Always in My Heart

Annie's Song

Baby Love

Blue Skies

Bright Eyes

Cherish

Forever After
Keegan's Lady

Only By Your Touch

Phantom Waltz

Seventh Heaven

Simply Love

Sweet Nothings

 
My Sunshine by Catherine Anderson
(Signet, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-451-21380-7
***
Those who enjoy Catherine Anderson, like I do, will like this tale. Those who don't will find it is similar to most of her other stories. My Sunshine is not her best, but it is an engaging tale and one where love comes to a not so perfect heroine and a hero who has a warm and caring heart and soul.

Laura Townsend had a promising career as an environmental engineer cut short with a head injury from diving into shallow water. The result was loss of speech; after rehab she can speak but is left with aphasia. She must speak slowly and cannot always find the right word at the right time. Words longer than two syllables are a problem; she mixes up numbers and cannot read any but simple words. She has learned to compensate in some ways but is still limited. For example, to distinguish numbers in her cell phone, she adds a picture to remind her of the person. But she is determined to find a way to live a good life. She currently cleans houses and walks dogs in Crystal Falls, Oregon. Her grandmother lives there, too, and she is friends with Mary Coulter, whose twins sons Isaiah and Tucker are both single and veterinarians.

Isaiah is the absent-minded one, always working hard and forgetting to eat. He is a great vet, loves animals and enjoys women. He has a log cabin on some property and figures he will meet the right woman one day, but just not now. His mother convinces him to interview a young woman with a brain injury for his new kennel keeper. This is a low level job with lots of turnover. Isaiah reluctantly agrees.

He hires Laura because of a gut feeling. She is good-looking (much more so than he expected) but it is her spirit and willingness to try that attract him. Her trial period ends well and she is hired permanently. Laura loves the animals and is caring and sweet. Her spirit endears her to the entire staff Val the receptionist, Belinda the tech assistant and James, the intern to name a few. Tucker likes her too, but is wary and keeps trying to warn Isaiah not to play favorites.

As Isaiah becomes more enamored and friendly, Laura realizes she could easily fall in love with him, but also knows that she needs to keep her distance to keep her sanity. She has told herself she can never have a normal relationship, because who wants a wife who can't talk half the time and can't read or write anymore? But she learns her job and works hard to keep it. She and Isaiah share a love of animals and that love shines through in the various dilemmas they are confronted with when working at the vet hospital.

But this story is really their story. Their relationship moves the tale, which at times is funny, engaging and romantic. There are complications with dogs, puppies and the entire Coulter clan that keep the story from bogging down. Each episode cements the fact that Laura is a great lady and deserves happiness and Isaiah's life would be richer with her in it. I chuckled over family antics and truly enjoyed the 13 puppies and their adventures. Laura and Isaiah seem to fit together and it was a joy to watch them discover each other.

There is a subplot about someone trying to frame Laura to get her fired. This occurs early on then goes away until the ending. It is a little contrived and seems to be thrown in for conflict's sake. It would have been better left out.

Anderson has written several stories about people with disabilities and this one is the least impressive to me. There are times when Laura's speech seems fine and then, she throws out hyphenated words to indicate Laura cannot pronounce that word. While not completely distracting, I did note it. From many practical standpoints, Anderson highlights all the abilities that Laura has but she also downplays the struggles. By downplaying the struggles, she has reduced the impact of the disability and thus, of Laura's recovery and adaptation to a "normal life."

Overall, this is a good romance between two characters that have fun and fall in love their romance opens their eyes to life's possibilities. A little on the sentimental side and not one of Anderson's top five, My Sunshine is still a good story and one her fans will enjoy.

--Shirley Lyons


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