“A Bride for Tom” by Ruth Ann Nordin

We meet the epically klutzy titular character, Tom, at a square dance in 1868, and it’s immediately painfully clear that this is a) a Prairie period piece and b) written by someone who has less than no grasp of how people spoke or what kinds of things existed in 1868. The author has a particular obsession with “cloth napkins”, as if any other kind existed back then. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Kicking off one of the most implausible premises ever committed to eBook, our heroine Jessica takes pity on poor socially inept Tom, and agrees to square dance with him, despite the fact that she’s engaged to Peter (who is not in attendance at tonight’s dance). Her hair somehow gets caught in a “loose string” on Tom’s shirt cuff, and they have to cut four inches of her hair to get it out! I’m not sure how hair gets caught in a string, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t require scissors to rectify.

Tom then takes a “chunk” of the money he’d saved over two years to build a house, and buys Jessica a box of hair accessories, including two bonnets and a new hat. Question: How expensive are a couple of bonnets back in 1868? Or how incredibly cheap are houses? Did it really put a dent in his house-savings?

Now that Tom is broke from excessive hair ribbon purchasing, he has to get his dad to front him the money for a sod house, which… maybe he should have saved his money, because I’m guessing if she had the choice his eventual bride would pick a house not made of mud.

Inexplicably, Jessica decides that Tom is sweet and sort of cute, and intends to teach him to dance because she “feels sorry for the woman he’ll eventually marry.” Of course, that woman mustn’t be her, because she’s engaged to Peter, don’t forget!

Peter is refined and wealthy, and works an 8 to 5 job and recently got a promotion and his own office. How very 1868. Still, as polished as Peter is, he’s also a passion-less Mama’s Boy and lets his mother dictate every facet of his life and upcoming marriage. Even though they’ve been “friends” their whole lives, Jessica suddenly can’t remember why she agreed to marry him in the first place.

It doesn’t take long for Jessica to fall for Tom, especially once she sees him roping cattle on his farm. The man is comfortable in the saddle. Not a euphemism, but I wish it were. This book is sadly rated G.

Tom obviously likes Jessica back because she’s the only girl who has ever spoken to him. So Jessica tells Peter that he should probably forget about her and marry his own mother (a line the writer was so proud of that she used it four times), and tells Tom that she’s free.

Tom asks his dad if they can go ahead and build that sod house now, over a game of gin. Of course, gin wasn’t invented until 1909, but don’t let that throw you off! Tom’s dad rightly points out that Tom has only known Jessica for a week (score one point for Papa Tom), but Tom is like “yeah, but we kissed, so… can I get that house or what?” And Papa Tom relents but says they should court for a year. Glad someone’s talking sense.

A year quickly gets whittled down to 9, and then 6 months, as Jessica and Tom spend more time together. She plans their wedding behind his back, so as not to scare him off, and also he hasn’t officially proposed yet. Meanwhile, she convinces her friend Margaret to post an ad for a mail-order husband since she’s in her early twenties and basically a spinster.

Suddenly, and without warning, Peter shows up on Jessica’s doorstep! Is she SURE she doesn’t want to marry him? They argue! Peter’s mom shows up! Tom’s little brother is there for no reason! Tom shows up and proposes by saying “She’s marrying me! Well, if you want to”! Jessica says “Sure!” It’s the climax of the book!

Cut to their wedding, where they’re both adorably clumsy and bumbling, and by the way, Margaret’s mail order husband will be there in two weeks, so we all have something to look forward to. THE END!

The author herself may have best summed this book up: “Well this was a hard lesson. Sometimes when someone tried to help someone else, it only made things worse.” I wonder if someone tried to help her write this book.

I give it two stars, just for being mercifully short. **

Next week we’ll be reviewing the sequel, a Husband For Margaret! That one is rated R!

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  1. […] And this time we’re finding a husband for Margaret. The much-anticipated (by me) follow up to “A Bride for Tom” kicks off only a couple of weeks after Jessica’s wedding, with Margaret nervously preparing to […]



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