+Book Review+ A Bargain Struck by Liz Harris #ChocLitSaturdays

Posted Saturday, 18 January, 2014 by jorielov , , , 18 Comments

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A Bargain Struck by Liz HarrisA Bargain Struck by Liz Harris

Author Connections: Personal Site | Blog

Facebook | Twitter | Converse via: #ABargainStruck

Illustrated By: Berni Stevens

 @circleoflebanon | Writer | Illustrator

Genre(s): Fiction | Romance | Historical | Western

Old West Americana | 19th Century Wyoming

Published by: ChocLitUK, 7 September 2013

Available Formats: Paperback, E-Book & Audiobook Page Count: 336

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Acquired Book By:

I am a ChocLit reviewer who receives books of my choice in exchange for honest reviews! I received a complimentary copy of “A Bargain Struck” from ChocLit via IPM (International Publisher’s Marketing) in exchange for an honest review! The book released on 7th September 2013. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein. 

Inspired to Read:

As soon as I read the premise, I was brought back to “Loves Comes Softly” (the motion picture(s), as I did not read the novels)!! I love it when writers infuse romance in a way that arrives as calm as a gentle breeze into the lives of their characters! Love isn’t always fireworks and “bing, bang, boom!”!! Sometimes it takes awhile for a heart to accept the connection its softening towards and sometimes being human brings with it the baggage of not only our life experiences but of broken hearts &/or broken love. Mail-Order Brides. Brides of Convenience. I am drawn to these stories like moths to flame! I love reading them because they are always intrinsically unique! One prime example of a novel I like in this branch of romance is “A Bride in the Bargain” by Deeanne Gist.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comBook Synopsis:

Does a good deal make a marriage?

Widower Connor Maguire advertises for a wife to raise his young daughter, Bridget, work the homestead and bear him a son.

Ellen O’Sullivan longs for a home, a husband and a family. On paper, she is everything Connor needs in a wife. However, it soon becomes clear that Ellen has not been entirely truthful.

Will Connor be able to overlook Ellen’s dishonesty and keep to his side of the bargain? Or will Bridget’s resentment, the attentions of the beautiful Miss Quinn, and the arrival of an unwelcome visitor, combine to prevent the couple from starting anew?

As their personal feelings blur the boundaries of their deal, they begin to wonder if a bargain struck makes a marriage worth keeping.

Set in Wyoming in 1887, a story of a man and a woman brought together through need, not love …

Liz HarrisAuthor Biography:

Liz was born in London and now lives in South Oxfordshire with her husband. After graduating from university with a Law degree, she moved to California where she led a varied life, trying her hand at everything from cocktail waitressing on Sunset Strip to working as secretary to the CEO of a large Japanese trading company, not to mention a stint as ‘resident starlet’ at MGM. On returning to England, Liz completed a degree in English and taught for a number of years before developing her writing career.

Liz’s debut novel, The Road Back, won a 2012 Book of the Year Award from Coffee Time Romance in the USA and her second novel A Bargain Struck was highly praised by the Daily Mail in the UK.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comWyoming, on the fringes of the 20th Century:

Lush open land was the norm for the Western frontier, and Harris pulls the reader back into the days of virgin forest and the beginnings of urban developments to where the natural world remained quite in tact. I had grown up with stories surrounding the West from my Mum who had travelled West with her parents, and I oft remembered how she told me of how impressive and awe-inspiring those forest were to her young eyes! I have nearly felt as though I have all but touched the grace of those lands through the living histories of her and my grandparents she has shared throughout my childhood. I could notice hintings of the author’s travels to Wyoming threaded through the narrative as she gave a clear and conscientious description of the open ranges nestled just outside the organisations of the towne.

I first started to garnish a deep appreciation for Western stories and frontier life whilst a pre-teen reader who was seeking something outside the sphere of Children’s Literature. I sunk into the novels of The Black Stallion quite easily as I was approaching the horse drama genre from the real-life experiences of being a new equestrian in training. I could well relate to the close connections one forges with a horse as a rider who was inclined to cherish the hours she shared with her mount. I was hungry for stories of the Old West as much as the trials of those who dared to travel West from the East. Henceafter I would settle into Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, The Harts of the West, Walker, Texas Ranger, Lonesome Dove (film), Little House on the Prairie, The Young Riders (about the Pony Express), Love Comes Softly Saga, The Wilderness Family (film trilogy), The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Legend, Peacemakers, and as many horse dramas in motion picture as I could sort out to see via the silver and small screens. I was attracted to the truism of writers such as: Cameron Judd (Fiddler & McCann) and Dana Fuller Ross (Frontier trilogy of the Holts, as previously I hadn’t realised it had continued! I unearthed this information in 2013 through conversations on the Society). Western fiction is a part of my reading life I tend to forget to mention being amongst my absolute favourites to disappear inside!

