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TBR Challenge: “A Reason To Live” By Maureen McKade

16 Dec

tbr-challenge-2009

Info: TBR Challenge 2009

Theme for the month: not sure if there is one
In my TBR pile since: May 2007

Genre: western romance
Published: Berkley Sensation, 2006

Availability: oop

Monthly theme?: ?

Why I bought this novel: lots of other readers like this novel

How could I refuse the wish of a dying man?

May 30, 1865: During the 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. Keepng 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…

[word in bold were in italic in original]

A Reason to Live is my first novel by Maureen McKade so I don’t know if it’s typical for her. What I know is that it’s not a typical fluffy romance. A Reason to Live is aptly named. It tells the story of two people who are both not sure for what, how or why they should continue to live.

Laurel Covey is a widow and was a nurse in the Civil war. Now that the war is over, the only thing that keeps her going is her promise to deliver the last messages of soldiers to their loved ones. She’s estranged from her family because of her marriage, her husband is dead, and her sanity is slowly giving way.

Creede Forrester is an ex-gunslinger who reformed when he met his wife. But his wife is now dead for some years and his son, who signed up as a soldier in the war, seems to have died. The only thing Creede has left is his farm and he now no longer cares. He leaves to find out what happened to his son. That’s how he meets Laurel.

Laurel is an intensely caring woman. As a nurse, she was given the task to decide which wounded soldiers had the best chances to live and therefore were the first the doctors would look at. This and all the other things she saw during the war is haunting her more and more now and she fears she’s slowly but surely losing her mind. She wants to keep her promise to the dead soldiers and then she doesn’t care (and knows) what will happen. There isn’t room for something or someone else.

This is why she isn’t happy about Creede’s insistence to accompany her on her journey. But accompany her he does and slowly he falls in love with her. And Laurel, despite her best intentions to keep others out and her fear of her growing insanity, starts to care for Creede, too.

I liked the slow development of the love story. Both Laurel and Creede are people deeply scarred by their experiences. They are both different now from what they were like when they were twenty. But it’s this difference that gives them a chance to fall in love with each other.

Although handsome, Creede was someone she wouldn’t have looked at twice five years ago, but after everything she’d gone through, she’d learned to see beyond a man’s appearance. And she’d come to respect and appreciate Creede’s kindness and integrity. (168)

By the way, isn’t it nice that the heroine isn’t so blown away by her attraction to the hero’s appearance that she can’t think straight? Equally nice I thought the fact that they could sleep beside each other without giving in to their attraction all the time.

So yes, I liked the love story and thought it convincing. But I also thought it suffered a bit under the frame of the story. The frame of a journey was fitting for Laurel’s (and Creede’s) character development but it also made the different stops of the journey appear more episodic in that each stop showed a different facet of how the war had ravaged the land and its people. Laurel and Creede meet ex-slaves, ex-soldiers, women who lost their husbands and had to fight for themselves, and so on. Each encounter added something new to Laurel and Creede’s character development but still, it also seemed slightly too episodic and educational in a “let’s mention/show/check off this” kind of way to me.

But as much as I thought the portrayal of a war’s impact on the population too educational in that way, it were these parts that touched me the most. In these parts, A Reason to Live isn’t easy to read. War is horrible. But it also shows that amidst all these horrors it’s possible to find love and a reason to live.

As did both Laurel and Creede in the end.

Verdict: A very strong 4/5.