Info: TBR Challenge 2009
Theme for the month: new-to-you authors or authors you haven’t read in a long time
In my TBR pile since: November 2008
Genre: Romance / Western
Published: Avon Books, 1998
Availability: still available
Monthly theme?: I’d planned to read another book for this month challenge which would have been a better fit for its theme, but RL got in the way. Lucky for me, I’d read Cherish a few days ago. Since it was in my TBR pile for nearly a year, and I’ve only read one book by Catherine Anderson several years before, I thought it a close enough fit for this month’s theme to use it as my book for the challenge.
Why I bought this novel: I can’t remember.
He Longed For…
Race Spencer’s gunslinging days are far behind him. He is now a respectable rancher, but it’s a solitary life. But then Fate lead Race to an earthbound angel–lost and alone, the sole survivor of an outlaw attack–and even his hardened heart is moved. He sweeps the ivory-skinned beauty into his arms and carries her away from danger.
A Woman to Cherish
When innocent Rebecca Morgan wakes up in a stranger’s embrace, she knows her life has been changed forever. Though Race’s touch makes her blood sing and stirs up emotions in her she never knew existed, she knows this man has a fearsome reputation. And though her life may depend on him, she doesn’t know if she can trust him. Can it really be love she sees in her rescuer’s dark eyes?
Cherish tells the story of Rebecca, an innocent, sheltered, cheek-turning bible thumber, who travels west with her family and a few other families to join the other members of their church who already settled near Santa Fe one year ago. On their way, they are attacked by outlaws and all members die horribly except Rebecca, who ran and hid.
She witnessed the massacre. Although this is told in flashbacks, what Rebecca saw is not sugarcoated. The women were raped while their husbands stood by and implored God to help them (their faith forbids violence). Then both men and women were shot.
Rebecca not only loses her family, her friends, and her innocence in regard to what humans are capable of on that day, she also loses her faith. She’s faced with the age-old question of how God could let this happen to them when they did nothing wrong, when they lived according to his laws all their life. It’s no wonder that Rebecca goes into shock after what she saw.
That’s when Race finds her. He and his men were on their long way home, driving cattle to Race’s ranch, when Race heard gunshots and went to investigate. What he sees nearly turns his stomach and he’s used to quite a bit with his gunslinger past. It’s there, amidst all the carnage, that he sees a slight blond girl who looks like she’s praying. Race soon realizes the girl is in shock, and then the outlaws are back and he has to fight for his life and the girl’s life. He’s outnumbered, so he promises himself that his last bullet is for her, to spare her the fate of the other women.
Race and Rebecca are saved in the nick of time by Race’s men. Only a few outlaws escape. Race takes Rebecca with him because there is nothing else he could do. He soon figures out that it wasn’t chance that made the outlaws attack Rebecca’s family and her friends. He is also very intuitive in understanding what’s going on with Rebecca, no matter that their backgrounds couldn’t be more different:
That was the most heartbreaking part of it for Race, knowing how awful her situation must seem to her. A naive, religious young woman, sheltered all her life from every kind of evil, suddenly alone in the world where her only chance of survival was to seek sanctuary in the arms of a gunslinger, the very epitome of all she deplored. (127)
Of course, Race probably wouldn’t use a word like “epitome.” He can’t even read and he often doesn’t know what Rebecca is saying when she uses one of her “highfalutin tongue wagglers.” This often leads to funny misunderstandings, especially concerning the relationship between men and women, and it provides the much needed comic relief in this story.
Cherish is a bleak novel. In Cherish, bad things happen. And they happen again and again because the outlaws didn’t get what they wanted the first time (money) so they come back. People and animals get wounded or even die as a result.
As the only surviving member, Rebecca is the last person alive who knows where the money is. With all that is happening to her, it’s no wonder Rebecca has anxiety attacks right up until the end of the novel. She’s totally dependent on Race. Only he can keep her attacks (somewhat) in check. When she can’t see him or hear his voice she’s often paralyzed with fear. She hates herself for that but she can’t help it and so she does all she can think of to not make him send her away.
Race knows that Rebecca’s behavior isn’t healthy but he doesn’t know what to do. He also discovers that he has a very black nature to his side where Rebecca is concerned. It would be so easy for him to take advantage of the situation and make Rebecca his. “By the time Rebecca came to her senses–which he feared she eventually would–he’d have her snubbed to a post and hobbled.” (223) It’s something that disturbs him greatly.
It’s also something that develops slowly. Sure, Race thought Rebecca attractive right from the first, but as he tells her, a man can keep himself in check. But he has to discover that probably isn’t true for him where Rebecca is concerned. During the time it takes them to reach his ranch (several weeks), she becomes more and more important to him so that at one point, he even thinks of her as his soul. And probably because of the violence around them, Race’s concern, love and tenderness for Rebecca appear all the more special and precious.
In a way, this is more Race’s story than Rebecca’s. He’s quite often the POV character, and he’s the one doing the rescuing and healing. I thought the way how this hard and rough man discovered his tender side and found love one of the best things about this novel. Race is unbelievably intuitive where Rebecca is concerned. He knows what to say and how to draw her out. He’s honest and open no matter what it costs him, and there is nothing he wouldn’t do for Rebecca.
The question of free will, of deciding what to do and what not to do, is a theme that weaves throughout the story, and not only in relation to men and women and their dealings with each other. Rebecca chose to run and hide instead of helping her mother, her father, and her friends. Not fighting back is what her religion demands, true, but hiding makes her a coward in her eyes. It also makes her suffer from survivor guilt and torments her endlessly. Her loss of faith is connected to that, and so it’s not wonder that religion plays an important role in this novel.
Despite the constant threat by the outlaws, the story unfolds slowly but it is well-paced. There are not loose ends and it offers more descriptions than dialog. For me, the beauty of Cherish lies in watching Rebecca struggling with the beliefs she had all her life when they get confronted with reality, how they tie in with the question of free will, and how Race helps her to find a new perspective on life just as Rebecca helps him. One of the last scenes in this novel shows how this is all coming together in a very satisfying way.
- Cherish is a novel where the title actually fits the story.
- While Rebecca is well-liked by Race’s men, and they would lay their life down for her, there are actually no overtly sickly sweet scenes where she dazzles them all with a toss of her hair and a sweet smile and they fall all over themselves to please her. Yeah!
- I wasn’t convinced that Rebecca was in love with Race. She was too dependent on him for that for my liking. But the epilogue helps there and it also provides a nice conclusion to what happened to Race as a child.
- Why is it that when I read older novels (pre 2000) I often think that this novel wouldn’t have been published like that today and what a shame that would be? (Mind, I’m not talking about the one’s with jerks masquerading as heroes.)
- If not for the Race the psychologist and a very few too drawn-out scenes near the end, this would have been 5/5.
- I would love to read the story of Race and Rebecca’s son who kidnaps the schoolteacher and then marries her the Apache way.
Verdict: Really, really good (4,5/5).