This Time Forever
Grade : A

This book tiptoes quietly into your brain until you are so involved in the story it becomes impossible to separate fiction from reality. An unconventional yet compelling story, it is romance where you would never expect to find it and it is, quite simply, wonderful.

Cleveland Black Horse, or “Cleve” as he is informally known, is a down-on-his-luck rodeo star who is wrongly accused and convicted of murder. He is sentenced to life plus thirty for his alleged crime, and one of the jurors responsible for his conviction is Susan Ellison. Susan actually believes Cleve is innocent but allows herself to be railroaded into going along with all the other jurors who believe Cleve is guilty. However, Susan and Cleve have had some significant eye contact across the crowded courtroom and, even though the handsome hero is off to jail, the romance has only just begun.

Susan, a nurse, falls in love with baby Sam who was born at the hospital where she works and whose mother dies in a car crash. Sam was born with severe birth defects and, as a result, is unable to leave the hospital for a long time. Susan becomes emotionally involved with little Sam and wants to adopt him, but runs into major stumbling blocks because she is not Native American and as such is not considered a suitable parent for little Sam who is. As Cleve languishes in prison, Susan does some research and discovers that there is a good possibility that Cleve Black Horse, the man she helped send down the pike and a Native American, is probably Sam’s father. She begins visiting Cleve in prison in order to get him to sign away parental rights for Sam so she can adopt him. In the process, two lonely people are inexplicably drawn to each other, and soon Sam’s adoption is only an excuse for Susan’s continued regular visits to Cleve in prison. Cleve’s conviction is eventually overturned on some technicalities and, when he walks out of jail a free man, Susan drives him to town and reluctantly leaves him at a dump of an apartment he plans to call home.

An attraction born during a murder trial and nurtured, ironically, during prison visits is too strong to deny. The very next day, Cleve shows up at Susan’s apartment wondering if it’s okay if he stops by for just a little bit. It’s more than okay with Susan.

It’s not all hunky-dory from this point on either, because both Susan and Cleve have some major relationship roadblocks to work through. Both Susan and Cleve need to come to terms with her “betrayal” of Cleve for her part in sending him to jail, and Cleve must get past his initial abhorrence of Sam’s appearance and demeanor. Although it is never actually stated in the book, Sam was most likely born with fetal alcohol syndrome. Cleve also has to learn to live with the shadow of guilt that will quite possibly always hang over his head. Since the real murderer is never found, Cleve has to learn to accept and live with the fact that some people will always think he is a murderer even though he is a free man.

Susan and Cleve deal with these issues, learn to accept each other and what they cannot change about the past, and weave all of this into the fabric of their relationship. In the process, a gripping, beautiful and heartfelt love story emerges.

What else can I say about a book I have read two times and could easily read a million more? I could say a lot more. Instead, I encourage all of you out there to find a copy of this book and experience the subtle magic of this unpretentious love story for yourselves. This book became so real for me that when I finished reading it, even the second time around, I closed the book and expected to see Cleve, Susan, and little Sam standing right there in my very own bedroom. In my heart of hearts, I just know they’re out there somewhere. This Time Forever is another one of those books with the word “forever” in the title, and, ironically, the book really is forever. It’s a keeper.

Buy it at Amazon/iBooks/Barnes and Noble/Kobo

Reviewed by Anne Ritter

Grade: A

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : June 4, 1998

Publication Date: 1992

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