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Wild Oats by Pamela Morsi

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Wild Oats
Wild Oats #1

Pamela Morsi
Historical Romance
Published in 1993

H/h - James Edwin "Jedwin" Sparrow/Cora Briggs
Setting: Oklahoma, 1906.

Read in Mar, 2012.
My rating:

                                                [spoiler alert]

Wild Oats was a sweet little story which started out with a scandalous proposal from a virgin to the most scandalous woman of the small-town of Dead Dog. What followed should’ve been fun, at least I was hoping for it but it wasn’t. Not all of it. I admit of loving some of the things about this book; some scenes, characters and dialogues and equally disliked some of the characters and their activities. All in all, I’ve enjoyed Wild Oats more than I initially thought I would.

Jedwin’s father was the mortician/undertaker of Dead Dog. His beautiful and ambitious mother, Amelia, married the man thrice her age mostly because she wanted out of the hog farm where she was born and raised. No love was lost between these two and the only special thing this marriage produced was James Edwin or Jedwin in short. From an early age, Jedwin was sort of a momma’s boy but mostly because he never liked what his father’s profession. As he grew up, Jedwin couldn’t really master the stomach for preparing the dead and embalming them. He knew his father was disappointed at him and it didn’t help that his shrewish mother always reminded him of it. It’s not that Amelia doesn’t love her son, it’s just in her nature to always go ‘me me and me’ all day long. I didn’t like her at all in the beginning. She really was self-centered and always pushing Jedwin to do whatever she wanted. It didn’t matter that he’s a grown man of 24. Now, Jedwin hired a man called Haywood, who is his partner, sort of, in this business. Even though Haywood is his employee, Jedwin heavily relies on him in this business. I don’t know why Jedwin was still a virgin. Being with a self-righteous, ambitious and dictatorial mother and his supposed conception of his father’s disappointment, Jedwin had this constant urge to prove himself which probably led him to this. I don’t correctly know but of late, he’s been thinking about ‘sowing some wild oats’, his mother be damned. Some words with the good-humored Haywood, who’s in his late 40’s, has given Jedwin some ideas. He can do it discreetly of course, like many man of his age do and then go off to marry some suitable lady as his mother wishes for him. But for Jedwin, no one but notorious Cora Briggs, the divorcee, will do. With this plan, he goes to Cora’s small, shabbily kept house at the very end of the town. Cora invites him in not knowing what’s on Jedwin’s mind. She knows him to be a nice, hardworking young man, who’s younger than her. But when Jedwin sort of nervously stammers out his intentions, Cora is both annoyed and disappointed and she asks him to leave rudely. Poor guy seemed equally disappointed but he’s a gentleman through and through. And then, as he was leaving, a plan pops into Cora’s mind- why not do something drastic, for which Amelia Sparrow won’t be able to show her face again in the town without shame? Jedwin is young, handsome and inexperienced according to him. Cora can do lot worse! With this plan in mind, Cora changes her demeanor suddenly with inviting looks and asks Jedwin to tea later.

Cora’s story is a bit more convoluted than Jedwin’s. Her family wasn’t financially stable to begin with and her mother died young. Cora’s father became a drunkard and lost whatever they owned. One day, as their life was getting by somehow, her father suddenly dies too. Cora was left all alone in the world. Her neighbors sent her to a Methodist home. Cora didn’t really enjoy being there and so, she was looking for a way out. The ‘way out’ came as the form and face of Luther Briggs when she was around 20. Luther proposed her very soon after they met and they marry. Cora was in seventh heaven thinking such a handsome man and obviously rich, wanted to marry her. She was daydreaming away. Cora thought she loved Luther with all her girlish infatuations and Luther said the words back. Now, I was kinda confused as to why this marriage broke apart in the first place. From Cora’s reminisce of her marriage, which survived only a year, it was certain that Luther was a kind man, quite good as a lover and attentive. But, from her first few musings, I thought she was scared of rough sex and Luther handled her bit rough or something which scared her. I don’t know but she definitely had some reservations about sex. Anyway, whatever the reasons were, Luther leaves her in that small house, never to return again. Cora’s life becomes hell. She has been living like a plague, an untouchable. No one cares for her. She lives on her own, does things on her own. Even though she doesn’t have much money since Luther left her with virtually nothing, Cora goes by. The shopkeeper, Titus, secretly buys her pies, pecans and some other homemade stuff and sells them in some other woman’s name. He doesn’t pay her well but Cora knows without this income she’ll have no respectable means left. The townspeople, especially women, talks about her as if she’s a whore. And, those were so bad! There’s no stopping their mouth; the insinuations and the foulness of their words, words Cora doesn’t deserve at all.

