Title: Cactus Rose
Author: Samantha Harte
Release Date: August 2015
Length: 238 pages
Genre: Historical, Western, Romance
Rosie Saladay needs to get married—fast. The young widow needs help to protect her late husband’s ranch, but no decent woman can live alone with a hired hand. With the wealthy Wesley Morris making a play for her land, Rosie needs a husband or she risks losing everything. So she hangs a sign at the local saloon: “Husband wanted. Apply inside. No conjugal rights.”
Delmar Grant is a sucker for a damsel in distress, and even with Rosie’s restrictions on “boots under her bed” stated firmly in black and white, something about the lovely widow’s plea leaves him unable to turn away her proposal of marriage.
Though neither planned on falling in love, passion ignites between the unlikely couple. But their buried secrets—and enemies with both greed and a grudge—threaten to tear them apart. They’ll discover this marriage of convenience may cost them more than they could have ever bargained for.
I thought it was going to be a great book from the start. A woman looking for a husband in Arizona Territory — in the saloon?
Rosie Salady suspects her husband was murdered at his work site, far into the interior of their property that is much-speculated about in town to be a gold mine. Perhaps that was the motive, she believes as she eyes the nasty Wesley Morris trying to buy it up. But how can she prove it? Not to mention Abner’s work – it has to be protected! In order to keep her husband’s land and work site safe, Rosie hastily marries a stranger she finds in the saloon only a week after burying her husband.
Delmar Grant, a gunfighter, continually finds himself gambling away everything as he makes his way back home…a destination he will never reach. He is an attractive man and answers Rosie’s strange ad, surviving through the interview process. The judge marries them and Rosie takes Del home. He quickly surmises that Rosie lives in a shack and that her husband didn’t put in any work into the house, barn, or any other little things that needed doing. As they pick up married life, Del discovers that Rosie’s husband was only home to eat dinner and sleep on a mat in his own add-on to the house. Del quickly puts himself to work tending to things, fixing things, and putting them to rights to improve Rosie’s pitiful buildings. Slowly, as they live married life together, they slowly fall in love, even though Del has his own secrets.
Rose was a mill girl with no family. She came west to marry Abner…only to find out he wasn’t in need of a wife, but a housekeeper. Rosie kept the house up, cooked, and made sure to look out for absent-minded and dedicated Abner. Rosie’s life was so isolating and lonely it was heartbreaking. Del soaks it all in and treats Rosie with kindness and small touches of the love she didn’t have but craved.
Eventually Rosie takes Del to Abner’s work site – a beautiful indigenous community built into the side of a massive cliff. The residents long gone, Abner dedicated his entire life to documenting every single thing about the site in journals and collections. Del chooses to secret the journals away in the desert, which proves useful later. He also discovers an indication that Abner might have died of natural causes, in addition to his own regrets about Rosie in the last few weeks of his life.
As much as I enjoyed this book and its fresh take on mail-order brides, there were a few strange moments between the two main characters as the book went on. I understood its purpose to create tension and suspense, but it was quite strange. My take-away was that Del thought Rosie was absolutely crazy and told her so without mincing any words. There were a couple times Rosie’s freaking out was too much and some things she said didn’t make sense. I surmise these were difficult scenes to write. In all this chaos and a dirty underhand deal before Rosie ever set eyes on Del, Rosie is back to living a life of lonely solitude as Del tries to figure out all the players after Rosie’s land. He discovers a looter on Abner’s site and things begin to unravel at breakneck speeds from there with the looter and Wesley Morris.
An interesting read and commentary on protecting our history and historical sites as is, as well as shining the spotlight on women and their needs in their marriage. The concept of Abner’s native work site and treasures reminds me quite a bit of Baxter’s Draw by Juliette Harper wherein the three daughters of Langston Lockwood discover a hidden retreat in the property’s draw that contain beautiful native artifacts, artwork, and other items.