Head Over Heels
by Stephanie Mittman, contemporary (1999)
Dell, $6.50, ISBN 0-440-22555-8
Wow, what a great hero, this Harris Woolery. He is a naughty scoundrel who smooth-talks like thick chocolate ice cream, a man who reluctantly gives in to his guilty conscience and becomes an unlikely hero. Lovely! There should be more reluctant heroes like this, I say. This book also has a dog, a cute ugly one. So I'm easy, sue me. The kids are adorable too. The heroine's a somewhat unintelligent, unimaginative brown cow, but hey, not everyone is as smart as me, I can accept that. As it is, it is refreshing to read about a heroine who isn't afraid to admit that she needs a man to take control of her life and yes, all she wants to do in her life is to be a mother and wife. Feminists can roar all they want, but Nancy Springfield is a mother, a good one too.
All her life Nan lives under a man's guidance, graduating from her strict father to her, well, strict minister husband. She loves her simple life of being "the Minister's wife", taking care of her son and several adopted children and making cookies and car-pooling and attending her son's baseball matches. Her relationship with her husband is strained, however. On the nights she asks him for divorce, they also hear a shock jock "Harris Tweed" on radio accusing hubby of embezzling church funds. Hubby drives off to confront Tweed, only to be killed when his car crashed into a tree. Suicide, they say.
Nan is left in tatters - her house would be given to the new minister, her adopted children would likely be taken away from her, and she is also penniless. Harris Woolery, the "Harris Tweed", feels guilty and sends her money and gifts. When these offerings are returned, he dresses up as Santa to give presents to the kids. Mistaken as a church fellow, he is allowed into the Springfield household. Poor man soon doesn't want to leave.
Part of the reason this book works wonderfully is because of Harris. This poor man doesn't know what hit him, heck, he doesn't even want to care. All he wants to do is to hand out lil' pressies and be done with the guilt trip and get on with his life. But he can't help it - he sees parallels in Nan losing her children to his losing his son in a divorce, and he just can't help caring. It doesn't help that Nan looks like the best thing a man can ever look at since the remote control. And when he does fall in love, it's really lovely. This man is nuts. He will do anything to make sure Nan consents to wear his ring, even to the point of changing everything about his life and world to accommodate her. I won't ask that much in the people I love, but let's face it, that guy Woolery can sure redefine the word Romantic. A romantic rogue with a big heart - how can any woman resist?
Then there are the adorable children, from shy timid Topher to autistic DJ who proves that every child is truly a gift to cherish. I actually find myself smiling from ear to ear at the children's often rumbuctious antics and delightfully kiddie conversations. Her daughter tells Nan that Mommy is beautiful, just like that wonderful horse in Harris' daddy's ranch. Like I said, adorable.
Nan's isn't my favorite sort of heroine, she is too rigid in her principles and too content to let others run things for her (then again, since her first reaction to any problem is denial, I don't blame these people). She's not a woman who does things, she is a woman who is. But she is such a great mother and wife, it feels cruel to call her the brown cow she is. Oops. Besides, she's good for Harris who needs a great loving woman to bake him cookies. Apart from her irritating Denial Party antics in the late quarter of the book, she's not too bad.
When a book leaves me smiling and all warm inside, that's a good book. When it actually gets me seriously considering adopting ten children (a temporary lapse in sanity, I assure you - I am not going through toilet-training and diaper-changing and dealing with rebellious teenagers again, thankyouverymuch), now that's a special book.
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