As all my family and friends know...I've been "im"patiently waiting to get my hands on Mary's newest release, The Husband Tree. Ever since reading Montana Rose (my all-time favorite of Mary's books) I've been eagerly looking forward to reading Belle's story. Well...let me tell you...it was well worth the wait!! I would have read it straight through, but my hubby had to be fed. I could have gladly passed up dinner, just to keep reading!
When we meet back up with Belle Tanner, she's in the process of burying her third, good-for-nothing husband, Anthony Santoni, underneath the Husband Tree with her first two good-for-nothing husbands, William and Gerald. The only thing good to come out of those three regrettable marriages were her four girls: Lindsay, Sarah, Emma, and Elizabeth (Betsy). Belle loves her girls dearly, and will do anything to keep them safe. She promises them that there will be no more husbands, as they've all had their fill of lazy men who never lift a finger to help out around the Tanner ranch. Which in turn has caused Belle's girls to grow up to be as tough as she is, and more than willing to pitch in and help their Ma out with anything and everything that needs to be done around the ranch.
Lindsay is the oldest at fifteen, and has already grown taller than Belle. She seems more like a friend than a daughter, at times, as she's always ready to step in and help with her younger sisters. Lindsay is always there working along side her Ma. Sarah is next at twelve. She usually stays close to the house during the day, working inside, making sure the meals are prepared on time, though she does pull her weight helping with the branding, or any other job that takes all the women working together to get it done. Emma is the horsewoman of the family. Though she's only eight, she's the best rider of them all. Betsy is still a baby and can usually be found attached to either her Ma's back, or one of her sisters. She's a great baby, who hardly ever cries, and seems to enjoy being outdoors with her family. I really enjoyed getting to know the Tanner girls better. They make the story all the more interesting.
Silas Harden has bad luck when it comes to women, and is on the run from yet another one. This one tried her best, along with her father's help, to trap him into a shotgun wedding! He heads out of town with nothing but the clothes on his back and his trusty horse (though I found it a little hard to believe that a grown man would just up and leave his ranch behind without even putting up a fight!). When he reaches the town of Divide, Montana, he ends up signing on as a drover, to help Belle move her thinned-out cattle to Helena before the winter storms start rolling in.
The majority of the story consists of the Tanner girls, and Silas, driving one-third of the Tanner cattle to Helena. The journey turns out to be pretty uneventful, though a life-changing event happens right before they pull into town that changes the lives of the Tanners forever. On the trip home, trying to beat the severe winter storms, the excitement level picks up some. Mary's trademark humor can be seen throughout this book, which is one of the reasons I enjoy her stories so much.
There is a side-story concerning Wade Sawyer, woven into the mix, setting us up to read his story, The Wildflower Bride, releasing in May 2010. I'm already looking forward to reading it next!
It is quite a fact that I have yet to come across a book by Mary Connealy that I did not like. I loved the Lassoed in Texas series and I am enamored with the Montana Marriages series. It is baffling to me how each and every story can grip you further. The catty whit is so amusing and the characters are lovely. The issues dealing with real world problems are incredibly woven in a western historical standpoint and cause a reader to truly think. The growing love between protagonists is breathe taking and palpable.
Belle Tanner is not your average western woman, but a woman not to be challenged. She has had her fill of husbands, as is shown by the occupied dirt surrounding three sides of the Husband Tree. The last thing that she wants is another husband nor a romance that leads that general direction. Silas is man with two near misses when it comes to marriage and not looking for another chance. When time has run out and a cattle drive has to be made by Belle and her four daughters, the drifter Silas is her only hope. What God brings together, let no man put apart.
As a mother of a new baby reading and watching Belle's days with her girls especially her infant is amazing. I cannot imagine nursing while riding on horseback, much less changing a diaper in mid gallop without missing a beat. I am thrilled and enchanted to the bone by the tale devised by Mary's imagination and I cannot wait for the third installment in the series The Wildflower Bride. In this book you get a taste for what might be in for Wade Sawyer and Abby Lind. *sigh* Anticipation.
I love Mary Connealy's books. This one is just as good if not better than her previous ones.
I cannot imagine living through the tough times in Montana that she describes. Were women really that tough? Read "The Husband Tree" and decide for yourself.