Monday, August 17, 2009

Review: A Reason to Live

Title: A Reason to Live
Author: Maureen McKade
Genre: Historical Romance/1865/U.S.
Published: September 2006

Series: Forrester Brothers Trilogy/Book 1

From the back cover ~

How could I refuse the wish of a dying man?

May 30, 1865: During the Civil War, I watched over too many young boys in the hospital, comforting them as they cried out for those they loved, as they whispered their final thoughts to me. Keeping a record of their names, families, and last words seemed a small tribute to their sacrifice--until the war ended, and I found a new mission in life.

I would visit the loved ones of those poor soldiers and deliver their messages, so that some comfort could be found even in grief...

But Laurel Covey never expected to find a man like Creede Forrester--an ex-gunslinger who rode all the way from Texas to Virginia in the hope of finding his son, and ended up saving her from a band of ruffians. It pains her deeply to tell him of his boy's death, and she believes that in his heart, Creede blames himself for driving his son away. But there is something more to this rugged, weary man. Something that draws Laurel closer to him...something she cannot resist...

I'm not sure why I picked up Maureen McKade's books from the library. I think it might have been another Kristie influence. :) Whoever suggested McKade ~ thank you! Back in the day when almost all I read were historicals, one of my favorites settings was the American west. I love cowboys, horses, gunslingers (current or reformed) and the women who were just as tough as the men but usually smelled better. :) There's just something about a man who can ride a horse well, it's a thing of beauty. I know I definitely romanticise the great outdoors and just overlook the lack of indoor plumbing but it still has great appeal for me.

This isn't what I would call a typical western. The heroine isn't a young virgin running from a bad guy and the hero isn't the no name bounty hunter that the townsfolk whisper about. The heroine, Laurel Covey, is a war widow in her late twenties. She was a nurse for the Confederacy army but now the war is over. She has no home and her family in Massachusetts disowned her when she married a southerner, choosing to follow his allegiance to the south. What she does have is her journal and the names of the soldiers who died while under her care. In those names are some of the last words that nearly two dozen of those soldiers spoke. Laurel has taken up the quest of delivering those last words to the families of those soldiers. It's all she has to live for.

The widower father of one of those dead soldiers is Creede Forrester. He tries to come across as a simple man but he is so very complex. He's a reformed hired gun who set his gun aside when he fell in love with his wife Anna, becoming a family man. He's older now, mid 30's, and with the losss of his son he's lost his reason to stay on the right side of the law. When he received word that his son Austin was wounded during the war he traveled east to Virginia, hoping to find his son. Creede didn't believe in fighting in the war, living in Texas he didn't feel it was their war to fight. So when Austin left, it was with harsh words and bitter feelings between the father and son. Creede doesn't find his son but finds Laurel instead. He stops two men from stealing from her and worse. When Laurel realizes that Creede's son is in her journal she breaks the news to Creede. Creeded decides to travel with Laurel to Texas, her last stop on her quest.

I really liked both Laurel and Creede but they are not happy-go-lucky characters. There's a dark sadness surrounding both of them. Laurel is suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but she thinks she's going crazy. Creede is grieving for his son and everything he's lost. They've both nearly given up on life. Laurel really can't see her life beyond finishing her quest and Creede has no real desire to return to his home. Escorting Laurel to Texas gives him a reason to return there. Creede, I think latched on to Laurel not only because he felt the need to protect a woman traveling alone but also because he felt something for her. He may not have recognized his feelings at first but just the fact that he actually felt something other than grief and pain was different. They do have bright and funny moments in their travels and their growing relationship. It's like glimpses of the light at the end of the tunnel. They just have to make it through that tunnel.

The people and places that Laurel and Creede travel to all play a part of their discovering of each other. The people they help along the way and the ones that treat them with caution and distrust. The country is a scary place so soon after the end of the war. People are trying to recover from such horrendous loss and deprivation. The mistrust and anger they feel as a defeated people comes through in McKade's writing. The sorrow, desperation and anger is right there along with the seeds of hope and the need to go on. When Laurel goes to the homes of the deceased soldiers she has no idea what type of reception she'll receive. The reactions vary and the weight of of her guilt is such a burden for Laurel. Creede is there to help shoulder that burden even when Laurel continues to tell him she doesn't need him.

