The last thing widow Althea Winsloe wanted to do was remarry. Unfortunately, her meddlesome mountain neighbors had other plans. So, one autumn night they banded together and gave Althea a shocking ultimatum: She was to find herself a husband by Christmas…or the town would do it for her! Althea knew she had her choice of any single man in Marrying Stone, Arkansas. Yet the only one she felt truly comfortable with was Simple Jess. Sweet, gentle, Jess wasn’t as smart as your average man. But his tender manner stirred Althea’s heart in ways she had never dreamed possible. It would take a miracle to find a husband in Marrying Stone. But sometimes miracles are right under your nose …


Early 20th cetury

Historical Romance

Steam rating 2

Reviewer rating: 5 Stars/ Top Pick


There are books that you read yesterday and you can forget today. Others you read and can never forget. Like Simple Jess.

Widow Althea Winsloe has no desire to remarry. But it’s difficult to run her farm, look after her son and cope with the heavier physical demands of getting firewood and meat for the winter. Jesse Best has three goals in life, a gun, a dog and a woman. When Jess hears that Althea wants to sell her late husband’s hunting dogs, he approaches her to buy a dog. But Althea instead offers Jess all the dogs if he’ll do the physical work she’s not able to do.

I have read this story any number of times over the years and it never diminishes. To me it’s a romance classic. Not because the hero is an uber-alpha, or because he’s overtly sexy or because it’s bursting the seams with sex scenes. In fact it’s none of those. But it’s the story of a man though physically whole, due to a problematic birth is mentally slow.

This story *is* Jess, without him it simply wouldn’t be. He works hard, he’s honest, he’s knows and loves animals, he’s a good provider, he has integrity, he’s kind. He’s tall, young, handsome and strong. And under normal circumstances Jess would be considered quite the catch. Althea comes to value Jess and love him.

Set in 1906 in the town of Marrying Stone in the Ozarks, this is the sequel to Marrying Stone which was Jess’s sister, Meggie’s story. And I think it is worth reading Marrying Stone first where Jess is introduced. Pamela Morsi’s characters are usually wholesome, decent people. And none more so than Jesse Best.

Although not every reader will rejoice in this novel, claim it to be a classic, or put it on their keeper shelf, for me this novel sums up the beauty I see in a simple romance story. It won’t be for everyone. The rustic setting, the historical era of the early 1900s and the ‘hillbilly’ talk won’t work for some readers. Fair enough.

But the charming simplicity of these rural people of the Ozarks, the generous, quiet strength of Jess and the devoted understanding of Althea in seeing Jess as more than just the muscle she needs around the farm but the man she needs in her life, makes Simple Jess a favourite and a keeper.

This is the sort of love story that will leave you smiling. It’s simple yet lovely, heartwarming even inspiring.


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  1. You’ve explained in detail everything I paused over when I saw this on your list of greatest HRs. I”m convinced and reading it as soon as I can glom a copy of my own (for my keepers shelf, which is practical not virtual). Thanks so much for the moving description. Can’t wait.

    • It’s not a book that most romance readers will grab to read, especially going by its blurb. But it has that quiet strength to it, much like its hero, Jess.
      Hope you enjoy it, Miranda!

  2. I have not read this one, Jill, but the plot reminds me of the 1974 novel TIM by Colleen McCullough. I remember reading it as a teen. It’s long out of print but here is the blurb-
    “Mary Horton is content with her comfortable, solitary existence . . . until she meets Tim. A beautiful young man with the mind of a child — a gentle outcast in a cruel, unbending world — he illuminates the darkness of Mary’s days with his boyish innocence. And he will shatter the lonely, middle-aged spinster’s respectable, ordered life with a forbidden promise of a very special love.”
    Here is the Goodreads reveiw link http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/182434.Tim

    • Yes, I’ve read ‘Tim’ by CMcC and seen the movie with a very young Mel Gibson, Emery. There is a similarity with both the heroes being considered ‘simple’.
      I enjoyed ‘Tim’ very much. But love ‘Simple Jess’. 🙂

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