by Susan Wiggs

January 2001
ISBN: 0446608726
Reviewer Graphic Button Warner Books
Mass Market Paperback

Michelle Turner is back in Montana after leaving in anguish and disgrace 17 years ago. Then, she was young and naïve; now, she is the 35-year-old mother of a teenage son, Cody, whom she had raised by herself. She is back because the father she hadn't seen in so many years, whom she barely knows, was dying. And when she returned, she wasn't expecting to literally run into her first love, Sam McPhee.

Sam is what you would envision as the typical cowboy - a loner, a Rodeo rider who owns a horse ranch; but he has a surprising side to him as well. His childhood taught him the hard lesson that you can only depend on yourself and that sometimes it hurts to love. He views marriage like a pair of boots that are too tight - he tried it once and it didn't fit. Sam thought his career and his ranch were all that he needed and didn't let himself wonder what life could have been like if things have turned out differently 17 years ago, until Michelle showed up in Crystal City again.

When Sam proposes renewing their relationship, Michelle is afraid to take the chance since she has been independent for so long. Also, if things don't work out she has not only herself to consider, but Cody also and the affect it might have on him. Can they take the chance at happiness when there is so much at stake?

Susan Wiggs has a very colorful and expressive way of writing, which worked very well in this story since Michelle was an artist and you could imagine her seeing things in the way they were described. At times the abundance of adjectives were distracting, but mostly the vivid descriptions added depth to the scenes and characters. Sam, Michelle and all of the secondary characters seemed real and had believable traits. I was especially impressed with Wiggs' portrayal of Cody as a rebellious teenager. There were plausible reasons for every one of the character's actions and I never doubted their reactions at any time.

One minor complaint I had about this novel was that the sex scenes weren't very descriptive but seemed rather glossed over, but I supposed that is a matter of preference. However, the excellent storyline and page-turning suspense more than made up for that small criticism.

This was the first novel I've read by Susan Wiggs, but she has definitely made a new fan out of me. Being an avid romance reader, it is hard to come across a novel that doesn't seem cliché, but Wiggs succeeded in making The You I Never Knew seem fresh and different.

The You I Never Knew is not only a story about learning to love, but also one about forgiveness and family that anyone can relate to and is sure to enjoy.

Reviewed in September 2001 by Nicole.

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