So if you're expecting a funny, light romantic read, this isn't it. A Reason to Live does pull the reader in and makes you care about these two people. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. It's not an easy read with it's flashbacks of what Laurel experienced during the war. And it surprised me by how short is was, just under 300 pages, but still packed in a heck of a lot of story and character development. I really feel like I got to know these two people and needed to find out how they would get their HEA.

A Reason to Live is the first book in a trilogy. The second book, A Reason to Believe, is the story of Creede's brother Rye Forrester. The third book, A Reason to Sin, is the story of Slater Forrester, also Creede's brother. My guess is that they are stand alone but I'm definitely reading the next two and calling it a trilogy. :) Ms. McKade and her books can be found here.

Rating: A-


  1. Okay, I loved, loved, loved this book and was sorry when it was over. I read the second book and to me it didn't live up to the greatness of first. Why isn't this book on the top romance's list? But, I still want to read the third.


  2. Hi Lynette ~ sorry to hear book 2 wasn't as good as this one.

    Have you read either of McKade's romantic suspenses? I might give those a try after reading her historicals.

  3. This was the best of the 3, IMO. But she does write amazing western historicals. And this is the perfect book to start the western week off (ala Kristie, Wendy & Sybil).

    Leslie, I read one of her RS (the latest one, can't remember the title) and it was ok, but not nearly as good as her historicals. Have you read Mail Order Bride? Loved that one!

  4. No, I never knew she wrote romantic suspense and I love RS, especially when the relationship is strong. A lot of RS don't focus strongly on the relationship and I have a feeling hers will be. I'll have to check them out.

  5. Loved this book and wanted to have babies with it. I liked the second book, but haven't read the third yet....because I suck like that.

    McKade also wrote westerns for Avon back when they still published them. I liked Mail Order Bride and Outlaw Bride - but they didn't have the same kind of emotional intensity as A Reason To Live. Of course, not many books do.....

  6. Lori ~ I'm curious about Creede's brothers and what's happened to them since they were separated. I haven't read Mail Order Bride yet but have put her on my UBS list. :)

    Wendy ~ LOL It really took me by surprise at how emotional it was. I'm going to work on getting her backlist.

  7. Wasn't this one heartbreaking??? I've read all three and for me this one was the best one. I have a couple of her older ones - or maybe it's just one - anyway - I really need to get going on it.
    And saaaayyy - have you visited Wendy's or Sybil's or my blog yet??? Cause we are doing a week long feature on Westerns - The Great Western Drive and I do believe you would make an excellent Driver *g*
    See - I'm starting to stalk!

  8. Kristie ~ I feel honored by your stalking. LOL I'll stop by the blogs and check out this Great Western Drive. Me? A Driver? Ummm... okay. :)

  9. LOL, I bet you, Leslie, that it was indeed Kristie!!

    I've heard of this one, put it on my list and of course, promptly bought the wrong one ^_^; Need to start looking for it... and Mail Order Bride!!

    Sigh, they're just hard to find ^_^;

  10. Leslie, you're making me want to read a Western! This is the second one you feature and I'm going to have to go into my old box of books now... start dusting them off! Great review.:)

  11. nath ~ you know the power of Kristie - she hasn't been wrong yet. :) Good luck finding them. I did request Mail Order Bride from paperbackswap.

    Hils ~ I love looking through my old keepers - great memories. I'm thinking of choosing a western for nath's challenge this month. Maybe Jo Goodman or Heather Graham.

  12. Hmm... I know I have some Jo Goodman's... you're killing me here, lol! :P

  13. Hils ~ you know how just yesterday I mentioned Goodman or Graham? Now Kristie has thrown Jill Marie Landis into the mix. LOL I go through this every month - decisions, decisions...

  14. Great review for an awesome book! I don't know if wendy mentioned it but she is giving away four copies of this on her blog... in one of her post I forget off the top of my head which day.