Friday, November 04, 2005

Cheryl St. John

Something about Cheryl St. John's books really affect me. If I had to describe them to someone in just a few words, I would say that the theme of all her books seems to focus on the healing power of love and that CSJ shines best when she is writing about wounded characters.

I recently finished The Doctor's Wife and Joe's Wife and enjoyed them both. So I decided to tackle the rest of the CSJ books in my TBR: His Secondhand Wife, Prairie Wife, and The Bounty Hunter. I enjoyed two of them and the other one was only so-so.

His Secondhand Wife was a wonderful book featuring three-dimensional characters. I loved both the H/H. Noah Cutter is emotionally and physically scarred having suffered terrible injuries from barbed wire when he was 13-years old. He is a recluse rarely leaving his ranch in Cooper Creek, Colorado. Katherine was married to his half-brother and finds herself pregnant after he is killed in a brawl. Kate is incredibly strong and never feels sorry for herself. She wants the best for her baby so when Noah offers her a home at his ranch she accepts. I especially love how Kate completely ignores Noah's scars even though he feels he is so hideous and hides behind his long hair and beard. They slowly fall in love and when Noah finally shaves off the beard, it was an emotional moment. CSJ also did a good job of not portraying Noah's step-mother as an evil bitch. While I hated the way she treated Noah, she was not your stereotypical wicked step-mother.

Rosario wrote a terrific review and I agreed with everything she said! So rather than repeating her words I will just provide a link to her review. (Alright, I admit I'm lazy). And I'm giving it the same grade she did. (Thanks for the rec, Rosario!)

My grade: B+

Prairie Wife is the story of a troubled marriage. Jesse and Amy Shelby own a stagecoach station in Nebraska providing food and lodging for travelers. When the story begins they have just lost their 3-year old son in a tragic accident. He woke from a nap, wandered outside, fell in the nearby creek and drowned. A year later Amy and Jesse are having serious problems with their marriage and they are dealing with their loss is very different ways. Amy has shut up her heart and emotions from everyone to protect herself and refuses to grieve. She has completely closed herself off and she won't discuss their loss telling Jesse that she doesn't want to look back on the past and wants to just "move on". Jesse feels he has lost not only his little son but his wife as well and deals with it by climbing into a bottle of whiskey every night. Eventually, he feels his wife no longer loves him and he moves out of her bed. CSJ handled this subject of loss, grief, and guilt so realistically and with incredible emotion.

I realized when I picked up this book that I have been avoiding books with this subject because it hits a little too close to home. Over twenty years ago my sister lost her 10-month old son in a freak accident while he was napping. One of the things everyone told us was that a loss like this can either break up a marriage or make it stronger. Thankfully for my sister and her husband, they were able to work through it and came out stronger. They went on to have two more terrific sons and have the strongest marriage I have ever seen. But they did get some counseling.

Amy and Jesse don't have the luxury of counseling and are trying to deal with their loss as best they can but not succeeding. Events force them to finally confront their feelings and I found it very realistic and emotional considering my sister's experience. Surprisingly, this was one of CSJ's more sensual books with more than one sex scene. But maybe it's not so surprising because lovemaking is an important aspect of marriage that couples have to comfort each other and work through their pain to heal from such a terrible loss (I think I'm sounding like Dr. Phil again here).

My family's experience probably affected my grading of this book but even without that this was a very good book. Now I'm torn whether I should loan this book to my sister. We haven't talked about her loss for many, many years but I suspect it must cause her pain. I know I don't think about it more than once a year, but when I do it makes me weepy just remembering those first days after he was gone. I don't think the loss of a child is something anyone ever gets completely over. She might enjoy this book, but then again, I don't want to upset her. I'll have to think about this some more.

My grade: A-

1 comment:

Rosario said...

Glad to hear it worked for you! That Prairie Wife sounds great, I think I'm going to take your rec now ;-)

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