Review: A Bride for Nathan

A Bride for Nathan audiobook cover. A pretty woman gazes out of the cover, franed by flowers. A Bride for Nathan by Barbara Goss
My rating: 2 of 5 stars ⭐⭐
Duration: 3 hrs 40 mins

A Bride for Nathan is a historical romance set in nineteenth century America. Civil War soldier, Nathan, is critically injured in battle and agrees to a "marriage by proxy" to ensure that his daughter, Belle, remains cared for. Believing himself to be on his deathbed Nathan marries his best friend's sister, a spinster whose own future would be much more secure with the status of a 'widow' - even if she hasn't met the groom. But the newlyweds plan goes awry when Nathan lives and they must find a way to move forward with their lives despite being thrown together so unexpectedly.

This was my first 'proxy bride' story, not only in this series but in the genre as a whole, so I felt some kinship with Nathan and Allie as they faced the unfamiliarity of their new situation and struggled to adjust to the changes in their circumstances.

The writing felt a little awkward in parts and the narration sometimes stilted, but not terribly so. Tweaking the repetition of certain words and phrases would have given it some polish and made for a smoother reading/listening experience. (For example "The woman extended her arms to her, and Belle ran to her arms.") This is a pet hate, however, so my sensitivity may be greater than that of other listeners.

The narrator, Leonor Woodworth, has a pleasant voice. Soft and delicate it suits Allie's shy, anxious, character well, capturing her hesitancy and naivety, but is a little childish in tone for a woman of her age. The narrator handles the male voices well, and creates an endearing performance as five-year-old Belle.

I am not familiar enough with this period in American history to comment upon the accuracy of the language and historical references, but it struck me as sounding surprisingly contemporary at times. There is a youthfulness to American English, unbound by some of the formality of British English during the same period, that takes some getting used to!

I liked the idea and warmed to the characters, but felt as though it needed refining. I believe that the story would have benefitted tremendously from some conflict or tension, as many of the points at which one would normally expect the characters to struggle were only fleetingly addressed. Aside from resisting sympathy Nathan managed his anger without taking his frustrations out on others, his friendship with Allie grew swiftly, and Belle took to her new mother (and the return of the father she'd never known) without any difficulty or adjustment - despite having been left alone with her deceased childminder for two days prior to the formation of her new family. Allie's anxiety also ebbed and flowed at convenient points in the story, allowing her to rally whenever needed and never really causing the paralysing inconvenience which often characterises social anxiety in real life.

It was refreshing to have both protagonists in this story battling with their own disabilities - one physical and one psychological - and I particularly enjoyed the ways in which the overlapping facets of their conditions were treated. Nathan's amputation may have been brutally physical in nature but its lasting impact was on his confidence, and Allie's insecurity may be her main diagnosis but the way it presented as panic attacks and tremors was far more incapacitating. Neither experience was given any more or less validity than the other, and both were heroic in their own ways.

I was glad that the author covered some of Nathan's rehabilitation, too, though the gruelling process could have been explored with more candour and in greater detail. Rather than appearing brave, Nathan's resilience and reserve is sometimes unrealistic as he neither fell victim to the corrosive effects of repressing his emotions, nor vented them in healthy or unhealthy ways. He remained very controlled much of the time, as did Belle, which I felt belied the traumas to which they had each been subjected.

I wish this audiobook had been twice as long, but had spent the additional time exploring the raw experiences that these damaged characters would really have had to overcome in order to grow together as the book progressed. At the moment it feels like the abridged, hallmark-channel version of a more interesting story, and that's a shame because ultimately it does not do the characters justice. There's a lot to like about the characters and the main plot of the book, and several of the supporting characters were also strong enough to have carried stories of their own, and it is because of this that I would have liked their experiences to have been presented with more honesty and depth.

A Bride for Nathan is a very sweet, innocent, romance with a distinctly Christian tone. I would recommend this audiobook to anyone who likes stories in that genre and is looking for a relatively lightweight listen that focuses upon the growing relationship between the main couple without too many obstacles keeping them from their happily ever after.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

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