Honey is a sweet slice of late Victorian Americana. It deftly mixes comedy and angst and features a spunky (but ladylike) heroine and a strong (but tortured) hero along with a fine group of supporting characters. Best of all, for a sports lover like me, most of the book takes place during the baseball season back when Cy Young was the outstanding pitcher of his time, not just the name on an award.
Camille Kennison is a beautiful and intelligent young woman. Men flock to her like bees to honey, but she is not interested in marriage. Camille is at loose ends. She wants to make something of herself and she wants her father’s respect. Camille’s father owns Kennison’s Hardware Store in Harmony, Montana, and Camille has helped him in the store ever since she has graduated from the young ladies academy. Camille’s father loves her, but he only wants her to get married and dismisses all her good suggestions for improving his store. Mr. Kennison is not a bad or unfeeling man, but he is really only interested in the baseball team he owns, the Harmony Keystones, and trying to undercut his business rival Nop’s Hardware Emporium.
Alex Cordova is a woodworker in Harmony. He used to be a professional baseball player and Mr. Kennison has begged him to play for the team, but Alex has turned down every offer. Alex spends his time working in his shop and taking care of his friend, Captain, a man with a head injury that has cost him a large part of his memory. One day Alex receives a letter from a doctor who has a treatment that could help Captain – a treatment costing lots of money. The same day, Camille comes into the shop after betting her father that she can get Alex to play for the team. The upshot of it all is the team gets Alex and Camille becomes the new manager of the Harmony Keystone baseball team.
Most of Honey takes place on the road at various baseball games. This gives Alex and Camille a lot of time together and their relationship grows slowly but surely. By the time they realize they have fallen in love, they have both grown as people. Alex has begun to let go of the incident from his past that tortured him. Camille has gotten respect from her father and her own self respect as well. I liked Camille, she was spunky and independent, but remained a 19th century lady, not a modern woman in a corset. Alex was tortured and stubborn but a good man underneath all his baggage which was not so heavy that it weighed him down. The various players on the team are a colorful crew and I loved reading the descriptions of the baseball games, especially the superstitions the players all have to make them hit better.
Alex and Captain’s shared history is no mystery to the reader, but is something neither Camille nor the members of the team know about. Interaction between Alex and the Captain is very touching. I grew to like Captain very much and his healing from his injury is presented realistically – he does not miraculously get all better and Stef Ann Holm shows how part of Captain’s problem was the primitive state of 19th century medicine.
The only problem I had was the ease that Camille had in persuading her family to let her go out on the road with the team. Somehow, I don’t think that the parents of a respectable young middle class woman would have let her travel all over the country unchaperoned with a baseball team. But I accepted it as part of the story and ended up enjoying myself very much.
I liked this book. I like romances where sports are a part of the story and baseball was integral to the book. Don’t worry if you are not up on all the rules of the game. You don’t have to be a baseball expert or ESPN junkie to enjoy Honey. So if you are tired of historical romances set in the British Isles, come over to the USA and toss the old horsehide around with Alex, Camille and the rest of the Harmony Keystones.