A Tallgrass Novel
A MAN TO HOLD ON TO
Therese Matheson doesn’t know if she’ll ever get over losing her husband in Afghanistan. Surviving Paul’s death has been hard, but raising his sullen son and his thirteen-going-on-thirty daughter alone has been even harder. All they need is a fresh start, and Tallgrass, Oklahoma, could be the perfect new beginning . . . especially when Therese meets Sergeant Keegan Logan. The sexy combat medic and single dad soon awakens a desire she’d thought long buried.
Keegan always wanted to be a father . . . someday. So when his ex-girlfriend disappears, leaving her daughter in his care, Keegan’s hands are tied. He has to find the girl’s father. His search leads him to Tallgrass and to a beautiful brunette widow who has no idea her husband was ever unfaithful. What begins as a friendship soon ignites into something far more and gives him the courage to be the kind of man-and father-he always dreamt he could be. But his secret still stands between them. Can Keegan reveal the truth and convince Therese they share something too special to lose-a love that can bring two families together?
Why would any woman agree to raise the illegitimate daughter from her dead husband’s affair when she was already saddled with two legitimate children from his previous marriage?
After I requested this book for review I checked out some early reviews and got worried.
It seemed A Man to Hold on To was a story than leaned very heavily on religion, something that was more inspirational women’s fiction than the contemporary romance it was listed as.
However, I decided I’d try it myself instead of dismissing it, unread, and I have to say that both the critical and glowing reviews make valid points. I really enjoyed the story and the concept, but I don’t think this is a book that should be marketed to me.
On one hand, it wouldn’t pass the publishers’ rules for Christian fiction, as there’s some language and there’re some intimate (not pornographic) scenes – before marriage. On the other hand, it was definitely fiction with Christians in mind – little things, like the heroine reading the Bible in the evening instead of picking up a normal book. I can see how some people who don’t like religion in their books might feel duped by the marketing of this one.
On the not-so positive side of things (from a non-religious person’s perspective):
A Man to Hold on To presents the reader with the clichéd version of the US South non-Americans tend to imagine: a dislike of liberal California, Bibles and lots of praying, flag-waving, fast food restaurants as the staple of everyone’s diet, and everyone thanking soldiers for their service every time they see one.
“She cried. Not because she was worried but because she was proud. All the Dupree men have done their service all the way back to the Civil War.”
It did very much read like the few US Christian fiction books I’ve read in the past.
The book seems to become more religious as it goes on – I wasn’t bothered by it at all at the start, but by the end, we were getting a lot of this:
“Things happen for a reason, sweetie. You’ve heard enough sermons to know that. If God intended you and Keegan and Paul’s three kids to be together at this point in your lives, then He had to get you all here somehow.
God didn’t promise us easy, sweetie. He just promised He’d help us through.”
Bible and prayer-related things aren’t a huge motivator in the story, but they are everywhere. There is a lot of talk of asking ‘The Lord’ for guidance and that sort of thing. If I was invited to someone’s house for dinner (as the hero of this book was) and it was announced we were going to pray first… I’d be offended they made an assumption about my religion (or lack thereof).
I also wasn’t fond of the image of the saintly woman who is first and foremost a baby-lover and maker presented against the evil women who didn’t want children who formed the villains of the piece. It’s a trope that offends me in any women’s fiction, and it’s something I was hoping we were finally moving away from.
There was also a passage that annoyed me – about how the heroine was a better woman for immediately forgiving her husband for cheating on her. That makes her better – why?
It was a really good story.
Despite the heavy focus on good people love babies and bad people don’t, I did really like the characterisation of all of the children involved. I thought they were the best things about the story, which took me by surprise.
The story was engrossing and had plenty of angst. I would have liked to have seen it take place over a longer period of time (a week and a half for such – and so many – life-changing incidents seemed pretty short!), but if you overlook that, it was a really great story full of realistically flawed characters.
There is a side story that seems to be setting up another book, which was pretty interesting. I liked that there wasn’t shaming involved with the secondary character’s situation, and I’d be interested to see how the author handles her (presumably) happy ending.
I did miss the lack of an extra chapter or two at the end. There were some big things I would have liked to see addressed, though maybe that would have been tying everything up in too many bows…
Oh, and one more thing: telling your teenagers the facts of life when they’re already in their mid-teens = incredibly irresponsible! Maybe the characters wouldn’t have been running around having oops babies everywhere if they’d had more responsible parents!
Review copy provided by NetGalley.