Friday, October 31, 2008

Letters from Home by Jo Barrett

TITLE: Letters from Home
AUTHOR: Jo Barrett
PUBLISHER: Wild Rose Press
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 57k)
GENRE: Contemporary romance
COST: $6.00

When Phoebe writes to her deceased friend’s grandson stationed overseas, she doesn’t expect to start a correspondence with the man that lasts over a year. John Caldwell doesn’t have any family left, so he’s eager for the friendship she offers. There’s only one problem. He thinks she’s a grandmother-type, not the twenty-five year old beauty he meets when he finally gets to come home…

I knew buying this story I would probably get something wholesome. It’s got a soldier holding a little boy’s hand on the cover; if that doesn’t scream Harlequin, I’m not sure what does. But I was okay with that. I’ve read this author before, and she’s done some wonderful work. Unfortunately, this doesn’t fall into that realm for me.

Wholesome doesn’t even begin to cover it. The best word to describe Phoebe is old-fashioned. She is a master baker. She knits. She crochets. She sews. Children flock to her and call her Aunt Bee. She spends some of her free time at the assisted living facility where her aunt lives, socializing with and helping the senior citizen residents. In the beginning, I was willing to accept it. I decided I had to look at the story as kind of a throwback, and as long as I looked at it in that light, I enjoyed it. Even when she put a shawl on over her sundress because having bare shoulders might imply she wasn’t a “good girl.” But then it went a step too far. For me, anyway.

See, John and Phoebe are attracted to each other but agree to be just friends. He’s planning on re-upping again and won’t stick around, and he sees Phoebe as the girl you marry, not the girl you have fun with. Phoebe, for her part, is determined never to get involved again, and at first I thought it was just because this other guy had broken her heart too badly. But it’s more than that. Phoebe can’t have children. Ever. So when things start steaming up between Phoebe and John, the issue that she can never give him children holds her back in more ways than one. She rates herself solely on her ability to reproduce, which in all fairness, matches the mindset of the old-fashioned girl introduced at the top of the story. But that’s just too much for me. In a lot of ways, Phoebe is smart and eloquent. I don’t want to see her demeaning her worth as a woman, simply because of a biological fact she had no control over. And that’s when the story lost it for me. From that point, everything just became too saccharine, all the way down to the issue of Tommy, the little boy she watches occasionally for a friend.

So if you like your sugar with a side of sugar, then this might work for you. The prose is still as readable as ever, and the characters mostly likeable. I haven’t given up on this author. I just don’t think I’m the audience for this book.


8/10 – Other than minor editing misses, and the infrequent headhopping, I still find her prose always manages to suck me in, even when I have issues with the story


6/10 – A throwback to gentler times


4/10 – I liked her – in spite of how old-fashioned she is – until her womb issues got out of control

Entertainment value

5/10 – I was enjoying the old-fashionedness of the entire story until Phoebe turned on the “I’m worthless as a woman because I can’t have kids” tears

World building

8/10 – Within the construct of the story, the world works. Just don’t expect it to look like anything wholly modern.



No comments: