Weston Garner is handsome, well-respected by family and the community, and honorable. He has also been reclusive during the five years since the tragic death of his wife, Cora. Wracked by guilt and remorse, he has sworn he will never marry again, choosing instead to focus on his extended family members, coming to the rescue of his Aunt Mary and Uncle George when they faced the loss of their farm.
Weston’s Aunt Louise is returning to Texas for the first time in a decade, but without her husband, Eli, or their only son, Mack, both of whom died in Mexico when the mine in which they were working collapsed following an earthquake. With Louise is her daughter-in-law, Rosa, a stunning Mexican beauty who was only married to Mack for one month when he perished after escaping the mine but going back in to search for his father. Rosa’s family disowned her when she married Mack; now Louise is her only family.
The tenants to whom Louise and Eli leased their farm failed to pay the taxes before abandoning it. Now Louise owes one hundred and sixty-six dollars in back taxes — a veritable fortune in 1878 — and has only three months to raise the money or the farm will be lost. She and Rosa must try to earn the money, but the likelihood of them managing to scrape together that much in so short a time is slim, at best. Where will they go if they lose their sixty acres and the familial home that stands upon that land? Louise enlists a naive Rosa in a last-minute, last-ditch plan to raise the money that serves to strain Rosa’s complicated feelings for and budding relationship with the reclusive Weston. Rosa and Weston recognize remarkable parallels in their prior experiences with matters of the heart, but can they overcome their many differences and shared reluctance to risk being hurt again?
Rosa wants to fit in with her neighbors in her staid new community, but she definitely stands out with her brightly-colored clothing, and lack of familiarity with American customs and the language. She is industrious, tenacious, and decidedly loyal to her mother-in-law. Like Weston, she carries pain and regret stemming from the circumstances of her brief marriage to Mack and is determined to never make the same type of mistakes again. Against the backdrop of Reconstruction-era Texas, Rosa and Louise’s precarious financial circumstances eventually compel desperate measures. Debut author Regina Jennings was inspired by the Biblical story of Ruth and Naomi’s relationship and efforts to thrive. Like Naomi, Louise is clever and resourceful. Like Ruth, Rosa is devoted to Louise, loyal to a fault, and feels indebted to Louise as a matter of honor, gratitude, and penance.
And then, of course, there is Weston, the wealthy, highly regarded, and charming Boaz-inspired character. As the eldest surviving male Garner, he has assumed his rightful place as patriarch and is equally loyal to his own flawed family members, including his Aunt Mary’s husband, George, who has been lured into a card game more than once, despite have many mouths to feed. Weston’s sister, Eliza, and her husband, Jake, reside with him on the family ranch, and it is Eliza who undertakes to visit Cora’s family in St. Louis to deliver Cora’s personal effects because Weston cannot bring himself to face his in-laws. Despite Weston’s ample charms, he has withdrawn by joining cattle drives and evading social interactions. His reticence has not deterred Molly Lovelace who is determined to win him over, securing status and security for herself so that she can leave her job at the local courthouse.
May I never see the day when romance is irrelevant. Don’t we all want to be cherished by
someone worthy of our regard? Don’t we want to be set apart for someone special?~ Author Regina Jennings
The story’s focus shifts dramatically when Louise’s bold plan to save the farm both succeeds in one respect, yet spectacularly fails in another, and sets in motion a series of events that take Rosa and Weston’s tenuously budding friendship in an unexpected direction. The witty dialogue, featuring a crisply inventive and unexpected repartee between the stubborn Rosa and reluctantly beguiled Weston, is entertaining and deliciously tantalizing. Will they? Or won’t they? Jennings keeps her readers guessing, as the large cast of supporting characters weigh in, meddle, and further complicate matters for the couple. Along the way, Rosa’s physical and psychological strength is tested, while Weston’s innate need to protect and defend everyone he cares about must also withstand challenges.
Sixty Acres and a Bride is a delightful, romantic surprise. Happily, Jennings is working on the sequel which will capitalize on the extensive research she performed into the Chisholm Trail and the culture of nineteenth century Caldwell County, Texas “that included both tough cattlemen and their Victorian ladies.” The next installment focuses on Molly Lovelace. Jennings describes her as a “handful” and promises that, like Sixty Acres and a Bride, it will be “a fun book.”