Simple Jess

Narrated by: Kevin Clay
Series: Marrying Stone, Book 2
Length: 12 hrs and 17 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (59 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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.

Proclaimed "a refreshing new voice in romance" by Jude Deveraux, award-winning author Pamela Morsi has charmed millions with her touching stories of simple pleasures and heartfelt romances. Her novels, including Garters, Wild Oats, and Something Shady, have won her rave reviews and loyal fans. Now she presents an endearing story about what can happen when love turns up in the most unlikely place....

©2011 Pamela Morsi (P)2015 Pamela Morsi

What listeners say about Simple Jess

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Captivating romantic historical fiction!

Would you consider the audio edition of Simple Jess to be better than the print version?

Yes! The narrator was top notch. His performance really added to the novel. The narrator has such a pleasing tone of voice and is very gifted at sounding like different people, including men, women, and children. I read that the narrator is from Arkansas, and I do think the accents sound authentic (I have visited that state twice.)

Any additional comments?

I received a free copy of the audiobook in return for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
This is the first book I have read or listened to by Pamela Morsi, and now she is one of my favorite authors. I was so pleased by this novel and by the narration.
I would classify this as romantic historical fiction. It does have romantic elements and a happy ending like a romance would have, but the number of love scenes is very few (but moderately explicit) and the romance is not as strongly emphasized as it would be in a romance novel. This book is set in the early 1800s in a remote, tiny town in the mountains of Arkansas. The town is full of colorful characters who all seem to want a say in what the young widow Althea should do with her life, her farm, and her toddler. It is a quaint little community that reminds me of the TV show "Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman" but without the railroad or Native Americans. The title character, Jessie Best, is a good young man in his 20s who is not as smart as other people. When he was born, the cord was wrapped around his neck, resulting in minor brain damage. He is not autistic because he has no problem reading other peoples' emotions. His reasoning skills are rather poor, and he has trouble understanding conversations when lots of people are talking. However, he works very hard physically on the farm, and he takes his time figuring out situations and what he should do. Jessie is such a wonderful person, and it bothered me how many of the townspeople discriminated against him and also took him for granted.
The novel is very well-researched. I love the many details of daily life, and it is fascinating how much work it took to get ready for a harsh Arkansas winter.
The novel is told in third person, alternating among five people. The writer deftly handled the alternating points of view, never staying too long on any one person.
The novel has a steady pacing. Plot and relationship developments are fairly evenly spaced for most of the 12.5 hours of audio length. The steady pacing reminds me of that in Susanna Kearsley's novels, which are excellent.
Four of the five main characters are are admirable and easy to relate to. They are good people trying to stay true to themselves and do what is best for their families. The fifth main character, Eben Baxley, is such a nasty villain, and the narrator's performance of this character was impressively perfect.
I would recommend this novel to anyone who loves historical fiction set in frontier areas and any historical romance fan who appreciates a well-written Western romance. It will also appeal to romance fans who like unusual male heroes. Wonderful audio book!

3 people found this helpful

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An unexpected romance gem I solidly recommend!

I'm not much of a historical romance reader. On the surface this book is pretty much the opposite of what I read and review. When I perused NPR's 100 Swoon-Worthy Romances in search of a gem or two that I might like it was the one that stood out. I'm an advocate for diversity in romance but it's still very rare to find characters with mental handicaps. Since it was so well reviewed I felt quite confident that Jesse was going to be treated as a person with the same dreams and desires as any man. I took the plunge and this book blew me away.

I listened to it on audio and at times the narrator was so good he was annoying but he brought the Ozarks and Marrying Stone to life. Morsi is a phenomenal writer. Not one word ever feels extraneous or like filler. The characters are vibrant, lively, and felt like they were real people, not caricatures. The plot is a bit of a classic, I could easily see this made into a Hallmark movie. Althea is impressively strong and flawed but someone with a good heart. Jesse may have ruined all future romance novel heroes for me. He's such a good man and so deserving of the love he finds.

If you're looking for an engrossing, heart-felt romance that is pretty unique please do yourself a solid and read Simple Jess. Even though it's not a book I would have ever found on my own it would make my own top 100 for it's beautiful contributions to the romance genre.

Notes: I received an audio review copy from the author for review.

2 people found this helpful

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Wonderful heartwarming story set in 1900's!

Any additional comments?

Smile Jess by Pamela Morsi received a most excellent update with Audible narration. This is the second book in a duet that was originally published in 1996 and involves a tight knit community in the Ozark's set in 1906. Simple Jess picks up about 4 years after the first book, The Marrying Stone, ends. In the first book we are introduced Jess Best, who despite being a tall broad handsome drink of water, is not "the brightest bulb in the shed" due to trauma he experienced when he was born. Despite this, Jess is the most kindhearted, trusting, and hardworking person on the mountain.

