Sweet Annie
by Cheryl St John, historical (2001)
Harlequin Historical, $4.99, ISBN 0-373-29148-5

Some books are so good they stay in my memory long after the last page. Some books are so bad I can't get them out of my seared memory even if I smash my head against the wall hard. Some books are pleasant, nice, sweet, and so nondescript that they are easily forgotten after the last page. Cheryl St John's Sweet Annie belongs in the third group of books. It is inoffensive and pleasantly readable.

It's about sweet Annie Sweetwater who is bound to a wheelchair ever since she was a child. It was only once, when she was ten, when Luke Carpenter takes her on her first horseride, did she realize what it felt like to be free. But her brother trashed Luke for that escapade, and it's back to being overprotected and simultaneously browbeaten ("You are not like other girls, Annie. You will never be, so please don't even try...") for poor Annie.

Luke and Annie, however, love each other too much to let a mere nuisance like her overprotective family come between them.

Luke is so sensitive, so protective, so noble, so kind, so... so perfect. Annie is so sweet, so virtuous, so selfless, so kind, so merciful, so determined, so bloody perfect. Their love is the stuff dreams are made of - a tender merging of two halves of a broken soul, a conjoining of intellectual as well as physical and emotional intimacy in a perfect ying-yang mojo thingie. Be careful - reading Sweet Annie can make you cry not just because of the perfection of this two young soul's pure, untainted love, but also because you'll realize probably how lacking your own life is in comparison. I don't want to think of what may happen when you see your husband hogging the TV while you face a mountain of dirty dishes in the sink - things may get ugly indeed.

I confess there are times when I fancy myself in love with this Mr Perfect Boyfriend, Luke, myself. And Annie is so waifish yet strong that I think she's the daughter I wish I have myself. Their love is so right, so perfect, so amazingly beautiful that my heart ache just to read about it.

But I am hard pressed to remember much about it after the last page. Seriously, Sweet Annie is also predictable and formulaic that the familiarity heavily dilutes my enjoyment. Yes, those lovebirds are right for each other, no doubt about it, but their story is tame, inoffensive, and unexciting. No pounding hearts, no heartbreaking catharsis, just a mild Awww at places and ultimately, "Say, that nice story I read the other day... what is it called again?"

Rating: 76

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