Sun Kissed by Catherine Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Although this isn't near my favorite book by Catherine Anderson, it was a very good. I loved Tucker and Samantha. Even though I felt that the balance was a bit off between the mystery/suspense element and the romance development, I did feel their connection and the love between them. Tucker, like most of Catherine Anderson's heroes, is just wonderful. He falls pretty hard for Samantha and does a great job of showing it, although he does something that momentarily feeds into Samantha's residual insecurities from her divorce and bad marriage. Otherwise, a girl couldn't ask for a better hero. Samantha felt true to life, and was a woman that I would admire in real life and possibly become friends with, if we traveled in the same circles. I liked that although she came from money, she was very grounded and a kind, warm person. She loved her horses very much, and it was abundantly clear.
I also loved how Ms. Anderson showed family interactions. That's always a good part of a book to see characters with loving families, although things are not always 100% perfect. Although Samantha's father and brothers were controlling and meddling in Samantha's eyes, you could clearly see that they cared about her and were trying to watch out for her. I could see how Samantha felt stifled and wanted to make her own decisions. I am the youngest daughter and I have family who think loving is telling people what decisions they can make and how to live their lives. It can be frustrating, but this book reminded me to consider that these people are showing love, perhaps in ways that may bother, but love all the same. I was actually pretty envious of Samantha having all those protective older brothers. I always wanted that. Another enjoyable aspect for me, seeing Tucker with this close-knit family. It was nice to catch up with Jake and Molly from Sweet Nothings.
I think that some readers will have issues with the significant degree of the narrative that was focused on the horse aspects. I actually enjoyed that. Although I am a surburban girl who was never around livestock until I went to college, I have become horse-mad later on in life. I think they are beautiful, fascinating animals. It broke my heart to see Samantha's horses poisoned and how they suffered from that. I can't imagine doing something like that to animals for any reason. I cried when she had to bury her horses that died. I loved the medicine aspects, finding it very interesting. With my background in animal medicine, it was sort of a no-brainer that I'd like that, but I could see the descriptions of the medical care that Tucker administered possibly being dry for some readers who are not interested in horses or medicine. I think he was an exceptional vet, really caring and devoted to doing a good job for his patients.
Although I think this could rub a non-religious person the wrong way, I actually liked that Samantha was a person of faith, and you could see evidence of that in her daily life. I think it's important to show a person of faith who does walk the walk, instead of professing something that is not evident through her behavior. I don't feel that Ms. Anderson was too heavy-handed in this book with it. I haven't read many books were the characters were devout Catholics, so that was interesting for me.
I wouldn't rate this book as a five star because of the intrigue plot being a little too much of a focus. I would have liked to see a little more romantic moments between Tucker and Samantha, although I enjoyed what was there. Also I had a little pet peeve with a small part of the story. I am hugely against declawing cats, which is the removal of the last digit of their toes. I find it cruel and unnecessary. It can be done painlessly, but it does cause residual soreness and effects on animals when it's not a crucial surgery. I think it was a little jarring for a major message of this story to be against cruelty to animals, but mention Tucker performing a procedure that I feel is not beneficial and necessary to most cats. I am not saying that a caring, conscientious veterinarian cannot perform this procedure, but my personal beliefs against declawing made it hard to swallow in a story that seemed to speak so strongly against animal cruelty. Most likely, this would not bother most readers. But, it did bother me. I mean no offense against Ms. Anderson, but it's food for thought that I felt necessary to add to this review. Most laypersons do not really understand the mechanics of this procedure, and that it's not necessary, and that was one of my things I tried to educate clients on. I learned to do this procedure, but made a decision not to do it in practice, based on my personal beliefs against it. Sorry for the PSA! This is a subject close to my heart, so I couldn't leave that out of my review.
Another issue I had was how they kept referring to one of Samantha's employee's Carrie, as mannish and homely. Her attempts to pretty herself up were made to seem clownish. That just felt mean to me. I realize this was tied in heavily to the overall story, but it seemed shallow. Not all women are going to be small, delicate, and drop-dead gorgeous. Beauty comes in all shape and sizes. It's hard for me to see people treated badly because they don't fit the popular modes of beauty. Carrie did something truly awful, and I don't let her off the hook for it. But the judgment of her shouldn't hinge on her looks or lack thereof. I wasn't quite comfortable with how that was handled, to be honest.
Despite my issues, and all in all, this was a very pleasant read, and one I will be adding to my keeper shelf with her other books. I love Catherine Anderson's stories because they are full of heart. I was glad to be able to reconnect with the Coulters and to meet the Harrigans. I look forward to reading more of the stories in this series.
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