Linda Lael Miller's Christmas Brides is two novels in one, set in the rugged Western U.S. in the late 1800s/early 1900s. My understanding was that these two novels involve character from two long running book series that Miller writes. It wasn't a problem though, not having read any of Miller's other books, to follow the stories, all that was lacking was perhaps some background on some of the other characters.
A McKettrick Christmas
The first story begins with Lizzie McKettrick on a train, headed home for the holidays, with plans to stay and teach after the first of the year. She's spent the last few years at finishing and teaching school, and is ready to be home. With her is her beau, a city boy, who she is taking to meet the family and from whom there is high hopes of a proposal.
However, the train is hit by an avalanche, killing the conductor and stranding the train in the midst of a blizzard. Lizzie is sure her family will set out to find them when they don't arrive, but the weather is an impediment. There are a handful of other passengers on the train as well, including Dr. Morgan Shane. Dr. Shane and Lizzie work together to keep the passengers fed, trying to keep them warm and alive. Lizzie's beau is no help, turning into a spoiled brat. While he later redeems himself, it's clear there's no real hope for him and Lizzie. instead, there's a connection between Lizzie and the good doctor.
One of the train passengers is a Mr. Christian - or as the children on the train take to calling him, Mr. Christmas. He turns out to be the Christmas angel of the group, in more ways than one. As they are eventually rescued by Lizzie's family, we see Lizzie come to a decision about her suitors and then a bit about her story after the rescue.
A Creed Country Christmas
Talk about a whirlwind romance. This was the epitome of the times and marrying for necessity. Juliana is stranded with four young Indian children after the Indian School she taught at was shut down, She can't bring herself to abandon the two youngest, and the two oldest have family who want them back. Her brother in Denver refuses to provide Juliana with any of the money she inherited to help the children.
A the moment the Grinch-like shop keeper is about to kick them out, Lincoln Creed enters and ends of taking Juliana and the kids back to his ranch when he finds out they have no where to go. It's just a few days before Christmas, and Juliana and the kids settle in at the ranch, where Lincoln's daughter, Gracie, is ecstatic to have them there (especially when she learns that Juliana is a teacher).
Within a matter of days, the two are married, the evil Indian affairs man is dealt with, and the issues with all four children are settled. The story in between of how it all gets settled, Lincoln dealing with issues surrounding his deceased wife, Juliana coming to terms with her family, is heartwarming and makes the marriage of necessity so much more.
A nice, feel-good set of stories, it's light-hearted feel-good book perfect for the Christmas season. I don't typically read this type of book, but for a holiday read, it was perfect.