Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Veteran author Wiggs's first romance for Warner reveals the pain that comes with love. When teenager Michelle Turner becomes pregnant, she finds herself abandoned by both her angry father and her ranch-hand lover, Sam McPhee, who vanishes before she can give him the news. When her father is at risk of dying from kidney failure 17 years later, Michelle, a successful single mom with a beloved but difficult son in tow, returns to tiny Crystal City, Mont., to donate the kidney that can save her father's life. Michelle is prepared to deal with the trauma of surgery, an estranged father and a rebellious child, but she is completely unprepared when she encounters Sam McPhee. Now a prosperous rancher and doctor, Sam quickly recognizes Cody as his, and with that revelation, a damaged family begins to heal itself. Overabundant flashbacks give the novel's first half a frustrating stop-and-start rhythm, and the character of Michelle never quite comes into focus. In contrast, Cody is beautifully and believably wrought as a teenager who hides a good heart under a bad attitude. Fragmented families are a romance staple, and Wiggs's sensitive portrayal of parents and lovers trying to bond despite a less-than-perfect past exemplifies the richness and realism this theme can lend a love story. (Jan.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
In a definite departure from her earlier historical romances (e.g., The Mistress), Wiggs sets a new standard for the contemporary reunion romance. An estranged daughter/single mom who returns to Montana to provide a kidney for her dying father, a compassionate rancher/doctor who has never forgotten his first love, and a 16-year-old boy "with attitude" are the major players in an emotionally involving story that affirms the belief that love can "conquer all." Realistic, appealing protagonists, secondary characters who are much more than caricatures, and a plot compelling in its simplicity are pluses for this well-written, engrossing novel, which may surprise but not disappoint Wiggs's historical fans. Wiggs, a RITA Award winner, lives in the Seattle area. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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A Letter from the Editor
Packed in the box with the original manuscript were the following pages--apparently written in Michelle's own hand and taken from her personal journal. We knew these pages were wonderful, yet so intimate we weren't sure just what to do with them. Well, after discussing it with Susan Wiggs we decided to include the journal pages here, exclusively in the eBook edition. In these pages Michelle has returned home for the first time and is flooded with memories of her first meeting with Sam. They are private and beautiful but now that you've read their story we think you will especially appreciate hearing this particular moment in Michelle's own words. . . .
Floodlights cast a bluish glow over the parking lot and fairgrounds, desolate in a cloak of winter white. Street lamps line the river road as it curves around Spring Side Mountain. I can't see its jagged hulk in the dark, but I know the legendary peak is there; I feel its presence. Once, long ago, I even climbed to the top of it.
There, at the bottom of a slope below the arena is a place I know too well. Stupid, I tell myself as I head toward it. It's incredibly stupid to come here. Salt in a wound. Yet I'm drawn inexorably to the river, unable to resist.
There is no cold quite so piercing as the cold of a Montana winter night, yet I keep walking, the way illuminated by the street lamps. The new snow is powdery and light beneath my boots. The Swan River is almost frozen over. Only a trickle down the middle remains, though in spring it will surely transform itself into a roaring gush of white water.
Sam and I used to walk along the bank, delirious with the wonder of first love. Each sunset burned brighter, more beautiful than the last. Each moonrise glowed with a promise we were certain was meant for us, only for us. We were so naively young back then. We thought we were invincible. We thought our love was like the river, ever flowing, never ceasing; nothing and no one could stop it--not even rock itself. I used to tell him my wildest dreams, and he would confess his deepest secrets. We were so open with each other, so trusting. I've never been like that with any other person, not even Brad.
I keep trying not to look to the right, because I don't want to see the most shattering reminder of all. But I do look, of course; how can I not? The boathouse where Sam and I used to make love on summer nights, where I found magic and dreamy fulfillment in his arms. Where I thought I'd stay all the rest of my life.
Like a sleepwalker I amble toward the snow-covered structure. Just go and face it, I tell myself. If you can survive that, you can survive anything.
The place is dilapidated, sagging down to the water, the bench outside dusted with snow. I stand looking at it for a long time, waiting for the world to crumble or come apart at the seams.
When it doesn't, I feel absurdly pleased with myself. There. I stepped close to the inferno of memory, and I haven't been burned.
But as I turn away from the boathouse, just when I'm congratulating myself for putting the past behind me, I spy the rowboat under the eaves. It's the same one. I can tell because I'm the one who whimsically painted bared shark's teeth across the bow.
I feel myself being sucked back into the past, to a time I don't want to remember. I try to resist, but it's too late. I stop walking, and stand still, my breath freezing in the night air, my heart compelled to listen to the voices pounding in my head.