Tuesday, December 17, 2019


Title: How Sweet the Sound
Author: Tara Sharp
Publisher: Sweet Lemon Drop Press
Pages: 108
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐

The book begins in Pittsburgh in 1875. A nondescript orphanage is witness to the nuptials of Cleve Wilson and Mary Bone. It’s not a binding marriage, considering the minister is a snotty 10-year-old kid, and Cleve and Mary are both only 7. 

But for the little bride and groom, it is as binding as could be, and they take their vows seriously. Standing up for each other and supporting each other. But the romance is short lived.

Eleven years later, the authors take us to Washington. The kids have grown up, but the bridal couple have been separated. Mary remains in the orphanage, where she and the other girls are mistreated and made to work long hours doing the laundry. Cleve has been adopted by William and Cora Barlow of Montana, who had lost their 17-year-old son, and were looking forward to having a young child help them cope with their grief.

The separation is upsetting for both of them, and they both close themselves to joy and hope. Their only solace is the memory of singing the refrain of the old hymn, Amazing Grace, together.

When the overworked Mary’s arm is crushed in a mangler, she is deemed useless to work and is cast out of the orphanage. A priest at a church helps her to sign up as a mail order bride. One of the men has written on behalf of his son, Cleve Barlow. Mary, who has now changed her surname, takes the first name as a sign from God and decides to go ahead, even though he may not be her Cleve at all.

Going to Montana, Mary recognises Cleve immediately. But he does not recognise her. Mary finds him a changed man, hardened and unwilling to open himself up to any happiness. Will they find joy together? Will Cleve accept his new destiny as the son of William Barlow?

The tone of the book was sweet and indulgent. This was a mail order romance, a genre in its own right, as I’ve come to know, judging from the number of books of the kind available. So there is no real criticism of the atrocities that little orphans suffer at orphanages.

It was highly sweet and a simplistic view of sorts. Both Cleve and Mary could have changed in the intervening years.

There was no real antagonist except Cleve’s unwillingness to open himself up. The ending seemed a little too pat for me. Still a sweet story.

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