I read Catherine Anderson’s Coming Up Roses back in college and really enjoyed it, but since then I became rather turned off by the extreme victimhood of many of her heroines. Therefore, it was with some trepidation that I picked up Summer Breeze. As many would expect, the heroine is a tortured one, but the story is written beautifully enough that I found myself enjoying it.
Rachel Hollister is the sole survivor of a massacre that took the lives of her family. Since that time, she has lived in a walled up in a section of the family farmhouse, afraid to venture beyond her small living quarters. A ranch hand named Darby lives on the premises and makes sure that she has fuel and food, and he takes farm items to town to sell for her. Aside from Darby’s presence, Rachel has no real connection to the outside world.
When Darby is injured, he fears for Rachel’s safety alone on the ranch and sends Joseph Coulter to watch over her. Rachel initially reacts violently to Joseph’s presence on the ranch and in the unused portion of the house, but gradually comes to accept him being there – even to like him. Joseph came to the Hollister place expecting to find a raving crazy woman, finding instead a vulnerable young woman with a bright mind and kind heart beneath all her fear.
As Rachel and Joseph fall into a routine of work around the farmhouse – Joseph outside and Rachel in her kitchen – the two of them enjoy each other’s company. The journey from acceptance to friendship to falling in love is a sweet one and those who like tender romances will likely enjoy this. Are there times when the sweetness feels a little too sweet? Oh yes. The hero’s “aw, shucks” style contributes to many such moments. Yet the occasional bit of saccharine does not ruin this book.
Catherine Anderson’s return to the world of historical romance is a good one. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely a pleasant read. While the victim heroine initially made me nervous, Rachel turned out to be a likable, though traumatized, character – definitely not a passive doormat. Her love story with Joseph is a sweet one, and I imagine many readers will find themselves teary as they read the very end.