I had never read anything by Jean Brashear until I picked up Lonesome No More, but by the time I had finished the third page, I knew I was in the hands of a pro. The plot may be a staple of the romance genre, but Brashear's flawless style and pace made it slide down smoothly.
You've probably met Brashear's heroine before. Perrie Matheson and her five-year-old son, Davey, are on the run from Perrie's abusive husband, Simon. They are headed for Perrie's grandfather's cabin in Wyoming when Perrie becomes ill with the 'flu. The cabin, deep within a designated woodlands area, is only accessible by foot, so Perrie and Davey have to walk the last two miles. Perrie collapses unconscious half a mile from their destination, and it is left up to Davey to find his grandfather's cabin.
Mitch Gallagher inherited Cy Washburn's cabin when the old man died six months earlier. Along with the cabin, his legacy included an intense resentment directed at Perrie. Cy's last wish had been to see his granddaughter, so Mitch trekked three miles to the nearest telephone to call her in Boston. He left a message, but Perrie never called back, never acknowledged that her grandfather was dying.
Mitch makes his living as a hunting guide, so when Davey finds him, Mitch has no problem backtracking and finding Perrie. He brings her back to the cabin and cares for her even though he thinks of her as "the callous socialite who had broken his only friend's heart." Since Perrie is too ill to get out of bed without assistance, he also finds himself responsible for the care, feeding, and entertainment of a five-year-old -- duties that are completely foreign to him.
As five-year-olds will, Davey begins to worm his way into Mitch's heart. Furthermore, as Perrie recovers slowly, and Mitch sees how devoted she and her child are, he starts to question his opinion of her. Can someone who is such a good mother also be the thoughtless woman who neglected her dying grandfather? And if she isn't, what does that mean to him?
Sixteen years ago, when Mitch was a wild sixteen year old, he was responsible a tragic accident. He left home immediately, knowing that he had lost all rights to love, that he must go through life alone. Since then his words-to-live-by have been, "Don't get involved. Pack light and move fast." He fears his growing attachment to Davey and, perhaps, even to Davey's mother.
The woman scarred by a bad marriage, the man fearful of love, even the plucky five-year-old…all of these are familiar romance icons. The plot -- strangers forced into unplanned intimacy -- is hoary with age.
Several elements redeem Brashear's narrative. The wilderness setting is appealing and indeed precipitates the crises that propel the story forward. Secondly, Brashear's prose is unfailingly clean and crisp, with none of those awkwardnesses that distract your attention from the story.
Most importantly, however, was the economy with which she told her story.
Lonesome No More is a short and lean book, with no padding, nothing extraneous. From the first scene, each successive episode arises naturally out of what has gone before, without any feelings of contrivance. In this era when stories are artificially inflated in the hope that the reader will feel she has gotten her money's worth, I was pleased to read a narrative in which every scene worked for its living.
I feel comfortable promising that an evening spent reading Jean Brashear's Lonesome No More will be a pleasant one. I hope that next time Brashear will use her excellent set of skills on a more intense, less familiar plot.
--Nancy J. Silberstein