The story begins with the struggles of Althea Winsloe who is a young widow with a little boy to raise and a modest farm. Although she is an excellent mother, her farming skills leave a lot to be desired. Even though Althea hires Jess to get her homestead prepared for the winter, her meddlesome neighbors require her to find a husband by Christmas. She is courted by two different respectable young men from town, but it is Simple Jess that makes her heart twitter-pated. Like with the first book, this story is well written and filled with great secondary characters that are well developed.

Kevin Clay did a fantastic job narrating. He really brought the characters to life giving each one their own distinct voice. His narration was natural and easy to listen to. In fact, his narration elicited all sorts of emotions during the 12+ hours it took to listen to it, including laughing out loud and shedding a few tears. In short, I highly recommend this audio book!

2 people found this helpful

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My favorite romance with outstanding narration too

What did you love best about Simple Jess?

This has long been one of my favorite books. I love hurt/comfort stories, and I love the big, handsome, simple-minded Jess. I really enjoy the setting in the Ozarks, and the folksy feeling to the story, dialogue, and characters. There's a lot of detail about the simple life-style and hard-scrabble existence. The book is simply perfect. I finally bought it on audio and was glued to it all over again due to the superb narration. The narrator does all the character voices and they're very authentic-sounding and fun.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Jess and Granny.

Which character – as performed by Kevin Clay – was your favorite?

They really all are. He does a brilliant job of making each character sound unique with their rural accents, and his acting is superb.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I really love all of it. Each scene is necessary and adds so much to the story.

Any additional comments?

If you like romance, you must listen to Simple Jess!

1 person found this helpful

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  • DK
  • 11-14-15

I Loved This - Another RARE 5 Star Rating! *****


This was an utterly charming book that will go in my tiny, tiny section of books to read again – one day! *grin*

Althea Winsloe is widowed with a small child. She is putting what little knowledge she has about farming to use but realizes that she needs help, the help of a man.

Jess is a great guy who lives by the rules including what is good and what is bad. There are no shades of gray for him. The townsfolk call him 'Simple Jess' because it does take him time to filter through & figure out anything and everything. His mind works the way it does because, when his mother was giving birth, the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck for too long before they could cut it away.

Jess hears about some hunting puppies that are going to be available. While he has no real occupation he tries to figure out a way to get one of these hunting puppies from Althea in an honest way. He approaches her home and she welcomes him in. They decide that if 'Simple Jess' will work the farm for one season to help her she will give him all of the hunting puppies. It seems a fair trade.

They learn new things about one another through their conversation during work and at the supper table.

Althea does not want to remarry for fear that another husband would want her only for her land and she's afraid that any children from that marriage would overshadow her sweet boy.

Three months before Christmas the townsfolk decide to have a 'kangaroo court.' This is a time when they bout and jest with one another. I imagine it is similar to the modern-day roast, but in this no one is safe! After some rousing and fun rounds of picking of the jury, the judge, etc. they go through a few silly things.

Althea's meddling former in-laws have something to say. They want her married by Christmas, it doesn't matter to whom, it just has to be a man from the mountains. Althea is very unimpressed with the serious tone this court has taken on her. Most of the townsfolk taking it very seriously.

In the meantime, Jess does everything he can to make sure that there is enough food for her Althea and her son through the winter. Jess may be simple, but not blind, and has never been this close to a woman before. He does his best to restrain from all of these feelings that he is having toward Althea.

Everyone has said he is simple and don't expect much from him – certainly not a family and children. So, for the most part he spends time with her child, teaching him how to work the ranch and does his best to look out for the boy. Because, even if he is slow, he can think things through, it may take a minute or two but he comes to conclusions that are similar to what regular people would.

This is a really sweet journey as men vie for Althea's affection in many ways. 'Simple Jess' doesn't seem to notice at first, he just performs his jobs and does everything he can to help make Althea and her son's lives easier, so they won't have to worry.

This may be a bit sappy for hardhearted people [like me] but it certainly got me in and kept me to the end. While *I was given this book was given to me in exchange for my review, there is nothing in it that I can critique. I really enjoyed the book on so many levels.

Kevin Clay's narration was excellent, a professional at his best. As always, I have a thing about male performers in female characters (and vice versa.) A lot of the time that doesn't work. Kevin Clay has it in the bag. Very professional, excellent. He did a wonderful job portraying our characters with ease.

The characters Clay had to perform included an: 84-year-old woman of the Mountain (who is quite comical) an eight-year-old boy and everything in between. I imagine it was tough, but it flowed smoothly – pure enjoyment. Great job.

I will be looking out for both this author and this narrator for future books. Currently (10/2015) there are no others available on Audible that I can find.

Notes: A bit of mild cussing, some tastefully written bedroom scenes and I think that's about it.

