In this beautifully repackaged classic from "New York Times" bestselling author Catherine Anderson, a woman must confront the pain of her past and rekindle her love with the one man she ever truly loved.
Having recently been granted custody of his 4-year-old son Zachary, 31-year-old Joe Lakota moves back to his hometown in Oregon to raise him. After ten years, he is still and will always be in love with Marilee Nelson. All of their lives--clear up until she broke off their engagement ten years past--the couple had been best friends, inseparable from the time she was five and he was eight. It doesn't take Joe long to figure out that his boyhood sweetheart had lied about leaving him for another man, nor does it take him long to figure out her secret, or at least, a fundamental part of it. The problem for Joe now is figuring out how to get through to Marilee and pick up where they left off ten years ago.
Marilee never stopped loving Joe, but she doesn't feel any more able to confide in him at age 28 than she had at age 18. There were valid reasons why Marilee kept her secret and as far as she can tell, those reasons haven't changed. But Joe won't give up on her or the love they have shared all of these years. When Joe's ex-wife (who was abusive to their son) petitions to regain custody, Joe asks Marilee to help him in the courts by marrying him. Marilee realizes she has been handed a second chance at happiness with Joe, but will she find the courage to take it?
The irony of Seventh Heaven is that for the first half of the novel Marilee comes across as a cliche "wilting flower" heroine...not a personal favorite of mine. Marilee's reaction to her secret feels out of proportion to the secret itself, not in terms of the intensity of her reaction, but in terms of the duration (ten years) of it. But then in the second half, the reader learns alongside the hero that even if we might have thought we knew the extent of Marilee's secret, we didn't really have a clue as to how gruesome and appalling it truly is. At this point in the book, Marilee seems more like a warrior than a wilting flower. She only gets better and better as she allows herself to get in touch with her anger and emotions for the first time in ten years.
There are a couple of spots in the novel's first half where the pace of the book slows down a bit, though not so much as to bore you. The last half of Seventh Heaven is extremely fast-paced and more than compensates for any lagging moments experienced in the first half. As the reader learns more and more of Marilee's secret, and then again when a murder and an indictment come into play, it becomes next to impossible to put this book down.
-full review originally published in The Romance Reader
-see profile for breakdown of sexual content ratings
The main characters of this book, Joe Lakota and Marilee Nelson, reminded me of Ace Keegan and Caitlin O'Shannessy, the main characters in Anderson's historical novel, Keegan's Lady. Joe, like Ace, is the epitome of the alpha male: strong, dominating, quick-tempered, and protective of his dependents. Marilee, like Caitlin, struggles with the trauma of her past. Two very human individuals with imperfections that make their story all the more believable.
High school sweethearts ten years before, Joe, a famous professional football player, and Marilee, an agoraphobic children's book writer/author, struggle to find their way back together. After a bitter divorce, he's returned to his small hometown of Laurel Creek, Oregon, with his son Zachary, who needs care for his PTSD. Circumstances develop that lead Joe and Marilee into a marriage of convenience to save Zachary from being returned to the custody of Joe's abusive ex-wife.
Joe immediately sees a similar behavior pattern in his son and new wife, Marilee -- both use psychological barriers to keep the world away. Patiently Joe nurtures them.
When Joe is arrested for murdering one of the men who raped Marilee ten years before, she must conquer her phobia to prove his innocent.
Catherine Anderson weaves together secrets, mystery, and real world issues with tender romance and justice in an unfair world through compelling characters that draw you into their world. As you read 7th Heaven, you'll experience a roller coaster ride of emotions and a deep sense of rightness at the healing power of love.
A touching love story that will stay with you long after the final page.
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