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A Hearing Heart by Bonnie Dee

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Hearing Heart

Bonnie Dee
Historical Romance/Erotica
Published in 2009

H/h - Jim Kinney/Catherine Johnson
Setting: Broughton, Nebraska, 1901.

Read in Aug, 2011.
My rating:

                                           [spoiler alert]

Oh my! Another winner from Bonnie Dee and another hero I just wanna hug and kiss, want to hold close to my heart. A deaf-mute hero, I’ve never read about one before. Social inequality, I did but both together? I was interested to see how BD handles such a premise and she did so well, can’t explain. It was a sweet read overall but not saccharine sweet. There was no reason for it to be saccharine sweet because as I read on about Jim’s hard life and the unfairness of life in general... Let’s just say there were moments and scenes in the book simply brought tears to my eyes.

Catherine is from NY but this small town of Nebraska, Broughton is nothing like where she used to live. She is here as a teacher; teaches the children and stays with the families, sometimes helping them with chores and so on. She lost her fiancé, a Navy officer, in the Maine ship blast incident. Life has been bleak, she’s been lost, even thought it’s been around three years. Her parents didn’t want her to do this job, as I understood she’s from a well-off family, even studied in university. But, Catherine needed some change, something new to make her forget the heartaches life brought her. Here in Broughton, life has been good so far. The family she’s living with now is of one of her pupils, the McPhersons. They’re a small farmer family, Catherine has no complaint so far but she’s looking forward to her next stay with the Albrights. Anyway, she was just going home from grocery shopping when suddenly she saw some men dragging another man out of the inn. Catherine is appalled. Then she recognizes the man, Jim, who is deaf-mute and a simpleton. For a moment, their eyes locked and instantly Catherine knew Jim is not a simpleton; those eyes are of an intelligent person. She starts screaming for help but the bullies keep beating him and then, one of the guys, the leader, starts dragging him. A desperate Catherine throws herself in front of the horse to stop it. Then Deputy Scott, comes in and takes matter in hand. By that time, Jim was unconscious. Catherine follows the men who help taking him in his small, sparse room behind the livery.

It was great to read things from Jim’s POV. He was NO simpleton, which he proved very soon. Jim’s life, as any unfortunate with a handicap, has been unkind and sad. He’s young, still a lonely man. He doesn’t make much money from him two jobs; in the livery of Mr. Rasmussen’s and the Crystal inn of Mr. Murdoch’s as a cleaner. Poor guy didn’t even make enough money to pay for a whore. But one of the barmaids in the Crystal did him a little ‘favor’ the other night, he was engrossed in that thought which led him to this recent debacle. As he can’t hear, he didn’t know those men called him to bring in their drinks. As I read along, I found out this kind of treatment is nothing new to Jim, people either ignore him, take pity on him or be really cruel. Jim has been in Broughton for about 8 yrs. after his mother died here. He was quite young then. His life, needless to say, has been a silent war. People don’t understand him, most of them certainly don’t think he’s worthy of anything better in life. What prospect does a deaf-mute stable boy has in this world? This is a question, in various forms and shapes came to haunt Catherine in the later parts of the book. And then, he saw the new school teacher, a beautiful woman and so out of his reach. So far, she’s been just another beautiful thing to admire from afar to him. But, now that she’s in his room, Jim couldn’t be happier! He’s in heaven at the moment.

Thus they were introduced. Catherine certainly never looked at Jim, albeit knowing him. But, the 2nd day, she can’t help but go to him, telling herself she only wants to know how he’s doing. She finds out Jim is more than intelligent, though his education is lacking. You can guess, he doesn’t know how to communicate, doesn’t know how to write. He can read lips but only when people are speaking to him slowly. Knows the basic alphabets but not all of them. Since I’ve never interacted with a deaf-mute person, it was tough for me to understand; his outlook on life around him. I feel guilty as I say that I’ve never thought from a deaf-mute’s POV and can’t imagine not hearing a thing or expressing myself eloquently. Which is why, the more I got to know about Jim, the more I felt sad, sometimes angry about the harsh realities of life. Catherine decides to give him lessons and contact her aunt in NY to send a sign book for the deaf-mute. But, Jim is very good with numbers. Mr. Rasmussen apparently taught him this much but of course for him own purpose. Jim is a hard worker overall, I mean it doesn’t really express much when I say the word ‘hard worker’ as I read on about his underpaid jobs, his humongous work loads, how he’d do more works to earn extra money because he’d been saving for a better life; someday, someway he’d get out and pursue his dreams. One of his dreams was a share of Mr. Rasmussen’s business, which he could never express to him, because of the lack of enough money and his obvious shortcomings.

