Only by Your Touch
Catherine Anderson has a very easy-to-read style that pulls a reader in with its simplicity and flow. Unfortunately, the plot is also simplistic, many characters are clichéd or straight out of central casting, and I’m afraid I was just too cynical to enjoy much of the story.
After a horrible accident in which Chloe Evans’ ex-husband suffered a personality-changing head injury, her marriage turned abusive. When her son Jeremy’s life was put in danger, Chloe acknowledged that she had to move on to make a new life for herself. So with a new job as a police dispatcher, she moved to Jack Pine, Oregon. In an attempt to make the move easier on Jeremy, Chloe buys him a puppy that sadly becomes ill with distemper – and she cannot afford the charges of the local vet.
Desperate to save his puppy, Jeremy rides to Cinnamon Ridge to the home of Ben Longtree. Ben is a trained veterinarian, but his current clientele consists of wild animals. Ben knows he should send the boy away, because if word gets out about what he’s doing he’ll be fined and arrested, and the animals he’s treating will be destroyed. But Jeremy gets under his skin and Ben agrees to treat the puppy. He gets more than he bargained for as Jeremy and, more importantly Chloe, become part of his life.
Chloe has been warned away from Ben. It’s said he killed a man with one blow from his fist and everyone calls him strange. Then there’s the fact he’s clearly keeping secrets from Chloe – like if he’s not practicing veterinary medicine, where does he get the money for his illicit veterinary practice and to care for his mother (who suffers from a mild form of Alzheimer’s)? But the person most adamantly against Ben is a local sheriff’s deputy, who clearly has a grudge and becomes the bane of Chloe’s existence, so she decides to follow her heart and take a chance on Ben.
Chloe is an okay heroine. All right, she’s far too noble and trying to be a martyr. She spends most of the book second-guessing every decision she makes and how it effects Jeremy. She also questions if she was right to leave her ex-husband, right to move to Jack Pine, right to buy Jeremy a dog, right to get involved with Ben, etc. The second-guessing gets old. Unfortunately, she also seems to be the only character who has any semblance of a backbone. Chloe makes some proactive moves and at least once stomps her foot and demands Ben come clean with her before she’ll involve herself further with him.
Ben is a much more problematic character. The main flaw is that he is supposed to be honoring Anderson’s Shoshone ancestors, but instead the descriptions come across clichéd, stereotypical, and patronizing. Having Ben wear a headband, moccasins, and a beads was over-the-top, especially considering he’s only a quarter Shoshone and has had no Shoshone influence since he was seven and his paternal grandfather died. I’ve had little experience with Native Americans, but those I’ve known dress like everyone else. Then there’s his mystical healing power – does every Native American have mystical powers? It seems like it and I could have done without that extra plot device.
But my biggest peeve with the story was its sappiness. There’s the cute little puppy in danger, the cute little kid with the requisite speech impediment who finds the courage to confront his fears to save the puppy. There’s the walk in the woods where all the little animals come up to them and Ben lets Jeremy pet a fawn. When I thought it couldn’t get any more corny, it does. Because of that deputy with a grudge, Chloe is forced to quit her job. The very next day she gets a job of a lifetime working in a Christmas themed store owned by a sweet old lady who tells Chloe an hour later she’d eventually like to sell her the store. It was just too much.
While I know many people will enjoy Only by Your Touch, Anderson’s over-the-top tendencies proved too much for me. Rather than enjoying the book, I found myself rolling my eyes, grumbling about how unbelievable the story was, and looking for a place to lie down when I went into a diabetic coma.