Read with: Amazon Kindle
Genre: Historical Romance
Hero: Matthew Slade
Heroine: Sarah Hammond
Date of Publication: November 22, 2010
Started On: December 30, 2010
Finished On: January 1, 2011
The fact that I am starting out the year 2011 with the review of a story that played with all my emotions in a good way is a cause for celebration in itself. Ellen O’Connell who published her first romance “Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold” earlier in 2010 shot right into my auto-buy list with the style of her writing and her ability to spin a romance totally different from what you normally read about. In her stories, the tragedies are real and heartbreaking; you don’t just read a narration of a life changing event for the hero/heroine but rather you experience the events right along with them which makes the story seem that much more real and in the end leaves you with its remnants long after you are done. So when I found out that her newest book had been released around 2 months back, I nearly jumped up and down with glee and I didn’t even hesitate to buy myself a copy and lose myself in the story of Matt and Sarah; a story that is so damn quotable that I raged an internal battle to keep the quotes at a minimum.
Matthew Slade or Matt had just been 10 years old when his parents, his four brothers and two sisters had all been killed in an epidemic that had wiped out nearly everyone in the vicinity. Matt himself had been at the throes of death when his neighbor who had lost his whole family had stumbled upon him and nursed him back to health and took him away with him. Matt had then been left with a couple who took in orphans such as himself from whom Matt had escaped from when he was 14 years old because of the brutality of the reverends wife when dealing with the children under her guardianship. Fighting in the civil war for all the wrong reasons thinking them to be the right ones, Matt is a survivor of a war that had claimed many a life, where hunger had been his best friend and bedfellow. Two years after the war, Matt is mistaken for a man who had killed a whole family and taken captive by two men who refuse to believe his proclamation of innocence. It is during the journey when his captors wheedle their way into a cavalry escort travelling along to the same destination that Matt comes across Sarah Hammond irrevocably changing both their lives forever.
Sarah Hammond is the pampered and overprotected daughter of a rich family back in Boston who had been strong abolitionists. With blond hair, deep blue eyes, with a round figure and an inherent sweetness to her, Sarah is being escorted to be with her fiance Carter Macauley who wanted nothing more from Sarah other than what she would bring to their marriage in terms of her impeccable character and grooming.
When Sarah witnesses how badly Matt is treated by his captors, her kindhearted nature demanding that Matt be treated better for the duration of the journey causes many a conflict amongst her chaperons. However all this comes to head when Comanches attack them and it is only Matt and Sarah that barely escape their brutal onslaught.
It is during the journey that Matt and Sarah takes across the unforgiving land amidst constant danger from those trying to hunt them down to finish what they started that a bond unlike anything else is forged between these two unlikely souls. Sarah’s dependence on Matt for survival soon turns into something much more as feelings of a totally different kind enter into the equation which reaches its inevitable conclusion before the journey is through.
Though in Sarah’s dreams she and Matt ends up inevitably together after she regrettably informs Macauley that she cannot marry him as she has fallen in love with Matt, reality is much harsher on these two as Macauley engineers a vicious plan to drive these two apart with his thirst for vengeance and revenge. The story of how at first a rebel and a yankee meet and fall in love and how circumstances force Matt (the convict) and Sarah (the whore) apart until 7 years later these two come to meet again is a story that will stay with the reader for a long, long time after they are done.
1- Sarah Hammond. She is hands down the best thing about this story. She is sweet, gentle, kindhearted with a backbone of steel which Matt eventually shows that she has. She is equal parts stubborn, loyal and loves Matt so much that she is willing to go to any lengths to finally be with the man that completes her. The fact that she doesn’t give up when life throws its harshest challenges at her is what makes her my most favorite heroine of all time. There are so many endearing qualities about her that I don’t know which ones I should start naming first. Though Sarah has had a pampered life which her well off parents had bestowed upon her, when the rough and tough times comes calling, with Matt by her side Sarah faces each and every challenge head on and wins them over. Her docile nature fools a lot of people into thinking that Sarah needs to be cossetted and directed towards the path on which she should walk on. But when it does come to stuff that really matters to her like her daughter Laurie and her beloved Matt she is like the fiercest of warriors protecting what is rightfully hers. Needless to say, she has earned the role of my favorite heroine and I loved her character to bits in this heartwarming romance.
