Thursday, September 24, 2009

Meggie's Remains - Joanne Sundell

Over the past months, you may have caught me saying that I don't necessarily like romance novels. I can be a little bitter and jaded when it comes to the happily ever after thing. But with my never-ending audio experiences with the Outlander series, and now this book, Meggie's Remains, it seems I may have to eat my words.

We find ourselves in the year 1874, in the wild Colorado territory. Meggie has fled the East Coast to Denver to start a new life. Our first glimpse of our heroine, Meggie, is this:

It was coming - molded gray, dank, rotting. The thing was coming. This time she'd get away. This time she'd outrun the devil! Meggie took off down the narrow passage. The instant she came up hard against a door, she tried the knob. It wasn't locked! It led outside, onto a stairwell, then to an alleyway below. Ignoring the bitter cold, she scrambled down the flight of stairs and then quickly cleared the dark corner of the unknown building. She kept running, not stopping until she'd made it to the center of the deserted snowy street, until she'd made it into the light where she was safe. Spreading her arms wide, she tilted her face up into the welcoming snowfall and began to spin around as a child might - a child afraid of the monster after her - a child desperate to defend against such evil.

So my first thought is...this girl has issues. Serious issues. She is running away from something in her past, with one foot in reality and another in a fantasy world, and turning to God for protection. She panics when a man comes near her, she constantly chants a saying to ward off the evil that pursues her, and she dresses and acts like a seriously repressed schoolmarm. She lies about her name and her background, and imagines herself living in the world of Jane Eyre, having sexual fantasies about Edward Rochester. She faints and falls down and hurts herself. ALOT. I can't say I was initially too fond of this girl. She seems to be just a few cards shy of a deck, and in need of a good shaking.

Hours after her arrival in Denver, Meggie meets the well-muscled, wealthy, rugged, handsome Ethan - a Marlboro Man with some baggage of his own. But while hardship pushed Meggie towards God, Ethan's troubles have made him doubt his faith. Either way, there is chemistry abound. There is an undeniable connection here, but much confusion about prior relationships, psychological hangups, and all of those darned courtship issues. You want to scream "Get it together people! Just TALK IT OUT!". But we all know it is not that easy.

OK, so she's not THAT repressed. But my mom did teach me not to judge a book by its cover, which is a good lesson with respect to Meggie.

Without a man to protect her, she takes a job as a school teacher for a small isolated town. She lives by herself, learns to cook over a fire, battles the brutal winter, makes friends, manages a successful school, and learns to shoot a gun. She even pops a bullet into a drunkard's leg to protect a young woman from his unwanted advances. About halfway through the book, I will begrudgingly admit that I started to like her moxie.

In attempt to exorcise demons of the past, she begins to write a confessional letter to Ethan explaining her erratic and polarizing behavior. The letter is purely for therapeutic purposes - she never intends to mail it - but of course we all know that secret letters are meant to be found, right? Through this letter, though, we the readers finally see what's got Meggie so traumatized, and we begin to understand. As a result, our blood is all the more chilled when the devil himself tracks Meggie down to take care of her once and for all. We are struck with the realization that she may not be so crazy after all.

It was really quite easy to lose myself in this story - the romance, the personal struggle to overcome the worst mental and physical obstacles, a really nasty bad guy, a touch of religion, and just a hint of the paranormal. I found myself intrigued by the day-to-day life of those pioneers carving their way through the undeveloped West. I was also pleasantly surprised at the total 180 degree turn my attitude took towards Meggie. She won me over in the end.

I would like to thank Dorothy at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for inviting me to participate in this tour! And don't forget, if you are interested in winning one of two copies of this book, please leave your comments by October 3!
3.5 out of 5 stars


Melody said...

Sounds like the heroine has character! I'm glad you enjoyed reading it.

caite said...

I am not a fan of romance novels..although I have made an exception or two..and even with you good review, I think I will skip this one. So many books, so little time and all.

Anna said...

I'm not a big romance fan either, but this one sounds like it might be good. Thanks for the review.

Diary of an Eccentric

Andreea said...

Great review, Sandy. I think I would like this book:)

Margot at Joyfully Retired said...

I haven't read anything by this author but I like the time and place and the plot, as you describe it, sounds up my alley. I also like you feature on the author the other day. I'm going to give this book a try.

Unknown said...

I'm not a big fan of romance books either and I hate characters that need a good shaking! I don't think this is for me!

Ti said...

When I was younger, I really enjoyed romance. I think it's because I needed the tutorial or something ;)

Today I can deal with romance if it is part of a bigger story, but not the main story. My eyes have a tendency to roll up into my head if it centers on romance alone.

bermudaonion said...

Yeah, it's funny how blanket statements like that can come back to bite us in the butt. I'm so glad you enjoyed the book in spite of its romance element.

The Bumbles said...

Damn, girl. You make even this Bumble want to read romance. I got more interested in your review the farther along you went - which seems to match your enthusiasm for it. Worth a look.

Heidenkind said...

Re: romance novels

Mwahahahaha. We won't let you stop reading them now!

Sincerely, an evangelical romance reader

Jenners said...

Sounds like a lot going on and not your average romance book! I must confess...I'm intrigued and want to know what happened to her!!!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Hi friends! Yes, I have been absent, compliments of Book Fair. Sorry for the late replies!

Melody - She did! At first I thought she was psycho, but grew to love her moxie.

Caite - No? Can't convince you huh? That is OK. I was a hard sell too!

Anna - It was a pleasurable read. Took me back to my days of romance reading when I was younger and less jaded!

Andreea - I think you WOULD like it! Check it out!

Margot - The era was definitely intriguing to me. I've not read alot of books that have a setting during this time!

Jackie - knowing your tastes, I think you are probably right. Meggie requires a little bit of patience!

Ti - Haha! We do get a little jaded in our years, don't we? That was the fun thing about this book though. Jaded as I am, I did enjoy it (I did quickly muse how things might go wrong with the relationship later down the road, but that is another story!)

Kathy - yeah, go figure. I need to learn to keep my big mouth shut!

Bumbles - yes, I do my very best to tempt you!

Heidenkind - I am still holding out. You need to give me some recommendations to definitively drag me to your side!

Literary Feline said...

Meggie sounds like an interesting character. This sounds like something I would really like. A hard to like character who has issues and then an eventual turn around of the reader's opinion of her . . . Thanks for the great review, Sandy.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Wendy - yeah, I came around to Meggie's side in the end. You had to hand it to the girl for pulling her act together!

Iliana said...

Great review, Sandy! I'm not much of a romance reader but I've read a couple of reviews for this book and it might be a light, entertaining read to add to my list.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Sandy!

Hmmm, it would appear I'm Anonymous on Google. No worries.

Thank you so much for your insightful, careful review of MEGGIE'S REMAINS. I'm so happy you stuck with her and didn't write her off as crazy. When bad things happn to us, we can act crazy.

To the romance in us all!

My very best,

Joanne Sundell