Yeah, let's start with rhubarb because that's where this story really begins. I'm a country girl so needless to say I'm familiar with rhubarb and country life in general. Which was part of the appeal this book held for me.
When Scott Howe inherits a house in the country from his estranged grandmother, he's not really sure what to expect but he takes this as his opportunity for time and chance to allow him to make the changes in himself that he needs to make if he's ever going to be truly happy. Scott's tends to want to make others happen even when it's at the expense of his own personal happiness and his identity and while he recognizes this, he also knows that it's not the road he needs to take it he's ever going to be truly happy and content with himself. So Scott packs up and heads for his new home in the country just outside of Gilead and declares it to be 'the year of no men' or no men until a tightie white, orange rubber boot wearing, rifle carring Phineas Robertson confronts him in...come on you know where it is...take a guess...that's right...in the rhubarb patch.
While Phin and Scott may each like what they see when they first meet and granted Scott definitely gets to see more than Phin, lol!!! This is not a love at first sight story...not even close. Phin and Scott start out as neighbors and from there they progress to friends and then lovers. They take their time getting to know each other and Scott tentatively tries to hang on to his 'year of no men' vow but Phin's kind and gentle nature and his patience are more than Scott can resist not to mention his big, bear of a body...yep, Phin's not a GQ model or straight out off the cover of Sports Illustrated. He's a real man with a few extra pounds and initially he's a bit self conscious about it but as his relationship progresses with Scott he comes to realize that Scott likes what he sees and he's not interested in Phin being any different...which is one of the things that I liked about Scott.
There's a lot going on in this story besides Scott and Phin's growing relationship. Scott's got some definite family dynamics to deal with there's a cousin who's oars aren't in the water and he's 'out to get Scott for stealing his inheritance', there's issues between Scott and his mother that are coming to the forefront of their relationship because of his inheriting his grandmother's farm as well as mom's relationship with her latest 'loser' boyfriend...seriously woman, if you think this joker treats you well than we need to talk...he's so much excess baggage but you know love is blind...deaf and sometimes downright dumb.
So simply put this is a bit of a romance/mystery/thriller type story and Scott's not alone in having things to work out because Phin's got his own baggage from his past to deal with but at least none of his is coming after him or anyone else it all about putting his memories in the past where they belong so he can move on.
My biggest hang-up with this story was the details...I mean the abundance of details. Don't get me wrong I like detail in my story but it's a matter of finding the right balance and in this case I found that the amount of detail tended to be too much, to often. Sorry I re-lived more than I needed to when it came to gardening, canning and country life in general and that could very well be on me because...country girl here, done it, seen it...ate the rhubarb.
I enjoyed the parts where Scott went exploring his new surroundings that worked for me and I liked seeing the little town of Gilead through his eyes as he discovered his new surroundings. I was good with any time that Scott and Phin spent together unfortunately for some reason I just never became a big fan of Scott and Phin together...as a couple. They never quite seemed to work and maybe that was due in part to the fact that while I liked Scott and as a person he really did mature from where he was at the beginning of the book, I just never quite connected with him and to be honest I also had a teeny, tiny issue with Phin as well...
Scott and Phin were supposedly working on a total honesty concept and at one point Phin seemed to be priding himself on his total honesty but it was all while having a loaded handgun in his night table. A gun that he had promised Scott wasn't there...so yeah, I had a tiny issue with this because total honesty...not so much.
I think one of my favorite parts of this story was 'Nancy', Scott's grandmother...yes, I'm talking about the deceased grandmother who left Scott her house. Throughout this story we are painted a picture of one person viewed through the eyes of her grandsons...Scott and Mike, the grandson who felt should have inherited things, Scott's mother, who while I have to admit is probably one of my least favorite mothers...ever had her own less than unbiased view of who Nancy was and we are given a look at her through the eyes of the community she lived in and lastly we are painted yet another picture of 'Nancy' as she was to her best friend and neighbor...Phin.
For me Nancy was representative of almost any of us because I'm betting if you asked 6 people you know to write down their impression of you what you would find would be 6 impressions that differed to varying degrees. This for me made Nancy seem real. I don't think any of us act exactly the same with each person we know and unless it's done intentionally or with malice intended I think subtle changes in a persons behavior happen as part of an instinctual response to a persons environment and even though she was technically dead Nancy seemed to be the driving force behind a lot of what was happening in this story.
Overall 'The Rhubarb Patch' was a sweet, second chance, starting over, finding true love kind of story and while it wasn't as good for me as I had hoped it would be there was still more that I enjoyed than I didn't and I'm looking forward to seeing not only what but who comes next in 'The Men of Gilead'.