Title: MAIL-ORDER BRIDES OF THE WEST: BERTHA
Series: Montana Sky Series Novella
Author: Debra Holland
Narrator: Lara Asmundson
Format: Unabridged Audiobook, 3 hrs and 13 mins (Kindle, 100 pages)
Published: June 8, 2016 (Debra Holland)
ISBN: ASIN: B01GQSYDSY
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Rating: 4 out of 5 Wine Glasses
MAIL-ORDER BRIDES OF THE WEST: BERTHA, a Montana Sky Series Novella by NY Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Debra Holland
Bertha Bucholtz returns to her St. Louis home after an unsuccessful stay at the mail-order bridal agency. Her family house is overflowing with her thin, beautiful sisters and their many suitors, and shy, overweight Bertha is lost among the chaos. Even her baking skills—so praised at the agency—aren’t special, for her six sisters and her mother are also excellent cooks. Desperate to be living on her own, Bertha searches for a job as a cook but with little success.
Then a letter arrives from her nemesis at the bridal agency. Shrewish Prudence Crawford, now Mrs. Michael Morgan, invites Bertha to move to Morgan’s Crossing, Montana Territory and work as a cook and housekeeper at the boarding house for her husband’s miners.
Upon her arrival in Morgan’s Crossing, Bertha has to contend with Prudence, who seems to have mellowed—or has she? The boarding house is dirty, run-down, and full of uncouth miners. As the only single woman for miles around and a lauded cook, Bertha quickly becomes the siren of the tiny town as well as nearby Sweetwater Springs, as miners and cowboys flock to court her. Now the shy woman who had no choice of suitors has an abundance of them to pick from. She never would have dreamt having too many swains was a bigger problem than having none at all.
“I particularly want you to meet Miss Bucholtz.”
The very idea made him uneasy. “Why is that,
Ma’am?” he bluntly asked.
Mrs. Morgan hesitated. “Keep this under your hat, mind you.”
She let out a tired sigh. “I’ve brought Miss Bucholtz to replace Mr. Gabellini.”
Howie pictured a dried up old spinster with the same commanding presence as Mrs. Morgan, a real battle-axe.
“Fireworks are coming. Are you sure a woman is the right, uh, person for the job?”
“Bertha Bucholz is one of the best cooks I know. I guarantee by this time next month, you men will all be sporting five extra pounds.”
Mail-Order Brides of the West: Bertha is the delightfully sweet and lovely conclusion to Debra Holland’s Mail Order Brides series. I’ve enjoyed this series so much that I hate to see it come to an end. I’m not ready to say goodbye! Bertha’s story could be enjoyed as a stand-alone read, if that is your preference. However, just know that previous characters in the series appear through-out. This is the story of mail-order bride Bertha Bucholtz and Morgan’s Crossing’s handyman Howie.
Sadly, Bertha was the only potential mail-order bride left without a husband when the agency closed. With no other choice, Bertha returns to her family home where she feels out-of-place and overwhelmed. Being super shy and overweight, she doesn’t attract the attention of suitors as do her thin, beautiful sisters and the house is swarming with all the courting. Bertha’s amazing skills in the kitchen were appreciated at the agency; but are mostly ignored in her family home. Desperate to be out on her own, she unsuccessfully searches for a cooking job. Resigned to her spinster state, Bertha never expected to receive a job offer from Prudence, who had teased and tormented her without mercy at the agency. Without any other prospects on the horizon and reminding herself that jobs aren’t like marriages, and she can leave if she’s not happy, Bertha decides to take a chance and accept Prudence’s offer. Little did she know what awaited her in the territory of Montana!
Howie is Mr. Morgan’s stable caretaker at Morgan’s Crossing. Being an introvert, Howie doesn’t talk much. Women make him nervous and he never knows what to say – so he doesn’t. When Mrs. Morgan assigns him to making sure that the men’s new cook and housekeeper settles in and finds everything she needs, he is expecting a dried-up battle-axe. When Bertha literally falls into his arms, he is a gentleman extraordinaire. Howie immediately recognizes that Bertha is beautiful inside-and-out – something other men had missed much to their detriment.
Following please find a few of my favorite quotes from Bertha’s book:
She sighed. “What I wouldn’t give for a civilized bathroom.”
Howie remained silent out of habit and also because he didn’t know what a civilized bathroom was.
“Don’t be sorry, Darlin’”, he said in his best cowboy drawl, “for I’m certainly not. It’s not every day a man like me gets to assist such a pretty lady. Any time you need help in or out of a wagon, you just give me a holler” he said in a teasing tone, “I’ll be right there, hoping you’ll fall in my arms again.”
Howie rose and smiled down at her. “I just eat what’s put before me without being picky. I know everything you make will make my tastebuds bless the day you set foot in Morgan’s Crossing” he drawled, waiting to see the adorable look of confusion that crossed her face when he flirted.
Bertha lowered her gaze and looked up at him through her eyelashes.
“Only your tastebuds?”
Lara Asmundson returns to narrate Bertha. As always, she does an awesome job. Her voice is clear and easy to understand. She differentiates between the characters to where I always know who is speaking just from her voice. She pauses, enunciates and exudes emotion precisely as needed. I hope to hear more of her performances in the future!
Fans of the series will be thrilled that Bertha has finally received her own story! I know I was certainly happy for her! It was also a special treat to catch up with previous brides in Bertha’s story – Darcy, Lina, Trudy and Prudence all made appearances - as all of their stories seemed to coalesce herein. I loved hearing what they’ve been up to! I have to say that I was most impressed with Prudence. She has come a long way from the bullying snit that she originally was as she has re-made herself into a much better person – someone others want to be around.
This was a wonderful and fitting finale to the series. Bertha’s book is a funny, clean and highly satisfying novella with very little angst. It’s a delightful tale with genuinely likable characters. I enjoyed watching Bertha blossom with her new job. As her confidence grew, her inner strength and courage came to the forefront and I was so proud of her! My only complaint is that I would have preferred a longer story with an ending that didn’t feel so rushed. If it just had an epilogue with a spelled-out happy-ever-after, I’d have been elated. Don’t get me wrong, there is a happy ending… just not as much of one as I’d have liked. That said, I still loved the book. It’s guaranteed to leave you with a warm feeling at the end.
Suggested Reading Order:
Mail-Order Brides of the West: Trudy
Mail-Order Brides of the West: Evie
Mail-Order Brides of the West: Heather
Mail-Order Brides of the West: Lina
Mail-Order Brides of the West: Darcy
Mail-Order Brides of the West: Katherine
Mail-Order Brides of the West: Prudence
Mail-Order Brides of the West: Bertha