Don’t let the cover of this book put you off! It almost did for me; I’ve never been a fan of the classic clinch cover (try saying that three times in rapid succession!). Once you get past the cover, though, you’ll find that Abiding Hope is a well-written story, with something for everyone. There’s a stand-up-for-herself heroine, an angst-filled yet not overly tortured hero, and a subplot that will make you howl with laughter.
Lydia Jefferson wants to buy an abandoned house on the outskirts of Peaceful Valley, Ohio and convert it into an orphanage. But the town’s leading matrons are opposed to the scheme, and try to pressure their husbands on the town council to vote it down, or at least set conditions that will be impossible for Lydia to live up to. She calls their bluff, spends all her savings on purchasing the place, and begins the seemingly impossible task of making it habitable, asking everyone she can think of for help, including the silent, standoffish wheelwright, Nathan Stockwell.
At first he turns her down, reluctant to involve himself any more than he has to with his fellow human beings. But he just can’t stand to see a repair job not done right. And he’s being pursued aggressively by a matrimony-minded widow whom he needs to evade. He tells himself he’s only going to make sure one little thing is done correctly, but before he, and Lydia, realize it, he’s coming over every night to put in a few hours on the renovation.
The big question then is whether the two of them will be able to finish the rehab job before the council’s deadline passes. But for Lydia, just as important, is convincing Nathan to let down his guard with her. Can he afford to do so? When Lydia’s grandmother arrives for an unexpected visit, the secret of his past threatens to blow wide open. Is Lydia’s love for him strong enough to overcome this obstacle?
I enjoyed this book for lots of reasons. First and foremost is the writing. Melody Morgan has an engaging, easy-to-read style. The dialogue is terrific, and her descriptive passages are especially well done. At her best, she reminds me of Jill Marie Landis. Lydia and Nathan are believable, sympathetic people whose motives are easy to understand, and whose actions are always true to those motives. Lydia is not afraid to go after what she wants, but is never shrill or strident about it; and she suffers some very down-to-earth pangs of worry. I enjoyed the secondary, and even the tertiary, characters, too; it’s a strong supporting cast. What happens to that widow who was after Nathan makes up a big, pleasant part of the overall picture.
There’s a marvelous subplot involving those town matrons. It seems that they’ve discovered the secret to getting their men to go along is to cut them off in the bedroom. You get to experience the frustration of each of these people from his or her point of view. It’s very funny and done with real flair.
While Abiding Hope is a very good read, it’s not a great one. The exposure and resolution of Nathan’s Big Dilemma was a little rushed, as was the one and only love scene between him and Lydia (no, not rushed in that sense!). The sexual tension wasn’t very – well, taut, I guess. It was more like a slow-burning fire than a roaring blaze. But that’s all right; not every story requires a bonfire to warm your heart. This was a good love story, whose flaws I was willing to overlook because the rest of it was done so well.
|Review Date:||March 2, 1999|