Dell, $6.50, ISBN 0-440-22556-6
Historical Romance, 2000
A Heart Full of Miracles has a really slow, predictable start and the two main characters start out typical stock archetypes. Then halfway through, the heroine experiences a significant life-altering event that makes her grow into a touching yet strong character. The hero just can’t catch up.
Abidance Merganser has been in love with her best friend’s brother for as long as she can remember. But Seth Hendon, the town doctor, just can’t see her as a potential winsome female – to him, she is always late Sarrie’s best girlfriend. When Seth finally decides to leave town, tired and worn out in his futile battle against disease, Abbie decides to press her suit. She will create a phantom suitor and drive him into jealousy!
Eventually, Seth starts to believe in himself again as well as love, but Abbie’s deteriorating eyesight masks a more serious threat to her health. Like all happy, perfect stories on TV and fiction, the good woman always find a tumour somewhere on her body. Sigh.
Will Abbie survive? Well, I actually wonder, which says a lot about Ms Mittman’s ability to draw me into her story. I am actually sniffing away at my hankies at the melodramatic “The waif is ill, oh poor gal, oh lord have mercy!” third act of this story. I’m grateful for the catharsis, but I am more appreciative that Abbie grows a lot from the initially cheery Pollyanna heroine into a woman who makes serious choices in her life. She gains depths – finally I sense there is more to her than cheerfulness. There is also strength, courage, and inspiring optimism.
But Seth? The poor man is stuck in the romance hero mould, which is a bit too limiting in face of his beau’s emotional growth. At first he is the token block of emotionless wood, too obtuse to realize that Abbie is waving before his eyes. Then he is the predictably jealous and possessive dude over a phantom rival. Then he is the angry bulldog when the deception is unmasked. Then he runs around poor Abbie in his concern and frustration over his inability to heal her. In the end, he is the bland perfect hero, all personal demons exorcised. Boring, boring, boring. Seth is one-dimensional through and through, although the facets of his one-dimensionality differs at various points.
For the heroine and the melodrama that comes off genuine and poignant, this book gets my vote. It’s just too bad that Seth really could use some… uhm, I don’t know a powerful paragraph-ender word for it. “Less predictable” is the best I can do.