Annabelle Jordan gave birth to both of her daughters out of wedlock and has been raising them alone in the home of her aunt and uncle who have been passing them off as their wards. After her uncle's church community finds out the truth and ostracizes her, Annabelle realizes that she must do something for the sake of her girls. In a last ditch effort to give them a name and some respectability, she hopes to force their soldier father to make good on his previous offers of marriage. To that end, she boards a train with her youngest daughter, bound for Kansas, where her girls' father is stationed. On the way there, a severe thunderstorm downs a tree on the track causing the trail to derail. Annabelle and her little girl are rescued from the wreckage by the handsome officer who had been seated across the aisle from them.
Major Carlton Radcliffe had been looking for Annabelle, but didn't expect to find her on this train. When she regains consciousness from her injuries sustained in the accident, he must speak with her right away. Carlton hates to be the bearer of bad news, but some calamity has befallen her soldier friend. Once Annabelle learns the truth, she has little choice but to head back east again, but to where she has no idea. Carlton is headed that way himself to accept a new post teaching at West Point, so he offers to act as her escort. Along the way, the pair find themselves becoming more and more attracted to one another, but because of her past, Annabelle doesn't think she would be a suitable wife for anyone. Carlton doesn't mind, as he's made some mistakes of his own that placed him a situation that he must rectify, and soon. Annabelle mistakenly believes that Carlton is married, and has no intention of getting herself involved in another questionable relationship, but will she learn the truth about him before it's too late?
I have to give author, Shirley Kiger Connolly credit for attempting to tackle the topical issue of single motherhood out of wedlock in her new inspirational romance, Say Goodbye to Yesterday. This is a problem that would have been dicey at best in a contemporary, but especially eyebrow raising for a historical. However, because of that historical context, I felt that she left two big questions unanswered. The first would be how Annabelle managed to get pregnant not once, but twice, without being married. In spite of being an orphan, she was a proper lady from a well-off family, and as such, would probably have been chaperoned everywhere she went, making it very difficult to be alone with a man. Not to mention, ladies in that era simply tended to be more cautious about such things as their reputation being ruined. The author never elaborated on how Annabelle even met her girls' father, much less her state of mind the two times she got pregnant. When we meet her in the story, she doesn't even really like the guy, much less love him, and what little we see of him, he's not a nice person. Now, in spite of the lack of details, I'm willing accept that occasionally, even a gently bred lady could make a mistake and find herself pregnant out of wedlock, but then that brings me to my next big question: In those days, when this happened, the woman's family would typically insist upon a shotgun wedding to save the lady's reputation, but in this case, Annabelle's family did the exact opposite, which was to forbid her from ever seeing him again. If more explanation of these things had been given, I probably could have bought into the premise, but as is, I felt like there were a couple of really big holes.
Unfortunately, these weren't the only details that were missing. Throughout most of the story, I couldn't seem to shake the strong sense of wanting to know more, and sometimes felt outright lost. It was like the author kept jumping ahead of herself and then not coming back to fill in the blanks. I just didn't feel like I had the complete picture of what was going on which could be very frustrating at times. I got the sense that she could see what was happening in her mind's eye, but just didn't express it in the written word as clearly as she could have. The editing could have been much better too. As I already mentioned, there were some passages that needed to be bulked up with more details, while there were others that needed to be pared down to make them cleaner, more concise and less repetitive (the characters were doing so much "swinging," "spinning," "curving," and "twisting" I was starting to get dizzy;-)). The characters also had an annoying habit of not finishing their sentences. Additionally, I found several anachronistic words and phrases, such as "invading your space" and a character using the term "viral illness" when at that time, the idea of germs causing illnesses was nothing more than a theory and viruses weren't even discovered until twenty years later.
Even though I was left with a lot of questions about them and thought their characterizations could have been much deeper, I did like Carlton and Annabelle pretty well. Carlton was a career soldier who had earned a great deal of respect and worked his way up through the ranks to teach at West Point. He was very kind and chivalrous, always ready to lend a hand when Annabelle was in trouble. Carlton obviously adored children. He is completely taken with little Geraldine and interacts with her wonderfully right from the start, and he loved his own unborn child enough to go after him when it was clear that the mother didn't want him. Carlton was just an all-around nice guy who certainly didn't deserve what his wife did to him. I have to admire Annabelle on some level for weathering through single motherhood, and the stigma attached to it, fairly well. I could relate to her crisis of faith, but in my opinion, it was overcome too easily. As with other things in the story, I would have loved to know more about this aspect of her life. In my opinion, it would have made her a more real and vibrant character. The only thing about Annabelle that kind of irritated me was that she, in my mind, kept getting unjustifiably annoyed, if not outright angry with Carlton for helping her which I simply didn't get. I thought that Carlton and Annabelle's romance could have used a little more pizazz too. They're apart for large swaths of time, and during the first ¾ or so of the book, when they are together, what passes for romance is merely a strong physical attraction and a few lustful looks here and there. Later in the story, they shared a couple of tender moments which I enjoyed, but then a silly misunderstanding about Carlton's marital status kept them apart longer than necessary to my way of thinking.
That brings me to what, in my opinion, was the very best part of the book, Annabelle's little daughter, Geraldine. I've noticed that it can be difficult for authors to get child characters just right, and I can say without reservation that Ms. Connolly has the knack with getting them to "behave." Geraldine definitely acts like the six-year-old she is rather than a miniature adult, and her breezy innocence and sunny personality is positively infectious. I really enjoyed reading her scenes.
Overall, I would say that Say Goodbye to Yesterday was a reasonably good read that could have been great. It was kind of like eating a soup that is agreeable to the palate, but there just wasn't quite enough substance to it to fill me up. All the base ingredients were there to make a good story, but it simply needed more depth and dimension to both the plot and characterizations. More of those things would have made it the hearty and satisfying stew I crave in my reading material. Say Goodbye to Yesterday is the first in a planned series titled, Decisions. Even though it didn't quite wow me, I can't help being a bit curious as to whom the next book will be about. I'm thinking that Annabelle's cousin, Phillip, who already has an admirer, would make a good hero, or perhaps her older daughter, Suzanna, could be aged to make a good heroine. Either way (or if the author's choose to go a completely different direction), I might be open to trying the next book when it comes out.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
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