We first meet Jolene Crawford Crenshaw in Holly Bush's debut Crawford Family book, Train Station Bride. Jolene was the utterly mean sister to heroine Julia. How does an author take a character who was so disliked and turn her into a heroine? Well, Holly Bush knows the secret, and she does so in the second epic tale of the Crawford Family, Contract to Wed.
It's now Boston, 1891, and socialite Jolene Crawford Crenshaw has become a widow. She has already suffered loss that has made her bitter, but to be insulted further by her deceased husband's will, Jolene must make a choice, stay in Boston and be ridiculed by her malicious mother and by society, or to start over elsewhere.
Wealthy Texas Rancher, Maximilian Shelby has been a widower for sometime, his beloved wife died, leaving him with a small daughter to raise and now that the spitfire, Madeline is almost thirteen, Max needs someone to take his daughter into hand and also assist him in his political aspirations to become Senator. When his sister, Eugenia, who lives in Boston, tells him about the misfortunes that have befallen the widowed Jolene, he marries her by proxy after agreeing to a long list of demands that the irksome Jolene has sent him.
When Jolene arrives in her new town and meets her new husband for the first time, she is pleasantly surprised Max is so amiable and handsome. She is not happy, however, to find that the daughter, who she believed was of a marriageable age, to be only twelve. Jolene has no intention of being a mother again, not after suffering the terrible loss that holds heavily on her heart.
Max sees the beautiful and sophisticated, Jolene and immediately feels a twinge of attraction to her. Even after his pledge to never love again after his Melissa passed away, Max can't help but see the possibilities of growing his relationship with Jolene. But Jolene tries desperately to hold Max to a distance. She is after all, a product of the cold and demeaning Boston upbringing in the Crawford household. Nary a word of praise passed from her mother's lips in the time she spent with her parents. Then she went to her first husband's home, discovering a betrayal that forever changed the way she felt about him. Even with his death, the joke was on her when he leaves the bulk of his millions to her sister, Julia's child, cementing the betrayal once suffered.
Now, Jolene finally has a chance to start anew, but because of her past, she can't take at face value what is right in front of her. She constantly looks for reasons to dwell on the sorrow and the loss, instead of grasping the good. Max, the ever patient husband, knows Jolene has suffered greatly, although he doesn't know all her secrets, he is willing to put his past behind him and solidify his new family. Will these star-crossed lovers find their way? Read Contract to Wed, by Holly Bush to find out.
Well I guess you all can gather from my review, I simply love this book. I can honestly admit that I have never been let down by one word that Holly Bush has ever written. Ms. Bush's writing is solid and fraught with emotion. Taking a much hated character and turning the tides on her is an undertaking that Holly Bush has done with success. Max and the menagerie of colorful characters in his Hacienda, makes Contract to Wed a story not to be missed.