Liz Harris is one of Choc Lit's very talented authors. She has been a lawyer, a teacher and long ago , shush, she was once a Hollywood babe, briefly a film starlet, yes, absolutely true. Nowadays, Liz is a very successful writer dedicated to finding and writing unusual and engaging novels that have universal appeal.
Liz is offering a freebie of A Bargain Struck to the lucky winner who comments here or on the wonderful article about Wyoming in 1880. Look tomorrow.
A Bargain Struck is Liz's second published 'full' print novel. There are others! Look on Amazon. Her first novel, The Road Back, takes place in Ladakh and brims with interesting characters, adventure and romance. However, the second is an absolute page turner, a sort of Little House on the Prairie for adults; more sophisticated than Little House, of course, and with interesting twists and turns.
I love the romance of the West. I collect the books, lived there once, taught it, and so it was refreshing to read a superbly researched novel set in Wyoming in 1880. The protagonists of this story are Ellen and Connor. Connor seeks a wife. He has a mixed farm, way out in the hills, somewhat isolated. Importantly, his daughter Bridget desperately needs a mother though she is resistant to Connor's choice of a bride! So, Connor advertises in the 'lonely hearts' method that was employed throughout the American West of 1880 and places his request in newspapers back east! He seeks a mail order bride. Of course, Connor would also like a son and, of course, he needs a woman to be company for himself and his daughter and importantly to create a home out of the lonely homestead. However, when he first meets Ellen as she steps off the train from the east, he finds out that she has a secret.
At first, Connor finds himself simply honouring a bargain. Over the progress of the novel this is set to change though I must not provide spoilers. It is sufficient to say here that the two central characters are psychologically extremely well drawn and this depth of character leads in turn to conflict and tension in the narrative. The personalities are of their times rather than a twenty-first century imprint placed in a past era. The petulant young daughter, Bridget, for instance, is beautifully constructed and she, especially, is set to grow and develop throughout the pages of the story. She makes life hard for her stepmother. Life was tough enough already, yet, determined to win Bridget's trust, Ellen rises to this emotional and difficult challenge. Enter the villains and life now becomes almost impossible for Ellen, proving that Liz Harris is a master of narrative tension. Will Connor and Ellen find love? Will Bridget accept Ellen? Can these characters survive the cruellest of plots? Read A Bargain Struck and find out.
I loved the sense of place in this novel and enjoyed reading the historical detail. The West is well described with its mountains, scrubby pastures, small towns, sunsets, sewing bees and an array of authentic facts so well integrated into the text that I was utterly transported into that world. Harris visited Wyoming as part of her research and will talk about this tomorrow.
In the context of this novel the characters struggle, work out their conflicts and meet with adversary. Depiction of day to day life on the homestead is certainly pitch perfect. Although the novel's plot is linear it is well constructed and, although the conclusion provides yet another surprise, I found it an interesting ending to an exceptionally good read. If you like books set in this era, Liz Harris is writing a novella which should please those who enjoy the period. It will be available on Amazon early in 2014 if not sooner.
A Bargain Struck can be purchased from all bookshops and is available from Amazon USA and UK. Do comment and enter the draw. I shall choose a winner on 1st December.
Carol McGrath is the author of The Handfasted Wife, #1 best seller in Biographical Fiction on Amazon, published by Accent Press, 2013.