What an enjoyable read. Amanda Cabot does a wonderful job of weaving a good story line with plenty of discussion of the Lord and the hope that we can have in Jesus. I liked the fact that Amanda shows people who are struggling with God. They are angry with humans, but come to realize that the anger is really more directed at God for how He has treated them poorly. Amanda does a good job of debating the concept of "Why would a good God allow bad things to happen to good people?" The other thing I appreciated was that when a character in the novel comes to understand their need for forgiveness and salvation it isn't some dramatic event that brings that about, instead it happens in the simple act of listening to a sermon, allowing the Holy Spirit to bring conviction and then acting on that conviction and seeking forgiveness.
The general gist of the novel is that Sarah and Thea (two sisters) are traveling to Texas to start their lives over. Through a tragic event their parents have been killed and the girls are left without family and without any assets. Sarah is quite a bit older than Thea (who is two) so that people think that Thea is Sarah's daughter not sister. Although she makes it plan that they are sisters.
Sarah has started a correspondence with Austin Canfield who is looking for a wife to come and live on the ranch with he and his family. Sarah falls in love with Austin through the letters that he writes (unknowingly to her it is actually his brother who writes the letters for him). Sarah agrees to become his wife and she packs up Thea and moves to Texas.
Upon arrival in Texas she learns from Clay Canfield that his brother has been killed, Sarah's marriage is not going to happen and she might as well get back in the stagecoach and go back to Philadelphia. But she is not going to do that. She is going to stay, because there is nothing to go back to.
Did I mention that Sarah also has a problem? She walks with a limp because of a riding accident. Her horse fell on her and crushed her leg. They thought she would never walk again, but she proved everyone wrong. But who wants to marry a crippled woman with a two year old ward?
There are plenty of other twists in the story. One of those is that the town the Canfield's live near is that of immigrants from France and Germany. Thus people speak one of three languages. This will play into the story. Also there is ethnic tension between the two groups, that will also play into the story. Finally, someone is out to destroy the Canfield family and has caused them much pain and grief.
I won't give away the full story, but I am sure that you will enjoy it. It is a simple story line, fairly predictable, but the fact that Amanda does such a good job of tying in the truth of the Gospel in the novel sets it apart from others that I have read. This wouldn't be my number one Christian novel of the year, but I would think that it comes in at either second or third.
Sarah Dobbs agreed to be a mail order bride-anything to leave Philadelphia after the deaths of her parents. Austin Canfield wooed her from afar with beautiful letters Sarah called her paper roses. Finally Sarah arrives in Ladreville, Texas, only to discover that Austin has been killed. His brother, Clay, offers her the fare back to Philadelphia, but Sarah won't go. Instead, she's determined to make a new start in Ladreville, a small town divided in half with French and German immigrants from the Alsace region.
Clay Canfield is a Boston-trained doctor who feels trapped at his father's ranch after the death of his wife, but he's determined to find his brother's killer and enact vengeance before he leaves. But no one will talk. Meanwhile, someone is stirring up trouble between the immigrants, pitting them against each other. Sarah starts a school for the local children, but the ethnic groups alternate weeks of attendance, the parents refusing to let the children learn together. Sarah, being an outsider to the local problems, is courted by men from both groups. She's not interested. As time goes on, Sarah and Clay begin to fall in love, but their romance is complicated by Clay's quest for vengeance and the trouble in the town.
While Paper Roses starts out in the trope of mail order brides, it quickly deviates with Sarah's discovery, upon arrival in Texas, of the death of her intended. The dual cultures of the small town and the intrigue Sarah and Clay become involved in add layers to this historical novel. I found that the author tied up all of the various threads quite tidily by the end. The weakest thread, in my personal opinion, was the one that titled the book. I have trouble understanding a woman as practical as Sarah (or any other woman) thinking of love letters as paper roses.