Signet, $7.99, ISBN 0-451-21710-1
Historical Romance, 2006
Ah yes, a Catherine Anderson novel. Beautiful women with all kinds of issues that, of course, never mar their perfect faces or breasts being pampered, nurtured, and loved by their man that proceeds to save them from the evil world outside, until love yields a miraculous recovery on the heroine’s part that allows her to move around, at least enough to perform activities that will allow her to produce at least six happy babies for the hero. While Catherine Anderson returns to the historical setting with Summer Breeze, the formula and the plot remains reassuringly the same. Writing constantly about big-breasted women escaping abusive monsters or suffering from Genteel Mental/Physical Handicaps in the present-day setting must be tiring, I guess, especially when Ms Anderson is reaching towards the end of the catalog of romantic and “fun” mental and physical disorders and she will be forced to write next about a heroine born with no nose or missing one hand (eeeuw, that will be, eeeuw, like, real physical handicap and ruin the sex scenes so no thanks). It’s time to go back to page one of the catalog and change the setting to the 19th century instead.
So it’s back to “I’m suffering, suffering, suffering, but I still have fabulous tits and legs so you’ll still get cheap thrills while feeling like you’re doing a part to advance humanity by sympathizing with me so you don’t have to watch the Special Olympics now to feel like a PC human being” all over again, only in the Western front. Our heroine, Rachel Hollister is agoraphobic, terrified of being out in the open space (actually, the medical dictionary defines agoraphobia as the fear of being in any place or situation where, should trouble arise, help is not available, not a fear of open spaces as this story implies) after surviving a brutal massacre of the rest of her family that took place five years ago. She runs the family ranch with the help of the foreman Darby who basically did everything that she couldn’t do when she’s barricaded herself in her home. When Darby is shot, he convinces neighbor Joseph Paxton to help Rachel and even protect her, since Darby is convinced that his shooting is related to the shooting that took out Rachel’s family years ago. It is up to Joseph to determine whether Darby is being paranoid or not because it’s not like Rachel is capable of doing anything on her own since she is crippled by her agoraphobia.
Oh, Joseph. He is amazing. He’s a cowboy in 1889, a rancher with no medical training, yet he correctly diagnoses Rachel’s condition when many others think her mad. He then proceeds to fortify Rachel’s comfort zone with thicker planks and what-not while giving some sexual healing that would make Marvin Gaye contemplate singing a different song. Rachel is, of course, beautiful even if she probably hasn’t been kissed by sunlight in five years and heaven knows how regularly she bathes and what not. She is also well read, great in cooking, fabulous in cheese-making (real cheese, although the figurative kind of cheese is also appropriate given the context), and superb in sewing. In short, she’s every man’s walking, talking seamstress, cook, sex toy, and, um, cheese maker. And she’ll never leave the house, that’s the best part, so the man can do anything he wants outside the house and she’ll really never find out among the constant laundering, cooking, sewing, and baby-popping she’ll be doing for her man. Joseph is a woman’s dream too: he’ll do everything and anything, he’s understanding to the wazoo, and despite his obligatory playboy past and his grating insistence that he’ll never marry even as he pretty much behaves like Rachel’s father, husband, and shrink all at once, he’s the best boyfriend ever. And, of course, he’s the only one to see how special the heroine is. Special and oh yes, big breasted and hot, let’s not forget that. And once the bad guy is done away with, agora-what? Love has saved Rachel, baby! Ain’t love grand?
Do I dislike Summer Breeze, you ask? Not really. By this point, I’m so used to the author’s hypocritical use of all kinds of mental and physical handicaps on her heroines as the plot of her books that I am starting to find Ms Anderson’s utterly ridiculous shtick most amusing. Her books are pretty much all the same, with the heroines never suffering from anything that mars their procreative abilities or physical assets and they are healed by a ridiculously understanding know-it-all hero via the same methods of sexual healing and enabling of the heroine’s ornamental handicap. This is lurid exploitation at its finest and while I still feel like I need a shower after reading this book, I can’t help but to be amazed at how well unabashed sap and lowbrow sentimentalism can sell like hotcakes. Break the heroine’s legs or turn her into a mental cripple acting like a two-year old girl, but give her the breasts and the legs, make her helpless against the cartoon villains looming close, put in sappy prologues and epilogues using the ever-popular Diaries and Letters from the Past thingies, and that’s another big royalty check into Ms Anderson’s bank account. Nicely played, I must say.