REVIEW: Simple Jess by Pamela Morsi
SIMPLE JESS by Pamela Morsi is a great example of an unusual historical romance with characters who steal your heart. I’ve been anxious to read Jesse Best’s happy-ever-after since meeting him in MARRYING STONE. A challenging read, this book delves into disability in a way I’ve never experienced before in romance. Recommended Read!
Why was this book in Dorine’s TBR? I was recommended Pamela Morsi’s books in 2013 when I read a review of THE LOVESICK CURE (Book 3) at Goodreads. After much discussion with several readers there, I bought three books in this series without ever reading anything by Morsi.
After reviewing MARRYING STONE in 2017 for this same challenge, I couldn’t get Simple Jess off my mind. How would Morsi develop a simple man into a convincing romance hero? I already loved Jesse as a person, but how would she convince me that a woman could respect him for who he is and not try to change him or make him “better” somehow?
I also didn’t want to see Jesse matched up with a special needs gal. That would be too easy and predictable. I wanted to discover the hidden gem inside Jesse, and this is exactly what Morsi does. Althea’s awakening toward Jesse is believable and sweet. Amazing!
That doesn’t mean SIMPLE JESS is an easy journey. Far from it. It’s often quite awful and hard to endure. I even wanted to smack Althea a time or two for her attitude toward Jesse.
SIMPLE JESS is hard to read because of how Jesse Best is treated for his inability to think as quickly or clearly as other men. Damaged during his birth, Jesse has lived with his disability in a loving home. But being a good son isn’t enough, now that he’s a man. He doesn’t hold grudges or place blame, but the negative nickname of “Simple” attached to him by everyone is unthinkable. It was common historically, but that doesn’t make it any easier to read, knowing that it’s highly likely that special needs adults are still treated in a similar manner.
What bothered me most was that Jesse was told to ignore his feelings for women, not really preparing him for those emotions when he falls in love. When Jesse realizes he’s in love, he doesn’t think he’s worthy. His community is shocked because they think Jesse will always be Simple Jess, still a young boy in a man’s body. Should they be afraid, or is he the same good person he’s always been?
On the other hand, widow Althea Winsloe’s situation as a single mother is equally disturbing. Surrounded by family as owner of the best piece of farmland in the area, they expect her to marry no matter how she feels about the prospects. It seems inevitable that Jesse and Althea will find one another, but will Althea get over her own insecurities about Jesse’s inadequacies?
What is done to Althea next is horrible. She is disrespected in public and forced into an unbelievable decision. There is a creepy candidate for her future husband who may be a trigger for women with an abusive past. This book covers several taboo subjects ironed out by people who were not very accepting of anyone different from themselves. If you have craved different in your romance reading, this book was probably once a very brave ambition for any author.
There’s nothing simple about SIMPLE JESS as a person or as a story. The journey is complicated, laugh-out-loud funny, sad, sensual, and full of love. If you’re looking for amazing characters in a remote area of the Ozarks, with all their faults and goodness combined, begin with MARRYING STONE, but be sure to have SIMPLE JESS at hand to read next. You won’t regret it. The only reason this book didn’t get a 5 rating is because there were enough typos to pull me out of the story.
Q: Now I desperately need Oather’s story. Does anyone know if it exists? THE LOVESICK CURE is the third book and I have that, but it takes place years later – I wasn’t sure if that would answer my questions. I still need to purchase MR. RIGHT GOES WRONG – do you have suggestions of books by Morsi? Loving her style, especially the Ozarks setting.
Reviewed by Dorine, courtesy of TheZestQuest.com. Digital copy purchased.
Simple Jess by Pamela Morsi
Series: Marrying Stone, Book 2
Category: Historical Romance
Publisher: Kiel Publishing (June 1, 2011)
Rated 4.5 out of 5
Buy The Lovesick Cure (Book 3)
February 20, 2019 at 5:02 pm
I read this book a couple of years ago. I had a different reaction – I didn’t particularly like it. This book was published in the ’90s, and it felt dated to me, particularly in its depiction of Jess’s disability. Glad you enjoyed it, but not my cup of tea.
February 20, 2019 at 6:22 pm
I completely understand, Laurel. That’s how I felt about the sexual abuse. There were uncomfortable moments – I hate that so many of the older titles have situations that would be considered rape today. I was all over the place on my rating for this book as I read it, but by the end I was happy with the resolutions.
I think what I like most is the Ozark setting and I get a kick out of all the characters. Yes, I agree it is dated and it definitely won’t work for everyone.
Thanks for chiming in – I’m glad you visited. 🙂
February 20, 2019 at 11:41 pm
I loved this book back in the day, but it’s been years since I read it. It’s also not my favorite Morsi historical. That distinction goes to Courting Miss Hattie – which is friends-to-lovers. Another really good one is Wild Oats – older heroine/younger virgin hero.
February 21, 2019 at 4:55 am
I liked this book as well. I’ve read it in 2015 for the TBR challenge of that year. I liked the story overall but reading my comments on it, I can remember some situations not being very likable, like how Althea always had someone minding her business and causing some sort of influence… anyway, I was too glad the HEA was finally achieved in a very good way.
February 21, 2019 at 3:01 pm
Thanks for the recs, Wendy. Luckily, I have Wild Oats in the TBR already. I’m putting Courting Miss Hattie on my wishlist – friends-to-lovers is my favorite trope. It’s like a needle-in-a-haystack trying to find that trope in my TBR for next month’s challenge. I need to label my GR “to read” pile with it as I find them. Drives me crazy. LOL
February 21, 2019 at 3:04 pm
Sonia – that’s how I felt, too. Althea’s situation was appalling in the way she was treated. It makes me thankful we live in a country and during a time when our decisions are our own.