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Sweet Annie (2001)

by Cheryl St.John

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594363,867 (3.73)3
"Everyone treated Annie as a fragile doll because of her deformed hip, except Luke Carpenter. The only times Annie felt like a whole person was when she was with him because Luke challenged her to do things others discouraged her from trying--even becoming his wife"--

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Luke and Annie.
A sweet story.
Quite emotional at times.
( )
  izzied | Oct 29, 2020 |
Annie Sweetwater wasn't like other girls...and she desperately wanted to be.

Born with a malformed leg, she is cosseted by her parents, especially her mother, and isn't allowed to do anything other than sit in her wheelchair in her frilly dresses and watch as the rest of her family walks, runs, moves, and enjoys life. On her tenth birthday, Luke Carpenter shows up with his Uncle Gil, and while his uncle talks to her parents, Luke offers her a ride on his horse, Wrangler. Annie immediately agrees, and for the first time in her life, feels like she's been allowed to live. Her ecstasy lasts until they arrive back at her house, where her family flips out and her brother physically confronts Luke.

For the next ten years, her family goes out of their way to keep the two apart. Annie is the daughter of the town banker, while Luke is a mere horseman, recently buying the livery and slowly making his way in the world. Her family feels that he isn't good enough for her, but they also feel like she's a porcelain doll, too fragile to do anything for herself. Annie feels stifled, and when Luke comes back into her life, she desperately wants to live like a normal young woman.

This is a very sweet (almost saccharine) love story. Annie and Luke are too precious for words sometimes, but they are determined to be together, and they face her family head-on in order to make those dreams come true. Annie's mother is a stone-cold bitch, however, and does everything in her power to mow down her daughter's newfound self esteem, even managing to drive a wedge between the happy couple when tragedy strikes when Annie is injured in a stampede and loses their firstborn child together. They are both bereft, but Annie turns in on herself, feeling piteous and helpless, just like the invalid she fought so hard from being.

I didn't like Annie during this last third of the book. She'd spent the entire novel growing and learning and coming into her own, but the moment something bad happens, she runs back to her mother like a frightened little girl and shuts her husband out. She's stupid and selfish and self-pitying, but luckily the rest of her family doesn't put up with it this go-around. She purposefully misconstrues her husband's regrets to pick yet another fight with him, which only sets up the Grand Romantic Gesture at the end. It was a sour note on which to end this otherwise quiet, simple love story.

I can definitely see why this author turned to inspirational novels as her career progressed. The explicit scenes were a bit cringey; she seems to have a better handle on emotions than on physical lust. I believed Annie and Luke were in love with each other, and that their bond had formed on her tenth birthday, when he treated her like a normal girl instead of a glass doll.

Nothing so far has come close to the exquisiteness that was The Doctor's Wife for me, but I will definitely continue reading her backlist. ( )
  eurohackie | Feb 23, 2019 |
Sweet Annie would be a perfect book to be turned into a Hallmark Channel movie. It's an incredibly sweet, tender story filled with very human emotions that really tug at the heartstrings. Annie's family could be very frustrating in the way they coddle her when all she wants is to be normal. I think that in general their hearts were in the right place, but their over-protectiveness and control of her, especially on her mother's part, was emotionally abusive, which is evidenced in Annie's lack of self-confidence even after she's experienced Luke's unconditional love and encouragement. At least her uncle, aunt, and cousin, Charmaine, treat her like a capable human being, but it's Luke who truly believes in her and shows her a whole new world she never knew existed.

Annie was born with a birth defect in her hip that causes her to walk with a pronounced limp. However, her parents never really allowed her to walk, always keeping her confined to a wheelchair. All she ever wanted was to do the things other children were doing, but her parents wouldn't let her. Then on her tenth birthday, Luke, a new boy in town, comes to her birthday party with his uncle. He doesn't ignore her or see her as incapable like the others do and offers to take her for a ride on his horse. Annie eagerly accepts and has never felt so free, but it leads to heartache for her when Luke gets beat up by her brother and her parents banish him from their house and Annie's life. She never forgot that day or Luke. She's seen him around town on occasion but never had the opportunity to talk with him again until ten years later when she and her cousin go to his new livery and Luke asks them both out for ice cream. I adored Annie and thought she was a wonderful heroine. All she wants is to be treated like a normal girl, but her family has always viewed her as a delicate china doll that will break at the slightest little thing. They've treated her that way so long, they've beaten her down emotionally. She can't imagine why a man as handsome and perfect as Luke would want a crippled young woman like her, but it doesn't stop her from lighting up like a firefly when he's around and reveling in his attentions. She's somewhat afraid to get involved with him, though, because she doesn't want her brother or father to beat Luke up again for coming near her. I admired her courage in sneaking out of the house to see Luke, when she knows her parents wouldn't approve, but most especially for eventually standing up to them and letting them know exactly what she wants in life.

