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The Lovesick Cure by Pamela Morsi

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Lovesick Cure

Pamela Morsi
Contemporary Romance
Pub date: 28 August, 2012 (ARC review)

H/h - Erwin 'Piney' Baxley Jr./Jesse Winsloe
Setting: The Ozark Mountains, Present time.

Read in Aug, 2012.
My rating:

                                                      [spoiler alert]

Reading of The Lovesick Cure was very special for me for two major reasons; one, so far, I haven’t read any of PM’s contemporaries. I picked this one because the blurb reminded me so much of Marrying Stone series, which is the reason number two. I have to admit in both regard, I’m very happy. This book was beautiful, both in characterization and in plotting, along with the narratives. But then, I know PM can deliver it all!  The Lovesick Cure Cure was a phenomenal read, along with loads of nostalgia.

If you haven’t yet read the series, I highly recommend it! Even though The Lovesick Cure can be read as a standalone, my suggestion would be that you read the first two books before delving into this one. In this story, PM takes us back to the contemporary Marrying Stone of the Ozark Mountains and let us meet the descendents of our favorite characters. WOW but I felt equally sad and happy reading about them as shadows of the past. Every time they were mentioned I couldn’t hold back a squeal of happiness and then, shedding some tears, just knowing that they aren’t here with us anymore. It’s like I traveled back and forth 100 years, looking at the lives that were lived in the same place but in a very different time. Time hadn’t changed much, or at least, the mentions of those places we’ve already visited in Marrying Stone and Simple Jess, to me, remained the same. I say descendants because the main character, Aunt Will, is the granddaughter of Meggie and Roe. Meggie’s elder brother Jesse’s wife Althea’s son from her first marriage, Paisley, married Meggie’s daughter Edith, and their first born is Wilhelmina or Will. She’ll remind you a lot of Granny Piggott. The life in the mountains taught wisdom and experiences that lived on through Will, who became Aunt Will to everyone in time. This book, to me, wasn’t an out and out Romance. This was more of a book of life stories, and the main character definitely was Aunt Will, the last Granny Woman of Yarbing and Healing of this side of the mountains. Comparing the greatness of her personality, other characters only come as secondary. Still, I admired DuJess or Jesse, who was named after our own Jesse. Erwin Jr. or Piney, the doc’s PA and our hero, was an easygoing, charming guy, who took life’s difficulties in stride and made the best out of whatever he has got. Piney is also Eben’s great grandson, so I knew he’d be at least very handsome, if not a lady killer. Well, the poor guy was sort of down on luck on the romance part but overall, he was very sweet.

As the story starts, we find Jesse heartbroken. Her fiancé of 8 yrs. and a veritable jerk, the headmaster of middle school where she was teaching earth science before she got laid off (thanks to the jerk again!), just dumped her, upped and married another woman because he suddenly thought he was ‘in love’ with her. The jerk was selfish, and manipulated Jesse to do things to make his way and reputation smooth in the community, one, was to let Jesse go from her job when the recent job cut was going on. He convinced her that she should start planning on the marriage and the kids rather than working. There are also other craps that I don’t feel like discussing but all in all, the man was a total loser. At times, from Jesse’s narratives or musings, I couldn’t believe she let herself be manipulated by this jerk for such a long time and did nothing at all when he dumped her. This made me think that Jesse was weak willed. I was so mad, I couldn’t believe that she had sex with him. I know, it’s weird and they were in a relationship but still... the man, who was only seen in the beginning for a very short time (thank God!), was just... ugh!! He was very oblivious (as per Jesse’s musing) of the kind of heartbreak he has caused to her. And Jesse thought she was in love? Eye-roll, anyone? So, to hide somewhere from the prying and pitying eyes of the people around her, Jesse was looking for a break. Her mother suggests that she visit Aunt Will in the Mountains.

