Wednesday, March 17, 2010

“Winter’s End”…Tour De Force, First Book, 5-Star Realism!

Winter’s End, Love Inspired, Ruth Logan Herne, 2010

“If you have tears, prepare to shed them now”. Julius Cæsar, Act III. Scene II.

“I mean, come on, I cried THREE times during that book [Winter’s End] ”
Famous Author, Post, March 11 2010

"This is the saddest story I have ever heard." The Good Soldier, Ford Maddox Ford

“Show, don't tell. Make it worse.” Victoria Bylin, Post March 2010

What do Ruth Logan Hearn and Ford Maddox Ford have in common? They both wrote incredibly sad stories. Ford thought his was the saddest story ever told. “Winter’s End” at least has a short happy ending -- but it is still the saddest romance I have ever read. (I have reviewed over 1,000 romances.)

“Winter’s End” is written in such a realistically relentless cadence that I felt like I was reading something by Eugene O’Neil, Tennessee Williams, or Arthur Miller. Even after reading ninety percent of "Winter's End" the book could still have belonged to three different genres. With a happy ending, it would be a romance. Add an unrequited love and a suicide and it would be classic romanticism ala "The Sorrows of Young Werther”, "La Dame aux Camélias" or the movie “Elvira Madigan”. And with a inconclusive ending it would be a modern realistic novel like the “Good Soldier”. Hard. Sad. Depressing.

“Winter’s End” is written on a very small canvas. It is an idea story to be made into a play. Three acts, three scenes. “Winter’s End” made me think of “Desire Under the Elms” with Sophia Loren as the missing mother. It’s on a farm, there is deception, disloyalty, adultery, and depression with mental disorders.

The story starts with an animal dying and then we learn that the most normal and likeable person in the family is dying and under hospice care. This is the start. The story gets sadder and more depressing with each passing page.

There is a saying writers are fond of: make things bad for your characters and then make them worse. Just when you think things cannot get worse, they get much worse. Even the most innocent and happiest person has the world drop on her before it is over. The heroine is driven to near madness as she is forced to relive the horrors of her childhood.

“Winter’s End” is in a league with “Of Mice and Men” and “The Hairy Ape” for sadness. One author said she cried three times in the book.

“Winter’s End” is a very deep book. The details are rich and many. The psychological insights are those of a professional. The hurts are real; the suffering almost unending. The writing is also unique. I don’t think of "Winter's End" as being either ‘character-driven' or ‘plot-driven’. The tension does not rely on cliffhanger after cliffhanger. I found the conflict to be like unexpected lighting flashes on a hot summer’s day. Loud busts of short duration. I see the book as being a ‘sadness-driven-situational romance.’

In a way, the situation is the story. The writer is faced with two inevitabilities. First, the romance has to have a happy ending. Second, people in hospice care die. The canvass is small and the characters are few. The situation moves the story. Sadness becomes unbearable and then it gets worse. Death then depression then disillusionment. There is madness and near madness. There is HIV, and ships tragically passing in the night. Opportunities for hope are lost. There is economic deprivaton. There's even a church that provides for the appearance of faith but without solace.

I kept waiting for some comic relief or at least some small victories along the way. But the downward emotion was relentless. The reader would open a door and things would get worse.

The story is highly emotional. But it is monoemotional. The story reminds me of Picasso's old guitarist from his blue period. Solitude. Sadness. Suffering.

“Winter’s End” is the kind of book that critics love because it is serious and never panders to the reader just to make the reader feel good. It deals with painful subjects honestly and without any compromise. It shows suffering that is felt to the bone. It is direct and relentless. The action corresponds to actual experiences many older adults have endured.

There is an all too short happy ending in “Winter’s End” that goes along with the feeling that the hero and heroine are right for each other.

But after so much agony, I so much wanted ecstasy. I wanted a wedding, blue ribbons, babies and an epilogue that propelled me to the sublime. But such elixir does not flow from “Winter’s End”.

“Winter’s End” is like no other romance I have ever read.

“Winter’s End” is the best written, most honest book I’ve read in a long time. It’s a book I will never forget. However, if the author writes another “Winter’s End”, reading it will probably kill me.



  1. Vince, what a lovely review! You humble me with your kind words, but I'm really, really trying to rein things in to avoid killing you with the next book.

    Because that would make me SO sad!!!! :)

    Thank you for your generous and thought-provoking take on Winter's End. For more years than I care to admit, I've worked with children of all ages. Many of today's kids and young adults come from wretchedly unsettled families, where good choices are either non-existent or too much work for challenged parents.

    While the dysfunctional family is alive and well in mainstream America, there is joyful hope for the children if they have the guts and moxie to take control of their environment and their destiny as they mature. To me, that's the crux of Winter's End. It always amazes me what a leap of faith and a coat of paint can do. :)

    Thank you again for painting me WAY MORE IMPORTANT than I really am because just for a moment I felt like I totally rock.


    Bless you, my friend.


  2. Hi Ruth:

    It's a joy to have you come by and comment!

    Very few authors comment on reviews and I appreciate your reactions.

    I keep thinking about "Winter's End" and I see more things I failed to mention.

    I should have also mentioned that as serious as “Winter’s End” is, it is still a romance. The gradual, step-by-step, falling in love process, between the hero and heroine, is drawn with great insight.

    Also, the conflict keeping the hero and heroine apart is built into the situation which the charters find themselves in. This lends a credibility as to why the hero and heroine simply don’t fall in love that you don’t often find in many romances. At least not this authentically.

    The book also has a Biblical gravitas that reminds me of Job. The characters are innocent and did nothing to bring the suffering down upon themselves (other than the father’s smoking and that was his secondary tragedy, not the original trial.) This only enhances the spiritual triumph while intensifying the emotional impact. Job is also very hard to read it is so powerful.

    I’d love to get “Winter’s End” into the hands of all those English professors who do not treat romance novels with the serious respect they deserve. If we could get them to read "Winter's End", they would never think of romances in the same way again.

    "Winter's End" should be required reading.