The Bride Lottery #20 Lost by Caty Callahan is a novel about love, loss, and betrayal.
10 out of 10 stars. I think this may be my favorite romance novel of all time. It’s hard to capture the feeling of betrayal or the feeling of loss when you lose a child. This story does.
Annelise Baker is orphaned and sent to live with her Aunt Mildred and Uncle Herman Hoffman. They’re from Germany and very strict. They believe in beating as punishment and have never treated Annelise as their own child. But Annelise endures because of her cousin Clara who is so much like her. They spend their nights reading romance novels and telling each other love stories. They’re both romantics at heart. So when Coleman Parker tells Annelise he’s in love with her and he can’t wait until the lottery, she trusts him, not only with her heart but with her body. Once they’ve made love he changes. He takes Annelise for granted and calls her a nag and a shrew. He even threatens to not see her anymore if she’s going to nag him every time he sees her. :0 That’s the first betrayal.
Two days later he’s left the ranch where he works and gone to work in another town. He leaves Annelise a note promising he’ll return for her on Lottery Day. Lottery Day comes and Annelise is very pregnant. She’s successfully hid that pregnancy for months but it’s obvious the evil reverend in town and her Uncle Herman know. When Cole doesn’t show, she’s heartbroken. She hands the note to the magistrate and he calls the new town here Cole works. And they check to make sure that he wasn’t in some terrible accident. He wasn’t. He was on an errand to Seattle for his boss. That’s the second betrayal.
Annelise is heartbroken and while she’s sitting outside the magistrate’s office trying to figure out what to do with her life, Clara comes to warn her that Herman is very angry. The reverend has been to their house and everyone knows she’s pregnant. She is supposed to go home immediately. In her mind, this is her family and they love her. That’s why she goes home. That is a choice she will regret for the rest of her life. Uncle Herman has beaten her before, but she’s sure he won’t beat her because she’s pregnant. She’s very wrong. She doesn’t realize how wrong she is until he hits her kidneys and she falls to the floor. And Uncle Herman keeps beating her.
When she wakes she’s lost the most precious thing to her–her son Samuel. Her kidney is so damaged she’s peeing blood but the doctor lets her leave his care just long enough to bury Samuel. Adding insult to injury the reverend will not allow her to bury Samuel in the church cemetery because he’s a bastard. Uncle Herman won’t let her bury Samuel on family land because he’s a bastard. So Annelise and Clara bury Samuel themselves at the tree on the Parish’s farm where she used to meet Cole. She says goodbye to Clara and she begins walking. She doesn’t stop for three months and fourteen days.
She will not see Clara again for seven years. She moves from town to town taking on the names of romance novel authors and heroines in romance novels. Then she meets a man who has also been betrayed, but in a completely different way. He prefers pants to skirts and was almost beaten to death by the other cowboys on the ranch where he worked. They become their own family, sister and brother, and travel together from town to town taking on the names of brother and sister heroines from romance novels.
Meanwhile, Cole finally goes back to get Annelise only to learn that she’s gone and that she was pregnant. He goes to visit his son’s grave and immediately hires a private detective to find Annelise. In this post-apocalyptic world (which is more like Little House on the Prairie) that’s a lot harder than you would think. There are no cars, no planes, and no telephones except for the magistrates and the Brennanmen, the peacekeepers. He will spend the next seven years and most of the money he makes trying to find Annelise and always barely missing her.
10 out of 10 stars. I loved every word. This is my favorite lottery book and my favorite romance of all time.