A friend recommended this series a LONG time ago and I finally found one of the books. Ivy and her sister Mattie leave their coastal town in Maine and travel to California after seeing an advertisement for women to come west to be brides. Both girls were eager for a chance to start over in life after their family financial troubles, their father's death, and Ivy's boyfriend leaves her for a life at sea. From what I could gather, the advertisement wasn't exactly for a mail-order bride exactly. The women would arrive in the town, stay in a local boardinghouse and have the opportunity for marriage after getting to know some of the local men. Their travel expenses and room and board was paid for six months. I'm not sure exactly how much time has passed since their arrival in Last Chance, but Ivy has settled in there and has a job as the school teacher. She has fought for improvements upon the school building and more supplies and books for the students. She's made some friends, most especially Justus Calhoun, a local lawyer. Everyone in town thinks he's courting her, but Ivy knows they are "just friends." Her only contact back "home" is through letters with her friend Grace, whom she writes with stories of all the exciting and wild people and events of Last Chance. Grace's brother now wants to publish some of these stories in a newspaper in Boston. Ivy jumps at the chance to earn some extra money, but only if people don't know she wrote them. Thus a pseudonym is created --- Audacia El Dorado. Ivy's a naturally shy and reserved person, but she has a wild streak that she keeps hidden. Audacia is her way to be audacious without others knowing. Her life is turned upside-down when her ex-boyfriend from Maine shows up in Last Chance, spills her secret to everyone, and wants to marry her and take her away.
I know it's not the first one in the series, so I kept reading about events that happened in an earlier book. A bit frustrating for me -- not that I couldn't catch up as to what happened, just that I had to catch up. Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It's a sweet romance -- nothing more than kissing happens in the book -- that has Ivy torn between a second chance with her first love and a new love. I like how Ivy struggles with her decision, seeing the good in each man. That's how life is. It's not an easy black or white decision most of the time. You have to weigh the good and bad and then hope you make the best choice. That said, I think when Ivy makes her decision (sort of), it seems a snap one. I was questioning it as the reader, and we realize Ivy was questioning it as well. Not a perfect solution there. The characters are lively and entertaining which leads to a lively and entertaining story. B rating.