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Sixteen Brides Review by Donna Campos

By Stephanie Grace Whitson
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group
11400 Hampshire Ave. South
Bloomington, MN 55438

A glossy soft-cover of 350 pages, Sixteen Brides contains 30 chapters, each of which begins with a Scripture reference. The story is set in the 1870s, just as pioneers were heading west. In this intriguing story of deception, sixteen women travel west with a newly trusted guide. But as the story unfolds, eight of the women remove themselves from the group, and the story begins to focus on them more specifically. No additional materials are necessary; this is simply a good historical fiction story for anyone (young teenagers and up) who enjoys a bit of romance mixed with the excitement of the frontier. The writing is very descriptive. The characters are creative and different, and they are plentiful enough for a household of different personalities to each find a character to relate to! The story is clean, albeit exciting, and it does include realistic elements without having graphic sexual content, blood and gore, or unseemly language.

Sixteen Brides quickly draws you in as it describes several of the sixteen women who travel west on a train after joining the Ladies Emigration Society, a group they believe will enable them to obtain homesteads of their own as independent women. In fact, the group is designed to draw unmarried women westward as prospective wives for the heavily male population. The women characters include a widow, an estranged wife, a mother and daughter, and more. The male characters include a son desperately seeking his place in the world after the death of his father, a widower, an amputee soldier, a successful rancher, and others, including a rather shady character who adds a great deal of suspense to the story. There are some Yankee references, some vague references to the possibility of a father-in-law making sexual advances toward his daughter-in-law after his son dies in the war, and one character who is plagued with "demons" that are eventually defined as his painful memories and negative thoughts. He learns to work through his problems as a friend leads him to read the Bible. Christian songs are mentioned, as are better attitudes, prayer, and more. Although realistic elements are included (such as an obnoxious drunk making unwanted advances), no extensive graphic description is included.

Sixteen Brides offers a wonderful view of the Wild West, the new frontier, and the lifestyle of pioneers as they made sod houses, built communities, planted, designed underground food storage areas, and helped one another. The story includes characters young teens can relate to--both girls and boys. Even parents can appreciate the lessons included in the text. A mother learns to allow her son the pains of responsibility, and a father watches as his daughter grows up before his eyes. Families who enjoy a good book together will truly love this story; it isn't all love and romance, although that is sprinkled throughout. It is also horses, homesteading, and honoring God with our behavior and choices. Sixteen Brides is a definite "keeper" in our library and will be enjoyed repeatedly over the years by our children.

Product review by Donna Campos, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2010