Reunion by Kathryn Fox is an unusual and powerful historical romance. Unfortunately, the question on the cover – Would their future be filled with love..or heartbreak? – isn’t really satisfactorily answered. The question that still bothered me at the end of this book was, “Is love going to be enough to save this marriage?”
Adam McPhail and Lauren Butler love each other and plan to marry. But Lauren’s father suffers a stroke and Adam, an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, has been assigned to an isolated fort north of Edmonton. Lauren must stay behind and nurse her father while Adam leaves. He promises to send for her. Two years go by, during which Adam learns how cruel Canada’s remote wilds can be; he has seen for himself that many wives and children do not survive there. He feels that Lauren deserves better, and he doesn’t send for her. Taking matters into her own hands, Lauren comes out to Edmonton to claim her man. The timing couldn’t be worse – Adam is about to be transferred to an even more isolated and dangerous spot.
Adam is tormented by the thought of the hard life Lauren will have to endure with him, but he loves her too much to turn her away. They marry and set off north, but he is cold and distant, refusing to consummate the marriage or to talk with her about anything but day-to-day survival. Lauren responds to this as a challenge: she will win his trust and prove to him that, with his love, she can survive anything.
It is the character of Lauren that kept me turning pages. She is both feminine and extremely strong. She faces down the Alberta winter and her husband’s rejection, determined to outlast them both. I was impressed by her courage and by the power of her love. Although it is painful to watch Adam pushing Lauren away again and again, I understood his reasons and found them sympathetic.
We see Lauren and Adam gradually build a life for themselves in northern Alberta. They build a cabin, face illness, deal with the physical hardships of a life in the wilds, and struggle to defeat a sinister whiskey bootlegger named Black Angus. We see them become lovers and conceive a child.
What we never see them do is deal with the problems that lie between them. These are mostly created by Adam and his fear for her. He refuses to tell her what’s going on with his job; he gives her warnings to keep her safe, but he never explains them. Lauren is afraid to show any weakness, for fear that he will take it as confirmation that she can’t handle the life of a Mountie’s wife. All this leads to an inability to communicate that they never seem to overcome.
There are several examples. Early in the book, Lauren asks Adam to tell her something about his father; he lashes out at her unkindly to avoid talking about it. They never return to the topic at any time in the book. They will never talk about it, and his reticence on the subject remains a mystery. Another example: At the end of one chapter, Lauren catches Adam in a huge, dangerous lie. The beginning of the new chapter starts some time later. As far as we know, she never calls him on the lie, and they never discuss his reasons for lying to her. Another: Lauren receives death threats from Black Angus and strange warnings from a Cree woman named Fox. She never tells her husband about these threats. And so on. All these things seem to me like signs of a marriage that isn’t working.
Events come to a head when Lauren and Adam face a heartbreaking tragedy. They do not mourn together; nor do they talk about it. The crisis that follows stems directly from their inability to communicate. Although things are wrapped up satisfactorily, the author seems to ignore the problems Lauren and Adam still have, and I was still uncertain about their future.
All that said, however, Reunion is one of the most emotionally involving books I’ve ever experienced. The characters are real, the problems they face are daunting, and Fox made me long for them to be together. Fox is a very talented author who has written a book that I liked in spite of the problems I had with it. If you’re in the mood for a powerful read (and a tearjerker in parts), I recommend it.