Thoughts After Reading:
I have been looking forward to reading another one of Pamela Morsi's works ever since I finished her novel Wild Oats. She appears to have a reputation for writing quirky, authentic, small-town "Americana" romances. A reputation that is well-deserved, if Garters is anything to go by. The books tells the thoroughly engaging - and occasionally comedic - tale of a young woman who fights to make the best of her lot in life, for herself and her family, and who happens to fall deeply in love along the way. The story is well-written and contains excellent characterizations - even the seemingly one-dimensional background characters are given a level of depth. Most importantly, however, much of the writing is devoted to main characters' interactions - allowing for a wholehearted and genuine romance to blossom between them.
The heroine has had more than her share of difficulties in life, trying to take care of her impoverished and good-for-nothing family who live in a cave. Her father can't be counted on to accomplish a single goal, her gorgeous yet empty headed twin sisters are being courted at the same time by the same man, and her mother is deceased. In addition to being very hardworking, the heroine is very intelligent and rather attractive in her own right - details that are overlooked because of her charity case family and curvaceous sisters. She settles on the hero as the logical man to marry in their small town, a young gentlemanly store owner with a home large enough to house the entire family. When her sisters refuse to snag the hero with their looks, the heroine once again attempts to shoulder everyone's burden - this time by convincing the hero to marry her. The heroine's "courting" efforts are frequently laugh-out-loud funny, occasionally heartbreaking, and consistently entertaining. She throws herself in his face repeatedly, tries to figure out how to be the best helpmate possible, and develops a real relationship with him in the process. From the hero's perspective, the heroine presence serves as a major disturbance in his "gentlemanly" life. His biggest source of annoyance is the strong attraction he feels for the heroine, a fact he discovers when he accidentally gets a long glance at the heroine's uncovered legs. He refuses to recognize the growing relationship between them, stubbornly continuing to court a more "ladylike" woman. It is only when the hero accidentally compromises the heroine, over half way into the story, that he reluctantly marries her. However, his reticent quickly fades away as he happily adjusts to married life. The storyline meanders a little bit at this point, with misunderstandings on both sides about it being a forced marriage (rather than the love match it is). But it's heartening that both the hero and the heroine refuse to give up on the marriage, the relationship never becomes angsty, and the final romantic resolution is very satisfying. The ending is a totally unrealistic - pretty much everyone gets a happy ending. But it's also endearing, triumphant, and doesn't detract from the poignancy of the central relationship.
After reading Garters, my appreciation of Pamela Morsi's skill as an author continues to grow. The novel is well-written, fun, and engaging. But - even more significantly - the novel is made meaningful by the abundance of genuine romantic development. With the slightly unusual historical setting and characters, I imagine Garters isn't for everyone - but I highly recommend it all the same.