Always to Remember, by Lorraine Heath

>> Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Always to Remember, by Lorraine Heath is a book I had in my wish list for ages, because it was so HTF (though it seems to have become a bit cheaper lately. Is there a repring in the works or something?). But a good friend took pity on me and sent me her ARC, even though she had loved it, and I've been waiting for the perfect time to read it.

For refusing to pick up a gun for the Confederacy, Clayton Holland was branded a deserter and imprisoned during the war. When he returned home to Cedar Gove, Texas, he was given a coward's welcome, spurned by everyone in town. To Meg Warner, Clay's presence was a constant offense: a betrayal of the cause for which her husband and brothers died.

As punishment, she commissioned Clay, a talented sculptor, to create a memorial to honor Cedar Grove's fallen heroes, hoping that every name he carved into stone would carve remorse into his heart. But as Meg spent months watching Clay work, she began to see strength instead of cowardice. And she discovered that a hero could be found in the most unlikely of men. That passion could be sculpted from a heart hardened by bitterness. And that sometimes love--like courage--whispers instead of shouts.
This is a truly lovely book, with one of the most amazing, wonderful heroes I've ever read. A B+.

In a genre that seems to require heroes to be all-powerful warriors in order to prove their masculinity and dispel any suspicion that they may be wimps, Clay is a rarity. He is a pacifist. Really. His pacifist stance isn't a cover for spying or some other kind of stealth activity that requires that he not be suspected of participating in the war. No, he really does have convictions that tell him that war is wrong, and this one in particular more so, and that he shouldn't stand by his friends in this.

Clay is also one of the most corageous characters I've read in a long, long time. He's not afraid of physical risk, but, more importantly, he's refuses to bend to the pressure of his entire town and does what he thinks is right, no matter how much hate this nets him.

I admit to being a bit frustrated because in some cases, I felt Clay was going too far out of his way trying to get the whole town to accept him. I mean, yes, every single one of his actions did make sense for the person he was, so I'm not faulting this, but I just saw it as so, so futile for him to still be there. I get that he felt it was important to not give the impression that he was running away, but all these people were so revolting, that I hated to see him caring about their opinions, even a little bit.

Meg was a more problematic heroine for me. She started out as someone just as awful as the rest of the townspeople, just as blindly patriotic and narrow-mindedly judgemental. But I really liked how Heath wrote the process of her changing her attitude towards Clay, how she slowly and gradually began to change her understanding of what courage really entails.

This was a sweet, heart-warming romance, and it did have some passionate moments, too. When it comes to the romance, there is a bit of a role reversal, because it's Clay who is the innocent virgin, who has never even kissed a woman, and Meg who is the more experienced one, who basically takes the initiative in their lovemaking. These scenes just worked really well.

The ending I wasn't really all that crazy about. The way everyone changed their minds was a little too easy and quick. And also, I didn't forgive them. I didn't forgive them and I wanted them to suffer more for the way they'd tortured Clay. Of course, again, it makes sense for Clay to be so forgiving, but still.

This is one book I'd recommend to anyone, even if, like me, they're not usually big fans of the setting.


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