Desert Isle Keeper
A Taste of Honey
To date, A Taste of Honey is the only book I have ever bought because of its cover. In this case, you can judge the book by it. There are no rearing horses in the background, and no one’s clothes are falling off. It just shows a man and a woman standing together by a fence, gazing into the distance. This is not a flashy book, but it is a very romantic one. Its strength lies in its wonderful characters and believable conflict.
Noah Eastman has just moved to Van Wert, Ohio with his two young daughters. All summer Francie Morrow has been caring for his girls while he worked his farm, but now Francie is off to college. While Francie was working for him, she told him all about her oldest sister “Sissy”, who raised her and her five siblings. Noah has heard nothing but praise for Sissy’s organizational skills, cooking, and mothering. When he finally meets her, he is shocked to discover that she is beautiful as well. The thing is, only he seems to notice. Everyone else is town sees Sissy as old, frumpy, and practical. Noah’s first thought about her is that she deserves to be called by her real name, Annie. He starts calling her Annie even though no one else does. Then he starts leaving her notes that say things like “Your skin is the color of baked bread”.
Annie is flattered by the attention, but she has plans for herself, and they don’t include marrying a farmer and caring for his children. Annie’s mother died when she was nine, leaving her to raise her five siblings. Now Annie is twenty-six, and the last child has left home. Annie plans to marry Reverend Miller Winestock. Miller has a fancy house in town, with carpets in every room, an expensive stove, and most alluring of all – a water closet. Annie figures that after rasing all of those children she is entitled to some luxury. But Miller is pompous and bossy. He wants to marry Annie, but he keeps putting it off out of respect for his dead wife. Meanwhile, Noah needs Annie’s help. The woman he hired to replace Francie as his girls’ caretaker has turned out to be mean and abusive. Annie agrees to help him out temporarily, and she finds herself falling for the two motherless girls – and their father as well. Noah even levels the playing field a little by building a water closet! But it will take a lot to convince Annie to follow her heart.
I loved these characters. Noah is the ultimate beta hero. He is noble and caring, and he sees beauty in Annie that no one else has even bothered to look for. And although his first wife was not a nice person, he doesn’t use his past as an excuse to hate women as too many romance heroes do. Still he is no wimp; he knows he wants Annie and goes after her in every way possible. He pays her charming and creative compliments that really add to the romance.
Annie is the type of heroine many women can relate to. She has a natural instinct for mothering, but she regrets missing out on her own education while she was raising her siblings. She wants a chance to make her own needs a top priority for once, and it takes her a while to understand that one of the things she needs is love and children of her own. She is one of the most realistic characters I have ever encountered.
There are great secondary characters here as well. All of Annie’s sibling are well-drawn. They love her dearly, but they take her for granted. Miller Winestock is also a well-balanced character. He is mostly annoying, and clearly not the man for Annie. But his personality never feels exaggerated like that of so many villains.
It is really Annie’s inner conflict that makes the story. We know Noah is the perfect man for her, and deep down she knows it too, but it is still difficult for her to give up her dream of a luxurious lifestyle. Her struggle to understand what is most important to her is very poignant. When the happy end comes, it has definitely been earned.
With A Taste of Honey, Stephanie Mittman proves that there are lots of different ways to write a terrific romance. This quiet, realistic story makes a wonderful respite from all the dramatic, dangerous plots more common to the genre. After all, not every hero needs to ride in on a white horse – sometimes all he needs is a water closet.