Harper's Bride

A Taste of Heaven

 
Allie’s Moon by Alexis Harrington
(St. Martin’s, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-312-97307
****
Ah, what is more enjoyable than watching two deeply wounded people first find each other and then save each other? Not much, in my opinion. If you are a fan of books which center on the healing power of love, then you should certainly enjoy Alexis Harrington’s Americana romance, Allie’s Moon.

Althea Ford lives with her fragile younger sister on a dilapidated farm outside of the town of Decker Prairie, Oregon. Her stern father’s last words to her three years before had been, “Take care of your sister when I’m gone. Don’t let me down again.” So she cares for twenty-year-old Olivia as she has since she was eight and her sister was a baby. But she needs help; the roof is leaking, the garden needs plowing, the fence is falling down. She has trouble finding help; nobody wants to work for “those crazy Ford women.”

Desperate and disappointed when the town ne’er do well fails to show up as promised, Althea agrees to hire Jeff Hicks when the sheriff brings him out to the farm. Even a falling down drunk is better than no help at all.

Jeff Hicks had not always been a drunk. Two years ago he had himself been the town’s sheriff. Then one night, while foiling a robbery he had shot and killed a fourteen-year-old boy. Though he had clearly acted in self-defense, his life spiraled downward from that moment. He lost his wife, quit his job, and has been trying to forget his pain through the haze of alcohol ever since. Caught stealing a couple of eggs, Jeff is in no shape to turn down Althea’s job offer.

Both Allie and Jeff are imprisoned by past tragedies. Allie has spent her entire life trying to atone for the guilt her father had laid on her, seeking to win his forgiveness, but never succeeding. Even in death, Amos Ford controls her. She caters to her sister, failing to understand how selfish and manipulative Olivia is. Olivia is determined that nothing will deprive her of Althea’s unstinting care and is willing to go to any ends to destroy the growing affection between her sister and the new hired man.

Deprived of his booze and finding unexpected satisfaction in hard work, Jeff begins to recover, at least physically. The kindness and trust that Allie shows him helps him to recover emotionally as well. But the machinations of an old enemy and Olivia threaten their fragile happiness.

Perhaps the strongest element in Allie’s Moon is the author’s description of the effects of psychological child abuse. Certainly, Allie is a victim of the cruelest kind of treatment and her scars and wounds are deep. Her recovery is difficult and would have been impossible without Jeff. He forces her to confront the truth about the event which shattered and shaped her life.

We likewise see the difficult struggle Jeff faces as he is tempted to retreat once again into the bottle. The effectiveness of Harrington’s writing became apparent to me as I found myself tensing up in fear that he would succumb. Clearly she made me care about her characters.

I am always impressed when an author creates characters who come across as so fully human in both their strengths and their weaknesses. The hero and heroine of Allie’s Moon do not perform daring deeds; their heroism lies rather in overcoming pasts that could easily have destroyed them. Their ultimate victory is a wonderful affirmation of the strength of the human spirit and the power of love.

Allie’s Moon is an emotionally intense book and an immensely satisfying love story.

--Jean Mason


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