SheLove2Read's Reviews > The Hand-Me-Down Family

The Hand-Me-Down Family by Winnie Griggs
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it was amazing
bookshelves: 2010
Recommended for: fans of convenience marriages

This is one of those books that sneaks up on you unexpectedly. I absolutely loved it.

Callie Gray has traveled to Texas to be with her new husband and children. (She married him by proxy) She is excited to be starting a new life away from her well meaning but smothering family back in Ohio, even though she knows this is not a love match but one of convenience (her best friend has died and the husband needs someone to help him raise their children). You see, Callie has a small but noticeable port wine birthmark on her face. As such, she's "on the shelf" and when this chance comes to have a family and a life outside of being pitied, she's praising God for her fortune. However upon arriving in Texas, she finds out her husband has died in a fire. A widow before she's a wife.

Remorseful that she never got to meet her intended, she instead focuses on the children, who luckily were spared. Unfortunately she doesn't count on her husband's estranged brother trying to push her out of the picture and take the children himself.

Jack Tyler has been estranged from his brother for 11 years. As the younger brother he always got the hand me down and castoffs and came to resent it. The final blow was when he proposed marriage to a lovely young woman only to find out she was in love with his brother! (Coincidentally she was Callie's best friend) Jack is now back in town to take responsibility for his nieces and nephews. He's also dealing with a lot of guilt over his relationship with his brother and not being able to resolve it before he died. As such, he's also turned away from God, instead choosing to believe the incorrect adage of "God helps those who help themselves." When he finds out about Callie he's naturally resistant to what he sees as "the competition" for the children. With the help of the local schoolmistress, Jack and Callie come to the decision that they will employ their own marriage of convenience for the sake of the children. Jack can't take care of the kids on his own and Callie can't work the farm on her own - so they compromise and each hope that their own sacrifice will be for the benefit of the children when all is said and done.

Callie is a character I loved from page one. She's as accepting of her birthmark as any woman could be, especially of the time period, although she does hide herself behind big and ugly bonnets when not at home. (Maybe not as accepting as she thinks she is?) She genuinely loves the children at first sight and does her best to be a stepmother to them without trying to replace her best friend in their hearts. Even when she overhears one of the children make a horrifically ugly remark about her birthmark to a friend, she hides her discomfort and pretends she didn't hear it. Later on she takes a walk in the woods, away from the family, and bears her anguish to God. I found myself sobbing right along with her. Jack, noticing her missing, goes in search of her and finds her crying. Not knowing why or what she's crying about, he simply kneels beside her and holds her while she cries. I fell in love with Jack at that moment. ;-)

Jack is the hero who grows on you. Initially he's dead set against Callie being in the kids lives but after some soul searching he realizes he really can't do this on his own. I love the way he never took out his anger over the circumstances on Callie, which he could easily have done. He also never looked twice at her birthmark. What a man! Knowing that there is more to a person than looks or a birthmark, he treats Callie with respect and honor. On their wedding day he overhears two catty old women disparaging Callie and defends her in a subtle but very "I mean business" kind of way. Jack goes out of his way to try and make Callie comfortable around the kids and encourages her to leave her ugly bonnets off at every opportunity. Of course there's some angst on Jack's part along the way - this is not the life he had envisioned for himself and he struggles with the turmoil of that. Although I thought the HEA was slightly rushed, it definitely was a very touching one and well done.

I would recommend this to anyone who's looking for a meaty, introspective romance.

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Reading Progress

September 28, 2009 – Shelved
March 7, 2010 – Started Reading
March 7, 2010 – Shelved as: 2010
March 9, 2010 – Finished Reading

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