Spring for Susannah
I loved this book! It was cuts above the average Christian prairie romance that the cover led me to expect.
Susannah Underhill is an extremely reluctant mail order bride. She’s penniless, past the first bloom of youth, and has nowhere else to go other than to marry her pastor’s homesteading brother in 1870s Dakota Territory. She carries heavy mental baggage, legacies of undemonstrative parents, and a near-rape by an acquaintance. Nevertheless, Jesse Mason glimpses a strong woman behind the shy façade, and is willing to help her break her shell. But just as Susannah begins to blossom, Jesse goes missing while on a job-hunting trip. Susannah is left in the middle of the prairie with no resources and a baby coming on.
Richmond provides vivid period detail, such as the grasshopper invasion scene, and the very unromantic realities of living in a sod home. She also depicts married relations, unusual in the genre, though without getting graphic. Where Richmond really excels is in characterization. She did her homework in creating a complex backstory for Susannah, yet doesn’t dump it all on the reader. Susannah’s story is revealed bit by bit, making the reader unsure how she will react next. That makes for a very compelling character. Jesse is also multifaceted, though perhaps just a shade too patient and understanding to be true. Still, he makes a great wish-fulfillment hero for a romance. Even minor characters are developed beyond the cardboard stage.
This is the kind of character-driven book many first novelists hope to write and few achieve. Richmond leaves the reader begging to know what happens next to her protagonists. More, please!