|I'll play it straight: I'm not a big fan of Catherine Anderson's books, her contemporaries in particular. Though I like hearing about the power of love as much as the next romance reader, I prefer either a lighter or a grittier approach. And however much I admire her for writing about people with physical and mental handicaps, it is too bad that her characters are cliched and that the worlds they occupy are much too black-and-white. So quite clearly I began Morning Light with a pretty strong bias. Just as I was beginning to wonder how I would be able to get through the remaining two-hundred-and-fifty pages, I found myself smiling. I'm still not a big fan of Anderson's books, but I think people who are (and maybe even a few who aren't) won't be too disappointed with this one.
Loni MacEwen is a psychic: she has visions about the future and about other people. She has used her talent to help, but after certain tragic events that put her in jeopardy she stopped. She has also seen glimpses of her own future, mostly in the form of a handsome cowboy. And now, finally, she sees him in person - and immediately knows that he is the only one who can save a missing boy.
Clint Harrigan is a down-to-earth horse rancher and a practicing Catholic. He doesn't believe in psychics and doesn't want anything to do with the crazy woman on his doorstep. But after the news confirms that a boy has indeed got lost after a tragic accident, he decides to listen to Loni. The two of them head for the Oregon wilderness to find the boy before the wolves, the cold, or sheer exhaustion get him.
The story starts badly because Anderson, despite her writing skills and her long experience, confuses information-dumping for story-telling. We get lectures on different kinds of psychics, sermons on being ecological, and pages on how to prepare for a camping trip. Interspersed between this dry prose are paragraphs of painful introspection. Even the dialogue between Loni and Clint sounds more like a manual than a conversation.
So what changed? Loni and Clint fell in love. Oh, they're attracted to each other from the beginning, all right, but neither is very interested in doing anything about it. As practicing Catholics, they only want to pursue serious, long-term relations, and they are convinced that this isn't possible for people who are as different as they think they are. But they do have to spend some time together, so they begin to learn about each other, to make important compromises, to talk through their differences and to slowly acknowledge possibilities. Their conversation is lighter and more humorous, and there are quite a few tender and heart-warming moments. Animal lovers are sure to appreciate the tribute (even if it is Disnified) to the disappearing gray wolf.
In the last third of the book, Anderson reverts to some of her bad info-dumping habits, and the climax seemed contrived. I must have had my dose of sugar and sentiment because I thought the resolution a little too pat and much too sweet for my tastes. And yet for a few moments even this cynic was indulging on a sugar-high. On those grounds alone, I give Morning Light passing marks.