Sweet Nothings
Grade : A-

I selected this book by Catherine Anderson for review, not because I'm a fan, but because I've never read her. Before I was halfway through Sweet Nothings, I was down at my local UBS picking up as many of her backlist as they had on their shelves. Other than a teensy little quibble at the end, this book is a keeper and one of the most tender love stories I've read in a long while.

Molly Wells is breaking the law. She's driving over the Cascades like a crazy woman; she's just got to see a man about a horse. A $65,000 horse. Her nasty, mean, vile ex-husband's horse. The horse she stole from him to save the animal's life.

Jake Coulter is the man Molly's aiming to see. And see him, she does. As she drives up to his ranch house in rural Eastern Oregon, Jake is stripped to the waist, cutting up logs. Molly has never seen such a sexy man in her entire life. But when Jake sees Molly, he is stunned to learn she has traveled for hours with a wildly unpredictable, terrified horse in the trailer she's hauling with her small SUV. He knows immediately she's stolen the horse, but he can't get her to explain why. When he sees the deep lash cuts on the stallion's back, he realizes she has risked much to save the animal's life and he stops asking questions, waiting for her to trust him enough to confess.

Sonora Sunset, the horse in question, is in desperate need of healing. Not only his body, but his spirit is nearly broken. Thanks to Rodney, Molly's ex-husband, she has no money, she has recently been released from a mental institution, and he has her power of attorney. In order to pay for Sunset's care, Molly takes a job with Jake as the ranch's cook and housekeeper. It doesn't take long for the sweet-natured Molly to capture the hearts of every man (and dog) on the place, including Jake's.

Molly is quite the case. She's vulnerable, yet strong. She's smart, yet confused. She was married for ten years to a man who emotionally abused her, and who, Molly is certain, murdered her father to get control of the financial consulting firm of which she is part owner. She has no self-confidence ... Rodney called her a fat cow, and Molly believed him. No, Molly is not slim. Not thin. No way, no how. She is plump and very, very self-conscious about it, thanks to the tormenting remarks dumped on her year after year by her controlling former husband. To watch her blossom and grow and learn that a man like Jake really can love a woman like her, was half the reward of reading this book.

Jake always had a thing for the tall, leggy type, but when he meets Molly, he falls hard. He thinks her round hips and full thighs are the sexiest things he's ever seen. Once he realizes he loves her, he risks everything to win and keep her. Mm. Gotta love that Jake. It takes a long time for Jake to get Molly to trust him enough to have sex with him, to reveal her less-than-perfect body to him, but when she does, when they do, their encounter is both loving ... and very sexy.

Ms. Anderson's writing is evocative and her plot straightforward and honest. What grabbed me most about Sweet Nothings, however, was Jake and his love for Molly. No alpha male, Jake is every woman's dream of a man who truly understands what makes a woman tick and is willing to let her set the pace. A healer of horses, he uses the same techniques in gentling Molly, who is still in turmoil about who she is and what life holds for her now. When Jake and Molly fall in love, it seems the most real, natural thing in the world. Jake is a wonderful hero, and when Molly discovers his childhood hide-out, and the memories he keeps there, it's hard not to fall in love with Jake yourself.

The only problem I had with Sweet Nothings was the sudden lack of intelligence all the characters seem to exhibit in the face of danger. The ranch is severely vandalized, to the point of Jake losing everything. Yet, nobody thinks to set a trap or at least keep a night watch, especially after they know who is involved and how dangerous the situation is. This puzzling behavior was simply a plot contrivance to leave Molly vulnerable.

My quibble aside, I have now become a fan of Ms. Anderson's and look forward to reading her other books in this series, those dealing with Jake's sister Bethany, and the Kendrick brothers. If you're looking for a very nice romance, a great hero, a lovely and strong heroine, look no further. Honestly, I couldn't put it down. These are characters who will be with me for quite some time.

Reviewed by Marianne Stillings
Grade : A-

Sensuality: Hot

Review Date : December 26, 2001

Publication Date: 2002

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Marianne Stillings

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