Which goes to explain why I was lit with eager excitement in finding A Bargain Struck amongst the offerings of ChocLit books! I have been segueing in recent years of taking my appreciation for the West into my inspirational fiction wanderings which is why over the score of 2014 the vast majority of stories set in this genre will be threaded through my 70 Authors Challenge. I am sure I shall never extinguish a passion for seeing the roots of how we settled America nor of our Northernly neighbour (Canada) as well. There is such a rich living history forged out of need and destined out of determined grit. The strength necessary to carve out a living space in the midst of the wilds has a passionate appeal for a girl such as I whose heart is forever entwined to the natural world.

My Review of A Bargain Struck:

The complexity of the story inside A Bargain Struck is hinged to the theory of how well can you know someone you advert to marry and how well you can trust the person who takes up residence in your home after the haste of marriage. Mail-Order brides and marriages of convenience were quite the commonplace a handful of centuries ago due to the extreme consistency of pre-mature death. Men and women were thrown together to make do with the next spouse in line to agree to a partnership which would help them survive and thrive in the harsh realities of a farm or homestead. The work was heavily wrought on physical labour making it made a sound choice to find women and men who could bargain their contract of marriage to offset the chores and duties applied therein to each gender.

Harris paints a very poignant picture whilst opening her novel, as her bride is not a blushing one but one who is vacillating about what she should have writ her soon-to-be-husband and what she omitted. She’s at the cornerstone of her life caught between two worlds of acceptance: society at large ostracising her for her physical deformity and the kindness of a stranger who will wed her as his wife. Her step-daughter’s obsession with punishing her father for bringing a new ‘mother’ into her life had me flicker back a sideways smile towards remembrance of ‘Missy’ from Love Comes Softly. Bridget fills every inch of her red hair with a fierce Irish sensibility!

I did not take a shine towards Conn’s brother Niall nor of Bridget’s teacher Miss Quinn, as both felt to me of having the character towards malicious intent rather than outward sincerity. They were a matched pair in my eyes as they felt self-assured to place their own needs and desires ahead of those of the community, their friends, and family. I was admittedly hoping there would be a turning tide in the story were Riall would be behind the ruckus of disparaging behaviour which was all too common for frontier ranchermen to have dealt with. I normally wouldn’t want ill-will to befall a character but he was writ in such a way as to realise his spots were tattooed throughout his soul. He ought to have been happy to play the part of the rogue but oh, no! He had to be a rakish rat!

I had hoped a bit more flushing out of Peggy & William, the lovely neighbours who would step in to watch Bridget if need be. True salts of the earth, neighbourly and kind with a full heart of bringing together community fortitude. Harris’s research is embodied in the tasks she brings to the center of the story itself, whereupon Ellen is seen going through her daily chores, tasks, and projects. The ones that get me personally excited about one day living through a hearty Winter myself! (i.e. a proper backyard victory garden, canning, drying herbs, cold storage for root veg, etc) I adore wood-stoves and living off the land which inspires a freedom of self-sustainability! A near primer of how to make the land work for you is illuminated inside.

The most endearing bit to the story is how each of us has a choice of how we’re reflected in life and it is not always pinned to our attitudes but rather in a matching of the mirrors in which we present to the world. If our inner selves are aligned with our outer persona, our personality will carry-over any decidedly difference which could cause prejudicial behaviour. However, if a person’s character is shrouded in a double-blade sword of uncertainty behind the merit of their ethical motivations, an invisible line is drawn to ascertain whom is the better person to befriend.

Fly in the Ointment OR is it?

The only discerning flaw I could notice was the repetitive nature of drawing attention to Ellen’s disfigured scar, which felt to me as though the characters and the texture of the story were not following suit of the pacing. Except to say, as I mulled over the choices of when the topic was brought up in the story itself, I realised I was approaching this from an extroverted point of view rather than an introspective and introverted perspective which is the characteristic of the central lead characters! Both Ellen and Conn are quite reserved, less likely to broach their internal feelings and thoughts, as they would typically walk on eggshells around each other than state a straightforward truth. Approaching my issue with the repetition in taking into account their own personalities, I am not sure if its such a flaw as a difference in an approach I would have given them.

I appreciated when their individual discussions would turn reflective and entertain the heart of what was stabbing at their marriage’s stability and civility. One of the true strengths of ChocLit novels that I can foresee having read two of them within a fortnight, is that ChocLit novelists do not shy away from giving out the internal lives of married couples. They do not merely hint at the everyday nuisances of married life nor do they flinch to reveal how each man and woman feel whilst in their marriage. I like the inclusion of dialogue and of passages where you’re not having their everyday motions swept past your view, but rather explored; revealing hidden truths as you are walking with them through their angst or uncertainty rather than merely presuming what they are thinking or doing in those moments of strife.

