he freed her from his steel trap. When they marry, she is determined to prove to him that she will make a good bride.
But with constant threats to the Archer's land and Meredith's cousin, will she ever have a chance to prove to Travis that she is more than merely a short-straw bride?
Thank you so much to Karen Witemeyer and Bethany House publishers for letting me read and review this book! I love Miss Witemeyer's work and was so excited about the opportunity to read this one, too.