Annie Trimble is a sweet, lovely young woman who has lived in silence since a childhood fever robbed her of her hearing. Her condition was misunderstood as either a mental deficiency or mental illness by everyone around her including her parents. Blinded by their own fears, Annie's parents see her as something of an inconvenience, a dirty little secret which if revealed could jeopardize her father's political ambition. She is allowed to run freely around the local woods, one of the few sources of solace in her otherwise rigid life. Annie had been the object of much teasing and ridicule around town, but no one ever tried to harm her until one day, the drunken town hellion did the unthinkable.
Alex Montgomery is a kind, gentle rancher who has made his fortune breeding thoroughbred horses. He generally leads a quiet life except for constantly bailing his younger half brother out of scrapes. Alex is shocked and disgusted to learn that his brother has forced himself on sweet little Annie, the girl everyone believes to be the town “moron”. Alex has felt responsible for his brother and has raised him since their parents died years earlier, but nevertheless tells him to get out of his house and never come back. Alex desperately wants to have children, but believes himself to be sterile since a bout with mumps. He has sworn never to marry, because the thought of not being able to have children of his own is too painful.
Annie's parents discover that she is pregnant as a result of the rape. They want to send her away until the baby is born, and then place the baby in an orphanage. Alex, who had offered his help from the start, can't bear the thought of his niece or nephew being raised in such a way, and he also sees it as an opportunity to have a close relative to be his heir. He proposes that he marry Annie and claim the child as his own. He intends to divorce her and return her to her parents after the baby is born, so that they can continue to care for her as they always have. Annie's parents very reluctantly agree to the arrangement, and they are hastily wed. The more Alex gets to know Annie's parents, the more he realizes that she has not been the cherished daughter everyone thinks she is. The more time Alex spends with Annie, the more he realizes that she is far more intelligent than everyone believes. It doesn't take long before Alex discovers that Annie is deaf and not mentally impaired. He begins to fall in love with her and knows in his heart that he cannot ever send her back to her parents. The road will not be an easy one though, for Annie greatly fears that Alex will hurt her as his brother or her parents have done in the past. With tender care and compassion, Alex sets about to gain Annie's trust, gently court her in the most unique and creative ways, and completely change her life by giving her all the things she has never had. Their journey becomes one of laughter and tears, romance and passion, while working to overcome the emotional wounds in both of their pasts.
After reading the synopsis for Annie's Song, I wondered how an author might write a mute character and keep the story interesting without the usual use of dialog. In the case of Catherine Anderson, the answer is, quite simply, incredibly well. Annie is probably the sweetest, most guileless heroine I have ever read. She is full of childlike innocence and takes joy in the simple things in life. Ms. Anderson gives readers a lovely picture of how Annie views everything around her through her thoughts and expressions until she eventually learns to communicate. I loved watching Annie grow from a languishing, childlike state to absolutely blossoming into a mature lovely young woman under Alex's tender care. She brings so much joy and life to Alex's previously lonely existence.
Alex is a wonderful beta-type hero who is strong and protective of Annie and the baby, but at the same time is gentle, sensitive, loving and compassionate. He is incredibly intuitive of Annie's needs and always tries to see things from her point of view and think of her first. I also loved the fact that Alex exercises a great deal of self-control over his lustful inclinations toward her, and when the love scenes finally do happen they are very tender yet thoroughly sensual. Alex isn't perfect though. He does make some mistakes every now and then, but the important thing is that he always learns something from them. Alex also harbors conflicting emotions toward his brother in spite of the heinous things he's done. I thought these qualities made Alex all the more real and brought out his humanity in a way that I loved. I've always been a fan of imperfect heroes, and Alex is one, but in a different sort of way than most other imperfect heroes I've read. I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that these two characters are completely honest with each other. There are no lies or secrets between them, and when misunderstandings and conflicts arise they actually communicate in spite of the fact that one character is deaf and mute. What a novel idea! ;-)
Annie's Song is by far one of the best books I have ever read. The story is unique and so exquisitely rendered as to be at once both heart wrenching and heartwarming. There were some passages that brought tears to my eyes and others that made me laugh. The characterizations are beautifully drawn giving the reader deep insights into the lives of the hero and heroine as well as everyone around them. The characters' emotions are brought to life so vividly that the reader can feel all their pain and fears as well as their joy and happiness. The plotting of the story is very tight, with the author even presenting plausible and realistic reasons for why Annie's parents never had her medically examined even though they were obviously financially well-off enough to do so.
This is a slow, sweet love story in which most of the conflict is of an emotional nature, but the narrative maintains a steady pace throughout. The author explores the social issues of historical attitudes toward people with disabilities, especially those of a mental nature, as well as physical and emotional abuse of a child and recovery from rape. I felt that these issues were dealt with very sensitively, but readers who are easily bothered by such topics should know that they are really the driving force behind the plot. In my opinion, the story was absolutely wonderful, an expression of true love in it's purest form with two people unselfishly giving of themselves to each other. This is the first book I had read by Catherine Anderson, but I will definitely be seeking out others by her in the future. I cannot recommend Annie's Song highly enough, and it has certainly earned a place on my keeper shelf.
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