A manly cowboy, a blind boy, a miniature horse, a strong woman? All these things are usually a recipe for a good read for me. But in Catherine Anderson’s Here to Stay, I was left with 412 pages of meh. Zach Harrigan had a life changing moment two years ago and decided he wanted to raise miniature horses to assist the blind. Mandy Pajeck is 28 years old and cares for her 19 year old blind brother. They are both products of a very abusive upbringing and were abandoned by their mother at an early age. Mandy’s blind brother, Luke claims Mandy is responsible for his blindness due to a canning accident years ago, and he makes her suffer by being a whiny helpless brat.
One day Mandy sees a news clip on TV about Zach and his miniature guide horse Rosebud, and Mandy decides to go to Zach’s ranch to see about getting Rosebud as a guide horse for her brother Luke. Cue scene – and enter pages of pages of Zach the sweet cowboy slowly falling in love with Mandy, the abused woman who vows to never marry. Through Here to Stay, we see Mandy being this super strong woman yet she bends to every whiny need of her brother. They have been living in their house for how many years and she still has to help him find the bathroom and then find his way back to the couch? Mandy is obviously an intelligent woman and has worked hard to give her and her brother a stable life, that it just doesn’t make sense the way she has allowed her brother to treat her. And the fact that it takes Zach to point out to both Luke and Mandy that Mandy was not truly responsible for the canning accident causing Luke’s blindness just doesn’t make much sense either.
The romantic relationship between Zach and Mandy was a slow build and I felt that part was done well by Anderson. And of course Zach helps Luke come to his senses with how he has treated his sister. Then with the help of Rosebud, Luke starts to become more independent as he opens up to allowing himself help. The real star of this book is Rosebud the miniature horse who captured my heart from the very beginning. And from the Acknowledgments page in the beginning of the book, it is clear that Anderson did her homework on guide horses, and I appreciated that. There was also a little plot twist that I didn’t see coming. But overall pieces of the book just didn’t add up to make this a strong read.
“Well, shit.” Cookie rubbed the crown of of his head and then gestured Zach upstairs. “Only one thing to do in a situation like that – have a counselin’ session with good ol’ Jim Beam.