Wednesday, October 28, 2009

YotC Review: Joe's Wife

Title: Joe's Wife
Author: Cheryl St. John
Genre: Historical Romance/1865
Published: February 1999

Harlequin Historical

Year of the Category Challenge

From the back cover ~


Tye Hatcher returned to Aspen Grove to find that life int he sleepy Western town hadn't changed much. The townspeople stubbornly refused to see the man he had become. That is, everybody but Meg Telford. Meg definitely took notice of the reticent rancher and gave him a chance in life when no one else would. Still, Meg clung to the memories of her late husband, afraid of the feelings Tye aroused in her heart. And though Tye vowed to proved his worth to the town, could he ever prove to Meg that he was worthy of her love?

The cover ~ I think it's sweet. It's certainly dated - it is 10 years old. But it's a fairly accurate portrayal of the hero and heroine. And the back has a picture of the hero, heroine with a little girl at a picnic - cute.

I had heard about this book around the blogs, mostly KristieJ's, and while I have a number of Cheryl St. John's books on my TBR pile there was just something about Joe's Wife that said "read me first". Maybe it's the title. You know from the synopsis that Joe isn't the hero but Meg is still referred to as "Joe's wife". Even Tye thinks of her that way. It's barely been a year since Meg received word that her husband Joe was killed in battle so she's still grieving and attempting to move on with her life.

Meg Telford at first comes across as a soft spoken, kind and gentle woman. And she is all that but she is also much more. Her kind and gentle nature hides a backbone of steel. She is still quite young and has every intention of keeping the ranch that her and her late husband Joe bought. The ranch was Joe's dream and Meg is determined to run it even at the opposition of her in laws. Her mother-in-law wants Meg to move in with her at her home in town. Meg sees this option as giving up and she sees her life as being very restricted and bleak if she were to move in with her mother-in-law.

I liked Meg but she was easy to like. She had a practical nature and wasn't afraid of hard work, in fact she seemed to enjoy it. She was much more at home on the ranch than in town at her mother-in-laws doing needlepoint or some other such "lady-like" pursuit. She was kind and not as condemning as the majority of the townsfolk were when it came to Tye. The other thing I liked about Meg is that she stayed true to her character. At the beginning she was still in love with Joe, still missing him terribly. Throughout the book she still thinks of Joe, will always love him, but she begins to understand that she doesn't have to stop loving Joe in order for her to fall in love with someone else. That she can still honor Joe's memory but move on with her life.

Tye Hatcher was the bastard son of one of the town's whores. He grew up around other whores and was shunned by the town because of his parentage. Growing up he understands why he's treated differently than the other kids and tends to keep to himself. When the war is over he returns to Aspen Grove, determined to prove to the townsfolk that he is worth something.

I couldn't help but feel sorry for Tye. Here's a guy that just wants a break. He's more than willing to work hard and do any job that's available. What he really wants to do is own his own ranch. His dream is to have a place that's his, one that he can work and make into something. He also has ideas on how to improve ranching in the area. He has big dreams but with the town against giving him a chance his dreams look like they'll stay only dreams. Then Meg makes Tye an offer he can't refuse and it looks like his dreams might just be within reach. But someone from Tye's past needs him and he finds that he can't refuse them either. So he does the right thing, the only thing that he can. He takes in a little girl who has no one left.

That little girl was Eve and she was a delight. Didn't get on my nerves at all. LOL Sometimes kids in romance novels or any story for that matter, can get on my nerves. But Eve became another piece of the puzzle and added another dimension to Tye. Eve and Tye had far more in common that anyone could have guessed. They were the misfits, outsiders who so desperately wanted to fit in. Meg was their champion in a way - she stood up for them. She showed them kindness and treated them with respect. She wasn't exactly crazy about Eve showing up but she dealt with it and didn't take it out on Eve. That's not to say Meg was perfect, she certainly had her faults. While she may have treated Tye better than everyone else did she still had her doubts about him.

One of the aspects of the story that I really liked was the lack of real external conflict. Sure, we had Meg's in-laws trying to get her to sell the ranch and the narrow minded townsfolk that would go to church and at the same time gossip and shun Meg and Tye but there wasn't any real bad guy. No railroad tycoon hiring outlaws to run Meg off her ranch. No gangs of vicious cattle thieves to deal with. It was just Meg and Tye and Eve getting to know each other and learning to trust each other. It was three heartsick people slowing becoming a family. Loved reading about these three and all the ins and outs of their lives.

