I received this romance through the Tell Harlequin program where Harlequin sends out examples of their different lines to get feedback from readers. If I’d had my choice, I wouldn’t have taken this one because it is an Intrigue, the one line of Harlequins I tend not to appreciate because relationships formed under extreme pressure don’t feel like they have a chance of surviving past the last page. I am delighted that Tell Harlequin made me re-examine my thoughts about this line while introducing me to an extremely talented author.
Is Shotgun Bride an Intrigue? Absolutely. There’s a link to the criminal underground, there are secrets held that threaten to break families apart, there’s even a kidnapping and big rescue. All of these elements are standard thriller fare and need to be there for the novel to qualify in this line. However, they also connect into the story, layer upon layer woven together with the skills of a master despite the short number of pages, only 212.
The novel starts with a runaway, though not the heroine, something that comes as a relief all things considered. There’s a chase and fear in that thread, and it ties directly into the heroine’s story, interacting with both her past and present. There’s also a family tension thread as five adult sons are pressured by their father to settle down. It’s this second that makes me eat my words about Intrigues.
Through the father’s directive and how the brothers choose to handle it, a true romance occurs with the moment of connection, the barriers between them, and the realization that none of that matters. Everything I look for in a romance is present, and these elements don’t exist in a vacuum or as an extra layer. Instead they are twisted tight with the rest so that each step has echoes in all the parts of the story. When the extreme conditions occur, they strengthen a relationship that has been building on its own rather than craft one in the moment, and at the same time bring resolution to more than just the love story.
I realize this is all very vague, and I’ve kept the names hidden, but I don’t want to spoil the book. The main characters come clear pretty early on, but how they do is part of the fun. As a reader and a writer, I was impressed by the way the story has so many things going on but all of them tie together to form a complex, fascinating story with a firm love story leading the way.
This is clearly, at least to me, the setup for a series, and I hope Harlequin plans to continue it. I want to see what happens when the other brothers get their comeuppance, especially the one responsible for the romance in this book. While not all the characters had the chance to come to full presence, we learn enough to be intrigued and interested in learning more about even those whose only input is in the very beginning. I predict a string of novels following this family and this town with its secrets that are unraveling already in Shotgun Bride but have more room to cause trouble for everyone involved.