If Wishes Were Horses, by Judith Duncan

>> Monday, July 25, 2005

My last M-Bag contained, among many others, a big pile of books which had heroes who'd been in love with the heroines for years, one of my favourite themes. One of them was If Wishes Were Horses, by Judith Duncan.

The cry for help came at night, during final roundup. But nothing could prevent Conner Calhoun from rescuing his brother's widow and her two children. From the moment he'd laid eyes on Abigail, he'd wanted her, but she wasn't his to have. And now he'd moved his forbidden love onto his ranch, where the secret between them had nowhere to hide....

Every time he tousled Cody's hair, every time he cuddled little Miss Sarah, he was reminded of impossible wishes...and a gift given out of love. But honor demanded he not claim for his own what was never meant to be - unless, of course, Abby wanted the same thing....
Like so many of the others I bought this way, there's a story I should like in there, but the execution had too many elements I disliked. In this case, the book ended up actually being unpleasant for me to read. A D+.

I the main problem was that it tried too hard to be heartwarming and sweet, and unfortunately, what the author seemed to find heartwarming and sweet, I found disgustingly saccharine and cloying. Abby's daughter was the worst culprit. Sarah. Sorry, Miss Sarah Jane... ugh, just the way they called her gives the idea of what the author did with her. Every time she lisped, I literally grated my teeth. It must even have begun to irritate Duncan, because a while into the book little Sarah drops it (saying so and so had taught her to say the sss), but that didn't help all that much, she was still a disgustingly "precious" monster. Cody was a bit better, but still a minion of the devil, too. I didn't find their antics funny, they pissed me off.

The actual romance wasn't much better.I'm not someone who's usually bothered by heavy internal lusting. In fact, I tend to enjoy it (often in a guilty pleasure kind of way), but here, it was way too much, way too overwrought. It wasn't exactly lusting, it was more "i love her so much... she's so wonderful... but I can never touch me because she was married to my brother... woe is me!" from Conner and pretty much the same thing from Abby, only from the opposite point of view. All the time. Seriously: All. The. Fucking. Time. And their physical reactions to each other were exaggerated to the max, with them trembling and practically falling to the floor in a faint every time the other even looked at them.

Something that bothered me, as well, was that after a long stretch of action from Conner's POV at the beginning, the book switches to Abby and stays there right until the end. Nothing else from Conner, nothing at all, and that was very definitely not good, because after the whole time I saw him suffering, I was much more interested in seeing HIS reactions when they finally get something started, not Abby's. Abby was boring.

Seeing Conner's POV of view would have helped near the end, too, when Abby decides she should leave. What does Conner do? Refuse to talk about anything and run off. He comes off as a passive idiot. Maybe if we'd seen what was going through his mind would have allowed me to understand him a bit more.

And that's just a small sample of the problems I had with this book. Others include the way Abby was completely useless and had to be rescued by Conner, the whole artificial insemination thing, that added nothing that made sense to the story, the way Abby gave up her entire career to move to the ranch and do laundry (a decision that *could* work for me if there's at least some thought behind it -see LLB's column at RTB - but which was pretty knee-jerk here), while, of course, Conner never even considers moving to Toronto with her... , right down to the nasty-looking cowboy on the cover, with his jeans jerked up to his armpits.


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