Mary Connealy is known for her romantic comedies with cowboys. But in her own words, "Closer than Brothers" doesn't quite fit that mold. It's the story of how friendship stronger than that of brothers was forged in the next closest thing to hell: Andersonville Prison. The most notorious atrocity of the Civil War.
To quote the author:
"It's not very funny--not much to smile about in Andersonville. It's not a romance--the goings on between Callie and Seth don't add up to happily ever after . . . not for a while. But it's a glimpse at the fires that forged the characters in later books. And what happened that would make them come running when one of them was in trouble in Texas. And how their faith grows stronger as they fight for survival. Men who overcome the depths of human deprivation to live happily ever after."
As far as prequels go, this is one of the best. It sets up two connected trilogies: The Kincaid Brothers and Trouble in Texas. And, if I understand correctly, potentially a third . . . or at least, a hero who appears in a third. Right there, one prequel is going a long way.
As far as its inclusion in the Seekers' With This Kiss Historical Collection--well, it's considered a bonus story for a reason. As a romance, it stinks. But that's because those things take place later on in her novels; this story sets them up.
While no, it isn't as funny as her stories typically are, neither is it so heavy that it is painful to read. We get a good notion of just how bad things are in Andersonville without being overloaded with gory detail. Connealy's unmistakeable turn of phrase is ever present, along with her sarcastic humor--about the only kind left to these men.
It stands out because it isn't a romance. It stands out because it depicts one of America's worst atrocities. And it stands out because it's about finding hope, wonder, and God in a Godless place.
0.5: "Closer than Brothers: Surviving Andersonville" (prequel to Over the Edge)
1. Out of Control
2. In Too Deep
3. Over the Edge
Trouble in Texas
0.5: "Closer Than Brothers"
1. Swept Away
2. Fired Up
3. Stuck Together
"Runaway Bride" (follows both Kincaid Brides and Trouble in Texas; from the novella collection With This Ring?)
Other novellas in With This Kiss Historical Collection include:
"His Beloved Bride" by Ruth Logan Herne starts with a marriage of
convenience: Phillip needs a wife and child to come into his
inheritance, and Grace--newly widowed with a newborn--is in desperate
need of help. But can a marriage of convenience survive?
Hillman's "Meeting in the Middle" connects to neighbors who can't make
it on their own: Alaina, whose father just died, and widower Curt, who
is trying to watch two small girls and run a farm. They strike a bargain
to help each other get the cotton in, but maybe they need to meet in
the middle to make it work.
In "The Innkeeper's
Promise" by Cara Lynn Jones, Dane returns to his deceased uncle's inn,
only to discover his uncle's widow and stepdaughter have run it to the
ground. Lydia is fighting to keep the inn, even with its financial mess,
while Dane wants to sell; who will win the battle?
Julie Lessman's "Grace Like Rain" returns to her Heart of San Francisco series to follow up with Blake "the Rake" McClare as he discovers that one specific God-fearing woman might be worth infinitely more than all the floozies, society belles, and others combined that he has spent his life pursuing.