It all started with Amelia, the ambitious viper, who wanted to be in the good graces of the town’s ‘queen’ or owner of sorts, Maimie Briggs. This Maimie is Luther’s mother. She’s an old crone with a vile mouth, who loves to be mean to every single soul (except for her son) there living. Maimie’s so-called princess heritage (I, for the love of me, can’t remember from which country or whatever), which is a bald faced lie about which everyone knows but can’t protest, and money gives her the right to do whatever she wants. She even named the road that leads to the Briggs mansion in Luther’s name! She lives alone since Luther left, in her own big mansion. People go there once a week to pay homage to her and hear her mean words. It was simply horrible, that woman was. Luther married Cora for her and she was in Maimie’s good graces for the duration of her marriage. But, in the course of the story, we get to know that he actually married a Cherokee woman in Cherokee fashion for love and had sons with her but snotty b*tch Maimie of course won’t care for that, or anything that ‘fouls’ her princess blood. And so, she put on conditions for Luther, if he doesn’t marry a genteel woman of good background, he can kiss his inheritance goodbye. Luther desperately needed the money to take care of his family living in another town and so, he married the unsuspecting Cora. Cora kept saying that Luther was a coward but was he? I can’t be so sure. Even though he left Cora, hurt her and responsible for her way of life right now, I saw that he tried to be a husband to her but his heart was with the woman he loved. This whole mess wasn’t entirely his fault. At least, I couldn’t see him that way and straight out hate him. But I could understand Cora’s standing in all these, she was wronged, no denying that. She thought he loved her but he didn’t, as he confessed in the end. So, after the divorce, it was Maimie’s ambition to make Cora’s life hell and the stupidest woman to work for her without a qualm was Amelia. Maimie used that to the fullest, Amelia did everything to ruin Cora’s reputation to the townsfolk. They turned against her and the rest, you know by now. Cora can’t do anything about Maimie as of yet but she plans to slap Amelia.

Wild Oats (couldn’t help it! )
But, it’s always easier to said than done and Cora was sure she can’t pull it off. Although bitter, she’s never that mean. When Jedwin comes knocking through her backdoor like before, Cora tries to put him off. But Jedwin’s hopes were fueled and he won’t be denied. No, he didn’t force anything. Jedwin would never do that but he plans to put a little romance in this seduction and gets into action. He writes her dumb, yet sweet poems. He fixes her broken fence all night. He gets her flowers. He’s always nice to her no matter what and Cora, she was trying hard to put him off but she was falling for Jedwin’s charm too. They soon began talking and going to picnics, dodging the eyes of the townspeople. It was very hard but the words were spread. Who mend Cora Brigg’s fence? Where did she get the money for it? The latest was, that Rev. Bruder saw a man in Cora’s house with tools. The town goes wild with gossips.

