Sixty Acres and a Bride
By Regina Jennings
Bethany House Publishers
01 February 2012
Rosa is transplanted from Mexico to Texas with her white mother-in-law, Louise, after her husband and her mother-in-law’s husband are killed in an accident. She cares for her new relatives (and her own family in Mexico had shunned her since her conversion to Christianity), but the town is sharply divided down color lines—whites on one side and brown people on the other.
Rosa and Louise also have to come up with four years worth of taxes before August—in just three months!—or they’ll lose their homestead, a beautiful sixty-acre ranch. They’re willing to work (if there’s something Rosa knows she can do, it’s an honest day’s work), and offers of help come from multiple sectors—some protective and others manipulative, and it’s difficult for Rosa to tell which is which. She’s not used to Texas propriety, “respectable” clothing for women, or the idea that when something bad happens between a man and a woman, the woman is always in the wrong, no matter the situation or how she got there.
I had high hopes for Sixty Acres and a Bride, set in post-Civil War Texas. Rosa is an interesting character, but I really worry when a non-white character is written by a white author. The other characters are appropriately Victorian, but Rosa is virtually out her element, and I’m not sure the author really made her convincing to me. The character tries (mostly in vain) to fit in, but she’s thwarted at every turn by propriety, respectability, even her skin color. Perhaps especially her skin color. Aunt Mary, Louise’s late husband’s cousin’s wife, is inspiring (and not all that tied up in “proper manners for ladies” as Louise is, to my relief), but I have a hard time believing she’d actually give someone like Rosa—someone so different from her—a fighting chance with so much prejudice in the town against her. (I mean, I’m glad she did, but still…)
And the men. Wow. Weston is a gruff-yet-honorable cowboy hiding past pain—he’s a decently-written but completely stereotypical character, even if that stereotype isn’t a poor one. Tillerton is basically (realistically, I’ve found, however unfortunately) a complete opportunistic douchecanoe… er, pardon the language. He’s utterly two-dimensional.
What can I say? It’s a standard Christian romance with a dash of historical fiction for flavor. It’s not bad, and it’s not bad writing, but I wasn’t surprised by or even particularly pleased with the ending. It’s… safe, I guess, and if that’s what you’re looking for, then great. This is the book for you. It won’t make you think about race relations or even really the disparity between what women are “allowed” to do and what men are. It’s great beach reading. I mean, even the good guy, Weston, sits at a kitchen table watching Rosa work and thinks, (italics mine)
… but that wasn’t all that captured his attention. The broad neck on her blouse exposed more skin than he was used to seeing before evening—and then only if the ladies were dressed for a social. As [Rosa] scrubbed against the stubborn drip of beans, he noticed her delicate collarbone, which was exposed to the very point it met her curved shoulder. And the hollow at the base of her neck… really! How did Mexican men get anything done during the day if all their womenfolk flitted around the kitchen dressed like that?
Yes, how indeed? -_- If the good guy is thinking things so, well… so not good, what hope is there for the rest of the characters to treat women fairly? Someone might point out that it’s historical fiction, but the author—as was her prerogative—already tossed out a lot of the history in favor of a good romance. In that case, why not make things more fair for women?… unless the author actually believes that women and men are truly the gender roles society prescribes for them upon their births?
DISCLAIMER: I received Sixty Acres and a Bride free from LitFuse Publicity in return for a review of the book. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Read other reviews and learn more about the book on the blog tour’s main page.