Thursday, April 19, 2007

Summer Breeze by Catherine Anderson

I finally found a book that stuck.

Holly reminded me of Summer Breeze by Catherine Anderson a few days ago and I remembered that the heroine of the story was agoraphobic and since it's a historical I wanted to see how it would play out.

Cindy Blurb: Story is set in 1889 and would be considered a historical western. Joseph Paxton is a beginning rancher who is ready for hard work to make his way. He enjoys his life just the way it is, working, drinking on a Friday night and when the need arises, finding a girl at the saloon to scratch his itch. Sorry. Jo was pretty plain spoken so I don't think he would mind my words.

Joseph's life takes a turn when a neighbour's foreman rides onto his property shot in the back. The foreman, Darby (old guy), is worried about his boss/charge, Rachel Hollister and needs Joseph to pledge to take care of her. Joseph, more worried about Darby's wound promises even though he has heard rumours that Rachel has bats in her belfry.

Rachel Hollister survived the slaughter of her family one summer day five years before. Fear quickly overcame Rachel to the point where Darby's only choice was to hole her up in her house in her kitchen/family room. She lives in total isolation with the windows boarded up and unable to open any doors. Darby keeps her in supplies and she cooks for him and they exchange stuff through a wood safe. So it's a shock to her system when she hears Joseph Paxton pounding on her door.

Someone blows a hole in the wall with a shotgun, Rachel slowly starts to trust Joseph while Joseph finds ways to bring actual sunshine into Rachel's life. Jo's family members start showing up and Rachel again gets used to things (a little fast but whatever) the towns people suddenly want to help and build her a walled garden with a cast iron grill ceiling so she can get outside. And then there is the 'culprit' and reconciliation of those who were wronged.


If you are new here then you should know that I have experienced agoraphobia and have had panic attacks most of my life. I knew where Rachel was coming from except for the fact that Rachel had experienced an extreme trauma and thus, she had a 'built in' excuse for what was happening to her. I don't know enough about post traumatic stress but I wondered if maybe this should have been the real diagnosis for this character. I think by having the past trauma, Anderson was able to have a hero who could accept the heroine for how she was. I wonder if it had been done without a traumatic event, how a hero or heroine for that matter would feel about a shut in.

So a few things, Rachel uses the term agoraphobia in her mental musings which seemed out of place for me as I didn't learn about agoraphobia until I was in my late twenties. Also, I looked up the etymology of the word :

"fear of open spaces," 1873, from Ger. Agorophobie, coined by psychiatrist Carl Westphal, 1871, from Gk. agora "open space" (typically a marketplace), from ageirein "to assemble," + -phobia "fear."
I'm not sure how fast word traveled back in the 1880's but I'm not sure just anyone would know the word.

Many of the scenes where panic attacks were depicted were well done except that Rachel actually did pass out (which I'm not sure actually happens in a panic attack - you only think you're about to pass out) and then she would have 'episodes' where she would be in a catatonic state and come to without remembering what had sent her into one.

Then there was the end.

Uh, no. Mental illness does not just get up and leave. Sorry. No. I figured it was coming but I was hoping Anderson would show a more natural progress to leaving agoraphobia behind.

Also, one of my pet peeves showed up in this book by having the story begin in 2005 (which had me worrying it was going to be a time travel) with the reading of a journal and then ending in 2005 with the letter from Joseph.

WHO IS DEAD! Cause, he was alive in 1889. I'm just saying. I hate that. The good news is that when I started reading the prologue I jumped to the end to see if I was going to have to be there when they died. I read that and then read the story in between and pretended that that was where the story ended. Hey, I know they are dead but in my brain they live in 1889 and are quite happy. I need to leave them there!

Dang, there was something else but it floated off. Meh.

Oh yeah.

Then there is the author's style which is really more about me than anyone. I prefer stories where character interaction and dialogue are prominent. Most of what moves this story along happens with internal dialogue. So I was reading pages and pages of what the hero or heroine were thinking instead of being there when they might have a conversation.

