There's a lot to love in this story of a tall, plain finishing school teacher who goes west as a mail-order bride for an Oregon farmer. Emily is a compelling mix of insecurity and strength. She recognizes that she's no beauty while at the same time holds her head up and demands people treat her with respect. Though initially relctant to marry her, Luke can't help becoming her champion, and in the process of defending her from his vicious mother-in-law he finds the strength to fight his way out of the corner he'd been pinned in since his first wife had died. Luke and Emily form a team where each shores up the other, and it was lovely to watch their love bloom slowly through lots of small actions and little conversations.Unfortunately, the secondary characters dragged this one down for me. Luke's 11 year old daughter Rose plays a pivotal role, and that went the way most child characters tend to in romance. She begins the book a sullen, bratty, child prone to attention-grabbing stunts like petty thievery. One or two heartfelt talks with Emily later, and that's history. Despite her father remarrying, her grandmother using her as a pawn in a war with her father, and a number of domestic upheavals, she doesn't act out again. Considering that an 11 year old in a perfectly stable home will still act out just to remind you they're present, Rose's character arc didn't ring true to me. She wasn't a person so much as a prop. She was there to make initially cold and gruff Luke look like a softie, to add tension as a pawn in Luke's mother-in-law's mind games, and to make Emily look like a hyper-competent stepmom. It lacked subtlety.Throw in some over-explanatory prose, some frustrating loose ends, and a fairly pointless epilogue, and what could've been a great story of two people finding a love they never expected to have becomes a merely ok read. It's perfectly entertaining and had me a bit choked up in parts, but it wasn't Harrington's best.