Anyway, while showing him words and pronouncing them, Catherine let Jim touch her lips and throat. Jim is totally fascinated by her blonde beauty and friendly demeanor. Then, Catherine asks Jim’s bosses to give him an hour or so to come to the school for his lessons. Catherine knew she can’t teach him in his room and it’s not entirely because of the lack of chaperone but the fact that she’s very attracted to him. She doesn’t know how or why this happened. After so many years of fending off suitors (even in Broughton), how come Jim got into her? He looks like an Indian or someone from the Mediterranean, with his dark good looks and raven black hair. It’s like she’s driven to help him out, someway some how. I loved their lessons; some of them were funny with meaningful stares and smiles. Catherine is trying hard to fight their mutual attractions. Jim also knew this is impossible. So after the incident, the inn owner asks the barmaid (who’s already done him a ‘favor’ before) to show him a ‘good time’. That night Jim loses his virginity, all the while having Catherine in his mind. Now frankly, I hate to know such stuffs about the hero of a novel. But, here BD handled the whole thing very efficiently and with hurry. Not many details, the whole thing was swift. Since I knew of Jim’s situation and he’s a man like any other, I didn’t really mind. He’s gone through so much injustice in one life that in comparison, it was nothing. The barmaid was nice herself and cared for Jim in her own way (something I got to know later on) since Jim is anything but nice and sweet himself. But that was the only time he slept with her or anyone else because Jim already wanted Catherine like no one else in this world. And, he’s had no one/nothing to call his own since his mother died so many years ago.

Catherine is annoyed with one of her unwanted suitors named Charles, who is the brother to one of her students and very well-off. He’s arrogant and a braggart. But, it’s Jim’s down-to-earth personality is what she treasures. Their lesson was going fine, sometimes having a break when Jim is working for extra money. I loved it when Catherine saw his hands, from working in the corn field for a very well-off farmer, Gunderson and rubs liniment on them. This is where they first kiss happens. Catherine was confused but enjoyed it either way, just like Jim. It was needy and sexy. I mean, it’d come back again and again, throughout the story that how much Catherine wanted him but because of her and his social stature along with his disability made her confused about what to do, even once or twice hurting Jim a lot. But, it’s their lessons that I really really enjoyed reading which started with words like ‘cat’ and ‘sat’ and progressed into ‘kiss’ and ‘dance’, just as their relationship. He even bought a second hand watch, something he never needed in his bleak life, so that he’s not late even for a moment to be with her. There is once particular scene I loved, where Catherine teaches him the sign meaning of ‘kiss’. It was too sweet for words, also showing how confident Jim grew around her. But before it, some other changes take place.

Catherine moves into the Albright house. Mrs. Albright is a society busybody, who thinks she’s the one running the community and likes to order about. She’s certainly not happy with Catherine for mixing with someone like Jim. She even discreetly asks Catherine to stop giving Jim lessons because it’s looks bad for her pupils. But, Catherine politely listened and discarded her unwarranted advises. The woman actually set her daughter Jenny to ‘chaperone’ Jim and Catherine after school. But, even though Catherine knew the society is looking at it as if she’s has taken pity on the ‘deaf-mute simpleton and doing a good work’, she never saw it as one. And, even though the society might never approve of the kind of attraction they share for each-other and take Jim into their folds, Catherine couldn’t help but appreciate the man Jim is. He is everything nice, sweet, caring (sometimes jealous when he saw Charles taking Catherine on a buggy ride or the deputy Scott vying for her attentions) who can make occasional jokes in his own way. He’s a hard worker and very intelligent, if their lessons are any indication. She loves teaching him and has a dream that one day he would communicate with everyone and express himself properly. Jim’s POV truly shows us how frustrating it is to not have the power of speech and explain the simplest things to people who have no clue as to what you’re saying, just take you for granted and ignore you. It’s ten times worse when you’re every bit as intelligent, maybe even more so than them. Sometimes it’s a blessing but most of the times, it’s painfully difficult to swallow.