2- Matt Slade. He is handsome, utterly charming at the beginning of the story and later towards the end and has a sense of humor that touches something deep inside of you as you read along. Macauley’s vicious plans nearly ends Matt’s life before putting him in prison for 3 years of hard labor from which a harder and a more vital Matt emerges. Not knowing that Sarah had borne their daughter Laurie, Matt refuses to subject Sarah to his presence even though he knows that there would be no one else for him. Even though that part of his character which believed he is no good for Sarah rankled, I still could not help but fall for him because Matt demands nothing less but just that from the reader.
3- Ellen O’Connell’s evocative characterization and style of writing. Though she has just two romance novels to her name, her writing style just draws you in and keeps you in the throes of the story refusing to let go. I would say that her stories are just pure magic – yes, they are that good. If you don’t believe me, I dare you to pick just one of the two and indulge. ^_^
4- How Sarah tries to seduce Matt at the beginning. With Sarah being a virgin and Matt with practically zero experience, it was heartwarming and quite humorous at the same time to read about how Sarah tries to seduce Matt into giving her something even which she cannot understand what it is that she actually wants. Though not explicit in nature, their journey of sensual discovery was one of the best parts of the story worthy of revisiting from time to time.
5- The unique marriage proposal almost at the end of the story. I have never come across a marriage proposal quoted from passages in the Bible, maybe because I don’t read Christian romances, but the way Matt proposes to Sarah is just perfect for this story.
1- Even though I loved this story to bits, I didn’t care much for the conflict between two ranching businesses which was the main focus of the latter part of the story. Though it was this conflict that enabled Sarah’s friends to bring these two together in the hopes of getting Sarah over Matt once and for all, I didn’t want anything to take my attention away from the beauty of the love between Sarah and Matt even for a second.
2- This story tends to end a bit abruptly until you read the Author’s note to discover that she has an “Afterword” available for download on her website which is the actual conclusion of this beautiful story. All in all, for me, the story would have been more complete if the afterword had been included in the original story. The afterword is a fitting end to a love that held me captivated right from the very beginning.
Sarah gasped and looked up. She was going to hit him. Except … he was trying without success to keep a straight face.
The afternoon sun slanted across him, and his eyes shone bluer than ever, dancing with suppressed laughter. No other man in the world would react this way to such an unmentionable subject, help her without complaining or blaming, and tease away her embarrassment.
She started laughing with him. Something slipped and slid inside her, and Sarah fell in love with Matt Slade.
She traced the lines of Matt’s face in the air. Then her air-touch moved down his neck, out across his shoulder, in again along his collarbone, down the breastbone, back and forth across each rib. Air touching only made the ache worse. She wanted to feel the smoothness and warmth of his skin, feel the muscle and tendon and bone under his skin. She wanted to spread her hand out flat over his belly, feel the breathing and life of him. She wanted — oh she wanted.
He held himself above her on his forearms, still looking at her with that narrow-eyed intensity, his eyes darker now in the shadows with the light behind him. She pushed her hips up, dug her fingers into his back, tried to make him give what she wanted without speaking the words.
Matt did speak. His voice, barely a breath across her lips, vibrated through her.“Sing, Sarah. Sing my name, Sarah.”
He moved then, and Sarah sang.
She (Sarah) froze, jerking Laurie to a halt. Hundreds, no thousands of times Sarah had pictured what would happen if they met again. She would run into his arms, which would be open, welcoming. They would come together with a joyous crash, and everything would be as it had been, should be. Now she stood and stared. Unlike in dreams, her emotions and fears and the lie she had lived for so long anchored her in place.
Staring, taking in every detail, she wondered how she knew him so instantly. Could a heart see in its own way what eyes did not? No words in that deep grainy voice helped her. She knew every inch of his body intimately, had traced the contours of each bone and muscle with her fingers and her lips. The changes jarred her, the beloved sameness called to her. The hat brim shaded his face, a face changed terribly whether in profile or full view as he pivoted towards her.
1- Fans of historical romances.
2- Fans of romance books in general.
3- Fans of Ellen O’Connell.
Note: All the while that I was reading this story, I couldn’t help but think that the song “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars effectively sums up all the feelings that courses through Matt whenever he sees his beautiful Sarah whose mere presence is enough to keep him happy for the rest of his life. So I’ll end my review by including a snippet of the lyrics that just brings a smile to my face, and Sarah and Matt to my mind as I listen to this song each and every single time.
When I see your face
There’s not a thing that I would change
Cause you’re amazing
Just the way you are
And when you smile,
The whole world stops and stares for awhile
Cause girl you’re amazing
Just the way you are
Caliber Seal: OUTSTANDING READ!