I love how, from the start, Luke never saw Annie as being crippled. He only sees a lovely young woman who intrigues him and stirs his emotions and desires. It's really sweet how he only has eyes for her, even though her cousin flirts with him, thinking she's the one he wants at first. Luke is a smart, hard-working young man who saved up his money to build his own livery business, because he knew that Annie's father, the only banker in town, wouldn't give him a loan. Luke is just the sweetest most perfect hero ever. He isn't afraid of Annie's family or of standing up to them if he has to. I adore how he always encourages Annie to do what she wants to do as long as it won't cause her any pain or harm. He's a very responsible young man who wants to build a house for Annie and make sure that he can fully provide for her and any children they might have before marrying her, even though she's eager enough to be with him to not care where they live. I love how he's completely focused on Annie and on bringing her joy and happiness. Luke is tender and loving, a totally dreamy hero I'd love to have in real life.

I have a feeling that some readers may find the tragic event toward the end of the book too melodramatic. I didn't, but it did make my heart ache for this sweet couple who'd fought so hard to be together and shared so much happiness up to that point. It was also a little disappointing and difficult to see both of them seemingly giving up on their love, but when I really stopped to consider it, the author had stayed true to their characterizations. Both Luke and Annie are highly sensitive people who take their perceived failures deeply to heart. Also everything Annie had feared might happen, mostly fears that had been instilled in her by her mother, as well as her mother's constant reminders that she was basically a handicapped invalid incapable of living a normal life, had actually occurred, like a prophecy fulfilled. Not to mention, I'm sure a form of clinical depression was probably involved as well, leaving Annie feeling like a complete failure. Luke didn't fare much better, feeling that he'd been careless and negligent in his care of Annie. They certainly could have communicated better during that bleak time, but what's important is that Luke and Annie learned something from their mistakes and found their way back to each other and to the happiness that only each of them could bring into the other's life. It also gave Annie's family a chance to do the right thing for a change and talk some sense into her.

Every time I read a book by a new-to-me author, I never know what to expect. Even if the cover blurb sounds great, it isn't always as good as I think it will be, but that was definitely not the case here. Sweet Annie was everything I could have hoped for in a romance and more. I loved Luke and Annie. They're two sweet, wonderful people who make a perfect couple. I liked many of the secondary characters too, especially Annie's cousin, Charmaine. I had hoped she might be the heroine of the next book in the Copper Creek Brides series, but that doesn't seem to be the case. While some readers may find this story too sweet, it was just right for me. I had such a great experience reading this book that I honestly don't mind who the next hero and heroine are as long it's as good as this one was. I very much look forward to continuing the series and checking out some of Cheryl St. John's other books. Sweet Annie was originally published in the Harlequin Historical romance line, but was later reprinted in the special Harlequin Close to Home series of reissued favorites. ( )
  mom2lnb | Feb 1, 2016 |
Very sweet, fluffy read. Quite enjoyable for a quiet afternoon. ( )
  lesleydawn | Aug 12, 2009 |
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Close to Home [Reissues] (HH#548 - Book 36)
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The expansive spring sky was that vibrant shade of purest blue that always made Annie's chest ache with an unexplainable sadness.
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"Everyone treated Annie as a fragile doll because of her deformed hip, except Luke Carpenter. The only times Annie felt like a whole person was when she was with him because Luke challenged her to do things others discouraged her from trying--even becoming his wife"--

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Annie Sweetwater was born crippled, lives in a wheelchair, and is never permitted to do anything that might endanger her. At her tenth birthday party, a visiting Luke Carpenter takes her for a horseback ride and she soars with a sense of freedom; a sensation quickly quenched when an overly-protective brother beats Luke when they return from riding. Annie's entire family shelters and keeps her child-like, but her mother is the most dominating figure, intent on keeping her daughter dependent. She continually reminds Annie that she is not like other girls and never will be, leaving a sensitive young girl feeling suffocated and useless with no self-worth at all.

It is ten years later when Annie's life begins to change, and a chance stop at the livery stable is the beginning of one of the sweetest romances you'll have occasion to read. Luke is one of the most sensitive heroes Ms. St. John has created. He's not only handsome, he's compassionate, protective, and oh-so loving and thoughtful. He's a man any young girl in town would be thrilled to have as a suitor, but it's Annie who captures his heart. He sees her as a beautiful young woman and, through his love and tenderness, she begins to see herself that way too. Readers will see a young, sheltered girl mature into a determined, independent woman deserving of Luke's adoration.
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