The Marriage Season (The Brides of Bliss County #3) by Linda Lael Miller
The novel sets out to be a perky, charming and alluring romp through the mountains of Wyoming.
Any season can be the season for love in ranch country: Mustang Creek. In Linda Lael Miller’s third installment, two brides: Hadleigh Galloway and Melody Hogan (the much loved characters from The Marriage Pact and the Marriage Charm) are blissfully married and pregnant and now is the time for the tragically single Becca “Bex” Stuart to find a mate. That is the natural course in life, it is presumed. Becca has everything she wants or needs, she is a beautifully fit marathon runner and successful fitness empire owner, but she doesn’t have a husband or a baby in her belly. The story begins to shift when her sister Tara decides to leave her lyin’, cheatin’ s-o-b of a husband and eventually goes splits Ville; leaving her six year old son Josh, in Becca’s care.
While training for a marathon, Becca bumps into the wealthy, new-in-town, charter pilot-turned ranch owner named Tate Calder. He is a “put-together”, jeans and t-shirt wearing, handsome single father. Right away our couple are drawn to each other, both sexually and emotionally with the help of friends, fate and furtive circumstances that force the pair together. We just know already that as the sparks begin to fly… there will be marriage by summer.
Tate invites Bex and her nephew to join him and his sons for a weekend of fishing in the mountains. This is where the two find themselves falling in love albeit in a mouse-infested cabin. They constantly banter back and forth sarcastically which contributes to their sexual tension. When the couple find a door with a lock on it and a moment away from kids, we abruptly learn that this is not an escapist novel. No… this is not the time to fanaticize your way into being carried into the sunset, barn loft or bedroom with a cowboy because just as the action starts to get good…we are jolted out of the mood and thrown into reality. Case in point, sex scene one: Becca and Tate start to fool around… then they talk about Becca’s ex for a bit (mood killer)…Tate begins to explore her naked body… then he unwraps the condom (instant mood killer). O.k. yes this can be important, but really…do we need that kind of detail? The other (very few) sex scenes in this book are disappointing and lack lustre, often focused on baby making. Unfortunately, the heroines nickname “Bex” is pretty much the closest thing you will get to “sex” in this book.
Miller shies away from sharing the visceral, emotional pain felt by her characters. There isn’t a lot of back story about Becca and Tate’s previous relationships. We are only given tidbits of their past on a need-to-know basis. We gather that they have both have been burned by love. Becca lost her young fiancé Will (Hadleigh’s brother) when he tragically died during active duty in Afghanistan and Tate’s cheating, gold digging wife, Sandra died of the flu many years ago. If our couple desperately want to love and be loved by one another, but can’t…I want to be able to fully understand why it is so difficult for them to commit. I want to feel the struggle between Becca wanting to say the words “I love you”, and not being able to. I want to experience her shock first hand when Tate asks her to have a baby with him, but I didn’t. I want to cheer her on when she proposes to Tate, but once again, I didn’t. The characters fleetingly change their minds continuously and with the lack of substance in this book. I. Just. Stopped. Caring.
Many other important plot lines and descriptions are glossed over in this book while strangely enough, insignificant parts are fully described. Paragraphs are dedicated to descriptions about food, for reasons unknown. There is a fight over lemon pastries that goes on way too long…which Calder boy eats or does not eat his vegetables is of no significance to reader. The boys rarely have dialogue in this story, so why do we need to know which brother eats vegetable lasagna and which one doesn’t? Too much time is spent on what the characters are eating instead of developing the characters themselves. This just left me to wonder if the author was hungry when she wrote this book…
Another disservice to the reader in this book is the underdeveloped secondary storylines. The one focusing on Bex’s sister and her tumultuous relationship and Tate’s father falling in love with Lottie Arbuckle are barely mentioned. The failed relationship between Tara and Greg should be the foil to the happy couples, but instead we don’t really care about them at all. Tara comes across as a selfish and uncaring and because she married hastily (and against the advice of her sister)… are we meant to think that she got what she deserved? An unfaithful husband, a failed marriage and a kid who could care less if his mother has left town?
The two failed (Tate’s first marriage to his crazy wife and Tara’s marriage to Greg) and Hadleigh and Melody’s two blissfully perfect (and annoying) marriages could have been explored further. What makes them fail? What makes them work? Does a couple even need to marry for happiness? Apparently they do… because we learn that: marriage + pregnancy = happiness.
I was hungry for a commentary on marriage in this book, but was left with an empty stomach. The perfect town, the perfect new home, the perfect marriages, the perfect children, and ugh even the perfect pets, creates an environment that is just too freakishly safe. So before you agree to reading, The Marriage Season, ask yourself… “Is this the kind of commitment I would like to make?”