Ace’s Tenacious Bride (Matchmaker’s Mix-Up Book 13)
1870. In the prologue, a romping cat creates chaos of the carefully organized newspaper ads and letters of a respected Chicago matchmaker. Her granddaughter, not wanting to disappoint the clients, vows to make the matches. Unfortunately, she can’t find the questionnaires in which the clients have expressed their hopes, so she combines couples without evidence. And so it is that Mercy Fairchild, a Georgia preacher’s daughter who has requested a pastor husband, arrives in a small Texas town to marry the widower Ace Caldwell, a cigar-smoking, card-playing railroad detective who needs someone to raise his children. Previously, the three children (ages 8, 6, and 4) have behaved so badly that none of Ace’s housekeepers has lasted longer than a week. His brother-in-law, the sheriff, who has to put the kids in a jail cell to keep them out of trouble, has begged him to try a mail-order bride, because she won’t be able to leave. It’s hardly a match made in heaven, but thanks to Mercy’s patience with the children, her refusal to be husband’s doormat, and Ace’s soft side, the adversity resulting from the mismatch slowly draws the couple closer to God and each other.
This Christian historical romance more than fulfills Grist’s goal, which her website says is to “combine history, humor and romance with an emphasis on faith, friends, and good clean fun.” Its historical aspect touches not only upon Western train robberies but also, with skillful nuance, upon the link between Mercy’s wonder at having decent ingredients to cook with and her upbringing in a family impoverished by Sherman’s march through Georgia. The children’s characters are well-drawn, and Ace’s frustrated love for them is convincing. Throughout, the humor is genuine, and the matchmaker’s mix-up lends itself well to its moral: that God’s wisdom is greater than man’s.