Blue Moon Promise – Colleen Coble

This was received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review – thank you.

Blue Moon Promise is one of those books I didn’t have terribly high expectations for – but I did have hopes. I’ve seen my expectations turned on their heads quite often lately, and this seemed to have promise. It’s a Christian romance set in the American West in the very early 1900’s, about a girl (Lucy) who is approached by a rancher offering her a new life: she can pack up her few belongings and her little half-brother and half-sister and leave this place where life has been extremely unkind, and she can come west with him to be his son’s bride. That is, he will have her married to him by proxy before they leave, and no, his son, Nate, doesn’t know, and she gets the impression that he won’t be overjoyed. But circumstances don’t leave her much choice – her father just died, her siblings’ mother has abandoned them, and she just lost her job and was evicted (the latter two events all in one day) – and she decides to do it. The rest of the story is working out that situation, along with the exact circumstances of her father’s death and the status of some valuable silver coins she finds.

Let’s face it; awful as they must be in reality, arranged marriages are interesting to read about, and this is the first time I’ve come across marriage-by-proxy in a semi-modern setting. Also, I often enjoy Westerns and “wild west” settings. I was interested. What I found was a solid, workmanlike story, pretty well told; the characters are amiable enough; the plot is rather overwrought and far-fetched – with startling revelations, hysterical amnesia, family feuding, and sinister stalkers – but it managed to pull it off; the little girl, while not written so as to be appealing to me, was also not one of the more annoying I’ve ever read. The humor – chiefly centering on a tarantula named Zeke – achieves humorousness, if nowhere near the laugh-out-loud variety, and not exactly with a feather-light touch. The narrative moves briskly and efficiently from point A to point B and onward to the conclusion. There were enough interesting elements to the plot to keep me reading to the end. Unfortunately, Blue Moon Promise didn’t quite exceed my low expectations; it told the story, but did not make me care about it or the characters. To be honest, I finished it less than twenty-four hours before writing this, and I can’t remember the climax of the story. I do know that it seemed like a string of one injury after another, to one main character after another – a time-honored Romance Novelist’s Friend, one way to ramp up feeling between protagonists who might not otherwise admit to being in love.

While the writing was, overall, serviceable, there were some questionable dialogue moments. I’m not convinced the little girl (whose dialogue was more annoying than endearing) would have been constantly telling everyone she had to “go potty” at this point in time, but I am pretty thoroughly certain a twelve-year-old boy in 1910 would not tell his sister that a cattle stampede “was really cool”. That was a sad, sad thing, although I have to say I think I’d rather read an anachronistic “cool” than the presumably contemporary phrase “let’s jaw awhile”. The man who says this is making a tentative romantic overture in this scene … I think there might have been a better way to phrase it, especially as he doesn’t as a rule talk like an ol’ cowhand from a low budget western.

It was sweet; it was clean; it bordered on heavy-handed in its Christianity, but for me didn’t quite cross the line into proselytizing, working fairly organically into the writing; none of its flaws were so terrible as to be odious. It did hold my attention, but simply to find out what happened, not so much because I wanted resolution for the characters as because I wanted it for myself – I hate loose ends. It wasn’t one of those books that make me regret the time spent reading it. It was okay.

(Ah: I seem to have been right –
potty (n.) 1942, child’s word for “chamber pot,” from pot (1). Potty-training is attested from 1958. Potty-mouth “one who uses obscene language” is student slang from 1968.
potty (adj.) “crazy, silly,” 1920, slang, of unknown origin, perhaps connected to potter (v.). Earlier slang senses were “easy to manage” (1899) and “feeble, petty” (1860).

Another source indicates the word usage originated around 1840–50; still, it didn’t sit right. So to speak.)

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