Desert Isle Keeper
Pamela Morsi’s Heaven Sent begins when Hannah Bunch, a preacher’s eldest daughter, decides she’s ready for a home and family of her own. Problem is, she’s been the responsible mainstay of her family for so long that they don’t seem to think she needs anything more. She’s a respectable spinster without girlish charms, and Will Sample, the man she likes, is too shy to propose.
So Hannah reads her Bible and decides to do what Ruth did – go out at night to the man she’ll marry. All the congregation have gathered on Reverend Bunch’s land to raise a new church, and she drops a hint to Will that the wellhouse is a nice cool place to sleep in. Then she slips out to join him – only to sleep, of course. But once they’re discovered, they’ll have to get married.
Sadly for Hannah, in the dark, she doesn’t realize the man asleep in the wellhouse is someone else entirely. Her father finds her with Henry Lee Watson – skilled woodworker, handsome ladies’ man, and moonshine maker. The reverend’s outraged yells bring the rest of the congregation to witness the debacle, and naturally they all assume the notorious Henry Lee has seduced this virtuous woman. The reverend insists they marry.
Hannah tries desperately to back out, but once he’s got over his initial shock, Henry Lee decides to make the best of a bad situation. Unfortunately, Hannah’s younger sister tries to cheer her up by telling her how she might soon have a baby of her own. “You’ll be such a wonderful mother”, she says, and Henry Lee overhears this. He leaps to the (not entirely unreasonable) conclusion that Hannah has tricked him into marriage because she’s carrying another man’s child.
How an author handles the Big Mis makes or breaks the novel for me, and I’m happy to say the trope works here. Henry Lee is furious, but because he was raised by a violent alcoholic who wasn’t his biological father and who didn’t let him forget it, he decides he won’t take it out on the child. He also tries to raise the subject with Hannah, but since she thinks he’s discovered that she meant to marry someone else, they talk around each other. Still, Henry Lee doesn’t stay angry for long, and Hannah is determined to be so good a homemaker and helpmeet that he’ll forgive her.
Not that their problems are over. For one thing, Henry Lee doesn’t tell Hannah that he illegally makes and sells whiskey – correctly guessing how she’ll react – which leads to some scrambling on his part when both customers and law enforcement come calling. For another, he decides not to sleep with Hannah until the baby’s born. I was torn between an eyeroll and a facepalm, and did both. Naturally, his good resolution makes life that much more difficult for both of them. Tall, sturdy and voluptuous Hannah is nowhere near conventionally beautiful, but he soon finds that he very much likes the looks of her. And there’s much more under her starchy surface than he expected.
The only thing that bothered me is that the misunderstandings went on for longer than I would have liked – and finally they started to feel a little contrived. The moment the couple have sex, for instance, it’ll be obvious that Hannah can’t be pregnant. So there’s quite a bit of coitus interruptus, but whether the sessions are cut short by the whiskey nearly spoiling or the arrival of the Marshall, I started to anticipate what would happen, rather than being caught up in the moment.
On the whole, though, Heaven Sent is a delightful romance where a very odd couple bring out the best in each other, and I enjoyed the realism of the setting. The story delivered a sweet and heartwarming experience with plenty of humorous moments. It’s a strongly recommended read.