Book Review and Giveaway: A Beggar’s Bargain by Jan Sikes

The Bargainer Series, Book One
Jan Sikes
Historical Fiction / Literary Fiction
Publisher: Fresh Ink Group
Date of Publication: March 12, 2024
Number of Pages: 324 pages
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A shocking proposal that changes everything
Desperate to honor his father’s dying wish, Layken Martin vows to do whatever it takes to save the family farm.
Once the Army discharges him following World War II, Layken returns to Missouri to find his legacy in shambles and in jeopardy. A foreclosure notice from the bank doubles the threat. He appeals to the local banker for more time—a chance to rebuild, plant, and harvest crops and for time to heal far away from the noise of bombs and gunfire.
But the banker firmly denies his request. Now what?
Then, the banker makes an alternative proposition—marry his unwanted daughter, Sara Beth, in exchange for a two-year extension. Out of options, money, and time, Layken agrees to the bargain.
Now, he has two years to make a living off the land while he shares his life with a stranger.
If he fails at either, he’ll lose it all.
Review Header
Layken Martin returns home from World War II. It’s a tough homecoming – both parents dead, the farm in disarray, and foreclosure looming. But Layken vows to his parents he’ll do whatever it takes to save the family legacy. That includes going to the bank, hat in hand, to plead for more time to make good on the loan. The banker is disinclined to acquiesce to Layken’s request (means “no”), but he does see an opportunity to drive a different kind of bargain. If Layken will marry his daughter, Sara Beth, the banker will give Layken two years to get caught up on the note. If Layken doesn’t hold up his end of the bargain, the bank forecloses immediately. Well, what’s a beggar to do? Layken takes the deal.

Sara Beth has struggled since her mother died. Her mother was one of the Romani, the gypsies. The Romani weren’t well thought of in the post-World War II era, and the townsfolk figure Sara Beth didn’t fall far from the tree. They treat her as different, a little strange. Her father doesn’t really care if she wants to get married, he just wants her out of the way so he can move his new wife into the house. Sara’s only real relationships are with “Uncle” Seymour, an older Black man her mother hired, and her pet rabbit, Cuddles.

Thrown together through no real choice of their own, Layken and Sara Beth have to make a go of it. Can Layken find a way to get the farm producing again, in the heat of the summer and with no rain in sight? Will Sara Beth adjust to country life? If their relationship survives the two years, what will happen when that time is up?

Jan Sikes does an amazing job of writing her characters in such a way that they are absolutely believable, whatever situation they find themselves in. She has a way of making her protagonists wonderfully appealing and her antagonist thoroughly unlikable. My heart just hurt for Layken and Sara Beth as they found themselves in a marriage of inconvenience. Layken was a gentle man, respectful of Sara Beth and willing to respect her wish to keep distance between them. He was also determined and willing to work hard. And even though she had grown up in the city, Sara Beth’s true personality began to unfurl under the warm sunshine of Layken’s respect. He treated her with kindness and valued what she could do, and this motivated her to continue to find ways to be useful and helpful in their joint venture to revive the farm. And I’m pretty sure that banker is one of the most disagreeable, awful, self-centered characters I’ve ever come across. He needed a good, hard kick in the pants.

The setting is spot-on, too. Sikes writes with such depth and descriptiveness, I could almost taste the dust of a dry Missouri field as I read. Layke and Sara Beth’s neighbors fit nicely into the setting. They aren’t perfect. They share the townsfolk’s prejudice against Sara Beth, at least at first. But that doesn’t stop them from pitching in when the Martins need help. I love that. Sikes takes us right back to a time when people were willing to be neighborly even if they didn’t see eye to eye, and when we could disagree without being disagreeable. (Well, some of us. The banker was disagreeable through and through.)

And the romance! Sigh. It isn’t an insta-romance. Neither Layken nor Sara Beth are enthused about their circumstances at first. Layken wants only to get the farm up and running so he can keep the bank off his back. Sara Beth, while breathing a sigh of relief at being out from under her father’s thumb, has no reason to expect that Layken will be much better. They have to learn about the kind of person the other is, and it takes time for respect to grow. But it does, and good marriages have bloomed from less than a solid foundation of respect.

If you enjoy well-written historical fiction that’s a little bit of a different twist on the WWII genre, with a sweet romance that takes a little time to thrive, you need to read A Beggar’s Bargain. I’d give it ten stars if I could. This may be one of my favorites of the year, and Jan Sikes is firmly on my must-read list.

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Jan Sikes writes compelling and creative stories from the heart.
She openly admits that she never set out in life to be an author, although she’s been an avid reader all her life. But she had a story to tell. Not just any story, but a true story that rivals any fiction creation. She brought the entertaining true story to life through fictitious characters in an intricately woven tale that encompasses four books, accompanying music CDs, and a book of poetry and art.
And now, this author can’t put down the pen. She continues to write fiction in a variety of genres and has published many award-winning short stories and novels.
Jan is an active blogger, a member of Story Empire, a devoted fan of Texas music, and a grandmother of five. She resides in North Texas.
Two winners receive $20 Amazon gift cards;
Two winners receive eBook copies of A Beggar’s Bargain
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 4/19/24)

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3 Responses to Book Review and Giveaway: A Beggar’s Bargain by Jan Sikes

  1. Outstanding review, Lisa. Yours ALWAYS make me want to start reading the books. NOW. Thanks for sharing your thoughts so enthusiastically!

  2. Linda Broday says:

    Love the review, Lisa! I’m so happy you saw what did. This story deeply touched my heart. I’m so proud of my sister.

  3. Jan Sikes says:

    Hi, Lisa! I am late to this party, but your review brought tears to my eyes. I am so happy you enjoyed the story and thank you for sharing your thoughts on it!

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