By Proxy by Kate Regnery (Heart Of Montana #1)

By Proxy by Kate RegneryAvailable: Now Amazon/B&N

Type: Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Boroughs 

My Copy: Sent

Reviewer: Michelle

Stubbornly small-town Jenny Lindstrom has misgivings when she promises to stand proxy in her best friend’s wedding—misgivings that are fulfilled when tall, handsome Sam Kelley walks into the courthouse an hour late. In order to keep her promise, an afternoon favor turns into a weekend of startling but undeniable attraction, threatening the well-ordered world that keeps her heart at arm’s length from any more pain.

Sam’s plan is to fly to Livingston, Montana, take vows for his favorite cousin, and return to Chicago as quickly as possible. But his plan is turned upside-down when he must spend a weekend with Jenny in Gardiner in order to keep his word. He doesn’t want to fall for the prim, proper schoolteacher whose small-town life seems to him like selling out, but the more time he spends with her, the harder it is to say good-bye.

When city and country come together for Christmas, the unexpected gift is true love.

By Proxy is a warm-hearted contemporary holiday romance that surprised me with its charm. I knew nothing of this author so reading this, the first in the Heart of Montana series, left me with warm fuzzies that I was not expecting. The plot was original without being too unbelievable: Jenny and Sam are total strangers who meet when they both agree to stand in for their cousins in a by-proxy marriage. Jenny’s cousin Ingrid and Sam’s cousin Kris are both in the military stationed overseas when they learn Ingrid is pregnant. They want to get married but find that physically impossible because Kris is deployed. They discover that their home state of Montana legally allows someone to stand in for you in a “by proxy” marriage and both ask their cousins to stand in for them.

Jenny Lindstrom is a small-town girl through and through. She is a school teacher living in the town she grew up in, adopts a puppy, shares Sunday dinner with her father and brothers and even directs the annual Christmas pageant. She has traditional small-town values and is torn up inside over agreeing to do the favor for her cousin. Ingrid is her best friend and the closest thing she has to a sister, so she knows she can’t turn her down despite her misgivings. Jenny feels deep in her heart that marriage vows should only be spoken once, to the person you love. She has no idea how to reconcile that with the fact that she will be saying them to a perfect stranger, even knowing she’s speaking them for someone else.

Sam Kelley is a high powered executive from Chicago. A shared childhood with his cousin Kristian leaves the two men as close as brothers, so Sam has no hesitation in agreeing to stand in for him. Unfortunately he runs into some weather delays while traveling to the northern state, forcing them to miss their appointment with the judge. Jenny is not impressed with Sam or his big city ways, and she is furious that he was late. Having no choice to but accept a Monday morning appointment, Jenny tries to ignore the fact that they got off on the wrong foot and suggests Sam drive the hour to her hometown and stay the weekend. Alternately intrigued and annoyed by Jenny, and perplexed by his reaction to the prickly, pretty lady, Sam agrees.

Jenny and Sam share a reluctant attraction to each other, and neither of them really knows what to do with it. Jenny has very little experience with men, and none with someone of Sam’s caliber. She is just a small town girl who can’t see herself competing with Chicago socialites and swanky parties Sam is used to. Sam recognizes his interest in Jenny, but can’t understand it. She is nothing like the women he’s spent time with over the last few years. She is prickly and honest and innocent and deeply rooted in Gardiner, Montana. His life is in Chicago. None of that matters, though, as the two of them spend the weekend together exploring Jenny’s hometown. Sam witnesses her relationships with her family and the people of Gardiner. She is a much-loved and respected member of the community, and it’s not long before Sam sees everything in her that everyone else admires.

I haven’t read this kind of book in a long time. It was sweet and romantic and full of emotion, without being cheesy or overtly sexy. The chemistry between Jenny and Sam was real and believable, and while I normally like my romances on the steamy side, this one works despite them not doing anything more than sharing a few heated kisses. The by-proxy marriage scene was one of the best parts of the book, followed by their parting which was so full of angst it brought tears to my eyes. I liked how the author brought each of the characters on their own journey of development and thought that two strangers falling in love over the course of a long weekend was done just right.

I give By Proxy 4.25 by Kate Regnery stars!

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