It's been really difficult to set aside how this book impacted me emotionally and to move to the intellectual approach required to write a purposeful review. It is no exaggeration when I say that when I reached the climax and just after in Cassie's Life, I was literally crying so hard that my husband rushed into the room to see what had happened. I blubbered through a confusing explanation of the amazing show of love between Cassie and Tom while wiping my nose on the sleeve of my pajamas. Once he was sure I was just being an idiot, he kissed me and went back to his cop show.
Title: Cassie's Life
Author: PK Corey
Number of Pages: 243
Themes: the Circle of Family, Growth, Time, Forgiveness
Cassie - While Cassie truly tries to be the lady that Tom expects and loves, the plot of each of the books in the Cassie series centers around the how, when, why, and where of Cassie forgetting all about being ladylike and sensible. For all that, she is a loving and exuberant woman.
Reviewer's Note - While some might refer to Cassie as "mature," I would not. To me mature suggests careful planning and wise decisions, and that is not Cassie at all.
Tom - the love of Cassie's life for just over 4 decades. He dotes on Cassie still, even though he worries and watches over her constantly. Tom is funny, generous, wise, and firm. He expects her to obey him, and when she doesn't, she usually ends up over his knee. In this book we learn that this lifestyle they have lived for so many years is so much a part of who they are, that Cassie cannot move past a mistake until Tom spanks her.
A wise woman I know calls this change in their relationship
"ttwa" - this thing we Are.
Sue and Annie - Cassie's best friends for many years. Sue is usually Cassie's outspoken partner in crime. Annie is the more sensible one. Both are loving and loyal in their own ways.
Allie and Jenny - Allie is Cassie's daughter-in-law and married to her adopted son, Ryan. Jenny is Sheriff Cal's young wife. This is the first time in the series I see these two as young women and not girls. Cassie says she sees some of Annie in Allie, and I agree. Allie has become practical and careful. The reader gets to know Jenny better in this book. Cassie is surprised to see herself in Jenny - jumping in with both feet before thinking.
Lily - She is technically the "hired help" to the friends along the river, but it isn't long before she is just part of the family. She takes on the task of fussing over Cassie and Sue with love. In this book, Lily's life takes a joyous step forward.
Cooter - a minor character from a previous book, Cassie met him and liked him when she started shooting at the range. In this book, she becomes part of a frightening hostage situation with Cooter drunk and waving a gun around. Since I do shoot, my take on this is that, damn straight, I would not be shooting at any range where Cooter Duncan had access!
Charles Warren - a man with a dark secret from Cassie's past. In this book, he is a mysterious antagonist, and Cassie is shaken to her core.
Setting: Tom and Cassie's home along the river and the nearby homes of their "family" of friends. For me, the river becomes much more than just a setting in Cassie's Life.
For a reviewer, it is always a challenge to tell enough about a book to interest a potential reader without giving the story away. It is like if I told you that Cinderella ends up marrying the Prince, you would miss out on reading about the wicked stepsisters, the pumpkin coach, and the glass slipper. It's always a dilemma.
I am going to start by actually talking about the cover of the book and what I thought was a pervading theme in Cassie's Life. The cover is the best ever, and I know the author felt the same way. It captures the simple affection between a couple that have loved each other for many years. Seeing them sitting on the dock together, you can feel the peace of the rippling water, and the glow of the sunset. It suggests to me the golden years of Tom and Cassie's marriage. The flow of the river represents time passing and the changes that brings to the family of friends who live beside it.
Early in the book, Cassie ends up diffusing a scary situation with a drunk Cooter Duncan and a loaded gun while she waits for a friend at a local restaurant. Her gutsy actions made me think of the phrase, "For fools rush in where angels fear to tread." When she decides to step in, Cassie turns on her southern charm. "Cooter Duncan, gracious honey. I haven't seen you all summer. How you been keepin'?" and she offers to buy him a beer. The scene at the bar is just hilarious. Sheriff Cal doesn't think so.
When Cal tells Tom, "Do whatever you have to do to get her to understand she has to listen to some authority," Cassie expected a spanking to follow post haste. She and the reader are both surprised when Tom makes love to her instead. That's something about Tom that I find interesting. Sometimes when I am not sure if Tom will spank or make love to Cassie, I realize that in some ways it doesn't matter. He reclaims her as his; he possesses her and reestablishes their roles. They reconnect both physically and mentally.
However, when Cassie gets mouthy while defying Cal, Tom reaches his limit and says, "Enough!" Out comes the leather paddle, and Tom goes to work on Cassie's bottom. "....I have to do what I have to do to keep you safe." That quote really sums up Tom to a tee.''
Much of the rising action in this tenth book involves the circle of family with Cassie at its center. Over the course of this series, the circle grows to include so many new and adopted members. One beautiful sub plot in Cassie's Life has Lily as the happy star of her own love story. I just smiled a mile wide when both Cassie and Sue came to the conclusion, "...she's the mother we both have longed for all our lives."
This affection for Lily leads both women to fear that Lily is leaving them soon. It seems odd that tears came to my eyes as Cassie and Sue tried to drown their sorrows in several pitchers of martinis, but I just couldn't help it. In my head, the words, "She's leaving us," took on a whole new meaning. I realized that the Cassie series is coming to a close, but it will break my heart when it finally happens. So when I read those words, I applied them to how I will feel when Cassie leaves us and there is not another book to look forward to. Probably won't drink martinis, but I might just cry in my beer.
The climax in this book is both gripping and well written. When Cassie gets a call from a man in her past, she is scared that even Tom will not be able to love her any longer. Even though she tries to face the crisis on her own, the girls, including Allie and Jenny, galvanize to help her through. It is a ringing tribute to friendship.
The French call the falling action that follows the climax of a story the "denouement." Although I have had many professors who used the word in book discussions, I often felt that some were being a bit pretentious. I've got to admit, in this instance, it perfectly fits. The word means "to unravel the knots." It was very surprising that the denouement of this book was more powerful to me than the climax itself. The love and trust Cassie shows to Tom and the love and trust he shows to her are both truly amazing. An exhilarating ride on the river symbolizes Tom and Cassie riding away from their past and finally returning home to embrace the present and their future together.
PK Corey has given us a real treasure in this story. Although it is 10th in the series of Cassie tales, it stands alone, too. So if someone asked me,
"Do you, Ella, take this book as your favorite Cassie story?"
I would have to honestly say, "I do."
When you finish this truly wonderful book,
you will understand why that vow has so much meaning.