I truly was rooting for Conn and Ellen to get to the point to where they could say what they felt in their heart rather than lead with a standard response to hide their truer feelings. I think in this regard, this is not a fly in the ointment in the traditional sense but an irksome reality of marriage in the late 19th Century being viewed by a 21st Century strong-willed gal who felt badly for both of them to always fall back on what was their original opinions rather than the change of heart they were equally acknowledging to have had.

A Note of Appreciation on behalf of the writing style of Ms. Harris:

For an American whose own writing voice has moved past her native language and merged into the language and stylings of her ancestors, I personally am drawn into stories evoked out of British & Old English vernaculars. I had received a few bits of feedback in the past to where an American whose written voice is British wouldn’t fly for creating stories set around American life nor for an American audience. I was always boldly bent towards taking the stance to defend not only my right to write a story in the voice and style that is naturally created but to keep my chin tucked up knowing that by remaining true to my own voice in story form was the only course I would be willing to take. I applauded and smiled whilst reading A Bargain Struck because this is the epitome of the critical eyes who could not grasp the fuller picture! The voice of a story isn’t hindered nor deflected by words, language, and phrases as it’s the craft of the story-teller to give the seed of the story through what is painted throughout the texture of the story itself.

I hadn’t even thought to think of the larger picture of this realisation until I was nearly halfway through the novel! I sat back and allowed myself a bit of a bubble of laugh over the seemingly pettiness that sometimes can affect or alter a writer’s perspective on the changing ebbs of publishing. For every solid story writ, there is surely an audience and a publisher who understands the writer’s intentions and merit of writing. I applaud this very British Americana novel for every inch of its contents for being decidedly British with a flair and flavour for homesteading life where the locality of words flow freely through the exchanges between Conn and Ellen.

And, on a very personal level, bless Ms. Harris for confirming what I felt was right in how to properly have spelt the word ‘travelling’! 

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This book review is courtesy of ChocLitUK,

ChocLitUK Reviewercheck out my upcoming bookish event and mark your calendars!

#ChocLitSaturdays | a feature exclusive to Jorie Loves A Story

*NEWSFLASH* : This marks my second *#ChocLitSaturdays*, where I will be spotlighting a book published by ChocLitUK! Coordinating bonus features will alight on my blog in forthcoming weeks! My next ChocLit review will be for “Close to the Wind” by Zana Bell, on the 25th of January! I will be tweeting about it ahead time if you want to watch the hashtag for future announcements for this Jorie Loves A Story feature!

**UPDATE** : 21 June, 2014 I have cross-posted my review of A Bargain Struck to my BookLikes blog, as well as cross-posting the first two paragraphs of the review to the ChocLitUK book page for the novel.

{SOURCES: Author photograph, Author Biography, Book Synopsis, and Book Cover were provided by ChocLitUK and were used by permission. Book Review badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Jorie Loves A Story badge created by Ravven with edits by Jorie in FotoFlexer. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Saturday, 18 January, 2014 by jorielov in 19th Century, American Old West, Blog Tour Host, ChocLitSaturdays, ChocLitUK, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Family Drama, Family Life, Farm and Ranching on the Frontier, Father-Daughter Relationships, Fly in the Ointment, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Homestead Life, Indie Author, Mail-Order Brides & Marriages of Convenience, Modern British Literature, Old West Americana, Romance Fiction, Second Chance Love, Western Fiction, Western Romance, Women's Fiction, Writing Style & Voice

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18 responses to “+Book Review+ A Bargain Struck by Liz Harris #ChocLitSaturdays

    • Hallo Ms. Tranter,

      Thank you for your lovely compliments! I do hope as you get to know Conn & Ellen you will be looking forward to seeing how their story knits together! Do drop back and let me know your impressions after you’ve read their story!?

  1. Liv Thomas

    What a lovely review, Jorie. Your enjoyment of the book shone through, and will be sure to encourage other readers. I look forward to reading more of your reviews.

    Liv x

    • Thank you, Ms. Thomas,

      For not only alighting on my blog today, but for finding my reviews are resonating with you! I look forward to your future comments, esp as I did review one other ChocLit novel The Reluctant Bride last week, as well as have an upcoming one this weekend as well! I hope one of my reviews or showcases inspires you to try a new author! Happy reading!

  2. What a thoughtful and considered review. I have to admit to thinking before I read this novel that the ‘wild west’ location wasn’t for me! However, I enjoyed it very much because of its universal theme of love growing against the odds. I was completely convinced by Conn and Ellen and the story of how they were able to step out from the deep shadows of the past to build their own future – it was a lovely read.

    • Thank you, Ms. Stovell,

      These are the type of reviews I love to create to give readers the chance to understand what they will find inside of a novel, and to hopefully, encourage them towards meeting the characters of whom have warmed my own heart! I am finding that readers appreciate this, as they enjoy seeing the bits of the stories which touch me as much as how I feel overall once I conclude the book. I appreciate your compliment.

