Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Carolyn Davidson - The Forever Man

Tate Montgomery needed a new life... And Johanna Patterson was the kind of woman who could make him leave the past behind. But how would he ever convince this reclusive spinster to open up her heart to him and his boys?
It seemed to Johanna that she had always been alone. Until the day that Tate Montgomery turned up at her farm with a ready-made family, and an offer that would change her life forever.

Comment: I was recommended this book by a friend. We both like stories with the marriage of convenience trope and in an historical setting, this plot device is often even more interesting to follow.

Johanna Patterson is a young woman who is doing her best to work her parents' farm, now hers since her father died, but her days are beyond busy and sometimes she can't do it all. That is how Tate Montgomery comes in to the picture, they are introduced by the pastor, since Tate and two sons need a place to live, and they could help Johanna.
She is apprehensive, for she has a secret and she feels Tate would take over, but she is willing to adapt, not only because she needs help, but because she becomes fond of his boys.
Tate wants to set up roots and have a steady life for his family. He didn't think Johanna would be as hardworking and beautiful as she ends up being, but he does agree with a marriage of convenience...but he can't help dreaming she might change her mind...

This 1997 title was part of an harlequin line, which means the story line does follow a certain pattern. This is even more obvious if the reader is used to these type of harlequin books, and I found that there were elements that were so glaring and part of a formula that I could not ignore it and enjoy the story more.

Johanna is a likable heroine, who has dealt with many disappointments, namely a failed relationship and the lack of affection from her father. This, however, did not change her optimist personality and her independent ways, which is why she is determined to do her farm's work on her own. The problem is that there is a lot of physical tasks and while she can do them, she can't do them all at the best time, ending each day very tired.

A solution comes in the person of Tate Montgomery, a man who wants to have his own place and offer a steady and quiet life to his sons. Their mother died and marrying again was not in his plans, but Johanna's farm seems the ideal place to settle down, not only because is has been taken care of well enough and proves to be reliable, but also because it would mean he could have his own land now, as well as implementing ideas to increase profit and a better life for everyone.

I mean, I have to say that on paper it makes sense for these two to marry, and since this is an historical, women didn't have as many rights, so a man would have it easier in terms of finance decisions and such, and Johanna simply could not afford to pay Tate, so joining her land, and his money would be a smart decision, but I just could not avoid thinking that while Tate needed land and didn't have enough to buy it even if she wanted to sell, it rubbed me the wrong way how he basically assumed he would take over. It doesn't matter they agreed on respective roles, it was still a better deal for him.

I know this was a certainly common situation for the time, but I kept thinking poor Johanna, having to let go of independence and her way because of stuff. Of course, if the story had developed in a very romantic and sweet and touching way, as if two souls were coming together like in other similar books I've read (I'm thinking Morning Glory, although it has a different plot), perhaps I'd have appreciated it more, but the reality is that, for me, I was more focused on the not so great way they were falling in love.

It is expected they would, obviously, and some scenes are interesting and emotional but I have to be honest and say I didn't feel this was accomplished the best way. I think there was too much a sense of condescension from Tate's side in relation to Johanna, especially when it came to decisions he felt were correct, and might be so, but I feel the marriage wasn't demonstrated to be as equal and balanced as I'd have wished. Perhaps real life was this way, but since this is a romance, I expected more "magic" for them as a couple.

The romantic relationship progressed as one would imagine, but even in this I missed a more sentimental way of developing things. I felt this was too...clearly a formula the author had to insert on the page and I don't think it was as special or memorable as it could. 
There are also some conflicts to go through, a very obvious antagonist to their romance which I feel was rather contrived in why it was so, and some secondary characters are no more than props. The children are relatively interesting because they aren't meant to be portrayed as only little angels or fiends, but I wasn't left with that much of an impression about them.

All in all, this was an OK read, satisfying enough considering the theme and the historical setting, but I won't think of it beyond average.
Grade: 6/10


  1. "Perhaps real life was this way, but since this is a romance, I expected more 'magic'"

    YES. This is exactly it. I don't want them to settle for the relationship because "well, that's life, let us get on with it", I want the relationship to grow between them in a way that shows they choose to be there--even if they started with a marriage of convenience.

    And oh boy, yet, the similarities with Morning Glory are very much there; I have a feeling the setup was shared by a number of romances across different 'lines' and settings, for a few years there; it was less common for a few years, but given everything going on in the world, I would not be shocked to see a resurgence.

    1. What a cliché to say that cliches work for a reason lol
      But in a way, that is where an author can shine or impress a reader more than another one, because the way a used plot/premise can still feel special when it's about those characters.
      Each book should be worth it on its own, but the truth is my mind immediately went to Morning Glory, and I did like that one a lot more. The relationship was developed in a much sweeter, romantic, special way (to me).

    2. I often say that "it's all in the execution", because a dozen authors can grab the same basic premise, and write entirely different books--some good, some bad, some glorious.

      In the case of this premise, Morning Glory is, for me, the gold standard. (One of my earliest "viral" reviews was for that book, in fact)

      Morning Glory review