Ransom’s Bride by Ginger Hanson
(Zebra, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8217-7534-0
At the end of the Civil War, Ransom Champion, a Confederate cavalry officer, returns home to his fiancée, Sabrina. Angela Stapleton, Sabrina’s younger sister, greets Ransom and tells him his beloved fiancée died just weeks before his return. Angela lies about the details of Sabrina’s death. And she doesn’t tell him that she’s secretly been in love with him ever since she took over writing love letters to him when her sister lost interest. Sabrina originally dictated the letters to Angela, who had much better penmanship. This made it easy for Angela to keep writing to Ransom under Sabrina’s name.

Ransom is devastated by the loss of his fiancée. They were to marry upon his return and he planned to take her to Texas where he was going to help his uncle on his cattle ranch, which he had been dreaming about during the war. Angela and her aunt Julia invite Ransom to stay with them for a few days. That night Ransom has a dream that he’s back in the war faced with the atrocities that haunt him. Angela hears him yelling and thrashing in bed and comes to his room to see if he’s all right. Ransom believes it’s his Sabrina that’s comforting him. Ransom has a wonderful dream that his Sabrina is alive and he’s able to hold her and touch her, but wakes horrified to find that he actually made love to Angela. Angela is so in love with Ransom that she went along with it willingly, even though she was a virgin. This is a bit of a stretch. Is it possible to have sex without waking up at some point? This is the entire basis for their marriage.

Ransom does the only gentlemanly thing and asks Angela to marry him. But Angela has dreams of going to medical school in Pennsylvania, which she was hoping to do now that that the war was over. She is about to turn Ransom down when a Union officer arrives and arrests Angela for the murder of her sister.

Ransom, Angela, Aunt Julia and Tommy, a young friend of the family’s, help Angela pull off a daring escape from the house before being taken to jail. This scene is thrilling because readers will desperately want Angela to escape. The rest of the story is just as exciting. Angela and Ransom have many adventures. All the while Ransom is trying to sort out his feelings for his new bride, to whom he feels a strong attraction, but nothing approaching the love he felt for Sabrina. And he feels guilty for marrying Angela only 24 hours after finding out Sabrina was dead.

Angela has her own feelings to sort out. She is determined to keep the secret of the love letters to herself because she promised Sabrina, as she lay dying, that she wouldn’t reveal this or the circumstances of her death to Ransom. It’s very difficult as the reader to watch Ransom make love to Angela with all the passion in the world one minute and then berate her for not being more like Sabrina in the next. And poor Angela loves Ransom, but hates him every time he calls Sabrina’s name in the throes of passion. The conflict is frustrating and uninspired. He loves her - he loves her not - she loves him - she loves him not.

Credit is due the author for making the story exciting from page one and not letting up until the very end, however. I finished the book in record time, just half a day, because it was difficult to put down. The adventures were engrossing and there were some unexpected twists in the story that left me guessing what was going to happen next, because anything is possible here.

One particular adventure is hard to swallow though. Without giving too much away, Angela ends up two states away from Ransom and is calmly working as a cook while waiting for him to come and “collect her.” How on earth is he supposed to know where she is? God himself must have pointed the way, because it would have been impossible otherwise. There was a minor explanation for how he found her, but it was beyond plausible.

Ransom’s Bride is worthy of four hearts for its action-based plot, passionate (albeit frustrating) romance and appealing historical detail. It’s well worth the read, despite the problems.

--Tracy Merritt

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