I will definitely listen to this book it again, someday when I have caught up on all of my TBL (to be listened to books). It is a losing battle and I have several collections that I purchased and need to listen to!

I enjoy leaving reviews, as I know that I read the reviews of others before I purchase a book. If you found my review helpful in your decision about this book, would you please select "yes" directly below this review? Thank you so much.

Please consider "following me" here on Audible.com. I purchase a lot of books by authors that I am faithful to and have well known names.

I also have the unique opportunity to review books from lesser known/new authors in all genres. Most of these books are not something that I would not pick up on my own. I have been pleasantly surprised by new authors and great narrators. This book is a perfect example.

3 people found this helpful

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A Good Man in a Small Town

What did you like best about Simple Jess? What did you like least?

I'm really tired of romance novels set in Regency London with rakish heroes. Simple Jess was a welcome change of pace.
However, this was also its downfall! Hillbillies aren't that romantic, and I'd characterize the townsfolk as hillbillies. Also I have to admit that Jess's disability had a "squick" factor for me. I have a severely autistic brother, and even though Jess is MUCH higher functioning, and might not be autistic at all, I kept thinking of my brother when I pictured him--again, not very conducive to romantic thoughts!
But if you know what you're in for, and you like a kind and gentle romance, I think you'd enjoy this book.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

The final couple scenes didn't feature our heroine and hero but headed off in another direction. This was my main complaint. I wanted a tighter focus on Althea and Jess. I wasn't all that interested in or fond of the secondary characters, and I thought we spent too much time with them--in particular, I could happily have done without the secondary couple's sex scenes.

What about Kevin Clay’s performance did you like?

He was a pleasure to listen to. He's found that "sweet spot" of distinguishing the voices of each character but not overdoing it. It was convincing and seemingly effortless, which is the mark of a great narrator!

Do you think Simple Jess needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

I'm pretty sure it has one. This is part of a series. I haven't read any of the other books. I'm sure I would have gotten more out of Simple Jess if I'd read the lead-in book. I'd like to hear how Althea and Jess are doing say a year later.

Any additional comments?

This audiobook was provided by the narrator at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review courtesy of AudiobookBlast dot com.

1 person found this helpful

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Jess

I meant to write this review a few weeks ago, but I forgot to. Sorry!

Simple Jess had my emotions all over the place. I would laugh, then get mad, then ecstatic, then I'd be crying. I loved it!

It annoyed me after awhile that they kept calling Jess "Simple", even though I KNOW it's one of the main parts of the story. He couldn't help what happened to him.

The leading lady, which I will call "A" because I don't want to butcher her name, is one of my favorites.

Those meddlesome townspeople! And her family! I know it's not usually like that today (thank goodness), but I think she should have been able to take care of her son on her own, without having to remarry. She seemed strong enough to.

The narration was excellent! I think Kevin Clay did wonderful with It.

Pamela Morsi is one of my new Top Ten authors.

I was given a free copy from either the author, narrator, or publisher via Audiobookblast·com in exchange for an honest review, which I have given. All thoughts are my own.

Thank you for the opportunity to review this, and I do hope I get another shot at their work!

1 person found this helpful

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This book has every emotion!

--I was given a copy of this audiobook for an honest review.

I was hesitant to listen to this book, seeing that it was book 2 of a series. But I love Kevin Clay's narrations and forged ahead and I am so glad I did! This book is fine as a stand alone. It is heart-warming, frustrating, loving, angering, tear-jerking...every emotion comes through. I really enjoyed the fact that Althea, a young widow with a small child, was a strong willed woman, standing up for herself against family intervention. I loved Jess, who while "simple" was the most wonderful man Althea could ask for. I hated her in-laws, grew to like both her suitors and even fell for Baby Paisley. This book has a little of everything and will leave you wanting to go back to the Marrying Stone.

Kevin Clay is one of my favorite male narrators. He is able to portray women's voices(which is my pet peeve with many male narrators). The emotion and warmth of his voice keeps you just wanting more.