Now, Jesse remembers Aunt Will but so far, she is a bit clueless about her relationship with the old woman. Once she thought she’s her grandmother’s sister, the other time... it’s just confusing. Then again, the whole mountain can be called her relatives due to the fact that people intermarried many times over the years, as Jesse finds out soon enough. Jesse’s father, McNees or Mac, who was from the mountains, passed away a long time ago when she was young. Mac is also buried in the Marrying Stone. Jesse misses him a lot and remembers visiting Aunt Will a long time ago with him. When she returns this time, things seem different. Aunt Will doesn’t live in her house anymore. It’s taken over by a woman called Marcy and her teenage, punk daughter, Camryn. Marcy, a single mother, runs a health food shop. In this shop is where Jesse begins to realize the extent of relatives she’s got all over the mountains. Everyone is either her this cousin or that. Even Camryn is her cousin. Hallelujah! Marcy then directs Jesse to high up on the mountains, to the Onery Cabin, where Aunt Will has been living for sometimes now. Onery or Henry was Meggie’s father who built this cabin. In the rough hewn cabin, Jesse finally sees Aunt Will. She’s gotten older, frailer and lives with an ugly looking (face distorted by some injury) dog called Lily June. Why she was named Lily June has a hilarious story that Aunt Will tells us in later. Anyway, Jesse is very happy to see this old woman and yet, a bit startled by her frailty. Aunt Will tells her she was expecting her and was worried about her well-being. You’ll get to see more of Aunt Will’s psychic powers all over the book, though she never acknowledged that she had any power of any sort. It remains almost as much a mystery as her own life.

Soon we meet Piney too. He has been burned by love twice, by one woman, his ex-wife. She was an addict and left him twice, just like that. Piney is a man who wears his heart on his sleeve. When he’s in love, he shows it unlike many men. His fatherhood came really early in life when he got his ex pregnant at 19. He married her, gave up his dream of being a doctor just to take care of his son when the woman left. Piney was a great father without a doubt and adorable too. Tree, his son, is now 17 (that makes Piney, like 37?). Tree is also build like a tree, at 6’ 6’’ to Piney’s own 6 plus height. He is the star of the local basketball team and hence, the heartthrob of the school he’s in. But Tree is unlike most teenagers. He’s matured for his age, a respectful boy who can amazingly tell the right from the wrong, most of the times anyway. And, OMG, he listens to his father as well. But unfortunately, that can’t be said about Camryn, his girlfriend of 4 yrs. Hmm, don’t ask but they’ve been going out since 8th grade. Eye-roll, anyone? Camryn, in one word, is self-centered. Always thinking about herself. A part of the story heavily revolves around Tree and Camryn’s relationship, alongside Jesse and Piney’s when the time came. But I think, Tree-Camryn’s relationship got the upper hand for me because of all the teenage drama, and my eye rolling with that.

Anyway, Piney wants Tree to get a sport scholarship and go out of the mountains to see more of life. Even though Piney took the PA training somewhere else, he returned to work in Marrying Stone. Going out of the mountains was his choice, as was returning to the community in time. Just like any father, Piney wants a better life for his son. He doesn’t want his dreams to shatter, like his own did. So, Piney isn’t really happy about Camryn. And he doesn’t want Tree to start having sex yet. The father and son scenes were very enjoyable as they were more like friends and talked about almost anything with each-other. But Camryn wants Tree to be bound to her, and to do that, she thinks she needs to have sex with him. There’s also the peer pressure of losing virginity. Oh, the drama! So she creates a lot of trouble for Tree, who understood his father’s points and was trying hard to abide by those, even when Camryn would throw herself at him, trying to seduce his one way or the other. At one point, I felt like slapping her because she knew this is what Piney wants. She saw Tree’s father as a barrier to their happily-ever-after. *eye-roll galore* But, in the end, what saved me was that she, and Tree, both realized that life gives you choices but it’s up to you to utilize those at your best, thanks to Aunt Will.

Yes, everyone in the whole mountain loves and respects that woman to bits. Jesse begins familiarizing herself with her surroundings and the lifestyle of a farm. She is the city bred girl but her mountain genes kicks in as she learns the ways of maintaining a farm soon enough with Aunt Will’s directions. Then there was the lovesick cure, a smelly gooey mix that was one of Aunt Will’s specialty to cure any kind of heartaches. It took me quite a while to get the scheme behind the mix and its application but I laughed when I got it. That woman was something I tell you! This is what, also, brought our H and h together. One day, they hike down the mountains and into the main community to see the doc. There’s this Egyptian doc, Doc Mo, who comes down once a week to check in on the serious cases. But most of the times, it’s Piney who handles everything around here. Aunt Will just only informs Jesse that she has an appointment with the doctor. Jesse doesn’t know what’s wrong. Then, the smell of the lovesick cure, which doesn’t go away for a long time (oh Good Lord, I can’t imagine being smelly like that lol), gets to Piney while he was making introductions. It wasn’t the best kind of introduction mind you, not at all when the woman is very attractive and you just might be interested in her, but Piney bungles through it. Sort of that is. To make it up, Piney tells her exactly why he’s also familiar with this thingy. As her checkups went on, we get to learn that Aunt Will is very ill and dying. It just makes you so sad because there was no cure for her illness. Aunt Will knew it too, but didn’t want to tell Jesse. She asks both Piney and Doc Mo to maintain the secret, citing that she doesn’t want the little time she has with Jesse to be ruined because of this. So far, Jesse was visiting for a little time, a week or two. She gets to know more people and more stories of the past from Aunt Will, where the mentions of Meggie, Jesse and the others come in. My nostalgia kicked in like no other, making me depressed at times.