In the meantime, they have a picnic somewhere in the prairie. It was supposed to be Jenny (who’s also interested in the sign language, to Jim’s utter frustration), her boyfriend Ned with Jim and Catherine. But Jenny’s snotty mother (God knows what would make the woman happy) forbids her to go with them, mainly because of Jim. But when Catherine goes to the stables with the news, Jim was already ready with the buggy and food he purchased the other day with his meager income. Oh, he was so looking forward to the ride, even though they won’t be alone but anything to be with her! Catherine knew she’d hurt him with a ‘no’ but on Jim’s persistence gives in. And, wow, didn’t they have a wonderful time together, with touching and kissing? I loved  it, how eager Jim was just to hold Catherine close, however it was possible and perhaps, to make love to her even though it seems like a dream at the moment. But it was, again, marred by Catherine’s confusion and Lord, I hated it then even knowing it’s logical she’s got to be confused and a little scared of their situations.
“I’m sorry. No.” Her mouth continued to move, too fast, pouring out a stream of
explanation and apology.
Jim didn’t need to understand all the words. “Sorry, sorry, sorry, but no,” they all said.

And, he said ILU to Catherine, knowing there’s no confusion in him about her.

Jim made friends with Gunderson’s simple headed son Dean. It started out as Dean being a bully to Jim but soon the man decided Jim’s his friend. Jim helped him with his lame horse when Dean asked for it. And, then there is this man named Karak who’s buying out every small farmer in the area with his money. The man’s undeniably very rich. It’s his bullyboys who attacked Jim in the first scene but the man bribed the corrupted sheriff and got them out. And now the man has taken an interest in Jim, as Mr. Murdoch one day introduces them. Jim still had his dreams about being someone of means to make himself worthy of Catherine so he gathered his courage and presented his plans and savings (the way he does, with picture drawn and pointing) to Mr. Rasmussen about a share of his business. But Mr. Rasmussen let him down, saying he’s going to sell his business here soon and move onto somewhere else which doesn’t give Jim enough time to make the money he hoped he’ll make and pay him later on. And, the scene afterwards, a very broken down, frustrated and angry Jim in his little room was so painful to read that I cried. His dream of being someone of status just came crashing down and it’s not his fault at all. He cried and raged in his silent voice, threw things around the room but finally, he had a plan. He’d go to Karak, who’d already promised him some job and a good pay.

Jim starts his new job the next day. He’d leave the old ones soon but Mr. Rasmussen asked him to stick around and do some of the chores as long as he doesn’t hire a new employee. He can also use his room. Jim knew other than Sunday, he won’t be able to continue his lesson now. Oh, talk about work overload and Jim did them without a single complaint, all the while focused on his dream. Karak’s job isn’t anything he can’t do and the pay’s good but Jim has this feeling that this might not bode well for him. Meanwhile, the McPherson firm caught on fire with the family losing it all. The whole community came together to help them out with food, money and clothes; the Albrights took the family in for shelter. The suspicion grew that Karak is behind this. Catherine knew that Karak’s bullyboys have already been to the McPherson, who denied selling his grains to them for an unfair price.

Now how would Jim tell Catherine about his feelings and the fact that he can’t see her all the days? He decides to write a note to her...
There were many things he had to tell her, but what he really needed to say was simple. “I’ve missed you so much and ache to see you again. Every moment of the day no matter what else I’m doing you’re in my thoughts. I want to … need to see you again. Please come to me.”
Pressing pencil to paper, he wrote. “See me. 7. Jim.” He thought a moment and
added “Livery Stable” just as it was printed on the sign above the door of the building.
Folding the paper, he wrote “Miss Johnson” on the outside.

