Catherine Anderson has written an exciting contemporary novel in Forever After. I must warn you that it is not for the squeamish. There is violence in the book, along with strong language and descriptions of the emotional and sexual abuse of Meredith, the heroine, that were almost painful to read. On the plus side, Forever After has a wonderfully exciting plot, and some of the best characters I’ve encountered this year. It also has Goliath the dog, an engaging supporting character who almost steals the book.
Forever After is set in a small town in Oregon where sheriff Heath Masters is trying to cope with reduced staff, an epidemic of teenage drinking, and a deputy (the mayor’s son) who is trying his best to undercut Heath in every way.
Heath lives out in the country and recently had some new neighbors move in, Meredith Kenyon and her daughter Sammy. Meredith is shy and not inclined to respond to Heath’s neighborly overtures, while Sammy is downright scared of men. It’s Heath’s retired police dog, Goliath, a Rottweiler, who breaks the ice. Goliath has always had a special affinity for children and he and Sammy soon become almost inseparable. It is very clear that Meredith is either hiding something, or running from someone, but Heath cannot figure out what her secret is.
At first, Meredith is scared of Heath, then as she gradually gets to know him, she becomes fond of him, while he begins to fall in love with her. But Meredith’s past finally catches up with her, and Heath is forced to chose between his duty to the law and his love for Meredith.
Heath is a wonderful hero. Alpha, but not a chest-beater. He is haunted by an incident in his youth, where his drinking and driving caused the death of his only sister. His campaign against teenage drinking is his attempt to atone for his youthful sin. Heath is not a morose or moody character – he acknowledges his past but doesn’t dwell on it. He has a dry sense of humor and is kind and understanding toward Meredith and Sammy. When he finally learns of Meredith’s past – the abuse she suffered and why she ran – he shows that he can put the spirit of the law above the letter of the law.
Meredith is not as strong a character as Heath in the beginning of the book, but as the story progresses, and she opens up more to him (and us), she becomes a stronger and more sympathetic person.
Goliath accomplished a feat I thought would be impossible – he made me like a Rottweiler! I’ll admit I have only had a little interaction with this breed, and what little I have had has not been very good, but if I could find a dog like Goliath, I’d take him in a minute! Goliath is loaded with charm and personality, and he loves children to the point where he will willingly risk his life to save one. You just gotta love him, drool and all.
Ms. Anderson’s writing is skillful and engaging and she manipulates all the threads of the plot without ever dropping one. I have only a couple of complaints. Meredith has been the victim of some of the worst sexual and emotional abuse I have encountered in a book, but right after she tells Heath about what she endured, she responds to his sexual overtures with gusto. She changed from frigid to insatiable in just a few pages – a little too quickly for me. Also, Heath has been one of the most kind and caring of men toward Meredith all through the book, but at the end, when they are reunited he tells her he’s going to “rape your sweet ass.” Bleah! What a tasteless remark to make under any circumstances, much less to an abused woman!
That aside, I enjoyed reading Forever After. I had read and enjoyed Ms. Anderson’s historical novels, Only Love, Keegan’s Lady, and Annie’s Song very much, and this novel proves that Ms. Anderson is just as talented in the contemporary field as she is in the historical. I’m looking forward to more contemporaries from her in the future.