Book Review: Nellie (The Brides of San Francisco Book 1) – There but for the grace of God go I


I’ve read my fair share of mail order bride stories. Generally, they’re far too idealistic and saccharine sweet. Maybe it’s the cynic in me but I don’t believe in love at first sight. Lust, yes. Love, not so much. And so, these stories of men ordering brides from across a country, having never spoken to them or seen them and then falling head over hells for them, have never been a thing that I can get into. Having said that, Nellie does have the most believable premise of all the mail order bride stories that I’ve read but that’s about it. Usually, it’s some crappy story about a man who’s mates pulled prank and ordered a bride, while here we have two people needing a marriage for two very possible reasons.

The Plot

Nellie Wallace is suddenly widowed after almost a decade of marriage. She is left to fend for herself and her two children, in New York, while her disapproving in-laws want little to do with her and assist out of obligation. Needing a change and independence, Nellie needs a new husband. Blake Malone is a wealthy saloon owner in San Francisco, looking to broaden his market by creating a family orientated emporium. In order for the investors to take his proposal seriously he needs a wife and a family, and he needs them fast. For Nellie, finding a man willing to raise another man’s children is close to impossible, while Blake is struggling with a shortage of respectable women in San Francisco.

Each contact a mail order agency called Matchmaker & Co. After an interview with the proprietor, Nellie is matched with Blake and offered passage for her and her children to San Fran. She agrees on one condition; that she be able to bring her cook, Bertha, with her. Once in the new city, she quickly meets with Blake and they seems to hit it off quite well. They are reasonable and practical about the arrangement. Except sex. Nellie knows that the marriage needs to be consummated but she cannot convince herself to do the deed, even with her ridiculous attraction to Blake. Her new husband, notices her behaviour, noting that he had only witnessed similar behaviour from the girls at the saloon who had sexually abusive pasts. Realisation quickly dawns on him that there is more to Nellie than a sweet-faced, caring mother.

Added to this is danger from Blake’s ex-mistress, Maddie, who seems to have lost her mind and wants Nellie out of the picture. As well as threatening correspondence from Nellie’s ex-father in-law wanting to take Henry, her son, from her and raise him in New York.

Writing Style

Other than a few typos and left out words, which could have been spotted with one extra proof-read, the writing wasn’t terrible. I don’t know how to explain this but the book made me feel like I was running all the time. It’s almost as if there were too many “and then” moments. I think this was largely due to the fact that there was too much happening in the plot. Between the crazy ex and the conniving father in-law, there was too much plot for the book’s length. As a result, the entire book felt rushed.

“Nellie walked to the bed, dropped her robe and her towel from her hair to the rug by the bed, and then climbed on. She crawled to the middle an lay on her side. Then she crooked her finger and called to him.”

“Breathing fast she shoved past him and out into the sitting room and on to the bedroom, where she checked her hair in the mirror.”

The Review

Overall, Nellie is not a terrible book but it is completely predictable. The entire story goes exactly where you expect it to go. Nellie meets Blake, Blake immediately falls in love with her children but takes the rest of the book to admit his love for her and will only do so when her life is threatened. Blake doesn’t believe that Maddie would harm Nellie, causing their first argument while it is soon discovered that Nellie is with child. Of course this baby will be a boy but Blake doesn’t want the other kids to think this one is special because he loves them all the same so he refuses to have this child take his name. While Nellie is unrealistically calm and considered for a pregnant woman.

It’s all too much, while simultaneously not enough. Too much information with not enough character and realism. I would have preferred that the father in-law scenario be left out entirely and the story buffered by only having Nellie’s life threatened by Maddie. The author could have focused on this aspect and written a thrilling, suspense filled narrative. Instead, we are presented with this under-cooked soppy love-at-first-sight crap, brimming with declarations of love and adoration. Moreover, it is blindingly clear that the author has an overly simplified idea of how someone overcomes the trauma of sexual abuse. There could have been a wonderfully poignant moment for readers who are the survivors of sexual abuse or trauma but it’s all neatly glossed over and never too gritty. This further enforces the feeling of the plot being bubble-gummy and too “sweetness and light”.

My Rating: 2/5

Buy Nellie on

You might like:

Bride for the Billionaire

The Navy SEAL’s Email Order Bride

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