by Kathleen Eagle, contemporary (2001)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-380-81014-X
The Last Good Man is, in its heart, another "Big town = evil, small town = gold" yarn. However, gentle, skillful storytelling elevates this one above all the other "cowboy goooood, lawyer baaaaaddd" schtick out there.
Savannah Stephens is Sunbonnet, Wyoming's pride. She went to the glittery city of New York and became a model, y'know. If you buy a lingerie catalog (Victoria's Secret?), chances are she'll be on the cover. Love her, hate her, be proud of her, or be ashamed of her, there's no denying she's the most glamorous person in the whole of tiny ol' rustic Sunbonnet.
So one day, Savannah just comes home, with her tail between her legs. And she has a daughter with her too. Who's the Daddy? People speculate that the Daddy is Kole Kills Crow, a local ruffian whose location is best left unasked. Kole's half brother Clay, however, is there for her. He has always been in love with her, you know.
So there we go. City girl returns to countryside to lick her wounds. A daughter in tow too. And a country cowboyish hunk (who happens to be an animal doctor to boot) who is waiting with open arms (and wide open zipper, as it happens). It's like cowboy propaganda all over again.
But oh, the characters. Forget the daughter Claudia, who reminds me of the Olsen twins, ugh - but Savannah is an amazing heroine. Still recovering from breast cancer, her scars are more psychological than physical, and she closes herself off from everyone, convinced that her lack of physical perfection makes her less than a whole woman. And Clay, who can be too good to be true most of the time - if he's what Wyoming has to offer, I am packing up for a long visit. Sensitive, charming, tender, loving - and yeah, financially stable - he makes my day.
In a way, it's a fascinating romance. It's not just a typical "Good man rescues self-absorbed woman" yarn. In a way, it's a beautiful codependent thing. Clay is a man who needs to be needed and he finds the perfect complement in emotionally needy Savannah. And Savannah can't find a better man who will steadily bear her alternating cold shoulder and hot needy outbursts. Clay's perfection is a flaw by itself which compliments Savannah's flaw perfectly.
Hence, I never do feel the urge to knock Savannah's sometimes excessive me-pity-me party or Clay's me-martyr-me complex. They like it that way. They're pretty sick that way. I love it!
I would have given this book a higher score if the author hasn't put in this disgustingly corny epilogue. Ugh. Okay, it's one thing to want to show that these two people are happy, but the epilogue mutates Mr Codependent Keogh and Ms Neurotic Savannah into the Brady Couple. It's... it's so Care Bear. After all the issues about self-esteem and sexual hang-ups, reading about our two lovebirds cooing over wedding dresses and yammering about "how strong I have become" (Savannah) feels as if the author has stuck some pages lifted from a James Michael Pruitt novel.
Still, this book is fabulous. Just what I need to get out of my romance slump.
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