Before the fire, the buzz about the society dance party was around. Deputy Scott asks Catherine out, which she politely refused but assures him that she’ll save a dance for him. Jim sees them, as he was coming for his lesson, and oh boy, he’s fuming! Jim has his own plan about the night. But, now he’s getting ready for Catherine’s visit. When he was thinking about her, she steps inside the stable, which tells him she’s got his message. Ah, there are so many things I’d like to quote but alas, the space’s limited!
“Hello,” she signed. “How are you?”
Bone tired. Excited. Worried. Hungry for you. “Good,” he signed. “You?”
“Good.” She stood a moment longer. Their gazes locked together in a potent
exchange that communicated more powerfully than words or hand signs. Raw desire
surged in him and there was an answering hunger in her eyes.

*sigh*

And they kissed, a raw needy kiss of two lovers missing each-other. Very sadly, Deputy Scott picked that time to come to the stable to talk to Jim about the McPherson fire. Catherine is flushed and very worried. How much has he seen? He doesn’t want to talk about it but she requests him to keep it to himself. I hated that the whole thing seemed like a thief (Jim) stealing something valuable, the way Catherine was conflicted in her feelings for him. Gotta tell you, I tried and tried but at times, I was angry seeing this more than once throughout the story. Poor darling, it was worse because he understood why she’s acting like this. Still it hurt him and it hurt me too. I wish she’d make up her mind. And then she did something left me so pissy, I wanted to kill her for it! Sad, because I actually admired Catherine for what she was doing for Jim. Jim was working extra for Karak too, and he knew this has to do with something illegal. The guy asked for his silence (without any pun intended) and paid him really good.

Jim bought a suit and was so hoping for a great time with Catherine in the dance. When he goes there, Catherine ignores him, OUTRIGHT! I was so pissed, felt like she was squeezing my heart painfully too, just like Jim’s. Oh God! She was scared what people would think and after everything they’d shared, still ignored him. Poor poor darling went through such lengths to be with her yet he was still alone and unhappy, waiting for her to acknowledge him. But she never did and he leaves. Yet, soon she felt very guilty and was on her way to the stables. Karak’s bullyboys attack her. Jim was drowning out his pain in a drink with Dean as his companion when he saw it and saves her. The men beat him again but because of Dean’s interference and Catherine’s screams, others came out to help them. Catherine later that night realized there’s no way she can hold out anymore for she understood the length he’d gone to make her happy. The next day, the unexpected visit from Catherine made Jim’s day. It was sweeter because after a bout of kissing, she him to make love to her. They do that in the hayloft. Ah, this sure made all of Jim’s hurts go away. They say goodbye saying ILU to each other but Jim knew hers isn’t entirely unconditional. Ah, really... What can I say? :(

In Karak’s mill, Jim very carefully investigates the crates he has to carry while on his ‘secret’ extra work. All the crates had ‘U.S’ marked upon them and Jim didn’t know the meaning but it was apparent that those are illegal things, which included guns. Jim also, very coincidentally and from lip reading knew Karak’s bullyboys had something to do with the McPhersons fire but told no one. After their assault on Catherine, those men were in jail, Karak couldn’t get them out so he had them killed. Scott suspects Jim and arrests him. Catherine didn’t know of it until the next day, when Jim’s spent a scary night in one of the cells where the murder took place. Catherine was so angry with Scott but later they all talk, where Jim showed them what he knew about Karak’s business. Scott decides to take a look himself and let’s Jim go. After that it was action packed, with Jim and Scott playing the hero. Catherine went out to wire the Marshalls, leaving Jim at the Albrights. She came back and heard what’s happening. She gets to know the barmaid and they talk, mostly of Jim. It was a very meaningful scene and I mean it in a good way. When Jim and Scott are rescued by the men of the town, Catherine runs to him and kisses him in front of everyone, crying all the while. Jim thought, maybe it was because of the kiss. But he soon understands she doesn’t care anymore because Catherine understood she can’t go through the pain of losing another love of her life.