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Not so Simple Jess

Simple Jess: Marrying Stone Book 2 Author: Pamela Morsi Narrator: Kevin Clay Listening Time: 12 Hrs. 17 Min. I always like to preface any reviews I give with this information. I am a 68 year old female who has been an avid reader since I was around 10 or 11 years old. I read primarily for pleasure. I have a great many interests and do a lot of research for personal pleasure and knowledge as well. Disclaimer: "This Audiobook was given by the author, narrator, or publisher at no cost, in exchange for an unbiased honest review." At the beginning of this review, I have to tell you that I have a love/hate reaction to this book/audiobook. I normally don't have that kind of reaction to something I listen to. This is the 2nd book in the "Marrying Stone" book series. I recently finished Marrying Stone: Book 1, which I absolutely loved. While "Marrying Stone" showed us a mainly positive side of life in a very close-knit community setting, this book shows the negative aspect of living in a very close-knit community setting. Everyone knows everyone else's business, rumors and gossip abound. People are small-minded, can be hateful, rude, and mean to others. This story shows the negative aspects of people with selfish, grasping, greedy and manipulative tendencies. Althea Winsloe is a young widow with a little boy whose husband died and left Althea with a farm on good land. Althea's mother-in-law who is a very controlling person wants to get control back of the land so that it remains in the family. There is prestige and power, or at least perceived power, that Althea's mother-in-law wants to continue to wield. Althea's mother-in-law wants Althea to marry back into her husband's family so that the farm would then be in control of Althea's new husband. This book is written in the era of the early 20 century when women had no real rights to individuality and choice and women had to "obey" their husbands even if their husbands were a jerk, or wrong; it didn't matter. The male of the species was supreme then. There is a somewhat clannish sense of division among two different families; who over the course of generations have married into each other's families. There is evident jealousy, back-biting, disrespect, and all around negativity between these families, for the most part. Just like real life, some people are nicer, and certainly more gracious than others and rise above the more vindictive actions that we see a lot of in this particular book. From time to time in Marrying Stone, the community holds public meetings where music is played, singing, poetry, and other forms of entertainment are enjoyed by most. Usually at these meetings there is a "Kangaroo Court" where someone is accused of a 'crime' and is put on trial. A judge is chosen to rule, there are prosecuting and defending people who can represent the accused, and also a jury to pass sentence. Althea is placed on "trial" because she has adamantly refused to remarry. The end result of the "trial" is that Althea is told she has to remarry and has a limited time to decide who she will marry among a couple of fellows who want to marry her for all the wrong reasons. Those reasons being that they want to control Althea, and her land. This may seem strange to us but in those days, it was believed that women had a duty to remarry and to provide their children with a father-figure if the father had passed away. It was also perceived that it was a woman's duty to have more children. In a farming community it was also necessary to have enough people to be able to maintain the land and population there. Neither of these men are the kind of man that Althea would want to marry. They both have no real care for her. One is lazy, selfish, self-centered and a real cad, and the other is too easily pushed around by his father and has no real backbone or ability to stand up to him. Into this mix we have Simple Jess, who was also in the first book. Jess suffered some brain damage at birth because the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck at birth and because there wasn't adequate oxygen to his brain, he has a mental disability. He doesn't process information as quickly as "normal" people do. He gets confused easily, and doesn't remember things as easily as others, and sometimes gets side-tracked and time and events can get away from him. He is doing some work on Althea's farm in order to pay for some hunting dogs that her husband had, and Jess wants to own. So he is usually around to see all the antics that are going on with the other suitors, who want to persuade Althea to marry them. Jess is perceived as being stupid and made fun of by a great many of the people in his community and those people fail to see the sweetness, honesty, kindness, gentleness and love that Jess is capable of showing. The hate part of this story for me is the character of Eben who is the cad. He is a real jerk, selfish, self-centered, vindictive, malicious and arrogant. Eben has been involved with a young woman named Mavis, and was very abusive mentally, physically, and emotionally toward her. For most of this book his character left a bad taste in my mind and made it very hard for me to really like this book as much as I could have. Eben does experience significant change but for me, his conversion from jerk to nice guy was not realistic; it happened so very quickly. People don't change that fast. Change is a process that takes time. While I did enjoy this book, the first one is much better. This book is not as funny, there is so much more negativity in general and of course the abuse factor was a problem for me personally. This is my 2nd book by Pamela Morsi that I have read/listened to, and it was overall, a great story. I know there is a 3rd book in this series and I want to get it, simply because I want to know what the 3rd story is. Narrator Kevin Clay is a voice actor who is swiftly becoming one of my favorite narrators. In all the years I have listened to audiobooks and tapes (before there were mp3s), I have listened to hundreds of books on tape, CD, and mp3. I have a list of favorite narrators that is upwards of around 15 or 20 voice over artists. Kevin Clay has a wonderful range of voices, very realistic accents, is able to do a range of voice characterizations from very young children, adult male and female characters, as well as elderly female and male characters. Amazingly, he also sings in both the feminine and masculine voice ranges and has a really amazing singing voice. His audio work is always superb, and I know that when I see his name listed as the narrator, I will not be disappointed. I believe anyone from the age of 20 and above might enjoy this story. It is a romance so I do believe it would appeal more to women than to men for the most part.

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love this sweet story

I've read the book a couple of times and now have on audible. a sweet story about love and acceptance. I love it.

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  • Launa
  • 11-16-17

Fantastic

The story was well written and the narration was extremely well done. A very good pairing. Will look for more by this author and hopefully
also narrated by Kevin Clay.