Everybody around here knows that Aunt Will has been a bit notorious on her own, but because she was headstrong and strong-willed unlike many of her era. There were also mysteries surrounding her life and her work as a healing woman. But Aunt Will smiled and moved on to the next story full of memories that contains a hidden insight behind it. They knew that she’d been married twice, without any children. But she took care of MacNees as a kid. The whole thing was vague to the people of this generation. But that never mattered to the most of them. To those it did, they are all dead and gone by now. We get to see more of Tree and Camryn and their teenage angst. I already mentioned that I really liked Tree but Camryn? Not much. So when the teenager is grounded by her mom, she comes to stay with Jesse and Aunt Will and work with them. A helping hand is always welcomed in a farm.

Soon, Jesse begins to realize that Aunt Will isn’t doing very well. When her treatment of the lovesick cure (finally!) ends, Jesse takes up Piney’s offer of having a thorough bath on his bathtub. Camryn also wanted to go back so she and Camryn hike down to the community and to the doc’s office. This is the same house that Mavis’s (Piney’s great grandmother) family used to live once upon a time and had a store. Piney converted the whole downstairs into the doctor’s chamber, alongside other medical facilities. He and Tree live upstairs. As Tree and Camryn leave together, Jesse gets down to the business. Piney was downstairs working and Tree was supposed to have informed him that Jesse was upstairs bathing, which he didn’t. So typical! What happenes next wasn’t wholly unexpected but crazy nonetheless. Piney happens upon Jesse accidentally and....................... ok, just to tell you I actually enjoyed it until the next scene. Piney tries to be very nice and calm with Jesse about the whole thing. They go to the Marrying Stone (the same stone from where in the past couple’s used to jump to announce their intentions) and talk about it. One thing leads to another, and the talk unavoidably turns to sex. Then, out of the blue, both decide that a f*ck buddy arrangement would be the best for them to ‘get over’ their troubles. They jump into bed just afterwards for an afternoon of sex. I didn’t like this, at all. I was hoping that their interaction would be more passionate, a kiss, a little fondling... a little yearning from both sides and maybe a little impulsiveness. I don’t know, I was hoping for something hot and not this cold, calculating arrangement. For me, this killed the romance part between Jesse and Piney. I didn’t really get over it. I didn’t even feel the romance or love or whatever... Nothing. I just didn’t feel the intensity anywhere.

As Piney escorts Jesse back to Onery Cabin, they find Aunt Will out of the house, completely delusional. She was talking about someone named Granby and that she’s supposed to be meeting him. Ah, I had a heart clench as I knew this must be someone from her past. Jesse is shocked. When she regains her consciousness, Piney asks Aunt Will to confide in Jesse. This time, she concurs. Before taking his leave, Piney explains to Jesse since Aunt Will’s liver isn’t functioning to the max, the leftover ammonia is corrupting her bloodstream. He gives Jesse some instructions as to how to take care of her. Jesse by now knows that Aunt Will is dying. She makes hasty changes in her plan. She’s staying, however long it takes. As the time pass by, Aunt Will also begins to open up about her illness and as the words get out, the whole mountain broke out on her doorstep. Every single soul... some shocked, some saddened, some in utter disbelief. Even the kids like Tree and Camryn couldn’t think that they would have to live without her. But Aunt Will assures them one by one, with her usual grace, that she’s not afraid and ready move onto the afterlife. Instead, she spoke about her own life in hints. She spoke of those dead and gone mountain folks she used to know. So many stories and memories to pass onto the next generation...

