I don't usually write up series romance. Heck, I don't read much of it these days, either. But I picked up Man With a Past last month and enjoyed it so much that when I saw Montana Secrets at the Reader/Writer get together in Ohio, I bought it right away. I had the pleasure of meeting Kay Stockham at this event, and she was kind, gracious, and beautiful - just as I would have expected from reading her books.
Man With A Past: Here's the blurb:
Joe Brody: Out of prison but still serving time — all because no one in his hometown believes he's innocent. He'd leave the place in his dust, but his father — the only family he has left — needs him.
Ashley Cade: Widowed with a toddler to take care of. She's moved here to make a fresh start — but being accepted into the inner circles of a close-knit town isn't easy. Especially after she hires the town pariah as a handyman.
Joe and Ashley. The attraction between them is powerful. But is it enough to overcome the whispers that Ashley has begun to hear?
This book really grabbed me. I'm not sure why. I don't often go for this type of book, but something about it grabbed me. So much so that I then read Stockham's first book, Montana Secrets. The story is this: Joe was convicted at age 18 of the murder of his infant daughter by shaken baby syndrome. He's out of prison after 10 years and comes back to his small town to be near his father, who's recovering from a stroke. Nobody will give the "baby-killer" a job. Of course, it doesn't help that the mother of the baby was the sheriff's daughter.
Ashley's husband was killed in the war, and she comes to town to start a new life. She needs a handyman and hires Joe, knowing nothing of his past, of course.
I found this to be a powerful story of redemption, survival and forgiveness. It pained me to read about the way Joe was treated. I wanted things to work out for them, I truly did. I guess that's a testament to the strength of Stockham's writing. Especially because, as I said, not only do I not usually read series romance, but this is not the usual story I go for. And not only did I read it, I sent it off to Anne for her to read, also. I can't quite put my finger on what I liked so much, I just know this book hit me in the heart.
Montana Secrets: Here's the OBC blurb: As a physical therapist, Grace Korbit has had some tough cases, but returning to her hometown to care for Seth Rowland will be the most difficult job she's ever had. When she left ten years ago, Grace was running from the secrets in her past. And from Seth.
After a riding accident left him in a wheelchair, Seth holed up in his room, shuttingg out the world. He doesn't want help from anyone. Especially Grace, considering she left him without an explanation ten years ago.
But what Seth doesn't know is that Grace had a really good reason for leaving...
This book is a very emotional story of survival, both in terms of paraplegia and of child abuse and molestation. Stockham writes of the emotional toll that an accident such as Seth's can have on an entire family; his brother and sister-in-law gave up their dreams to come run his ranch, and the effect that has on their marriage is portrayed well. Their young daughter's confusion over why her favorite uncle doesn't want to spend any time with her ("he doesn't love me anymore"), Seth's self-pity, all are portrayed accurately.
Grace's inability to connect on an intimate level with any man is also explored, albeit very reluctantly on her part. She freaks out when Lexi, Seth's niece, is alone with a ranch hand that Lexi's known since birth. This same ranch hand knew Grace's stepfather, and makes all sorts of insinuating remarks toward Grace. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that Grace was molested as a child. Stockham handles the situation realistically and with, um, grace and dignity. The scenes where Grace and Seth finally do make love, and afterwards, are really well done. When Seth finds her afterwards in the shower curled into a ball, crying, I thought, "Wow, I bet that's what it's like for a lot of women who've been long-term abused".
The only part of this book that even remotely disappointed me was that Seth did get the feeling back in his legs and was able to walk again. Yes, that's why Grace was brought back in the first place, because the doctor's had given Seth that chance and he wasn't taking it, but still, it would be nice to portray that a paraplegic could have a satisfying and full life without the "miraculous" recovery, too. Still, I do recommend this book highly.