It was also hard for Jedwin to dodge his ever present mother’s eyes. Her continuous nagging about his ‘foolish’ interest in the fields left by his maternal grandfather is pretty grating. Amelia wants Jedwin to take over the undertaker business once and for all. It doesn’t help that Jedwin has a degree on it. I have to say she was very selfish about this. She was blind to all reasons when it came to ambition. The fact that her son can’t stand the sight of the dead was embarrassing to Cora and she berates Jedwin more than once for it. Her continual visitation to Maimie and listening to her insults to be in her good grace was pathetic to say the least. Jedwin didn’t like all these but he loved his mother and never said a word against her wish so far after his father died. Then there’s Haywood, who’s always calling her in a vulgar little name ‘Mellie’, something Amelia couldn’t stand, along with the man himself. But it was Haywood who didn’t give a rat’s ass about Amelia’s ambition and her shrewish mouth. Haywood liked her just the way she was. Amelia also felt these odd feelings when Haywood was near and annoying her to death but she squelched them as best as she could. After all, what use could she have for this vulgar, mannerless man? Trust me, Haywood wasn’t. He was amazing; forthcoming, yes, a bit jaded, yes but vulgar he wasn’t. Well, maybe he was for Amelia’s standards but I found him delish. And their scenes were so much more fun for me to read than Cora and Jedwin’s. I was getting increasingly bored with Jedwin’s poems and slow seduction and Cora’s confused musings about everything when these small but fun scenes between Amelia and Haywood saved the book. He just loves to annoy her and she would sputter and stutter but couldn’t say anything back, mostly because she was in his spell too. I so wish there were more of those but I thoroughly enjoyed these two falling in love when Amelia finally realized that ambitions aren’t everything in life. There are people in this world who love her for for herself.

Then we get to see the town in general and the lives of the people. There are some characters I liked immensely. I think it was Tulsa May, daughter of Rev. Bruder, who impressed me the most. Tulsa is a plain girl, maybe in looks but not at all in her intelligence. What pained me was her ignorant mother’s treatment of her. This woman was so rude to her own daughter that you’d think she’s her stepmother or something! Tulsa is a disappointment to her parents; because she was born a girl, without any other siblings, because she is plain and because she doesn’t waste her time with things ‘genteel ladies’ spend time doing but studying philosophy and art. I adored Tulsa because she knew her parents’ disappointments (her mother never let a moment pass by without letting her know that *b*tchslaps her*!) and even though it hurt her a lot, Tulsa took it all in with a smile and her usual charms. The people in general liked this jolly girl, who despite everything can manage a smile for everyone. There were other characters too and I already talked about the ones I totally disliked.

Anyway, back to Jedwin and Cora. After some times of this faux courtship thing, Cora becomes weak. So far she kept thinking of pushing Jedwin away soon (which never came to pass) but her need for companionship, in both physical and emotional sense, overcomes all the reasons. It didn’t help that Jedwin was actually someone she definitely likes, could possibly adore; who, even after her confessions about her plan, didn’t hate her. He never treated her with anything other than respect and of course, a healthy dose of male desire, if their kisses tell her anything. So, finally one night, as Jedwin was in her house fixing something or the other, Cora asks him to come upstairs. To Jedwin, on the upstairs to this house holds heaven for him. He’s been dreaming of Cora since the day he heard about the divorce and his friends talking about their ‘town’s own whore’. Jedwin was curious but even then, he never gave Cora one foul thought. Just to assuage his curiosity, Jedwin spied on her in this same house 8 yrs. ago and thought she’s the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. I believe, this also played a role with Jedwin’s virginity. Subconsciously, he always wanted Cora but knew he can never have her respectably. He already plans to marry Tulsa May, who’s the most practical choice for him and someone he genuinely likes, when the time is right. But now, he’s stunned as Cora invites him upstairs. It doesn’t stay that way for long though, since he was more than willing. Hehe The love scenes were sweet throughout the book. Jedwin kept on working in his farm and give as much time as he could without rousing the towns’ curiosity to Cora. He has a plan for this farm and shares it all with her. For Cora, it’s like a dream come true. In her first marriage, she wanted something like this and sadly enough, now that she has this sense of happiness, she knows it can never last.

