|Original Jove Cover - Blah|
The Particulars: Historical romance, Jove, 1996, Out of Print, Available Digitally (reissued by Harpercollins)
Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: This used to be the Holy Grail for western historical romance fans and like all HG's, you had to cough up a kidney and/or sell an ovary to get your hands on a used copy. I eventually did - I think scoring it via an online romance bud. In 1997 this won the RITA for Best Short Historical. My print copy clocks in at 323 pages while the Harpercollins digital edition claims to be only 100 pages (which makes no sense - but there you have it.)
The Review: Hype is a dangerous thing. The vast majority of the time when a book is hyped it's pretty much doomed to be a meh read for me. But this book? This book. People, I just can't even! This is an instance where the hype sells the book short. It's that good. Drop everything, call in sick to work, tell the kids someone better be on fire before they bother you - this is squee'worthy awesome-sauce every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Cedar Grove, Texas gave it's young men to the Confederacy. The only men left in town are old and bitter or young and bitter (having been too young to join the war and fight for the Glorious Cause). Meg Warner gave up more than most. Three brothers and her husband. Gone. Killed at Gettysburg. Buried in a mass grave. As a constant reminder to all that she and the town has lost? The coward Clayton Holland. He grew up with their sons and husbands but instead of standing by them, of going off to war with them, he refused to pick up a rifle. He refused to serve. While their loved ones marched off to die Clayton Holland the coward was hauled off by Confederate soldiers, condemned to die, but somehow weaseled out of even doing that. Now he's back in town, working his parents' farm with his three younger brothers. Meg cannot abide this man. Her hatred bleeds off the page and she wants Clay to suffer - to suffer more than she has and does. His father used to cut stone, having done most of the tombstones in town. Clay learned at his knee. What better way to make him suffer than to have him carve a monument to all of the town's fallen heroes. As he works on that monument, as he toils on it, the weight of his cowardice will crush his very soul. Revenge complete.
Except, of course, it doesn't work that way. Meg may have grown up with Clay but that doesn't mean she knows him. He readily agrees to create the monument, and to exact her revenge, to take joy in every ounce of his suffering, she spends most of her free time supervising his progress. But as naturally happens in romance novels? The more time she spends with him, the more she sees how amazingly wrong she and the rest of the town are about Clay. Turns out they don't know the first thing about courage and what it means to be truly brave.
|Awesome book, two awful covers.|
Meg is spiteful and hateful and you totally understand why. She's young. She's pretty. And the war took everything from her. She loved her husband. She sent him off to war with tears in her eyes and fervent prayers for his return. He never did, and neither did her three brothers. The war nearly killed her spirit. Her desire, her hatred, for Clay feeds her. Slowly but surely that veil is lifted from her eyes, and then that's when the test of real courage comes into play. Because she has fallen in love with a man whose reputation will surely drag her down like a sinking ship. Does she have the courage, faith in both Clay and their love for each other to make a stand?
Heath has written some very good books. Of her westerns in particular I've read books ranging from "It was OK" to "Keeper! Keeper! Keeper!" But this book? I know she's still writing. I know she's probably got a lot of stories left in her. But this book? This book is a masterpiece. It's a triumph. I know authors who would start sacrificing virgins if the outcome was creating a story like this one. It's that good. I'm ordering all of you to read it right now. Right. Now.
Final Grade = A