McShannon’s Chance, by Jennie Marsland (Bluewood Publishing, 2009)
Beth Underhill is an independent-spirited young woman who wants to make her own choices in an era and society where that’s not done. She grew up in a wealthy family, accustomed to luxury. Now she’s an orphan, dependant on her relatives’ support. Her cousin expects to arrange a marriage for her, but if she can’t marry for love she’ll marry for business—and she’ll set it up herself.
The novel opens with the stagecoach depositing Beth in the small community of Wallace Flats, Colorado Territory, in 1870, as a mail-order bride.
Trey McShannon, her new husband, raises cattle and thoroughbred horses on property outside of town. It’s like living in the middle of nowhere, but Beth loves the horses, and the raw landscape is perfect for her watercolour paintings. And she discovers depths to Trey that attract her.
Trey fought in the American civil war—on the opposite side to his friends—and carries both physical and emotional scars. He wanted a wife to help with the workload, but he didn’t expect someone as beautiful and ladylike as Beth. How can he dare to believe she’ll stay?
Jennie Marsland has done an excellent job with her characters. I kept turning pages to read more about Beth and Trey as they learned how to coexist and began to fall for one another. The supporting characters are well done too, and there’s an interesting subplot between Trey and the town’s new sheriff.
McShannon’s Chance is satisfying as a western novel and historical romance. I did skip a bit here and there: it’s no surprise that a married couple would be physically intimate, but I’m not comfortable reading about it. What I saw wasn’t offensive, just very private and I felt like an intruder. This is a mainstream-market novel, and perhaps more sensual details are expected (maybe one reason I don’t read them too often?). It also has some moderate profanity, if that’s an issue for you.
Having said that, I look forward to reading the sequel. McShannon’s Heart is expected to release by year-end, and it’s the story of Trey’s sister, Rochelle. It’s set in the same time period in the Yorkshire Dales, England. You can read excerpts of both novels by following this link to Jennie Marsland’s books.
Canadian author Jennie Marsland connects to readers through her website, Hearts Through History, and through her blog, A Chat with Jennie Marsland. McShannon’s Chance is available in print and as an ebook.