Carly Adams lived her whole life with a rare eye disease that left her blind until a recent operation gave her sight. She stands on threshold of a new life and, after having taught special education, decides to return to college for a graduate degree with her new vision to better help children with special needs. But she’d first like to celebrate her newfound freedom by a night on the town, partying with a friend. She meets cowboy Hank Coulter in a bar.
Hank Coulter is a good-looking, hard-working, party-hardy kind of cowboy who spent nearly all his life working the family ranch. Finally the ranch he owns with his brother is up and running and Hank decides to let loose and party. He’s out for one thing when he runs into Carly at the bar.
Their eyes meet across a crowded dance floor and the two feel an attraction. They talk, they dance, they get drunk, and Hank, who thinks “Charlie” is like any other bar-hopping girl, has no idea she’s a virgin. When Carly and Hank remove themselves to his truck, they have sex in a drunken haze. He’s got no idea she was a virgin until after the deed was done and before he can talk to her, he passes out, leaving a now sober Carly to deal with the consequences of what they have just done.
Hank feels like a total ass the next day, but it’s too late; “Charlie’s” gone and he can’t find her. He didn’t use protection and feels responsible. As for Carly, she wants nothing to do with sex after this horrible first experience and wants less than nothing to do with Hank. But she discovers she’s pregnant, and what’s worse, Carly may go blind as a result of carrying the baby to term. Though in total denial, a friend convinces her she must inform Hank of the pregnancy, but he doesn’t know who Carly is; he had sex with Charlie. And so it isn’t until her roommate sets him straight that he realizes he must marry Carly. This marriage of convenience will allow him access to his child and provide Carly the medical benefits should her vision begin to fail.
This book was a roller coaster ride for me. I went from not liking Hank to disliking Carly not only for the heavy-duty denial of her pregnancy but for holding out so long before agreeing to “reconcile” with Hank. The book was so frank about the limitations of handicap that the length of time it took for Carly to come around seemed unreasonable and artificial. On the other hand, the issues in the book are very real. Carly’s loss of vision is explained in great detail and the reader’s can empathize with her thru every phase. Anderson does an excellent job of laying open the raw emotions of dealing with a family member’s illness and the helplessness those feeling cause.
Another quibble I had with the book was its language; it was incredibly off-putting for this Texan to read the faux-Texas dialect. Though Anderson was clearly trying to convey an authentic honky-tonk feel, this was simply overdone, particularly when Hank explained to Carly about “polishing his belt buckle.”
Blue Skies makes for fascinating reading. Not only is a difficult issue explored, but Hank and Carly’s story is presented in a way that in the end it felt complete. No questions left out there, no wondering what they were thinking – just complete and rounded characters in a very different story.