Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Patchwork Bride by Sandra Dallas

It's a lucky year for me when Sandra Dallas has two novels come out within months of each other. I reviewed Hardscrabble in May, and now it's time to review The Patchwork Bride.

What I love so much about Sandra's novels are the female characters. They are all strong, capable women who face hardships and tragedy straight on. They work hard, love well, and see the joy in the quiet moments of life. They always have stories to tell. 

This novel was no different. Ellen is an elderly  woman living and working on the ranch she shares with her husband, Ben. He's a cowboy through and through, but he's becoming more forgetful, and Ellen's heart isn't as strong as it used to be. They may have to sell the ranch and move into town, and that would be the death of both of them. Ellen's making a wedding quilt for her granddaughter's upcoming wedding, and her granddaughter has come to the ranch because she's having second thoughts about marriage. This all takes place in the early 1950's, but most of the story told by Ellen takes place in the late 1890's. Seeking to counsel her granddaughter, Ellen tells June about a woman named Nell, who ran away from marriage three times.  

Nell, a young woman in the late 1890's moves to New Mexico Territory to work on a ranch with her Aunt. She's seeking a husband, but unlike other women at that time, isn't broadcasting it loudly. She's not at the ranch for long before one of the cowboys catches her eye. Buddy is not like the other cowboys; he's quiet, educated, and doesn't flirt with Nell. Love slowly develops, but anger and misunderstanding break Nell and Buddy apart, and Nell moves back to her grandparent's farm in Kansas to heal her heart. And that begins Nell's search for love with a good man. 

I like the way the novel is a story wrapped in a story. Nell is a young woman at a time when women were beginning to step out of traditional roles and become more independent, yet there were still societal expectations that could work against them. Nell is independent, smart, and has already worked as a teacher. She's so much more, but finds herself limited by being a single woman in a world where a woman's reputation could be ruined by one minor incident. She wants to get married and have a family, but it's proving much more difficult than she imagined. Buddy still lingers in her mind...is there any way they will find each other again?

I have to say Ellen and Ben's relationship, after fifty years of marriage, was so endearing. Simply holding hands, reminiscing, and riding out to special spots on the ranch were, at the end of the day, the heart of their love for each other. Heartbreaking to think about leaving the ranch, and Ben's memory fading away. As Ellen thinks in the beginning of the novel, she will die, and all her memories will go with her, because there's no one to tell, and no one to remember.

You'll guess the obvious in this novel, and that's okay. I don't believe the author meant it to be hard to figure out. Finding your true love, that one person who fits perfectly into your puzzle, is what this sweet tale is all about. Make the memories. Enjoy the ride. Love fiercely. Tell those stories. 

Rating:  4/6 for a sweetly told tale of searching for love, making mistakes, and passing on those stories to the next generation. 

Available in hardcover and ebook.   

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