Harper can hardly remember a time when Cole wasn’t practically a part of her family, but her unrequited crush has kept her in avoidance mode for the past several years. It’s one thing to develop feelings for your best childhood friend, but it’s quite another when that same friend dated your beautiful sister for years in high school. But when family loss and responsibilities bring her home, her feelings are hard to deny, and when Cole seems to reflect some of those very same feelings, things just might get messy.
But... There’s a LOT to this story, so much more than just simple romance. There are family issues, problems with the ranch they’ve inherited and now have to figure out how to save, arguments about preserving the land versus drilling for oil, and a whole host of other drama to deal with. And to be honest, it’s all really interesting and kept The Bride Wore Denim from being just another predictable romance novel. But with all that going on in the characters’ lives, the romance part was extremely slow to develop. I can’t say I got bored, but I definitely began to wonder if they were ever going to get around to that first kiss, much less anything else. Having read it now, I can tell you that yes, it happens eventually, but it’s a long, long wait, so this book is definitely not for the impatient.
The Verdict: As I mentioned, The Bride Wore Denim had an awful lot happening all at once, very much like it does in real life. With the death of her father, it’s now up to Harper and her sisters to figure out what to do with the ranch, whether to pursue oil on the land (and potentially destroy part of it in the process), how to deal with a second tragedy, whether to continue pursuing their dreams and careers or give it all up to come home… And that’s not the half of it. But while I may have been itching for Harper and Cole to finally give into their feelings just the tiniest bit, I can also appreciate that these characters and their lives were so well developed that the story wasn’t just all about finding a happily ever after. It was certainly about love but also about family and all the other obstacles life throws at people whether they’re ready or not.
Harper pretty much had me at cochins. While she grew up, went to school, and began pursuing an art career, she was definitely a country girl at heart, and how could I not identify with that? She was the best combination of awkward, passionate, intelligent, and creative, and while she could admit to herself that she had some feelings for Cole, she was loyal enough to her sister that she tried to tamp down those feelings — and realistic enough to be a little squicked out about their dating history. And Cole, who could have tried to rush things once he realized Harper had at least some feelings for him, was just better than that, knowing that Harper had an overly full plate and respecting her enough that he didn’t push to complicate her life with a relationship before she was ready.
But I think what stood out most about the story was the realistic and detailed way it reflected just how difficult and chaotic life can be. There’s grief over the loss of Harper’s father, issues getting along with her sisters, disagreements about who should take on what responsibilities, and exactly the kind of conflict and unconditional love that is simply normal family dynamics — on top of the romantic interest! Selvig could have written her characters and plot to immediately launch into saving the ranch and pursuing a relationship, but instead she allowed them to marinate in indecision and complicated choices, making sure they didn’t rush headlong into some pre-determined future or serendipitously stumble upon the magic answer to every problem. Sure, I was a bit on the impatient side regarding the delay of the kissy parts, but I can’t deny that the thickly woven, detail-rich plot had me hooked within the first chapter. It’s impossible not to want every other book in this series right this minute.