First, a hearty thank you for all the birthday well wishes. Honestly, I'm feeling pretty good about it all. Between the hair cut (4 inches - poof!), seeing my sister and getting jewelry from The Boyfriend it wasn't a bad day. Rubies have a way of cheering a girl up - well this girl anyway.
For those keeping score on The Boyfriend's excellent gift giving skills, the "rubies" are a pendant necklace, earrings and ring. A lovely set, I assure you.
I also just wrapped up a very good book this evening - but then again it was written by Cheryl St. John and I'm beginning to think the woman is incapable of writing a dud. His Secondhand Wife is a July 2005 Harlequin Historical title.
Noah Cutter has just learned that his younger half-brother is dead. While Noah loved Levi, Levi had a bit of a reputation. When a jealous husband shoots you after catching you in bed with his wife - well, it doesn't say much about your character now does it? So Noah goes to collect Levi's body, only to discover that he was married. Not only did he eventually abandon Katherine, he left her pregnant.
Noah feels obligated to take Katherine in, and since her only other option is to keep slaving away in a laundry and living with her shrew mother, she accepts his offer. Determine to earn her keep, she is stymied by the life of privilege she now finds herself living. Noah is a very successful rancher, although he's a hermit of sorts. Horribly scarred in an accident he has distanced himself from others. However he soon finds himself wildly attracted to Katy, and he's not sure what to do about it. I mean, he's not smooth, confident and charming like Levi. He's damaged goods and doesn't know the first thing about women.
I tend to whine a lot about the current state of American historicals. Pamela Morsi and Susan Wiggs have succumbed to The Dark Side (OK, women's fiction) and Maggie Osborne had to go and retire! But we still have St. John, and if you aren't reading her books - um, why not? She has a knack for writing the sweetest love stories and crafting likeable characters. The love scenes in this story are particularly poignant, as Noah is afraid he'll either repel Katy or make her feel pity for him.
In turn, Katy wants to feel needed and useful to Noah - but he keeps brushing her off. Not because he doesn't need her, but because he's determined to care and pamper her.
St. John also writes credible villains - mostly nasty mother characters that never become tedious. There's always a flipside to them. Here it's Levi's mother (Noah's stepmother) who mourns her son, is always concerned with propriety, and dismisses Noah because he's not her son. But you know, she's not rotten to the core. By the end you really understand how and why she is the way she is.
I strongly recommend this one. While not a keeper on the level of Prairie Wife, this is still a very nice read. My final verdict? A very solid B.