Review: The Marriage Charm by Linda Lael Miller

marriage charm by linda lael millerFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, hardcover, audiobook
Genre: Contemporary romance, Western romance
Series: Brides of Bliss County #2
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Date Released: January 27, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

The women of Bliss County have a pact—to find husbands. The right husbands.

One already has: Hadleigh Stevens, who married rancher Tripp Galloway a few months ago. Now Melody Nolan thinks it’s her turn. Melody has recently found success as a jewelry designer, and her work is the focus of her life. She’s not exactly unhappy, but she wants more. She’s always been attracted to Spence Hogan, the local chief of police, but she’s convinced that Spence, a notorious charmer, isn’t what you’d call husband material.

Spence is a good cop who isn’t scared of anything—except love. And he’s done everything he can to preserve his reputation as a womanizer—a reputation that keeps marriage-minded women, including Melody, at bay. And yet…there’s something about Melody he can’t forget. Something his heart can’t ignore.

My Review:

Bliss County Wyoming is a place where second chances at romance turn into happily ever after on a wonderfully regular basis. It’s also a place where lifelong best friends don’t just stay friends, but help each other find, or maybe finally recognize, the loves of their lives.

Of course, nothing wonderful ever happens without a few challenges along the way.

marriage pact by linda lael millerIn the first book in this series, The Marriage Pact (reviewed here), we meet Hadleigh, Bex and Melody, three women who have been friends all their lives. Now that they are all pushing 30, they make a pact – none of them are going to settle for second-best. They all want the whole thing, happy marriages with men who adore them, and whom they love completely in return. Children if they want them, but most importantly, a marriage where they never feel like they settled for anything less than someone who loves them unquestionably as they are, successful and happy with themselves and who they have become. .

Melody, the jewelry maker among them, makes them each a charm bracelet to symbolize the marriage pact. In that first story, Hadleigh finally recognizes that her happiness lies with the man who slung her over his shoulder and carried her out of her first attempt at a wedding. Tripp was right, Oakley was no good. It takes them ten years to admit they belong together.

Sheriff Spence Hogan slings Melody over his shoulder to rescue her and her impossibly high heels from Hadleigh and Tripp’s wedding reception. It’s not the first time Spence has swept melody off her feet. Ten years ago, for one glorious summer, Spence and Melody were everything to each other. But Melody was still in college, and Spence did the right thing and let her go.

Unfortunately for him, he let her down by refusing her offer of marriage. Since that awful day, Melody and Spence have tried their best to avoid each other whenever possible – difficult in a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business.

The wedding of their best friends has thrown them back together, and made them both think, not about what might have been, but about what might yet be now that they are both adults and more sure of who they are and what they are going to be.

The road to a possible happy ever after has more than a few roadblocks. Spence’s refusal of Melody’s long-ago proposal has left her untrusting of men in general, and Spence in particular. Spence has spent the last decade looking for a woman who might take Melody’s place in his heart – and everyone in town knows just how wide that net has been cast, even if they didn’t know the reason for it. Spence has acquired quite the reputation as a player, a fact that doesn’t engender any trust in Spence’s motives when he pursues Melody again.

Not that Melody runs very fast, but just because they still have amazing sexual chemistry (and way more knowledge about what to do with it) doesn’t mean that they are both heading down the same road.

Melody wants a happy ever after or nothing. Spence’s refusal all those years ago wasn’t all that tactful – enough to make Melody sure that he isn’t ready to settle down with anyone, including her. And she has zero interest in being a notch on what is rumored to be Spence’s well notched bedpost.

Adding a little zest and some serious danger into Spence’s and Melody’s mutual pursuit is an antiques thief who is robbing anyone in town who might have some antiques or even just unique and valuable items in their Mustang Creek homes. While the thief is targeting any home where there are antiques on the mantle, he or she seems to have a special vendetta against Spence and Melody. Or maybe because Spence is finally after Melody.

While Spence is glad of the excuse to get Melody to move in with him, he’s seriously concerned about the series of thefts on his watch, and the very real danger to the woman he loves.

Escape Rating B+: Just like Thunder Point in Robyn Carr’s series (see Tuesday’s review of The Chance), Mustang Ridge is one of those places that sounds like it would be terrific to live in, especially if you want to live in Big Sky Country. The town in the heart of Bliss County seems almost, but not quite, too good to be true. And the people are terrific.

One of the things that is great about this series is the celebration of women’s friendships. Hadleigh, Bex and Melody really are BFFs forever. They grew up together and with each other. Even though their lives are changing, they still make time for each other and support each other. They also tell each other the unvarnished truth, the kind that you may not want to hear, but that you need to hear. In the end, they’ll support each other even when one of them (in this case Melody) is being pig-headed.

Spence broke Melody’s heart ten years ago. He also did exactly the right thing. She was only 20, and she needed to get out and see the world a bit, finish her education and decide (or not) that Bliss County was where she wanted to be. Unfortunately, he didn’t tell it to her quite that way. He may have thought his seeming heartless was for her own good, but it left her with a lot of justified resentment.

The background mystery in this love story wove into the main thread remarkably well for a second-strong plot. While I had a guess at what kind of person it was, narrowing down the actual suspect was difficult, not just for me but also for Spence. And it was terrific the way that the whole town came together to root out the perpetrator.

marriage season by linda lael millerThis series is a delight to read. I’m looking forward to Bex’ story and seeing who her friends matchmake her with. Unlike Hadleigh and Melody, there is no one in Bex past for her second chance. The full story will be in The Marriage Season, coming in May.

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