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REVIEW: The Music Box by Cheryl Reavis

Dear Ms. Reavis,

When I checked your website and saw this book mentioned, I got all excited and checked the eHarlequin site for ages waiting for it. Then it appeared and I read the blurb and thought, this sounds familiar. And for good reason as it was previously published as “Tenderly,” the fourth book in the Navajo Family Blessings series, way back in 1998. But just because I’d already bought a (used) copy and loved it didn’t stop me from buying it again, especially as you would get to actually see some moolah from me out of this deal.

The Music Box by Cheryl ReavisOkay the blurb is slightly different from before and there are a few differences in the book, CD players have been updated to MP3s and the sex scenes removed, but this is basically the same story I fell in love with then. And that I’ve fallen for all over again after rereading it now. Ben and Eden are two flawed people, falling in love and dealing with a lot of issues.

Ben Toomey, an officer on the Navajo tribal police force, has no idea what’s up when he gets the message that Dr. Edna Trevoy is back in the area. As a child, he helped his father and several other Navajo men when they worked with Trevoy years before when she was studying the Anasazi and he vaguely remembers Edna’s daughter Eden. As several people will warn him during the book, Eden has been raised as the kind of woman who can breeze in and really hurt a man, a rich white woman who might toy with a Navajo man but who would never love him enough to stay. He knows Eden is nothing but trouble for him but he can’t help slowly falling in love with her.

Eden’s world gets rocked when her dying mother tells her that Eden is adopted. Though Edna had never really been that close to her, at least Eden had an identity as her daughter. Now she only knows that her white mother didn’t want her and that her Navajo father didn’t either. Suddenly she’s a half caste bastard with no family and no idea of who she really is.

Ben suggests that Eden stay with his grandmother Sadie for a while and learn something about the Navajo way of life. Of how to live in harmony with oneself and one’s world. Eden agrees and begins to find her place in the world and with Ben. A man she knows the world will disapprove of and one she wonders if she has the courage to stay with.

Lots happens in this book but you pull it all off without rushing or skipping much. Eden’s feelings of abandonment then anger over her past. Ben and Eden’s quiet falling in love even though they are told there’s little hope of a future for them. Eden’s growing knowledge of her Navajo heritage. And some revelations about past events that include characters from this and past books. Revelations that thankfully don’t get rushed into a quick HEA for all. You show both the bleak and the beautiful about life on the Rez, the danger and the dullness of being a cop, and about how Eden is torn but determined to learn who she is.

Navajo daily life is woven deep into the story and the characters. It is used not only as a contrast between Ben and Eden but shows some similarities as well. Eden got sent away to Eastern boarding school while Navajo kids were forcibly shipped off to boarding schools to strip them of their heritage. I think a major thing to know from book one is about how the tribe has authority over all children with Navajo blood. Edna’s memorial service highlights several differences. The way some information is presented as Eden begins to learn about her past worked for me as it doesn’t come across as an info dump. I love Sadie and how she rules the household. Ben does what she says and replies, “Yes, ma’am.”

Clues to Eden’s heritage are scattered throughout the story but it’s only after the truth has come out that they are evident. Eden’s reaction is realistic. She gets all she knows about her family yanked away from her then something she never expected put in its place and she’s not a happy camper. She has to have time to process. Then when she does discover who her father is, she’s got to do another 180 degree turn. The scene where Eden’s grandmother finally meets her and laments the lost years almost had me in tears. Then when, as the head of the household, she questioned Ben’s intentions towards her granddaughter, I was laughing again. Ben’s proposal is a delight.

Even though this is the fourth book in the series, I think it stands alone. If pressed, I would say that reading the first book, “One of Our Own” might help readers better understand some of the secondary characters and the background regarding how the Navajo view their children. I hope that Harlequin will eventually re-release all the books (One of Our Own, Meggie’s Baby, Mother-to-Be) but I’m tickled pink that this one is available again. A-

~Jayne

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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

12 Comments

  1. DS
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 06:24:24

    I did a double take when I read they had stripped the sex scenes. Essentially they took a 1997 SSE– which I don’t remember being a hotbed of erotica in the first place and rewrote it as a Harlequin Heartwarming, i.e., bedroom door closed romance, then released it without making it clear that it had been published before under another title.

