Wednesday, April 20, 2011

TBR Day. The Gunslinger's Bride / Cheryl St. John. 2001.

Here's the cover of this book as it was originally published:

Here's the cover of this book as I found it at Borders last month when I went to the store closing sale:

Here's the cover of The Preacher's Daughter:

Cracks me up. I only discovered this when I was searching for an image for this post.

So anyway... Back in January my TBR Read was Carolyn Davidson's A Convenient Wife. It was part of the Montana Mavericks series and I really liked it. When I was checking out the Borders closing sale I found this installment in the series by Cheryl St. John. It was originally published in 2001 but obviously reprinted at some point. So while I've only had this book a month, it was the only western in my TBR and I love St. John's books--thus a no-brainer to pick it up to read.

The Gunslinger's Bride is the story of Brock Kincaid and Abby Watson. Brock was the town bad boy who one day in self-defense shot and killed Abby's brother. He was young and immature and despite the killing being self-defense, he runs away. He also unknowingly leaves Abby pregnant. The book opens with Brock's return to the town of Whitehorn. It's 8 years later. Abby had been forced by her father to marry a much older man to cover up her pregnancy, but she's now a widow, raising her son on her own and running the hardware store left to her by her late husband.

Abby is understandably deeply conflicted by Brock's return. On the one hand, she'd been very much in love with Brock. On the other hand, not only had Brock killed her brother, he'd immediately run away and left her feeling hurt, betrayed, and very angry. All these feelings re-surface when she sees Brock again.

While he was gone, Brock lived by his wits and by his guns. Now Brock has grown up and matured. He knew it was time to return home and face the music. Of course he's shocked when he discovers he has a son, but he's also delighted and eager to get to know Jonathan and become a part of Abby's life again. It doesn't surprise him to realize his feelings for Abby are as strong as ever. But he has a lot to overcome. Not only does Abby want as little to do with him as possible, she's engaged to be re-married.

The set-up to this book is great and there's a lot of conflict to deal with. Abby in particular has to work through her feelings and find it in herself to forgive Brock. Brock knows that he wants to be with Abby and Jonathan and he works hard to get back into Abby's life. Therefore I find myself somewhat surprised to realize that in the end the book fell flat for me. I didn't care a whole lot for Brock who seemed pushy and insensitive to how Abby must feel after all she'd been left with when he ran away. And I was unconvinced that Abby could feel drawn to Brock so soon without at least talking through some of the many issues that divided them. And because I couldn't connect with either one of these characters I didn't enjoy the book the way I'd hoped to.

Looking around the web, I see I'm in the minority. The handful of reviews I found (and there aren't many--it's an older book) were very positive. Your mileage may vary.

On a side note, can we have a category called the Eastern? I live east of the Mississippi and I'm feeling a tad marginalized. Plus, I have an Appalachian-set historical in the TBR...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Baby Quilt II

This has been a very productive year so far for me on the quilt front. I've finished 4 projects that I began before the new year. For the record, those would be the Frieda Anderson small wall quilt, two lap quilts that were donated for cancer patients, and the Blooming 9-Patch.
I've continued to plug away on the Block of the Month (BOM) project, although I am officially behind again (I was briefly all caught up in January!). Now the year is over and I still have several parts to do: I need to make a gazillion "flying geese" rectangles for the border and there is filler to go around the central medallion. I'll have a picture of that soon.
I made one baby quilt in two weeks!
I made another baby quilt that I finished last week. I was hired to make this one by a co-worker for her great-nephew who was born in early February.
Those polka-dots don't photograph very well in the picture above, but the close-ups below might give you a better sense of the colors and design.
I quilted those spiral swirls free-motion on my mid-arm Brother PQ1500. I do not use a frame.
No, I don't sleep much.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Apothecary's Daughter / Julie Klassen. 2008

We interrupt the incessant IT HAPPENED ONE SEASON blogging to talk about an unusual Regency that I finished yesterday that is worth mentioning to those of you who, like me, really enjoy that time period. The Apothecary's Daughter was offered as a free Kindle read back in January. I really didn't remember much about the synopsis of this other than the fact that it was Regency-set. From Julie Klassen's website:

As Lilly toils in her father's apothecary, preparing herbs and remedies by rote, she is haunted by memories of her mother's disappearance. Villagers whisper the tale, but her father refuses to discuss it. All the while, she dreams of the world beyond—of travel and adventure and romance.
When a relative offers to host her in London, Lilly discovers the pleasures and pitfalls of fashionable society and suitors, as well as clues about her mother. But will Lilly find what she is searching for—the truth of the past and a love for the future?
Blending romance, family drama, and fascinating historical detail, The Apothecary's Daughter is a novel to savor and share.

TAD is published by Bethany House, a publisher of Christian inspirational fiction. If you don't like Inspys, then this book isn't for you, although I will say that the religious aspects are extremely subtle and don't even appear until the latter half of the book. 

As the blurb says, Lilly is a young woman who assists her father in his apothecary shop in a small Wiltshire village. She pines for her mother as well as for a life beyond the village where she was raised. Lilly's mother came from the upper reaches of society and she married beneath herself when she married Lilly's father. One day Lilly's uncle, the brother of her mother, and her uncle's wife come to visit Lilly and her family. The aunt and uncle have had no children of their own and they end up offering to take Lilly to London where she can broaden her horizons and perhaps meet an eligible gentleman to marry. Lilly must take care, though, to avoid mentioning her father's profession as well as the scandal of her mother's disappearance.

After a lengthy stay with her aunt and uncle (about 18 months IIRC), Lilly is called home because her father is ill and his business is falling apart. Lilly returns home to find many distressing changes. She takes the shop in hand and helps to see to her father's recovery. The first half of the book is about Lilly's stay in London; the second half is when she returns home. Throughout the course of the book, there are 4 men who express an interest in Lilly.

This is really a book about Lilly. The romance, what there is of it, is subtle; I really wasn't sure who the hero would turn out to be until I was well over half way through the book. The book covers about a 2-year time span and over that time Lilly grows from a confused, hurting young girl into a strong, confident young woman. I guess this makes it more of a coming-of-age book rather than a conventional romance.

The book is rich (rich! I tell you) in period detail. It was fascinating--especially as it was depicted through the conflict between the medical profession (the doctors) and the apothecaries. The latter dispensed medicine upon the order of doctors, but they were also frequently called upon to treat minor illnesses and injuries. Apparently there was a clear conflict between the two professions at the time which is well-described through this story. In addition, women were forbidden from practicing either profession. Yet Lilly, while lacking formal schooling, has all the knowledge and ability to be an apothecary. She is torn between her desire and ability to help others and the laws which would prevent her from doing so. Ultimately, Lilly and her family must deal with the ramifications of her choices when the local doctor complains to the magistrate.

There are clear divisions between the social classes here and for awhile, Lilly has a foot in two camps. She needs to make a decision about where she will ultimately stand. The author seems to have done a great deal of research, not only about apothecaries and herbal remedies, but about class expectations.

Because this is Lilly's book, the story is told almost exclusively from Lilly's point of view. I noticed only a couple of shifts in POV when we briefly get into the heads of two of the men who have a romantic interest in Lilly. It seemed almost strange to make that shift after so long in Lilly's head. I'm a reader who likes some degree of head-hopping, so I would have preferred more from the other POVs. Nonetheless, I was thoroughly entertained by this unusual tale and Klassen's engaging characters. I'm eager to read more by her. BTW, her book after this one, The Silent Governess, was a 2010 RITA finalist in the Inspirational Romance category.