4 stars and a half

Category Romance Review: Country Bride by Debbie Macomber

Country Bride, Debbie Macomber, Harlequin, 1990, Will Davies cover art

Harlequin Romance # 3059

Spoiler Free Review 🙂

4 1/2 stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Debbie Macomber’s Country Bride was my introduction to this hugely popular author. I’m ashamed to admit that although I’ve read a handful of her Harlequins, I had no idea that Debbie Macomber was such a commercial hit with her small-town romances. Up until recently, I had no clue that she’s got a whopping 200 million books in print and has written several movies for the Hallmark channel.

Country Bride was released in 1990, and I recall really loving it. Although this book maintains a largely positive rating overall, I was surprised that the top Amazon and Goodreads reviews were negative, blaming the heroine for being too self-centered or the hero for being too overbearing. I thought nostalgia might have colored my opinion of this book, but after a recent re-read, my feelings on Country Bride remain unchanged; I love this little series romance, and a big reason was the hero, Luke.

The Plot

Country Bride is the sequel to Macomber’s A Little Bit Country, and I read the books in reverse order, which negatively affected my opinion of the first book in the series. In A Little Bit Country, countryman Clay dumped his girlfriend and fiancee, Kate Logan, for Rorie, a city girl. Country Bride picks up at Rorie and Clay’s wedding, where the heroine keeps up a brave face, pretending to be happy for the newly wedded couple, even though she’s heartbroken inside. Giving her support is her long-time ranch foreman, Luke Rivers.

I was really into soap operas back when I first read this book, so my head did a bit of mental casting for Luke. I pictured him as actor Randolph Mantooth, of Emergency fame, whom I knew from the ABC daytime soap Loving as the smooth, level-headed half of the super couple Alex and Ava. Ava was a manic, crazy “bad-girl,” a perfect foil for the sedate Alex. (Side note: you could always tell who Loving’s big couples were because of the alliteration, like Trisha and Tucker, Rocky and Rio, etc., although lots of soaps did that, too). I thought Mantooth’s handsome, even-keeled attitude fit perfectly for Luke.

Lisa Peluso & Randolph Mantooth, aka “Ava & Alex” from Loving

Anyway, Kate downs one too many champagnes at Rorie and Clay’s wedding reception and flirts outrageously with Luke, going so far as to propose to him. The next day she’s embarrassed but sure that Luke will quietly forget all about her silliness. To her shock, he’s insistent that the proposal was real, and what’s more, that Kate has feelings for him.

He stands firm on acting if their engagement is genuine and that they truly are a couple. Kate is blindsided. Where had all this come from? To her, Luke was just dependable, reliable Luke, always there, and always doing what was expected of him. How dare he act as if he knows what’s in her heart?

Now I suppose if I have imagined Luke like this:

“Pizza the Hutt” from Spaceballs

I would have thought Luke’s behavior was pushy and creepy. But in the land of romance, our heroes are always handsome, and on rare occasions that they aren’t, they have lots of magnetism that draws people to them.

Kate is stubborn. Luke is bullheaded. The two are certain that their way is right. Luke calls Kate his “princess,” which is a bit squicky, but he knows Kate is a high-maintenance type of gal, and he’s up to the task been of keeping her happy. He’s tired of being ignored and takes advatange of the best opportunity he gets to show Kate her love for Clay was an illusion.

Final Analysis of Country Bride

I think it’s possible that readers who dislike this romance don’t like heroes who claim to know the heroine’s mind better than she does hers, which is a fair argument. It’s just in this case, Luke’s right. Kate’s feelings for Clay might have been genuine, but they never ran deep. He was just seen as the perfect guy, the perfect partner, and Kate, who tried to cultivate a reputation as the perfect woman, had her mind fixated on Clay; it was never truly her heart.

This 30+ year-old small-town romance may seem from another world entirely and may not appeal to modern readers who don’t like men who come on as strong as Luke did. I don’t mind it if it’s presented appealingly. For me, this book worked. I thought this was a sweet romance about two people who made an unusual but convincing pair and would rank it as one of the better Harlequin Romances I’ve read.

Reviewed by: Intovert Reader

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