Summer Breeze (2006)
Author: Catherine Anderson
Genre: Romance (Historical)
In late 19th Century Colorado, Rachel Hollister has holed herself up in the kitchen of her house for five years after she witnessed the brutal murder of her family. After Darby McClintoch, the foreman of Rachel's ranch is shot in the back, he is certain the murderer is back to finish what he started, and when Joseph Paxton takes him to the doctor for help, Darby asks him to look after the young woman in his absence. Joseph first meets Rachel with a shotgun, ordering him to leave her sanctuary. But Joseph has made Darby a promise, and refuses to back out of it. Through a series of conversations, Rachel slowly allows Joseph into her world, and even begins to trust him. Although her agoraphobia lessens enough to allow Joseph's family to visit, and to even allow the town to build her a courtyard so she can experience sunshine again, the murder and Darby's shooter is still at large. Joseph assists his brother, the sheriff, talk to the two main suspects: neighbor Jeb Pritchard, ang
ry over the land boundary between his and the Hollister's, and Amanda Hollister, Rachel's aunt, who would stand to gain the land if no other Hollister's survived. While Joseph is eager to find the evil-doer, his eagerness increases as he realizes he has fallen in love with Rachel and would do anything to protect her. After Darby is well, he walks Rachel down the courtyard aisle to marry Joseph, and later delivers the news that he himself is getting married to her aunt Amanda, who he's loved for years. Although Rachel has trouble remembering the day her family was murdered, she feels certain that her aunt had something to do with it, even though they were once very close. SPOILER: After Joseph accidentally comes across a gold mine on Rachel's property, the two suspects suddenly have even more to gain. While Joseph leaves Darby in charge of staying with Rachel while he and the sheriff interrogate Jeb Pritchard, Darby is suddenly called off to be with Amanda, who has taken very ill. But the voice that Rachel hears outside her sanctuary is none other than that of her family's murderer. Although she feels safe surrounded by her walls, when fire is set to her home, she is caught between the flames and smoke or her fear of the openness. Thanks to his dog Buddy, Joseph finds her just in time, and when Darby shows up with a healthy Amanda by his side, all fingers point to Amanda's illegitimate son, who had tried to poison Amanda even while he set fire to Rachel's house. Drawing for his gun, Amanda shoots her own son to save all the other innocent lives that could have been lost. With the town set right, and Darby and Joseph both married to the women of their dreams, Amanda and Rachel are able to mend their differences and after several months, Rachel finally steps foot out into the wide open.
Geographical Setting: Colorado
Time Period: March, 1889
Saga: Coulter Family (Historical)
Anderson frames this sweet historical love story with a prologue and epilogue set in modern 2006 where a family member comes across the diary of Rachel Hollister and Joseph Paxton, allowing the modern reader to travel back in time just as the family member does. Although she does a good job of describing the small Colorado town, ranch life, and community ties, she doesn't bog the reader down with minute details of any specific tasks. Instead she concentrates on the feelings and emotions of Rachel and Joseph individually, as they resist each other, as well as those between them as they fall in love. Emotion and love are much more developed than the sex scenes, which are much more romantic than erotic. Secondary characters, especially family members, are equally as important to the story, and Anderson develops them well without overpowering the main two characters. The author even incorporates family dogs and Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as a character element. The pace is surprisingly quick, since there is a great deal of action surrounding Rachel's agoraphobia, the murder suspects, and the romance. Although the mystery is part of the story, the romance overshadows it, and there is little jarring suspense. The specific Colorado setting comes into play a little, although there is definitely a strong Western atmosphere to the book. The mood is tender, sweet, and innocent throughout, and Anderson almost employs a somewhat moral tone, since Joseph refuses to have his way with Rachel until they are properly married.
Read-alikes: For readers who want to read another romance by Catherine Anderson, they might like to try the contemporary romance, Sun Kissed, a Coulter family saga book about veterinarian Tucker Coulter (he originally found Rachel and Joseph's diary in Summer Breeze) and horse breeder Samantha Harrington who meet over a deliberately poisoned horse. Those who really like the Western ranch setting and work ethic portrayed by Joseph and Darby may like to try Montana Morning by Jill Limber, a historical romance about a widow who saves a man sentenced to hang in order to have him help her save her own ranch. If readers are like Buddy's character, Joseph's dog who has his own personality, they might like to try Barbara Metzger's A Loyal Companion, a witty Regency romance actually told from the canine's point of view about his owner who is sent to London to find a suitable husband. Some readers may be attracted to the unfair murder aspect of Rachel's family in this Western Romance. Another book that might appeal to such readers is This Calder Sky, a Western-style Romeo and Juliet tale about Maggie, who's father is hanged by her lover Chase's father for cattle thieving. Finally, those who like the strong family connections Anderson creates between Joseph and his brothers might like to try reading something with similar family strengths, but along a different subgenre, like the comedic paranormal romance Fangs But No Fangs by Kathy Love, about a vampire going through a twelve-step program to try to reform himself, while his brothers and attractive neighbor try to steer him off course.
Red Flags: depictions of death and violence, sensual encounters before marriage, cigarette smoking