Desert Isle Keeper
I came to read Marrying Stone the backwards way. I liked Simple Jess, the sequel, very much, and I thought that I’d get a chance to read a little bit more about Jesse Best if I read Marrying Stone. I didn’t realize that I would like this one even more than the sequel. What a pleasant surprise!
J. Monroe (Roe) Farley is a scholar and musicologist. It’s his premise that Celtic/Elizabethan language and music have been preserved by the isolated communities in the Ozark Mountains. Since these Ozark people of mainly Scots/Irish background have not interacted with others, they have saved their musical heritage in a unique way. He applies for and gets a Harvard fellowship to study these mountain people and their music. But in getting to the mountains, he loses almost all of his belongings, and is taken in by a young man of limited intelligence: Jesse Best. Jesse and his father invite Roe to stay in their home in the town of Marrying Stone. Roe hopes to make contacts in the community through the Bests in order to further his research.
Meggie Best is shocked when she sees her brother Jesse leading an unfamiliar man up the mountain. But very soon she forgets her shock and falls head over heels for Roe, imagining him to be the prince she’s been waiting for all her life. Unfortunately, when she communicates this idea to Roe, he is less than enthusiastic. In fact, he pushes her away altogether after they share an all-too-exciting kiss. Humiliated by his rejection, she tries her hardest to avoid him entirely, but this is difficult since they are living in the same one-room cabin.
Roe’s goals are these: get acquainted with the community, collect as many samples of their music as he can, then get off the mountain. Meggie he considers to be a hick. A pretty, interesting, intelligent hick, but a hick all the same. Still he finds himself drawn to her; to her kindness, to her lively intellect, and to her pretty face and sexy feet. But why would he possibly want to give up his dreams and his Harvard aspirations in order to be with this old-fashioned mountain girl?
One of the things I really liked about the book was the cultural observer angle. Roe is sort of fascinated by the people of the Ozarks. They are entirely different from what he’s grown up knowing, but he can see that the way they do things makes sense given their surroundings and restrictions. He’s very non-judgmental. Also he comes to see that while these people are poor and scrambling, they have a very strong sense of community, and he’s never known that. He’s never really had a family or a strong emotional bond, so when he comes across people who do, he recognizes the value of it.
Another thing I very much enjoyed about Marrying Stone was the relationship that developed between Jesse and Roe. Roe is the first person to see that Jesse, while somewhat mentally disabled, is a man with a man’s thoughts, feelings and desires. He grows to care for him and to stick up for him both to his family and to the broader community. I rarely see this kind of true emotion between men in romances. It was very touching.
Finally, I liked Meggie herself. While I thought she was occasionally too stubborn, I was impressed by her strong sense of self worth. She knows that Roe is more sophisticated than she is, but she never thinks he’s better than she is. And she loves her brother with her whole heart.
Pamela Morsi has a very pleasant, sweet way of writing about plain folks. She writes them with all of their quirks, but is not in the slightest bit condescending. I would recommend this book to anyone based on the strength and dignity of the characters, the interesting setting and premise, and the loveliness of the writing itself. If you’re looking for a good Americana romance, or just a good romance period, check this one out.