Monday, January 21, 2013

Off the Bookshelf: BITTERSWEET

Ever have a book sitting on your shelf -- and even though it obviously doesn't have eyes, you can feel it watching you? Pleading for you to pick it up? Maybe glaring at you if you've left it sitting long enough? Maybe you can even hear a little voice, at times pleading, at times whining, "Come on! You've read other books by my writer. I promise, I'm just as good. Maybe better!"

BITTERSWEET, by Cathy Marie Hake, has been sitting in my to-be-read book rack (three shelves, plus an overflow on the floor) since our local Borders went out of business. I know I bought it at that Borders because there's a line of black marker on the bottom of the pages where the clerk drew it, to make sure I couldn't take it to another store and return it. Go figure ....

Like the other two books by Cathy that I've read (is it uncouth to be on a first-name basis with someone I've never actually met? I feel like she's a friend, after three books now...), FANCY PANTS and FOREVERMORE, BITTERSWEET is charming and heartbreaking and funny and makes you think in all the right spots.

How the heck does she do that? I'm still trying to figure that out, after all the books that I've written. Sometimes I get it right on, other times ... well, the less said, the better!

This is a love story more than a romance. Girl-next-door-finally-gets-noticed-by-the-noble-eldest-son-taking-care-of-the-family-after-his-father's-death. Laney and Galen have known each other all their lives, with his family's farm sharing a border and fence with her family's ranch. She knew long ago that Galen was the man for her, but the problem was that Galen always saw her as his best friend's pesky little sister.

This is a story in the days just before the Civil War. The rumblings from Lincoln's election are just filtering across the country to California, where the story takes place. Think of the social changes and small town atmosphere, loyalty and in-fighting and oblivious, judgmental gossips that you saw in shows like Young Riders, Dr. Quinn, Bonanza, and Little House on the Prairie, and you have a good idea of the world Laney and Galen are living in.

The day Laney has prayed for finally arrives: Galen realizes she's a woman grown. More important, he's kicking himself for not noticing sooner, and he immediately goes to her older brother to get his blessing for courting Laney. Yes, indeed, Galen is a man of honor.

And when squatters settle on Galen's property, they cause volumes of trouble, bringing dangerous elements to town, as well as damaging his honor and reputation before things are all sorted out. Laney endures heartbreak and learns the hard lesson of putting aside her dreams and trusting in God. Galen learns patience, and also learns joy in submitting to God's will, even when it means showing love to the ones who hurt him the most.

Read it, and settle in with a box of tissues and a box of chocolate. You'll need them both!

I'm still kicking myself for not reading this book sooner. Of course, if I had, I wouldn't be sharing it with you now, would I?

Hmmm, lesson to be learned ...

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