    While I can appreciate you loved the book, I’m wondering if Harlequin has lost its mind. I’ve seen romance readers get rabid because they think that they have been tricked into buying a book twice.

  2. Renda
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 07:30:31

    Totally agree with @DS. I would be less than pleased to find a stripped down version of a book with a new name that was 10 plus years old sold without any explanation of its history. The fact that it seemed familiar would mean nothing as, quite frankly, all the blurbs seem familiar
    .

  3. DS
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 08:05:46

    It looks like the whole line of Heartwarming books are previously published romances– which makes the “Please recycle- This Product is recyclable” seal on the copyright page unintentionally funny.

  4. Christine Carmichael
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 08:29:13

    I agree with @ DS too, this is basically a re-tread with scenes removed to fit with that particular line.

    However, there is no doubt it is a worthwhile reading experience, Jane’s given it an A.

    I’m wondering if HQN shouldn’t call re-treading a book Harlequinn Vintage? That way the reader will immediately know it’s an oldie but goodie.

  5. Hannah
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 08:37:11

    I checked out one of the books in the Heartwarming line from the library–Her Second Chance by Shelley Galloway. I was curious about the line because the Harlequin Romance line is already pretty “clean” though some books have implied sex. So, I think they must be like inspirationals without the religious content.
    I agree that Harlequin Vintage would be a better name for the series.

  6. HeatherU
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 08:48:55

    You lost me at “sex scenes removed.” It doesn’t matter how wonderful the story is, I would have been okay with even one scene, but not none. PLUS – the fact that it was a re-release would have been the second strike, regardless.

  7. Praxidike
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 09:09:48

    I’m with Heather on this one. Sex scenes removed + re-release = Not Buying This One.

  8. Lynn S.
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 10:36:12

    There are actually three more books in the series: Little Darlin’, The Long Way Home, and The Older Woman. All the original books are available at PBSwap.

    Gah, am I the only one who hates this recent rewrite trend which seems to be all about money? If this is the case, a reissue with a revamped cover would accomplish the cash flow goal. An MP3 player or a trip to Starbucks add nothing to the essential meaning of a book and I don’t think the last quarter of the twentieth century should be rewritten out of existence. If it’s about a new perspective or attitude on the author’s part, why not write a new book?

  9. Ridley
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 10:50:13

    So that’s what Harlequin Heartwarming is. I’d imagined (and despaired) that it was their attempt to move Christian inspys more mainstream by branding them as straight-up Harlequins.

    I’m not sure if stripped-down, unmarked re-issues are better or worse. In any case, they don’t appeal in the least.

  10. Jayne
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 13:02:28

    It is mentioned on the copyright page of my epub edition that this was formerly published as “Tenderly.”

    I kinda like the “Vintage” name too – and certainly the idea of making it more clear that these are all rereleases. But I still do love this book.

  11. Kaetrin
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 17:32:14

    I’m with the other commenters that don’t like the idea of the sex scenes stripped out. Generally, books with no sex scenes at all are going to interest me less anyway, but to know they were there and have been removed – well, that’s like selling me a cake with the icing removed! :)

    I agree that “vintage” sounds better too – but in that case, leave the original references to CD’s/records/tapes, etc – there’s no need to update the references, they’re not taboo. Lynn S is right I think, we don’t need to write the last quarter of the 20th century out of existence.

  12. DianeN
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 10:08:10

    I stopped reading the review when I hit the line about the sex being removed from the book, then started wondering if I was the only one who reacted negatively. Apparently I was not. Good to know I’m not the only sex-scene lovin’ hussy around here!

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge the original authors who are making a bit more money for these recycled novels–I actually just purchased Mary Jo Putney’s The Bargain, which is a rewrite of The Would-Be Widow–but I want publishers to be upfront about what they’re doing. We shouldn’t have to scan all the fine print to find out if a book has been rewritten or repackaged. And it definitely bothers me that there are many writers who deserve publication but aren’t getting anywhere because publishers would rather dip into their old stock than sign on someone new.

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