The Bodyguard's Bride

Lonesome No More

A Family Secret

Millionaire in Disguise

Texas Royalty

What the Heart Wants

Healer by Jean Brashear
(Harl. Super. #1105, $5.25, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-71105-0
When I picked up this book, I expected a quick and slight read to take my mind off the fact that I was alone on New Year’s Eve. Nothing could be further from the truth, as I discovered engaging characters, thoughtful philosophical perspectives, and a rural setting described in so much detail I felt as if I’d actually been there.

In the rural mountains of west Texas, two healers, one a cardiac surgeon and one an ex-military medic learning to be a curandero, meet and clash, both as medical professionals and as a man and a woman deeply in need of healing themselves. Caroline Malone, “Miracle Malone,” is a hotshot cardiac surgeon known for her skilled and steady hands that have prevented many patients’ deaths. But a moment of inattention when she’s riding her horse, and all that is over. She fell on her right hand, and even after months of healing and occupational therapy, she still can’t use her hand and must wear a brace to support it. There are no guarantees that the damaged nerves will ever heal, no matter how hard she works.

Finally, her therapist tells her to take two months off, rest, and give her body a chance to heal itself. The hospital administrator offers his vacation cabin on a remote ranch, and Caroline has no choice but to accept. Not only is her hand not getting better, but worrying about her patients has her mind in a turmoil as well.

However, the cabin doesn’t actually belong to Sam Calvert, the hospital administrator who is one of Caroline’s staunchest supporters, but to Diego Montalvo, an ex-Special Forces medic, who has come back to the area where he grew up to recover from his own injuries, mental and physical, the result of a botched mission in Bosnia. His hip and leg were all but destroyed, and two of his men were killed. And like Caroline, he constantly pushes himself harder than he should, desperate to be the physically fit man he once was, and will never be again. He is learning to have a new life, however, taking over from his grandmother, who has been the local curadera for years. She combines various herbs, plants, and alternative healing techniques that go back hundreds of years, to the ancient Mayan cultures, with what modern medical help is available, which before Diego arrived was hundreds of miles away. Now they work together, and Diego prepares to take over for her when she is no longer able to see patients.

Caroline steps on both their toes immediately by assuming Diego is an uneducated caretaker and his grandmother, Mama Lalita, is a silly old woman and a quack. Diego responds defensively, but Mama Lalita reaches out to Caroline in wisdom and in love and comfort, recognizing that her hand is not the only part of her that has to heal. Her heart must heal as well. Separated from her younger sisters for twenty years after their parents’ deaths, Caroline’s work has been the only way she has defined herself. Caroline has finally realized that she wants to find her sisters, and just weeks before, contacted a private investigator to try and find Ivy and Chloe. But not working is all but impossible for the workaholic surgeon, and her orders to rest and get lots of sleep are disturbed by strange dreams that seem to involve not only Diego, but also Indians who lived in the area hundreds of years before. Is there some kind of psychic connection drawing the two of them together?

This could have been a cliché-ridden book, because of the many elements which could have been made trite, including two perspectives on healing, the emphasis on family and the importance of children, and two lovers who have similar pasts and scars and disabilities to deal with. However the characters are three dimensional and realistic, the inclusion of the beliefs of curandismo are dovetailed into the plot and action seamlessly, and the progression of the romance is suspenseful enough and slow enough to make the reader begin to wonder if there really will be a happy ending or not. It is certainly is what everyone wants, but Diego and Caroline live in different worlds, and neither is willing to compromise, in spite of the intense attraction they feel for each other, both mentally and physically. Mama Lalita is the epitome of the traditional wise woman, who uses her knowledge of bodies, minds, and spirits to heal and bring peace to all those around her. She is a character not easily forgotten, as her quiet comments still echo after the book’s end. This is enough by itself to make this title worth another read.

While the ending comes a bit abruptly, with a few too many plot elements tied up neatly, swiftly and easily, that is a minor flaw, given the excellence that has preceded that. Healer is the second volume of Brashear’s “Deep in the Heart” trilogy, which began with Ivy’s story, What the Heart Wants. Chloe’s story will follow next year. Healer is a book that deserves a space on your “Keeper” shelf.

--Joni Richards Bodart

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