His Secondhand Wife, by Cheryl St. John

>> Monday, August 08, 2005

After reading the AAR review of His Secondhand Wife, by Cheryl St. John, I couldn't wait to read it, enough that I had it couriered straight to Montevideo instead of having it sent with the rest of my books via M-Bag. And when it arrived, I didn't even wait for the weekend to start it, as I usually do with books I look forward to, I just tore into it immediately. It's kind of weird that I was so anxious to read it. After all, I'd never read anything by the author and Westerns aren't really my cup of tea.

Scarred in body and soul, rancher Noah didn't consider himself fit company for anyone. But when his brother's philandering finally caught up with him, honor dictated that Noah claim his brother's widow as his own....

Standing on her doorstep, with his collar turned up and a rifle by his side, Noah was about the most intimidating man Katherine had ever seen. And though one man's false promises had already dashed her dreams, she instinctively trusted this stranger. Even more, Kate suspected she'd only be a fool this time if she didn't take a chance on Noah for the sake of herself...and her unborn child!
I wasn't disappointed. What a truly lovely, lovely book! A B+.

I really liked Kate, but my enjoyment of this was all about the hero. With characters like Noah, who've gone through hell and are pretty much still living in it, an author runs the risk of having the reader pity them. St. John doesn't cross this line, and what I felt when I read about Noah wasn't at all pity. It was more a kind of feeling his pain and wanting really badly to see him happy.

Noah's issues and fears are very convincing. I've read other characters before who are oh-so-convinced that no one could ever love them, that they are repulsive, and often, they seem a bit too determined to suffer. I felt Noah's fears were justified. After seeing his father's and stepmother's reactions to him and given that he was so isolated and didn't have much contact with other people, his personality, his deep-held belief that Kate couldn't possibly want him to even come close to her, made sense.

As I said, Kate is a pretty good character. She's very refreshing in that she doesn't go through any "oh, I'd rather work myself to death at the laundry and have my child suffer through poverty rather than allow my brother-in-law to take care of me" dramas, and she's very ready to marry a kind, nice guy she likes and respects for security, even though it's not a love-match.

The scenes where Noah and Kate finally consumate their marriage are among the most affecting I've read lately. Noah's a virgin, and those scenes show his feelings wonderfully. And then, the way the further love scenes evolve track the development of their relationship very effectively.

Something else I liked was that there are no distractions from the romance here. There are no outlaws riding around, or people who want to get revenge on Noah, or anything like that. The most villainous character is probably Noah's stepmother, but she's basically just an unkind woman with an overdeveloped sense of propriety, who tries to manipulate people. She's not an over-the-top evil villain, and Noah and Kate have no qualms about putting her in her place whenever her behaviour goes beyond what's tolerable.

I thought HSW was going to end up getting an A grade all through the first half. It was just so good! The second half is not as good, however. I can't really pinpoint why, but I felt there was a bit of a letdown there. The book didn't become bad, just not as great as it was at first. Still, a very enjoyable story.


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