My Big Old Texas Heartache
Geralyn Dawson is another author who jumped into a more mainstream style of writing when I wasn’t paying attention. After reading My Big Old Texas Heartache, I realize just how much I miss those homespun historical romances published in the 1990’s. These new mainstream dramas may be all the rage, but I’m hard pressed to get emotionally invested in any of these modern day characters as they struggle through life’s obstacles and fuddle their way through complicated relationships.
Kate Harmon put herself through college and became a CPA, all while (almost) single-handedly raising her now 17-year-old son Ryan. Now a successful professional living in Dallas, she gets an urgent call from her estranged family on the night of her first date with hunky lawyer Nicholas Sutherland. Known as “The Cedar Dell Slut” and disowned by her parents because she became pregnant with Ryan while still a teenager, Kate left town and never revealed the name of Ryan’s dad to the nosey townsfolk. Never mind that this occurred in the 1980’s, a time when teenage pregnancy was rampant and anything but scandalous – at least in my high school.
Kate’s injured father needs constant care and, despite the fact that Dad doesn’t want her around, she is elected by her sister and self-centered brother to nurse him back to health. Kate feels duty bound and agrees to temporarily move in and help the old crab, bringing along Ryan and her outspoken and very funny best friend Adele. Kate expects a cold reception from her father (and, boy, does she get one), but what she doesn’t anticipate is seeing Ryan’s father, Max Cooper, on a daily basis. Now retired from the Air Force, Max took up photography and moved back to Cedar Dell with his five year old daughter Shannon. Widowed since Shannon was an infant and dealing with the loss of her beloved nanny, Max longs for security and safety. Once he meets up with Kate again, he takes the opportunity to mend fences and repair his relationship with the son who refuses to have anything to do with him.
Kate and Max never had any sort of prior relationship apart from one night of rebellious sex and My Big Old Texas Heartache centers more around Kate’s shame and the break from her family than anything to do with Max and the “second chances” the cover copy implies. Their relationship grows from a sort of wary, tentative thing to a comfortable friendship and, after much fumbling, they make love. Sadly, the sensual tension is nil and it appeared they hook up out of convenience rather than a deeply rooted love. Also muddying the sexual chemistry is Kate’s lawyer date Nicholas Sutherland, who presumably shows up to stir up the lackluster romance. His appearance in Cedar Dell involves an odd, throwaway subplot that conveniently keeps him near Kate and, since Kate seems more attracted to Nicholas than to Max, the credibility of the Max-Kate romance goes further down the tubes.
Drama and angst ooze from every nook and cranny of this book about resolving past “issues” (and there are so many packed in here that I won’t even attempt to get into them all) and dealing with life’s day to day bumps. The problems and screwed up family dynamics are very true to life, but in the beginning it’s all laid on so thick it’s nearly stifling. While things eventually lighten up slightly and there are enough subtle bits of humor to head off the need for a good stiff drink, the book is so slowly paced it was all too put-downable.
The main characters are realistic and nice people with big hearts – even, in the end, Kate’s stubborn old Dad. Max has managed to rise above his rough and tumble background and he’s willing to freely admit he was selfish and stupid in the past (now how many men will admit things like that?!), though his eagerness to make amends is a painful thing to read. Ryan is a goodhearted teen who’s infuriatingly stubborn (like any good teen). Kate is an admirable, realistically painted character who has put her past behind her (unlike the rest of her family) and trudged on to create her own place in the world. Still, she feels duty bound to these people who have caused her nothing but heartache and emotional pain because family is still family, whether you like them or not.
As I read through my notes, two phrases kept popping up: “These people are nice” and “will the pace ever pick up?” Guess that about sums it up. If you’re in the mood for a heavy dose of drama, lightened with hope, subtle humor, and a tinge of sweetness; enjoy books about mending old wounds and accepting people for the choices they make, you’ll more than likely enjoy this book more than I did.