Left at the Altar by Margaret Brownley

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Phyllis L. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Short Historical category.

The summary:

Welcome to Two-Time Texas:
Where tempers burn hot
Love runs deep
And a single marriage can unite a feuding town
…or tear it apart for good

In the wild and untamed West, time is set by the local jeweler…but Two-Time Texas has two: two feuding jewelers and two wildly conflicting time zones. Meg Lockwood’s marriage was supposed to unite the families and finally bring peace. But when she’s left at the altar by her no-good fiancé, Meg’s dreams of dragging her quarrelsome neighbors into a ceasefire are dashed.

No wedding bells? No one-time town.

Hired to defend the groom against a breach of promise lawsuit, Grant Garrison quickly realizes that the only thing worse than small-town trouble is falling for the jilted bride. But there’s something about Meg’s sweet smile and determined grit that draws him in…even as the whole crazy town seems set on keeping them apart.

Who knew being Left at the Altar could be such sweet, clean, madcap fun?

Here is Phyllis L.’s review:

I did enjoy this, but I fear I will forget it quickly. I LOVED the aspect of Two-Time, Texas, being called that because there are two feuding jewelers/clockmakers who set their clocks differently. That the feud doesn’t just cause trouble inside the town, but causes the trains to not run on time, makes it more crucial that the feud be solved.

No spoilers, but “What Time Is It?” used to be a bigger headache than jet lag or adapting to Daylight Savings.

Meg, the daughter of one of the clockmakers, is supposed to marry her longtime friend, the son of the rival, and solve the feud. She’s a bit too understanding when the groom talks to her in the graveyard, saying he’d rather travel to the Pacific Islands. A handsome stranger overhears them and says if he had a woman like her, he wouldn’t throw her over.

Meg hides out at home and in her dad’s store/workshop, nursing bruised pride until her dad sues the non-groom for a huge amount of money for breach of promise. So now she’s been jilted AND everyone thinks she’s horrible.

It was at this point that I wondered if she has any friends outside her sisters and the guy she was supposed to marry.

Grant, the handsome stranger, is an East Coast lawyer who moved to town to be near his sister, but she died right before he got there. He opened a law office anyway, but has approximately zero business because the town is insular. The ex hires him to defend him, which throws him into company with Meg, but as he’s on the other side of the lawsuit, he can’t pursue her. There are a few secret kisses, but nothing can really happen.

They don’t spend enough time together, getting to know each other, to make me fully believe in the love.

The trial was….a trial. It was comic, but like some of the other comedic moments in the story, it felt like they were trying too hard to be goofy.

My main problem with the story was that by about halfway through I wanted them to admit their love to each other. Because they don’t, the Big Misunderstanding drags on, each one thinking the other isn’t really interested. The Black Moment would have been more intense if they admitted their feelings before being pulled apart.

This is listed on Amazon as “Clean and Wholesome” and….well, I won’t go into my reaction to the implication that sex is “dirty.” I also like sexy books, so this one was a metaphorical cigarette between bouts of good lovin’; there are a couple of kisses, lots of longing, but nothing graphic.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m going to forget a lot about this book. Meg lets everyone else dictate her life and ends up being fairly bland. Grant was more interesting as a fish out of water who observed and then absorbed into the quirkiness of the townsfolk.

I kept wondering just how big this town was. There seemed to be a lot of strangers around AND everyone knew everyone’s business AND there were enough people to support two clockmakers AND multiple lawyers AND a newspaper – or two?

The two time zones will stick with me. So will some of the characters, like the heroine’s sister, a suffragette who wears enormous, bizarre hats and keeps getting tossed in jail for causing trouble. Her book, the second in the series, is out next month and yeah, I’m tempted. According to the blurb, she gets elected sheriff and falls in love with an accused thief. So there’s that.

There’s also – and correct me if I’m wrong – that this is the only non-British-Isles book in the Short Historical category. USA! USA!

I give it a B-. But I’m a harsh grader.

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