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Only By Your Touch    by Catherine Anderson order for
Only By Your Touch
by Catherine Anderson
Order:  USA  Can
Signet, 2003 (2003)
* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Chloe Evans and her young son Jeremy have settled in Jack Pine, Oregon to begin a new life and set aside bad memories of Chloe's abusive husband and a messy divorce. Since Jeremy is asthmatic, Chloe hopes the small town atmosphere will heal her son in all ways.

Working the evening shift as a police dispatcher, Chloe has already caught the eye of one of the deputies, Bobby Lee Shuck, whose blatant advances are not welcome. Chloe wants no romantic entanglements; she's determined to stay completely focused on her son, her job and new friends. Besides something about Bobby Lee just rubs Chloe the wrong way. She grits her teeth and politely declines his blatant advances, fearful that saying too much might jeopardize her new job.

Jeremy's new golden retriever puppy Rowdy comes down with parvo-virus and the town vet refuses to treat the animal unless cash-strapped Chloe pays half the pup's expenses up front. Desperate to save his dog, Jeremy runs away to ask Ben Longtree to treat Rowdy. Jeremy has heard talk around town that the man has a special touch with animals. He's also heard that Longtree killed someone. More concerned about his puppy's life than rumors or the fear that the former vet might hurt him, Jeremy confronts Longtree and begs him to save Rowdy.

Ben Longtree wants nothing to do with the outside world and the good people of Jack Pine -- not after their continuing accusations that he has 'gotten away with murder' and that he practices voodoo on sick animals. He's more than content to live a solitary existence on Cinnamon Ridge taking care of his Alzheimer's stricken mother and ailing wild animals. Longtree does his best to scare young Jeremy away, but when he sees the boy's determination and love for his pet, something inside Ben's icy heart melts. He agrees to treat Rowdy under one condition -- that Jeremy not breathe a word to anyone about the other animals currently in his care.

Chloe almost ruins Ben's good intentions and his agreement with Jeremy when she storms into his house to demand that he stay away from her son. But she soon realizes that Longtree isn't as crazed as the townspeople paint him -- the man is blessed with the gift of healing. During the days and weeks that follow, while Rowdy remains under Ben's care, he and Chloe fall in love. She and Jeremy discover how truly magical Ben's gift is. Bobby Lee Shuck is not happy about Chloe and Ben's relationship. He and Longtree have long been at odds and now that the former vet is romancing the woman Bobby Lee wants, the deputy is more determined than ever to banish Longtree from Jack Pine once and for all.

Despite coming close to creating characters that are cliché, particularly tough-talking and vengeful deputy Shuck, Catherine Anderson has a real knack for writing stories that tug at the heartstrings. She's done a nice job of it in Only By Your Touch. Add a boy and his dog, a host of other animals, a little bit of magic and the emotional mix is complete. Followers of Ms. Anderson's books won't be disappointed with this one and those of you picking up her work for the first time will likely want to look up some of her earlier stories.

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