Months pass by but Jim and Catherine, though act as a couple, stays respectable. Catherine finally introduces him to her parents, who came for a visit. They soon marry and were on their way to NY. Jim now has a prospect in his life, a school to attend to and a life with Catherine. It ends in the train, after their marriage. I wished for an epilogue and a little glimpse of their life in NY. Anyway, without it the book stole my heart; so did Jim. I was so glad that he’s finally got the life he dreamt of but never thought was possible for him. I also loved the title of this book, so appropriate and beautiful! This book is a 5 star without a doubt.

More Favorite Quotes, couldn’t help it:
Catherine glimpsed him again, leaning against the wall, arms folded. People passed back and forth between them, but she caught flashes of his face. His expression was tense and unhappy and his eyes still focused on her.
She ducked behind a large man to hide and chatted with various people to keep the distance of a room between them. She’d known Jim would probably be here tonight and she’d planned to greet him politely as a teacher would treat a student since everyone knew she was tutoring him anyway. But that smoldering look he’d given her had changed everything. The way he looked and the way she felt, surely if they got within a foot of each other the entire town would see the combustible attraction between them as if they’d shouted it aloud. No. Better to accept a dance with some white-bearded farmer who would swing her around hard enough to tear her bodice seam. Better to help Mrs. Hildebrandt cut one of the cakes at the refreshment table and gush over Polly Flint’s new baby or spend a moment in the coatroom fixing Jennie’s straggling curls. Better to chat or dance with every member of the Broughton community than admit to the fact that Jim was standing solitary and friendless in his brand new suit, waiting for her to acknowledge him At one point it seemed he might approach her as he moved through the crowd in her direction. But when Catherine flitted away, putting more distance between them, he stopped and stationed himself by the wall once more, leaving it up to her to come to him.
To her infinite shame, she didn’t—not even to say a quick “hello,” and when she next stole a surreptitious glance toward him, he was gone. She scanned the room. He’d left the building. She had no idea how long he’d been gone.

When he finally broke off the kiss and moved his lips to her neck, then her breast
again, sucking her nipples back to hard peaks, Catherine broke from her trance.
“No. I really must go. We haven’t time to do this again.” She pushed against his
restraining hands and wiggled beneath his body. “Let me up now.”
He pulled away from her neck and looked up, his eyes as poignant as a spoken plea.
Her heart wrenched and she wished she could spend the rest of the day with him, making
love in their secret nest in the loft.
She sighed. “Don’t give me puppy dog eyes. I’ve got to go.”

All of a sudden, she was there, breaking away from the little group of women and running toward him. She raced across the space between them and threw her arms around his neck. The force of her body knocked him back a few steps as she wrapped around him like a trumpet vine on a cornstalk.
He regained his footing and snaked his arms around her, holding her close. His
exhaustion disappeared in a moment, erased by the incredible fact that Catherine was in his arms right here on the street in front of half the town, lifting her face to kiss him. He
couldn’t refuse her offer and bent his head to cover her soft lips with his. The heat and pressure of her mouth took away all the residual anxiety and fear still floating in him and filled him with wild elation instead.
After several long minutes of feasting on her mouth like a starving man, he pulled away and his eyes opened. Her tear-streaked face filled his vision. His stomach dropped.
Why was she crying? What had happened to her?
He was aware of the crowd of people around them. Glancing up, he saw many eyes focused on him and Catherine, mouths talking, expressions of surprise and shock. He let go of her and stepped back, although it was far too late to protect her reputation.
Catherine cupped his face, drawing his attention back to her, and her lips were
moving. “…don’t you? Never again!” She frowned and signed as she spoke. “Never!
Understand? I love you.” Her graceful hands made the love sign, which looked as though she was offering her heart to him.
At last Jim realized she was upset with him for putting himself in danger. If he’d doubted that she cared, those doubts evaporated under the force of her fury. He nodded and promised.

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Punya
I'm a simple girl. I love to read in my spare time and do reviews the books I read. I also write, mostly songs/poems, though I'm not published. I love music and traveling. Sometimes, I wish I could live inside a book, having my own HEA. :)
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