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Contract to Wed by Holly Bush
(Crawford Family 2)
Publisher & Release Date: Holly Bush Books, February 5, 2015
Time and setting: 1891, Texas
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1 scorching Hot Flame
Rating: 4.5 Gold Crowns
Crawford Family Series: Book 2 - 1891 . . . Jolene Crawford Crenshaw, heiress and Boston socialite, went from her family home directly to Landonmore upon her marriage, the mansion she shared with her handsome and charismatic husband. She’d never in her life worried in the slightest over anything as crass as the dollars required to maintain that home or the lifestyle she’d been born to. Her extensive yearly wardrobe, the stables and the prime horseflesh within it, even the solid silver forks and knifes that graced her table, were expected and required to maintain the social standing that she’d cultivated over the years. But suddenly she was a widow with little money and just her pride and her secrets to keep her upright.
Max Shelby made his fortune in oil wells and cattle but lost the love of his life the day his wife died, over ten years ago. Now, his happy, carefree, little girl needs instruction and guidance as she grows into a young lady and his dream of becoming a Senator from his adopted state of Texas seems out of reach with few political or social connections. The right wife would solve both problems. As it happens his sister knows of a woman, a recent widow, charming, beautiful and socially astute, but in reduced circumstances, who may want to begin again. Max signed the wedding contract sight unseen.
Will Jolene be able to shed her sorrows, anger and fears to begin anew away from the censure and hidden tragedy that marred her life? Is her new husband, confident, strong and capable Max Shelby, the man, the only man, to see past her masks to find the woman beneath?
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I first discovered Holly Bush when I read Train Station Bride, and I have been a fan ever since. When I realized Contract to Wed is a follow up to Train Station Bride, I eagerly agreed to accept it in exchange for an honest review. This is a fantastic addition to the series.
At the reading of her late husband’s will, Jolene Crawford Crenshaw finds out the man has left most of the fortune she brought to the marriage to a child named Jillian. While she will have an adequate annual income, it will not keep her in her customary life-style as a pampered Bostonian socialite. When an offer to wed a Texas rancher is presented to her, Jolene accepts and makes the trip to Texas.
When Maximillian Shelby meets the woman he married by proxy for the first time, he is immediately drawn to her cool beauty. When it quickly becomes apparent, she does not want an affectionate union, he is just as determined to have one, not only for their sakes, but for the sake of his twelve-year-old daughter, Melinda.
Will Max break through the insurmountable walls surrounding Jolene’s heart, teaching her that love is worth the risk, or will she remain a stiff, emotionless woman chained to her past?
Contract to Wed is a well-written and emotionally-charged read from the first page to the last. The characters are engaging and the story line is easy to follow. It is fast-paced with just the right amount of dialogue to balance the narrative.
Jolene’s character is not easy to love. She has such a cold, withdrawn demeanor throughout most of the book. However, she did gain my empathy from the first page. By the end of the story, I very much wanted her to have her happy ending. There is excellent depth to Jolene, which makes her a very complex character. Whether I ever truly fell in love with her or not, did not matter. Her personality is compelling regardless. It takes a skilled writer to get the reader enmeshed with a character that is hard to like.
Max on the other hand, stole my heart, and so did his daughter, Melinda. She is a pure delight, so fun-loving and such a free spirit. Max is honorable, loyal and dependable, but not in a dull way at all. It’s refreshing to find a hero who is not a womanizer for a change, while still being an alpha male. His love and care of his daughter says a great deal about his character.
What I loved most about the story is the journey Jolene takes, to go from such an unlikeable character to one I respected and admired. When Max breaks through her tough shell, you find a woman trying to deal with a bad hand of cards, from her detestable mother, to her weak late husband, to the loss of her dear little William. She has quite a few reasons to be so determined to never love again.
I thoroughly enjoyed Contract to Wed. This book will appeal to anyone who likes a character who grows a great deal. The character arch is fantastic! The romance is deep and passionate as well. I highly recommend this excellent story. I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I did. I can’t wait for the next book in this great series. Happy reading!
“Thank you for coming to see me this morning, Jolene,” Calvin Billings said as he assisted her into the red leather chair across from his desk.
“The reading of the will, I understand, is not until Wednesday morning,” Jolene replied and straightened the folds of her black silk skirt. “I’m curious to hear what prompted this meeting.”
“I’m not sure I should have asked you here to tell you what I’m going to tell you,” Calvin said as he shook his head. “Turner’s will was very specific.”
Jolene shrugged. “Don’t put yourself out for me, Calvin.”
The attorney was silent a long moment and then leaned forward. “I wanted to talk to you about some of the details of Turner’s will before Wednesday’s meeting so that you can process it privately, rather than in a room full of people.”
Billings sorted through papers laid out before him on his massive gleaming desktop. He settled on one and looked at Jolene over the tops of his glasses. “The bulk of Turner’s estate will be settled on one, Jillian Crawford Shelling currently residing with your sister in South Dakota.”
“I don’t understand,” Jolene said.
“A little over fifty million dollars will be set aside in an estate for Miss Shelling, overseen by myself and her step-father, Jake Shelling, as executers. Various charities will receive an amount totaling nearly one million dollars. Family members, including Turner’s mother, brother, nephews, and your sister Jennifer, have been gifted annual annuities. In addition, his mother’s home expenses will be taken care of for as long as she lives. A few servants and his secretary have been given lump sums ranging from fifty to one hundred thousand dollars.”
Jolene stared at her gloved hands lying in her lap. She picked at a stray thread in the crocheting and thought she’d have to correct Alice for handing these particular gloves to her to wear. But perhaps she’d best let Alice alone on this error. Perhaps she’d best contemplate what Calvin had just said. She looked up at him.
“He has gifted our fortune, my fortune as well, to Jillian? Did he not understand that he would have still been a clerk in my father’s bank had he not married me? Did he forget what I did for him? He would have been nothing without me. I made him!”
Author Bio & Links:
Holly Bush writes historical romance set on the American Prairie, in Victorian England, and recently released her first Women’s Fiction title. Her books are described as emotional, with heartfelt, sexy romance. She makes her home with her husband in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Connect with Holly at www.hollybushbooks.com and on Twitter @hollybushbooks and on Facebook at Holly Bush.
Twitter - @hollybushbooks
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Holly-Bush/e/B006ZDTQ1A/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1