Catherine Anderson’s heartwarming novel Bright Eyes is the latest installment in the Coulter family saga. Once again, Anderson delights readers with her incredibly rich storytelling, skillfully weaving a tale that is emotionally rich, funny, exciting and poignant.
Zeke Coulter is a contented man. The owner of a ranch supply store, he has recently bought a new home and has settled into a familiar domestic routine. Alone, and single, Zeke has no plans to change that state any time in the future. He likes not having to share his space with anyone and is content to be by himself, puttering in his garden. All that changes when he arrives home from work one evening with the intention of picking his ripe tomato plants, only to find that his garden and home have been vandalized, and to see a young boy running from his yard. Angered at the useless destruction, Zeke follows the young vandal to the farm next door and comes face-to-face with the boy’s mother, who is his new neighbor.
Natalie Patterson has all she can do to keep her small family financially afloat. Divorced from her two-timing husband, she’s moved back to the family farm where she now lives with her two children, sister, father, and grandfather, as well as assorted animals. She runs a supper club called the Blue Parrot where she also performs as a singer. Singing has always been her passion, but when she got pregnant and married at eighteen, she abandoned her career. Now, all her energy goes into supporting herself and her children. The last thing she can afford is to pay for the damage to Zeke’s property.
Zeke confronts Natalie with her son’s misdeeds, and when she calls on Chad to confront him, he freely admits he’s responsible for the damage. The eleven-year-old is acting out in the hopes that his father will pay attention to him, but Natalie knows that her ex-husband doesn’t care enough to bother. He’s all but abandoned his children and refuses to pay child support. Zeke gives them an ultimatum: let Chad work off the debt, or he’ll call the police.
A very sullen Chad shows up for work the next day. As they begin to work together, Zeke realizes that Chad is a good kid who lacks a sense of responsibility and self-worth, and he sets out to help him develop some. Before long, Natalie and her young daughter, Rosie, are helping with the work as well so that they can work off the thousand-dollar debt more quickly. Zeke, the confirmed bachelor, find himself falling under the spell of this very special woman and her children. For the first time in his life, Zeke begins to think about a family of his own.
But Natalie is not looking for a relationship with any man. Her philandering husband has shaken her own self-confidence, and she no longer trusts men. Zeke slowly and steadily changes her mind about a possible relationship as he gains her trust with his honesty and his steady presence in her life and the lives of her children. Suddenly, the man who was a confirmed bachelor is more than happy to take on the responsibility of being a father, and he does the job extremely well.
As the relationship between Zeke and Natalie and her zany family grows, both of them realize they want a life together. Just when it seems every thing is going to work out, a sudden twist of fate threatens their happiness. It seems that her ex-husband still has some problems to throw her way, and some of them could be deadly. As Natalie and Zeke are forced to face these problems together, their love for each other grows stronger - and Zeke is even more determined that they become a family. Through it all, Zeke never loses sight of Natalie’s dreams and does everything in his power to help make them a reality.
Bright Eyes is a satisfying read from start to finish. Catherine Anderson, as always, pens a story that captures your attention and keeps you turning pages until the very end. Interesting characters and plot twists keep you interested, while the emotional drama tugs at your heartstrings. This fourth book about the Coulter family is a welcome addition to the series. If you haven’t read the other books, you’ll certainly want to after you finish this one.