Always To Remember
The summary on the back cover of Always To Remember ends with the statement that “sometimes love – like courage – whispers instead of shouts.” That is how I will remember this book. It is filled with small moments. There is no feisty heroine and no arrogant hero. There are simply two wounded people brought together in sorrow, transformed by the healing power of love.
Set in Texas after the Civil War, war widow Meg Warner commissions Clayton Holland to sculpt a war memorial. She does so out of revenge – he had refused to fight in the war and has been branded a coward by his brother, his town, his South. She plans to watch him carve and sculpt day by day until he admits his cowardice and begs for her forgiveness.
But Clayton is not a coward – that much is obvious from the somewhat astonishing opening volleys in this story. He is a man of quiet dignity, filled with honor and strength. There is not one bit of the coward in him. As Meg spends her days with him and sees his goodness and strength, she cannot reconcile what she believes against what she is learning.
Clayton is truly a wonderful hero as he goes about his daily life in a town that is united in its hatred against him. His treatment by his family, Meg, and others who hurt him do not prevent him from doing what is right, what is honorable. He who has endured a lifetime of pain literally branded a deserter endures more and more and more pain from Meg’s treatment of him.
This author engages the reader with descriptive language. Readers will be able to smell the honeysuckle fragrance that wafts around Meg, be able to see Clayon and Meg as he works on the monument, and actually feel the pain Clayton feels when Meg refuses to acknowledge him in public.
Readers will feel relief when Meg realizes the truth about Clayton because his quiet strength and dignity are incredibly attractive. Realizing her denials and betrayals throughout the story were necessary for the sake of drama, I still found it difficult to forgive Meg in her treatment of him. Although the author wrote incredible small moments, some of the larger ones seemed slightly lacking. Perhaps they were more realistic, but in fiction some whispers need to be shouts. Though Meg redeems herself in the end, the final climactic scene ended in another small moment when I wanted a larger, longer one.
Yes, Clayton’s feelings for Meg were reverent and poignant, but not particularly passionate. Her honeysuckle fragrance and his large, capable hands could have lent a bit more lustiness to this story. Again, the same can be said for the final dramatic moments of the book – they were slightly lacking. Given the intense opening sequence of this book (where it is obvious the author can write large dramatic moments), I was surprised that the author so abruptly cut off the climax. Again, I wanted more, but this is more a tribute to the author’s skill in writing such a unique book with flesh-and-blood characters than a criticism of the story.
Finally, a small but bothersome point. How could a farm-woman spend so much time sitting in a shed? When did she do her chores around the house and the farm? Really, wouldn’t somebody notice she was never at home when she was supposed to be?
Still, the story told by this author is definitely one worth reading. Often romances focus on a hero who cannot see the goodness of the heroine. It was a pleasure to read a book that reversed that story- line. It was a pleasure to read a book about such a good man who maintains his dignity in the face of such odds. And, the whispers of realization, of love, of courage, were phenomenal. So phenomenal that the flaws seem to fade rather quickly, leaving the reader with those savory small moments.