The novel opens with Lolly Mayfield on a train arriving in tiny Maple Falls, Oregon from Kansas to marry a complete stranger. She's having second (and third) thoughts about her impetuosity in agreeing to be a mail order bride when she discovers that she is in fact going to be in a contest with two other women to win the groom, former Confederate soldier, Kellen Macready. She agrees, with misgivings, to the contest.
Kellen Macready is getting older and is willing to get married; he's just not willing to lose his heart in the process. So he agrees to the charity scheme cooked up by the Ladies of Maple Falls Helpful Society to raise money for a new schoolhouse. Three "brides" will compete to marry the Colonel, participating in various contests, including a treasure hunt, a kiss, and a wedding cake bake-off.
Aside from Lolly, the potential brides are a southern belle from New Orleans and a local woman who has been in love with the Colonel since she was a tiny girl. Each of them is determined to be the winner but sparks really start to fly between Lolly and Kellen. Neither of them is comfortable with their reaction to the other. Their attraction and the comfort he feels with Lolly scares Kellen and Lolly's father fought and died for the Union while Kellen was a Confederate officer. But the sparks mean nothing if Lolly doesn't win the contest.
The whole concept of a competition to get married is fun and offers comical situations. The contests themselves are entertaining and the characters are all likable, even Lolly's co-competitors. The major conflict threatening to keep Kellen and Lolly apart is overcome a bit too easily but overall this is a delightful romp for romance lovers.