Don't get me wrong, this wasn't all rainbows and roses. There was still Joe to deal with. He may have been dead and buried but he was still very much there on that ranch. It was Joe's ranch and Joe's dream and for all of Tye's hard work, Meg still wanted to hang on to Joe's dream. Trying to over come not only an ex but a dead ex is extremely difficult for the new guy. Then there's the fact that Tye was only there because Meg had no other options, there was no one else to help her. So Tye had a ghost to deal with plus his own horrors of war that he had to live with. Tye had also seen battle and been injured but he had lived to come home. Then he gets a child to raise and a new wife who's still in love with her dead husband. Yep, lots of conflict here. And yet I never once felt that St. John rushed the story, that I was reading what should have been a longer book. I had actually forgotten that this book came in at just under 300 pages. It felt full - full of characters and plot and story. The dialogue was crisp and gave such depth to these characters. Yes, I was indeed a happy reader at the end. And I haven't even mentioned Major, the dog, who I adored. :)

Cheryl St. John has an extensive back list that can be found here.

Rating: A


  1. This was my first Cheryl St. John read back in the day, and it is a good one!

    The common complaint about category romances from some readers is that they're "too short." The trick is finding an author who excels at them. Some authors are truly gifted in the format - St. John being one of them. I've read numerous books by her, and I never feel like she skimps on anything or rushes through to the end.

  2. Oh, how good does this one sound?

  3. Wendy ~ I certainly felt like I got a complete story. Jill Shalvis and Sarah Mayberry also excel at writing category romances.

    Lori ~ try it, you'll like it. LOL

  4. Leslie don't do this to me! This book sounds wonderful and just what I want to read, but it's OLD! Now I'm going to be searching high and low for this one, lol!

    St. John's backlist is extensive, but she doesn't have anything new and that's a shame. :( Her books look good.

  5. Leslie - This one sounds soooo good, LOL! Not another one for the TBR stack :) I like it when there are kids in romance - but it has to be done right.

  6. Hilcia: She has a new book coming out in December from Harlequin Historical. Her Colorado Man. It'll be available for download and Dead Tree purchasing on Harlequin's web site November 1! Yipppeeeee!

    Lori: You haven't read this one? Go find it woman! I think you'll really like it.

  7. Hils ~ St. John has a great back list. She's had a couple recent releases and the new one coming out that Wendy mentioned. :)

    Jill ~ Yes, add to the TBR pile. LOL The little girl was well written - fit in with the story. :)

  8. I just checked my library and they don't have it. Paperbackswap has a waitlist but it's small. I am number 2. That shouldn't be to long of a wait.

  9. Wendy: Thank you for the news on the new release, I'll definitely check it out!

    Leslie, I'll check for those recent releases too. :)

  10. Oh, I'm SO glad you loved this one! Isn't it grand? And I really enjoyed your review. There is no big thing going on in this book - just two good people falling in love.
    Since Lorraine Heath left the Western behind her, Cheryl St. John is my go too author for a tender, poignant Western. I love all her books, but this one has a special place for me - but then you probably know that *g*.

  11. Well, I shall go no farther than here to bolster my spirits to get the current book on track and finished. You've made my week - no, my month!

    Thanks you Leslie for the lovely review on a book that is dear to my heart. And yes, Joe's Wife IS difficult to find. If I had copies, I would gladly send them to your blog readers.

    Since you liked this one so well, I will recommend Prairie Wife to you. I sense you liked the poignancy of JW and PW is similar in tone (at least to me).

    Love me a tortured hero.

    Hilcia, I do have current releases, at least two a year. This year in June and next is December.

    Here's a link to my more current website with a newer list of books. The link you have is my old website that I can't seem to get the guy to take down.

    Cher :-)

  12. Jill ~ Love paperbackswap for getting author's back list.

    Kristie ~ you are the best when it comes to pimping books and authors. :) I knew I had seen Joe's Wife on your blog at least a few times. LOL And once again you were right!

    Cheryl ~ Thanks so much for stopping by. :) And than you for writing Joe's Wife. You really made me care about these characters and enjoy their story.

    I have Prairie Wife on my TBR pile so I'll make that my next read from you. And yes, the tortured hero is one of my favorites. :)

    Thanks for the current link - I'll update that on the post

  13. Cheryl, thank you for the current link and yes! I'll be looking up your current releases, starting with Her Colorado Man. :)

  14. Ohhhh, Leslie, you're bad to my TBR pile LOL :) actually, no, my TBR pile is good, because so many books you review are hard to find!! LOL :)

    This one regularly makes it in Kristie's favorite books and list of books to read. I'll definitively be on the look-out for it now.

  15. Wow, there really does sound like there's a lot going on in this one. I love discovering that in these category reads. Glad you enjoyed it!

  16. nath ~ definitely add it to your list. :)

    KMont ~ thank you for hosting this challenge. I've found a number of wonderful category authors because of it. :)