Hand in Hand
Sam Burton, the town sheriff, is a workaholic. He’s got a wife of sixteen years and four children, but he never seems to spend enough time with them. Duty forever interferes with hometown events, birthdays, soccer games, and homework. In the Prologue, when he forgets his sixteenth anniversary dinner date, his wife Annie decides she’s had enough and tosses him out.
Sam is a regular guy just trying to keep the peace in their small, mid-western community of Wild Rose. He’s been bringing home the bacon now for 16 years while Annie has stayed home to care for the children, and when Annie slams the door on his face the night of his anniversary, he begins to suspect that she doesn’t love him anymore. Annie, for her part, is tired of taking second place to Sam and his work. He hardly sees his children, and she, as well, begins to suspect he just doesn’t love her anymore.
As the story opens five weeks later, their oldest child, Tyler, is caught skipping school. Annie and Sam are surprised since Tyler has always been a well-adjusted kid. The principal of the school suggests that Tyler might be having difficulties due to his parents’ separation. Sam then decides he’s going to move back into his house (he’s been living with his mother for the last five weeks), secretly with the hope of getting back into Annie’s good graces and fixing his marriage. Annie, while disturbed that Sam is moving back, feels she’s been a lacking mother and wife and is confused about what would be best for her children. But she lets Sam move back in as long as he sleeps on the couch.
Okay, big sigh here…
This story had numerous problems, and aspects that were so infuriating to me as a 21st Century woman I wanted to throw the book in a fire. I never would have finished it had I not been reading it for review.
First, this story is not a romance. It’s a study of family relationships in a 1972 context. Let me explain. Annie is a stay at home mom, but when she sends Sam packing she decides to get a part time job at a country store. What does Sam do? He is shocked! He gets angry and worried that Annie is neglecting her primary role as mother. Oh, my! The “job” is three days a week, and Annie suffers in anguish over the decision of whether or not she should leave her youngest daughter with her grandmothers two of those days, and Sam for the other. Oh, please. Good thing she didn’t have a real day-care issue. For once I would really enjoy a romance where the heroine wants to stay home and the hero is concerned about losing the income.
This, from Sam’s point of view, made me want to scream:
Annie loved her job! What, was she nuts? She already had a job. Annie was a full-time wife and mother. So the wife part was a little iffy right now. He was working on that. But she still had four kids to take care of, plus the dog, the house and an endless list of other stuff.Oh, boy. What’s a good, hardworking sheriff with a hard-on to do?
Second, Sam moves back into his house, and what is his chief concern? He wants to get his wife in the sack. That’s right, he’s moving back in to save his family, and he’s overflowing with lust. How realistic is that? Yes, it’s been five whole weeks, but come on. He’s got bigger problems than the bulge in his pants.
Next, Annie feels an incredible amount of guilt. She knows she’s supposed to be a good mother, but – sniff, sniff – she just isn’t one. What was she thinking throwing her wonderful husband out! What was happening to her children! What’s a great cookie baker to do! I wanted to give her a Valium and tell her to buck up.
In chapter one, when she’s going to meet with the delinquent Tyler at school, she sees Sam’s car in the parking lot and thinks:
Sam was here!. . .The school must have called him when they couldn’t reach her. Sometimes life could be so unfair. She had missed the principal’s phone call by just ten minutes. If she hadn’t allowed Lizzie to ride the coin-operated pony at the food store and stopped at the gas station to top off the tank…
I know. She’s trying so hard to be a good mommy…
And this one, when Sam unexpectedly shows up for their son’s soccer game:
How could she regret that Sam had shown up for his son and not because he might have missed her? What kind of mother did that make her? A selfish one!. . .Had their marriage really come to this, where she was jealous of their own children? She was a deplorable mother, an appalling wife, and an all-around horrible person. Why hadn’t she been content with what she had?Yes, why, oh, why, oh, why? Why did I have to keep reading!
I could go on and on. This book had no romance, just a couple of people living in a past generational world, lusting after each other and beating themselves up. They didn’t communicate, didn’t make an attempt to seek family counseling (no, that wouldn’t have been romantic but at least it would have been realistic), and tiny misunderstandings abounded. All in all it’s a depressing book. I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.