I have to start this blog by admitting that I'm an idiot. At least 3 years ago, lovely and wise Avon author Christie Ridgway gave me a glowing recommendation for a trade paperback called THE SECOND COMING OF LUCY HATCH by Marsha Moyer. Christie glowed SO brightly about this book that I wisely went out and bought not only LUCY HATCH but it's companion novel THE LAST OF THE HONKY TONK ANGELS. So why am I an idiot, you ask? Because I let the book languish on my bookshelf for 3 years before finally picking it up to take on a long plane trip last week.
Lucy Hatch's second coming begins with the first line of the novel: I was thirty-three years old when my husband walked out into the field one morning and never came back and I went in one quick leap from wife to widow. At 19, Lucy had wed a taciturn, stoic 27-year-old farmer, believing that still waters run deep only to discover that sometimes still waters only run...well...still. For fourteen years, they were the kind of couple who had an abiding respect for each other but who rarely spoke and only made love with the lights off. Lucy sincerely grieves Mitchell when he dies but perhaps her greatest grief comes from admitting to herself that she also feels a tiny smidgen of relief.
Texas is in the very bones of this book and the grieving Lucy retreats to her hometown of Mooney, Texas to try to find the girl she lost all those years ago. As Lucy sets out to rediscover herself in a little ramshackle rental house out in the country, her family rallies around her: Aunt Dove, her "spinster aunt" and the wisest of the lot, her good looking brother Bailey, her slightly plus-sized and plus-hearted sister-in-law Geneva.
It's Bailey and Geneva who drag Lucy out of that rental house and back to her favorite teenage haunt--the local honky tonk, the Round-Up. That's where she comes face-to-face with town bad boy Ash Farrell. Ah, Ash Farrell! (Insert swooning sigh here). Although he's not a cowboy, Ash is a "cowboy hero" in the best sense of the tradition. He's a lean, tall drink of water--a carpenter (who knows how to use his hands!) by day and a singer who performs every Friday night down at the Round-Up. Women line up at the bar to vie for his attentions after each performance but the minute he sees Lucy, he "sets his sights on her." He brings her flowers, he brings her a puppy, he fixes her leaky pipes. (And no--that's not a metaphor!) His courtship and her initial resistance set every tongue in Mooney wagging.
Marsha Moyer is a master at both dialogue and characterization. I think I first fell in love with Ash when he was telling Lucy about the steeple at the local Baptist Church:
"Reverend Honeywell's got a couple of spotlights trained on it at night now," Ash said. "In case, I guess, Jesus decides to come back at two in the morning and can't see to land."
When we learn that Ash went into foster care at the age of four when they found him all alone in the house with his mentally ill mother, "sitting in the closet eating dog biscuits right out of the box," I'm ready to hand him both my house keys and my panties.
You often hear romance readers whining about how hard it is to create unique love scenes after they've written several books. Their hero and heroine have done it in the rocking chair. They've swung from the chandelier. There can't possibly be any new words left to describe how to put Tab A into Slot B, can there? After reading this book, I'm happy to discover that there are. The love scenes in this book are infused with emotion and helped to remind me that it's not the mechanics that need refreshing but the language used to describe them:
So I let myself slide under again, my mind floating somewhere between dark and light, aware of nothing but my skin under his thickened fingertips, the silken grit of his unshaved chin as it grazed behind my ears, the curve of my throat, the hollow of my collarbone. The quilt had fallen to the floor, and my nightgown worked itself into a tangle at my hips as I felt him move down over me, kissing and kissing, creating a smooth, undulating purl of response from my head to my toes.
As irresistible as Ash is, it's Lucy's voice--wry, funny, and unflinchingly honest--that truly propels the story. When her brother Bailey tells her, "I just want you to be safe is all," Lucy replies with, "My husband got chewed up by a farm machine. Safe is a word that's gone straight out of my vocabulary."
THE SECOND COMING OF LUCY HATCH is both a beautifully written novel and a fine romance. There are very few books that capture the true joy and terror of falling in love and this is one of the best I've ever read. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to pull Marsha Moyer's second book, THE LAST OF THE HONKY TONK ANGELS, straight off my shelf before my IQ drops even lower.