So, you're thinking I didn't like this book.

It wasn't bad and it kept me reading which is always a plus. I liked both Rachel and Joseph but I think having the family tree in the opening automatically has me figuring out ages of death and such. (There is a brother that only lives until the age of 66 and his story is yet to come! I like having people live to a ripe old age - oh, which has me with the secondary characters who wasted most of their lives without telling each other they loved each other - meh).

Basically you have a guy and girl who fall in love which was what I was in the mood for. I'm going with a straight C.

Anna Campbell's book showed up in the mail yesterday so I think that's the next book up. Okay, you know me, anything could happen.


nath said...

Hey Cindy :D Well at least, you finished the book :D I think that these kind of books are always more appreciated by ignorant ppl like me :P but all the things you point out make sense... and like you, I wonder if she should have been aware of agoraphobia. Me, I liked the book enough, but it seems to me like a filler in the series.

Rosie said...

Nothing takes me out of a story quicker than something like the agoraphobia thing. How can an author not know that a reader will be suspicious of something like that. Regardless of the etomology thingy you found I don't think until talk show TV most average folks knew what agorphobia was until something like the 1980s rather than the 1880s.

Having given that mini-rant, I do love books from that time period. I have several of Catherine Anderson's other books so I'm going to look and see if I have this one languishing in my TBR.

Holly said...

I'd completely forgotten about the agoraphobia thing, but that did bother me.

And I just ignored the whole 2005 thing. That annoyed me, so I just pretended it wasn't there. Like you, I hate when they're dead. That totally ruins it.

But I think I just liked how sweet it was. I was in the mood at the time for sugary fluff and this fit the bill.

But hey, I'm glad you got thru it. ;)

CindyS said...

Nath - yeah, I really like books that explore these kinds of illnesses and usually I'm not closely related but since I know agoraphobia I thought maybe the heroine was really suffering from PTS. And I did like the book - weird I know since it reads like I didn't ;)

Rosie - I'm not normally aware of words and where and when they came into vogue - I remember someone putting a book down because there was a dinner scene where they had potatoes. The person said potatoes weren't even part of diets at that time - me, I wouldn't notice stuff like that and really, what would life be like without potatoes!?

I know that I have read other books by Anderson and she is consistently a solid read - her later books became just a touch too sweet. You might see comments like that about Phantom Waltz.

Holly - You and I are good at blocking the stuff that doesn't work for us in books ;) Take Ward, I don't notice half the stuff that makes other readers nuts.

I know it doesn't seem like it but this book was just what I needed. Not an uber keeper that would have me all in a tizzy about which book to pick next and not something that had me hurling it across the room. It was different from what I usually read and I think we all need that sometimes. It was sweet without being annoying.


ReneeW said...

You have some excellent points here and I felt the same way about the too quick and convenient ending. Plus the sugary sweetness of Anderson's books makes my teeth ache, but I have to admit I like this one a little more than you (a B-). I totally missed the part where Rachel uses the term agoraphobia. I agree with Rosie - there's no way someone from that time period would use this term. But the time travel bit didn't bother me at all.

avidbookreader said...

I quit reading Anderson when she decided to write her stories around what condition she could find in her little, handy, dandy medical dictionary. None of the social issues are addressed realistically, it is a fantasy that does more harm than good, IMO, but if it's entertaining to readers, then the author has done her job. One book I do remember enjoying from her was ANNIE'S SONG but I did reread it and just couldn't get into it anymore and traded it in.

Jennie said...

I skipped this one, even though I've read most of CA's newer books (though I don't really know why I keep reading them as they usually make me sick from sugar shock). It started out in 2005 so that she could fit it into her Coulter family series, I think.

Tara Marie said...

I have most of this series on my TBR pile, I can only read them once in a while--the combination of melodrama and sweetness is a little too much in large doses.

Kristie (J) said...

I haven't been able to read Catherine Anderson for a while now. The whole over the top sweetness thing. I like grit and she just doesn't have any anymore.