Series: Wild West Weddings (Book 2)
"CALIFORNIA RANCHER SEEKS AGREEABLE WOMAN FOR PURPOSES OF MATRIMONY"
Anna O'Malley is desperate to put her impoverished past behind her. Posing as a respectable lady, she becomes a mail-order bride, hoping to find security by marrying a wealthy ranch owner.
When her stagecoach is held up, Anna shoots one of the bandits. But the man she wounds is none other than her fiancé! His brother -- sinfully attractive Daniel Werner -- must conceal that fact by any means necessary, but how long can Daniel keep up the facade when he craves Anna for himself?
Good mail order bride story. Anna is one member of an Irish immigrant family that came to America for a better life and instead found one that was even harder. After the mill she was working in shut down because of the war, Anna and two friends decided to become mail order brides. Olivia (Bride by Mail) has found her happy ending and now it is Anna's turn.
Anna feels that her past has put her at a disadvantage, so she wasn't very truthful when she wrote to her prospective groom Rafael, portraying herself as coming from a well-to-do family. She also looked carefully at her choices for husbands, wanting one who owned his land and was prosperous.
When the stage is nearly to its destination, it is stopped by two men. When the shooting starts, Anna wounds one of the men. What she doesn't know is that the wounded man is her fiancé, who had stopped the coach as a lark, in order to see her before her arrival. The other man is Rafael's brother Daniel, who had come along to try to stop him. Now Daniel has to find a way to protect Rafael from being discovered until he can heal, which means he's the one who has to entertain her. This is difficult for him, because he has discovered that he wants Anna himself.
Daniel is the younger brother, one who has been ignored by his mother for most of his life. His father died when he was young, and Rafael became his best friend and role model. That doesn't mean he can ignore when his brother is being and idiot, and the whole episode is one disaster after another.
There is some question about whether the family will be able to keep their land because of the way the Americans have been dealing with the Mexicans who own property in California. Rafael felt that having an Anglo bride would be an advantage. Once he picked Anna from the applicants, he couldn't be bothered with anything more, so Daniel took over writing to Anna. As soon as he saw her, he was smitten with her, but knew she was promised to his brother.
Anna had the feeling that there was something strange going on once she arrived at the ranch. Her fiancé was rarely around and when he was he didn't seem very interested in her. Her future mother-in-law was secretive and not very welcoming. Even Daniel seemed to be hiding something when they were together.
I thought Rafael was quite immature and was very lucky that Anna hadn't killed him during his stupid stunt, I also got the feeling that there was more going on with the land problems than he was telling Daniel, and I was right. At least he wasn't keeping the secret maliciously, he just didn't know what to do about it. The mother was creepy and downright nasty to everyone except Rafael. I didn't like her at all and as it turned out she was even worse than I thought she was.
I really liked Daniel. He had a mostly good relationship with his brother and was really a kind and honest man. The things he had to do went completely against everything he really was. He was caught between trying to protect his brother and wanting to be with Anna because of his own feelings for her. I loved seeing him finally stand up and go after her for himself. It looked good until a misunderstanding nearly drove them apart.
I mostly liked Anna, though there were times she really irritated me. First, I didn't like the way she lied about her background, though she confessed about that pretty quickly. I also didn't really care for the way she snooped. I know she was only trying to find out the truth, but there were a couple instances where she took it a little too far. At least it came out all right in the end. I did like that she really wanted to do the right thing by sticking to her promise to Rafael, but her feelings for Daniel got to be too strong.
The ending was intense with the mother pretty much losing it and what she tried to do to Anna. I liked seeing Rafael finally do the right thing for everyone and face up to the consequences of his actions. Anna and Daniel get the life they wanted and we even get to see Olivia and her husband again.