The Dogwood Blossom Bride by Miralee Ferrell
This is one of three stories in 12 Brides of Summer Novella Collection #3, published by Barbour Books, featuring authors Margaret Brownley, Miralee Ferrell, and Pam Hillman.
When Gracie Addison fell into the arms of love, she wasn’t expecting it. In fact, she was on a mission to avoid dinner with Jerold Carnegie, a man her father thought would be perfect for her. It is late May, 1883 in Goldendale, Washington, and nineteen-year-old tomboy Grace is not interested in “growing up and settling down.” She has trees to climb, horses to ride (astride, no less!) and adventures to pursue.
Will Montgomery, relocating to Goldendale with his niece Laura and haunted by his sister’s death, is not looking for romance. Although he’s enjoyed working as a cowboy, he knows Laura needs stability…and he needs a job that will provide a decent living, so he’s rebuilding his life as a woodworking apprentice with Goldendale carpenter Curt Warren.
When Gracie and Will meet, they don’t get off to the best start, and Will is not too thrilled about Laura wanting to emulate Gracie’s tomboy ways…like climbing trees. Besides, fresh off a failed romance, he’s not looking for love either.
WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW....
Between the challenges of rebellious Laura copying Gracie’s daring ways, further triggering Will’s fears for his niece’s safety, and Gracie and Will misinterpreting the other’s interest in other people, the tension builds until the afternoon Laura almost comes to harm at the swimming pond. Will chastises the guilt-ridden Gracie and asks her to stay away from Laura. Gracie realizes that means she won’t see Will either, but decides she’s done with him, no matter how much the decision hurts. It isn’t long, however, before Will understands blaming Gracie is not fair and comprehends how much it hurts that he won’t see her again.
Will talks to Curt about everything and asks for his advice. Curt explains he can worry obsessively over his children or trust God with them, as Will can do with Laura. He suggests Will’s over-protectiveness stems from guilt about his sister’s accidental death. He also tells Will he thinks Will is falling in love with Gracie.
Meanwhile, Gracie is mourning the loss of Will and Laura, sad she will never see them again, when Will arrives and asks to speak to her. Grace thinks he’s there to reinforce his request to stay away from his niece, but he apologizes instead, explaining his sister’s death, his fears for Laura and how much Gracie reminds him of his sister. He admits his fear that allowing himself to fall in love with her is hard because he’s afraid of the chances she takes and that she might come to harm. As they clear the air, Will asks if he can court her, and she accepts.
Miralee Ferrell skillfully blends human fears and emotions with leaning into God’s will as this couple finds their way to true summer love. Gracie and Will are fully drawn characters with deep faith and trust in God to lead their way. Secondary characters support Will and Gracie’s journey toward one another and their Christian values. And mischievous young Laura is the perfect catalyst to draw the two young lovers together.
This is a fun summer (or any season) read!