In the ol' West, it was assumed that people never lacked common sense - it was wild after all and people gotta do what they gotta do. In Joan Johnston's The Barefoot Bride, that's exactly what the reader gets - characters so full of horse sense that there was no need for a conflict. And that's exactly what the reader never got - a conflict. Not that you would miss it if you read this book.
Dr. Seth Kendrick and Molly Gallagher were both widowed and married for the sake of their children - Seth needed a mother for his daughter and Molly needed to provide for her two children when her husband died and left her almost penniless. Coming from Massachusetts as a mail-order bride, Molly adapted quite well to the rugged life in Montana, being the practical woman that she was. Her decision to become a mail-order bride can also be easily understood -with no money and the responsibility of two children, how can one not? Neither Seth or Molly promised love in this marriage of convenience but of course it wouldn't be a romance novel if it weren't the end result. But, unlike the typical romance novel narrative, both did not have trouble with the fact that they had fallen in love with each other. There was no time for introspection when both characters had other "real life" and interesting things to deal with - wayward children, building an extra room, dealing with villains as well as assisting medically ill townsfolk. Did this reviewer mention how sensible the hero and heroine are?
Although both Seth and Molly had a hard past, their emotional baggage didn't seem to carry over to their relationship. Johnston tried but when dealing with adults and real problems, well, the baggage didn't seem worth it enough to dwell over. When the circumstance of Seth's wife death was revealed, it was incredible to see how well Seth had adjusted to the fact. Of course, Johnston only gave us a few sentences of how Seth dealt with his wife's death before he met Molly so he was never really portrayed as the tragic, tortured hero. Just an admirable man trying to survive the wild, wild West in the most sensible and practical manner. It was mentioned that they were sensible, wasn't it?
The way Seth and Molly dealt with each other and circumstances was what made The Barefoot Bride a very good read. One can't help but like people who deal with difficult situations with such prudence. The children's antics were entertaining, especially the 12 year old spunky Patch, whom one cannot help but admire no matter how sullen she is. The children's reluctance to accept their new family was the greatest challenge in Seth and Molly's relationship, which they handled with aplomb, even when they doubted themselves. In effect, their attraction became respect and admiration; ultimately resulting in love mostly due to the how they handled their children. And isn't that how real life should be? Very believable for romantic fiction and also made it effortless to empathize with Seth and Molly. Johnston gave us a good story, with interesting characters that behaved like normal well-adjusted adults and credible troubled but typical pre-teens - characters that we can truly appreciate. A very good fun read all around