The townspeople of course start a campaign to find out who this man in Cora’s house was. So far, no one knew. They were still shredding her reputation into threads, including the old crone herself. We also see scenes between Amelia and Haywood. Haywood really likes Jedwin and having lost a young family of his own to some disease, he always thought he would’ve wanted his son to be like Jedwin if he was alive. As Amelia was venting her displeasure of Jedwin to him, Haywood resolutely supports Jedwin’s choices. He reminds Amelia of Jedwin’s loyalty to her, of how the poor fellow felt embalming his own father as no one was there to do it and also, that she should be happy to have a son like him. Amelia actually sees reason here, even though every word was like a slap. But she needed this jolting. It was a great scene all over. He even disparages Amelia’s visit to Maimie and makes her realize how that old crone is always ruining her self-confidence. Amelia still kept waving his concerns away but that doesn’t make her daydreaming about Haywood any less. In the meantime, Jedwin was trying to convince Cora to marry him, which she won’t. Cora knows it won’t be pretty for Jedwin if the words are out and she doesn’t want to hurt him or his future. It was plain to see that both were in love. Jedwin spoke the words more than once but Cora held back. She even tried to be hard on him about it. Even though I thought it was logical on her part, I still hated her for trying to hurt Jedwin’s open adoration for her. But he won’t back down from winning his lady, consequences be damned. Then Cora plans something stupid, I don’t wanna talk about it but the sole purpose was to hurt Jedwin so that he goes away. It doesn’t work since Jedwin sees through Cora’s intentions. He goes home and finds his mother in a snit. What happened here was that, a bill came to Amelia’s attention and with some clues, she linked it with the repairman of Cora’s house. To Amelia, it was another slap since she thought the man town was speculating about was surely Haywood. She was mad as a hellcat but Haywood, again, makes her see things clearly (oh he was priceless!) and now Amelia is aware of Jedwin’s affair. The mother and son have a fight over it and this is the first time, I found Jedwin standing his ground on the matter of marrying Cora and working as a farmer, leaving the mortuary to Amelia. Amelia is hurt but she also won’t give in.

I was truly enjoying these last few chapters of the book more than the rest, when things took crazy turns. In between, Diphtheria was threatening to strike for sometimes now, and it finally does. Rev. Bruder has already made some sort of peace with Cora and found out she’s not at all what other’s made her out to be. It was nice to read how he was sorry for all the injustice Cora sufferer and later, helped her in a way by talking positively about her. When diphtheria strikes, Rev. comes to discuss it with Cora, knowing she’s smart enough to help him. With her advice, and much grumble from the other women, they weather it. Tulsa was enthusiastically annoying Maimie since her own servants were ill and Tulsa was helping out. As Jedwin and Amelia was fighting, a buggy comes to the mortuary. They all go outside to find two young boys driven in the dead body of their father and their mother dead for sometimes now; both from diphtheria. As they were taking care of the body, Jedwin discovers who it is... It was Luther. The boys, one teenager and the other, much younger, are his sons. After taking care of the body and the boys, Jedwin goes to Cora to give her the news, since she’s still married to Luther… as in till death do us part. Cora now knows that finally she can marry Jedwin without any trouble. But at Maimie’s, it’s a whole different story. The old b*tch is still as cold and snotty as ever and disowns her grandsons as they have foul blood in them. It shocks Amelia just too much. Surely Maimie can’t send the boys away after all they suffered through? This makes Amelia realize how good her life is, that her son loves her and now, she has another man who loves her all the same. She, for the first time, is truly sorry for all the trouble she’d caused on behalf of Maimie, especially to Cora. Amelia leaves, giving the old woman a piece of her mind, knowing she’ll never be back again.

Rev. Bruder’s family, with much enthusiasm from Tulsa, takes the boys in for the time. The older, Luther Jr. has distinct love for mechanical things. He’s got his father’s dark good looks too. The younger, Arthel, is still too young. I felt something might form between Luther and Tulsa but I had NO IDEA that they actually have a book, Runabout. Going to read it ASAP. Meanwhile, for Wild Oats, 3.75 stars. I wish I enjoyed the first parts of the book as much as the last chapters. I thought, even though Jedwin was honest and sweet, Cora and he lacked the correct chemistry and this didn’t change really. Not even when I finished the book. Alas!

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I love to read in my spare time and do reviews the books I read. My blog Punya Reviews just turned 6 in 2017 and still going strong. I love music and traveling. Sometimes, I wish I could live inside a book, having my own HEA. :)
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