Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Review: THE ACCIDENTAL BRIDE by Denise Hunter

Inspirational romance author Denise Hunter writes novels with settings bold enough to almost be considered characters within the story. Her latest novel, The Accidental Bride, takes place in Moose Creek, Montana, a small town along the Wyoming border. It is the second book in the Big Sky Romance series.


Bad luck seems to follow Shay Brandenburg – especially when a wedding is involved. But when her doll-making elderly friend, Miss Lucy, asks her to play the bride in Moose Creek's annual Founder's Day re-enactment, she can't weasel out of it. No one can say no to sweet old Miss Lucy.

Abandoned by one man at the altar, then married to – and divorced from – another, Shay wonders if even a fictional wedding can go off without a hitch if she's involved. Against her better judgment, Shay slips into the historical wedding gown and begins her walk down the aisle toward her fictional groom. Standing by the preacher, however, is not the man she expected to play the part of the groom, but Travis McCoy, her first love – and the man for whom she bought her first wedding dress.

Fourteen years ago Travis McCoy suffered an attack of cold feet that pressed his truck's accelerator all the way to the Texas rodeo. He loved Shay, but he knew marrying her would trap him in Moose Creek forever. Shay would never leave the third-generation ranch on which she was raised. Travis had bigger dreams than eeking out a living in Moose Creek and, in a split-second decision to drive away from his wedding, he chose his rodeo dreams over Shay.

Travis achieved both wealth and acclaim on the rodeo circuit, but all his success can't make up for the empty places where memories of Shay still occupy his heart. When temporary circumstances allow him to return to Moose Creek for an extended visit, Travis hopes to reconcile with his past mistakes. He wants to earn back Shay's trust and love, but the well-deserved disdain he receives from her when they cross paths leaves Travis with no idea where to start.

A last-minute upset to the Founder's Day celebration places Travis in the role of groom opposite Shay. And when an old piece of memorabilia – he and Shay's original marriage license – is mistakenly signed and filed by the absent-minded preacher, Travis sees his accidental-but-legal marriage to Shay as an opportunity to right his wrongs and prove his love is not only true, but that it has matured enough to stay.

After what she's been through, Shay has no faith in any man's staying power – least of all Travis McCoy's. But his help could help save her ranch from foreclosure – at least for a little while, so she agrees to keep up the farce of their marriage for a trial period. But living with Travis underfoot isn't as easy as she thought it would be. And keeping her distance from the handsome, sexy, grown-up version of her first love may prove impossible.


As with the setting of her Moose Creek community, Hunter's characters are clearly drawn and each voice is unique to its owner. Shay is a strong woman whose wounds have made her skittish and insecure; still, she knows what she is about and, though stubborn to a fault, Shay is uncompromising on what she believes to be true. Travis' upbringing and success have given him a cocky sort of confidence that is offset by the tender and humble way he tries to woo Shay back. On the other hand, he has a weaker will than Shay and, once discouraged, it takes awhile for Travis to recover his mojo. Their interactions are entertaining, to say the least, and the physical attraction between the two sizzles with desire.

I would have liked to have seen a little bit more from eccentric Miss Lucy, whose presence serves as the plucky comic relief. Who doesn't like a character who asks her dolls for advice? Call me crazy, but I wanted more Miss Lucy; not necessarily because the story needed more to move forward, but just because she's such a quirky character. And I'm a glutton for quirk.


The Accidental Bride is one of those books that plants a smile on your face and draws your heart into even the most farcical aspects of its plot. A fun weekend read with equal parts spunk and spice, Denise Hunter's The Accidental Bride will keep readers lassoed up tight 'til the cows come home.

(This review originally appeared at USA Today's Romance Fiction blog, Happy Ever After)


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