After this, the reading becomes quite tough. It becomes hard to carry on without your eyes welling up in tears. It’s not something to enjoy, observing a dying woman making her last goodbyes and juggling along her fatal illness. Aunt Will would lose her awareness more often in time, and sometimes some truths of her past would slip out, making Jesse wonder about their true meaning. I loved how people helped out Jesse and Aunt Will, showing their love and respect together as a community. This is what love means actually. You feel the whole thing in your heart. You observe as Aunt Will, even in her ever worsening condition, would inquire after everyone who stopped by. That whole emotion is just not possible to express unless you read it yourself. I tell you, it was very hard. I didn’t really think about Jesse and Piney’s romance or whatever they could muster in between. You can’t really have a romantic relationship when you’re faced with the harsher truths of life. Their romance was the only one unsatisfactory side for me and it would really bug me if I didn’t love the story itself. But Aunt Will was very hopeful about Piney and Jesse’s relationship. She already knew what was going on, encouraged them even, making both flush in embarrassment. This reminds me, once, Piney got caught by Tree and the scene that ensues was hilarious. The father was now on the offense, after giving numerous lectures on the evil of no strings attached sex. *snorts*

The last day of Aunt Will’s life was the most painful to read. Why, I won’t tell and it’s not only because of the obvious happening. It was heart wrenching for numerous reasons, one was that I was closer to the fact of hers and Jesse’s real relationship. Well, I suspected as much but even then, when her will was read, it shocked everyone including me. Jesse herself had no idea what to think of this. Her musings later on honestly made me sadder. So, I did admire Jesse for everything she did for Aunt Will and Piney for being a steady stream of support and a shoulder for her to lean onto.

When I finished, I kept thinking of the lineage and the old characters because the full truth wasn’t as visible as I’ve mentioned in the beginning of my review but scattered. As if Aunt Will was giving us clues... so typical of her!

I also think our Jesse never had any kids. :(

4.5 stars. This story will be with me for a long time to come.

PS: I asked Pam about Tree and Camryn’s book. She confirmed that she has ideas about their story but they need to grow up a bit. She told me that someday.... Well, I, for one, would never tire of going back to the Marrying Stone, no matter the era.


This ARC was provided to me by Harlequin/MIRA via netgalley which didn’t influence my review and rating in any way.
 
Favorite Quote(s):
Suddenly, from the depths of that chair emerged the biggest, meanest-looking dog Jesse had ever seen. One side of his face had suffered some disfiguring injury.
The jaw hung slack and the eye on that side was missing.
Jesse froze in her tracks, terrified that she might be mauled by this monstrosity of a pet. She glanced
around, looking for a stick or a rock or anything to defend herself. There was nothing close but she was afraid to move. Surely if the animal were dangerous, Floyd and Alice Fay would have said something. Jesse waited tensely for a moment before realizing the dog wasn’t so much growling or barking as he was howling; loudly, purposefully howling.
“She don’t bite,” a voice called out. “She’s my hillbilly alarm system, letting me know that they’s strangers about.”
“You young folks today think you invented the world,” Aunt Will said. “Still, a dash of unlawful scrumping might work for you. A lot more folks have tried that recipe than my own, even if we don’t hear testimonials.”
She chuckled naughtily at that suggestion. Jesse giggled a bit herself.
The important thing was that her aunt was nodding and smiling again.
“But beware, DuJess,” Aunt Will told her. “Every cure has its side effects. It only seems fair to warn you. I suspect that a regular tonic of Piney Baxley can be potently habit forming.”
I’ll tell you a secret about the men in this world. They like young pretty girls, but when pretty teams up with smart and resourceful, it’s more than an elixir, it’s nearly a dad-blamed aphrodisiac.
Piney woke up wearing a big grin on his face. He couldn’t remember when he’d slept so well. He pulled the pillow next to him up over his face. He could smell her hair on it.
“Jesse,” he murmured to himself. He liked her. He really liked her. And he loved, loved, loved doing her.
Being inside her. She was so hot. She was so tight. She was…
Piney stopped himself in midthought and rolled out of bed. His mind was headed where his body could not go.
The suggestion was not at all what Jesse expected.
She stuttered out an answer.
“I…I don’t…I don’t think Piney knows me well enough to get his heart broken,” she managed finally.
“Oh, Lord, girl,” Madge said. “He’s a Baxley. A more lovelorn line of men never graced the earth.”
“That’s the truth of that,” Walter Lou agreed. “Those men dote on their women something fierce.”
“You don’t want me to end up like you. I have to tell you, that’s always been kind of weird to me. I hope I end up like you. In fact, that’s the one goal that I’m really sure about. I want to be as much like you as possible.”  - Tree to Piney, in one of their father-son talks.
Accepting the world’s realities, even when you didn’t understand them, was a basic necessity of existence in Ozark life. 
She was Grandma Will. That term felt foreign and unfitting to the relationship they had. She wondered if her father had ever called her Mother, Ma, Mom, Mama? Maybe in private he might have, but to the world, all the world, it was Aunt Will.

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Punya
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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