A review of To Have and To Hold by C.J. “Country” James

To Have and to Hold cover

Title: To Have and To Hold
Subtitle: A Continuing Montana Love Story
Author: C. J. “Country” James
Genre: Contemporary Western/Romance

From the back of the book …
IN THIS BOOK I wanted to show the similarities and differences between Jake and Franklin in their way of thinking and doing things. Old Man Jarvis, Franklin’s dad, knows how similar they are. Franklin doesn’t. Doesn’t see it. Jake doesn’t, either. He thinks he can’t ever measure up, not even to handling the ranch and the businesses, never mind holding the whole family together.

Jake’s young. Hasn’t got it quite figured out. Franklin’s an old hand…but, sometimes, he can’t figure it out, either. Despite their similarities, their personal choices and life experiences see their pathways diverge, Franklin’s hopeful and forward-looking, Jake’s murky and embittered.

I also wanted to show Dree and Catherine—Dree’s rebellion, finally, against years of abusive patriarchal domination as well as her suffering the confounding familial issues which her young, fragile psyche found too much to bear, this compared to and contrasted against Catherine’s plight because she rebelled against a matriarchal society and, in consequence, lost everything—her family, her people, her self-respect, her hopes for fulfillment and happiness, and, almost, her life.

The story is one of parallels, of Franklin’s and Jake’s, of Catherine’s and Dree’s—parallels travelling opposite directions, one towards joy and fulfillment, one towards misery.

This is a love story, a continuing Montana love story, about a family who gives a damn and tries very hard to do the right thing. It’s a story about sacrifice, about hurting and healing. It’s a story of change, of caring, and about surviving challenges that can beset us—our responses to them. Mostly, it’s a story about promises—those to be made, those to be kept, and those that are or have to be broken.

The Review
After having read and reviewed the first book in this ongoing series, I thought I knew what to expect from author C. J. “Country” James. Not! As the author explains in the above passage, Dree’s character goes through a sudden metamorphosis that sends the entire Jarvis clan into a tailspin of epic proportions. No one escapes unscathed, least of all Dree. And yet, amidst the chaos and pain, another romance blooms and reaches for the sun.

But don’t forget: this is a Montana love story. The book is also filled with details of country life, especially life on a working ranch. Details that I suspect come from experience rather than research. They have that kind of authenticity—from how to flush a boss steer from mountainous brush, to teaching someone how to ride, to fixing loose barbed wire on a fence.

I also enjoyed the brevity of the scenes. It keeps the story fresh and moves it along like a galloping horse. Or, perhaps, like an action movie with the frames flashing upon our minds, creating an ever impending sense of closure: to the love affair between Franklin and Catherine, to the life-altering rift between Jake and Dree and to the deep promises each have made—promises that you know will be tested in the next book in this intriguing and heart-felt story about family, values and love.

Short version:
“An intriguing and heart-felt story about family, values and love.”

5 stars

Copyright © Clayton Clifford Bye 2016