      For me? I think because I was approaching the Western genre from a rider, I wasn’t as worried about what I might find inside, as I knew there would be a heap of references to riding, even though I hadn’t ridden Western then, I had an appreciation for the relaxed nature of Western riding! :) Those first books I read transformed my heart, out of which grew a deep passion for frontier life and learning as much as I could about settlers and homesteaders! :) I even appreciate a well-written story which includes Native Americans who work alongside or respect their neighbours. Not always the case as history will reveal, but its nice to find some stories where it was true.

      You hit the nail on the head: ‘love growing against odds’ which is such a good way of putting why Mail-Order Brides | Marriage of Conveniences appeal to me most directly! Thankful to hear you were as wrapped up in this story as I was!

  3. Melanie Brown

    I have yet to read A Bargain Struck – it’s in a queue (there’s always a queue). On the back of this thorough review, however, I think it’s going to jump to the top! x

    • Ms. Brown,

      I completely concur and sympathise with you on reading queue’s! One of the Reading Challenges for 2014 I felt was meant especially for me is called: Rewind Challenge! Which is hosted by a book blogger I met through a readathon in August! Bree felt one of the things that happens to all of us is getting quite eager & excited to read all the books that whet our palette of interest that perhaps there are those which sneak past us? I am still formulating my full list of past ‘books mad to read’, but will be posting it this week! :) I think part of the joy of reading are having such queues! Always gives us the inspiration of discovering someone new and unique to add into our reserved memories full of settings, strong characters, and memorable scenes!

      I’m thankful you dropped by, if only to push this title close to the top! :)

    • Isn’t this the truth, Ms. Britnell?

      I thankfully was settled into the visceral descriptions of life on the homestead, to where I nearly could have suspected I was starting to breathe in the scent of the trees! I love feeling as though I am ‘a part’ of the setting, rather than merely stopping over for a short spell. The more vivid the details the happier I feel I’ve truly snuck away into a different place altogether! Harris proves this point in her descriptions! :)

    • Thank you for stopping by again, Ms. Eikli! :)

      I was thankful my introduction to ChocLit was through your very own novel, The Reluctant Bride which I happily read ahead of this one! It was such a lovely experience, because you both write wholly true within your own historical eras to where I felt as though I had left France & England in exchange for Wyoming without having any trouble reconnecting the time sequences! :)

      Guess what!? I hadn’t realised the Epilogues were tucked behind the last page in ChocLit novels! I learnt by tweeting Ms. Harris of this quirk, so imagine my happy-hearted surprise in reading the ‘notice!’ for Conn & Ellen!

  4. bernimoonhouse1620

    As a massive fan of North America – in particular the South-West desert regions – I was thrilled to read Liz’s story, set in the Wilds of Wyoming during very hard times for ranchers. Liz captures the feel of the times and place brilliantly, and I was rooting for Conn and Ellen from the word go. A lovely read.

    • I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments of the wilds of the West, of Wyoming nor of rooting for Conn & Ellen to not only settle their own disturbances in their marriage but to be a united front against what was happening around them at the time. I made a slight mention of this arc of the story, but it was lovely how it was threaded, placed, and handled by the author. I always have held such high respect for ranchers & those who watch over the Open Range(s)!

  5. Kathryn Freeman

    Having read and really enjoyed A Bargain Struck myself, I very much enjoyed this in depth review of the book. Romance arriving as a gentle breeze – lovely – I couldn’t agree more!

    • Thank you, Ms. Freeman! :)

      I love finding a story which brings to life the phrase I mentioned which had set well with you: ‘romance arriving as a gentle breeze’, because I think it shows a deeper meaning behind the regular romance we might all normally be attracted to reading. There is a humble truth in gentleness and I loved seeing how Ms. Harris brought Ellen & Conn together!

  6. Many thanks for your thoughtful and detailed review of A Bargain Struck, Jorie. I was thrilled when I read your review.

    I loved writing the novel as I really liked my characters and the setting in which I’d placed them. My enjoyment was enhanced by being able to go to Wyoming to find the elusive answers to my questions about life for a second generation homesteader in Wyoming, 1887.

    • Ms. Harris,

      Reading your response warmed my heart, as I always try to honour the words and the context of the stories I am reading whilst writing about novels on my blog! :) I think your story inside A Bargain Struck was enhanced by the trip you took to Wyoming, as the setting attached itself to your heart, and wove its way into the novel! Always the best I think, when writers can physically visit their locales. Not always easy to do, but I do notice bits of those experiences have a way of settling into the reader’s mind as there is a hidden layer added for our enjoyment.

      I must confess research is one of my favourite bits to writing! :)

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