Sweet Everlasting has been sitting on my TBR pile for over a year now, and I’m sorry that I waited so long to read it. It was a tender story, and its very existence renews my faith in the potential for good Americana romance.
Tyler Wilkes has come to rural Wayne’s Crossing, Pennsylvania to practice medicine and recuperate. After a tour with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, he was left with a bullet wound and the lingering effects of yellow fever. Rather than go into the family business or politics as his wealthy, aristocratic mother would like, Tyler settles into the busy routine of a country doctor.
It is not long before he takes notice of Carrie Wiggins, a local mute girl of some beauty and great kindness. When her stepfather takes his drunken anger out on her dog Shadow, Carrie brings him to Tyler for treatment. A tentative friendship forms between them, and Tyler tries to get Carrie to tell him about herself so that he can help her to speak. But every time he brings up this subject she runs away from him. But worse for Tyler is that when he finally does get her to communicate with him, he finds himself strongly drawn to her. And that just won’t do. Carrie is far, far below him on the social scale. He could never have any sort of serious relationship with her. Or could he?
As an author, Gaffney writes three things to perfection – longing, tenderness, and joy – and all these strengths are on display here. Tyler and Carrie not only love each other, they like each other, which shows with their actions. Carrie is a bit of a tender blossom. She has suffered some, but she still manages to carry on and smile while she’s at it. Tyler is not perfect. He does some selfish and thoughtless things, but he is so achingly gentle and emotionally generous with Carrie, it’s impossible not to like him. The scenes where they are together and wrapped up in each other are quite affecting. I had a lump in my throat during a good portion of the book.
The quality of Gaffney’s writing is very high. This is one of her earlier efforts, and there are some point-of-view violations, but otherwise, it’s just a dream to read, filled with lovely, textured, very visual prose. Gaffney is one of the few authors whose books read like a long, lingering soak in the tub. They make you want to lay back, relax, and savor every word.
The setting and characterization is done very well. Both Tyler and Carrie seem of their era and not like transplanted modern people in period clothing. Tyler is a doctor, and he thinks like a doctor; he takes note of everyday things with a doctor’s eye. This, as well as Carrie’s naturalist observations added interest to the book. Other secondary characters are done just as well, and Gaffney rounds out the less likable characters to the point that even their ignoble actions seem understandable.
In some ways, Sweet Everlasting feels a bit like a few other well-loved romances. The set up-young, emotionally traumatized girl who comes to be loved by the socially superior, rakish hero-is reminiscent of Gaffney’s later masterpiece, To Have and To Hold, only the story and characters aren’t quite so original or intense. The last half of the book reads a bit like LaVyrle Spencer’s Hummingbird, though thankfully with less of a selfish, conflicted ending. The familiar quality of the book, as well as the slightly lesser emotional punch it packs (compared to other books by this author), keep it out of Desert Isle Keeper territory, but just barely. Gaffney has such a strong talent that even a lesser book published almost ten years ago is better than most of what’s being put out today.
If only there were more Americana romances like Sweet Everlasting. I wish that Patricia Gaffney were still writing historical romances. Her contemporaries haven’t affected me nearly so much as her historicals did, and, unfortunately, I don’t have too much more of her backlist to look forward to. But if you haven’t yet read this one, please do pick it up. It’s everything that Americana should be.
Buy it at Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes and Noble/Kobo
|Review Date:||March 30, 2002|