Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-20794-7
Contemporary Romance, 2003
This book is hilarious. It’s trying so hard to be emotional and maudlin but it succeeds only too well in being transparently insincere and overwrought. This book is as convincing as rumors of Michael Moore’s quitting what he is doing to be President George W Bush’s new speechwriter.
Only by Your Touch has three plot anvils that drive the story: the first half of the book deals with the hero and the heroine (and her son) all having a bedside vigil as a puppy may or may not die (oh, oh, oh!) and the second half deals with the sexual healing part as our Badly Badly Badly Badly Badly Abused Wife on the Run learns the meaning of True Love and Great Sex in the hands of our Badly Badly Badly Misunderstood Perfect Perfect Perfect hero who is not only a politically correct statement (he’s part-Native American who has been badly treated by justice and people) but only a perfect horse, dog, cat, wolf, and woman whisperer. Third is the six-year old boy who is not only sickly but also talks in ways that fans of Touched by an Angel will get a cardiac arrest as their emotions get so choked up – oh, oh, oh, puppies!
There’s a niche, I think, for transparently fabricated “Cry, you people, cry!” small-town Southern schlock fest, and this niche is filled also by pretty much every single thing Hallmark TV has come up with. But I guess that niche eludes me, because I’m laughing so hard at how over-the-top this book is that I’m almost rolling on the floor like a crazy old bat. Somewhere early in this book, Catherine Anderson has crossed the line from being a purveyor of sentimental schmaltz into a parody of herself. It’s very funny, this book.
The heroine is Chloe Evans and her son is Jeremy. They come to Jack Pine with little money, and the first thing they do is to adopt Rowdy the puppy. Just like how I don’t approve of impoverished women becoming voluntary single mothers to fill some biological clock thing in some vapid romances I’ve read, I don’t find it touching or amusing that a woman who cannot even pay for the puppy’s medical bills should attempt to get a puppy just to keep her kid happy. If that boy wants an accessory to complete his Precious Porcelain impersonation, I suggest he break his own leg or get a genetic handicap instead of dragging poor pooches into manipulation hell. But that’s just me, I guess.
Rowdy becomes sick, but our heroine has only $98 to survive until she either meets a rich perfect handsome hunk to save her from herself or she will have to turn Fantine and then die from shame after giving her son a loaf of bread, leaving poor Jeremy to scream into the stormy night, “Who am I? Two-four-six-oh-oooooonnnne!” So poor Poochie may die, oh, oh, oh! As bombs rain in Iraq, people lose their jobs day by day, and the ozone layer grows wider and wider, our heroine and son weep and lament about how horrible their lives are because the dog is dying and the money they wasted on dog food and dog toys aren’t enough to make Poochie well again (that evil husband left her penniless and the town vet doesn’t accept bad checks).
Then the boy one day runs off with Poochie to find Ben Longtree, the man who is reputed to have murdered a man and now spends his full time keeping wolf pets and fighting poachers who are encroaching on the poor animals of the area. Ben also has the healing touch: when he’s not being the Noble Misunderstood Man of Suppressed Minority, he is healing every wounded Bambi left at his doorstep. Jeremy talks in halting cute talk, Ben likes him and together they both dance and sing Castle in the Clouds, and Chloe soon learns the healing power of Ben’s Really Long Tree. For the first time in twenty-six years, she bucks her hips and cry “Oh God!” as tears run down her face and Ben is so thankful for his “gift” (that’s the word the author uses in that penultimate love scene). I am so touched, tears are running down my cheeks as the sun shines at last and it will never rain again in Schmaltz Country. How we weep with the heroine as our feminine hearts explode with warmth and our ovaries ovulate overtime over Ben losing sleep because he has to perform surgery on a bunny! (Yes, a bunny.) He saves deer, bunnies, wolf, and he is said to have killed the… oh, who he killed is just too convoluted to mention here, you have to read it for yourself to believe. How can the Pocahontas in me resist? Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon, people? Listen to Ben. Listen to Catherine Anderson. Hug a wolf today.
The the evil hubby shows up! Oh no! He is so evil and nasty, I wonder how the heroine even hook up with him in the first place. But that’s a Catherine Anderson heroine for you. Maybe they have a mental handicap too – we must milk every possible sympathy angle as possible, after all.
Still, everything ends well, and our hero and heroine make glorious love in the woods at the end. I hope a pack of wolves eat them all.