Miss Love says she could not ever really become Rucker’s wife because she has a secret that would make any man hate her. She says this secret was the reason Clayton McAllister broke their engagement. She tells Rucker the secret: when she was twelve and her mother was dying, her father, a miserable drunk, accused her mother of having had an affair. He claimed that Love was not his daughter, and to prove it, he raped Love. Rucker tells Miss Love he loves her nonetheless and that the rape does not matter to him. Miss Love says it does matter, and she sends Rucker away.

The next day, Will almost believes that the whole incident was a dream. He knows that the conversation did happen because on the drive back to Cold Sassy, Rucker sits in the front seat with Will instead of in the back seat next to Miss Love.

Analysis: Chapters 36–41

Miss Love manages to win some acceptance in town by appealing to individual women in Cold Sassy. Her postcards from New York are partially intended to gain business for Rucker’s store, but they also work to change Cold Sassy women’s low opinion of Miss Love. Even Mary Willis and Loma grudgingly admire Miss Love’s postcards and the descriptions of items she will bring them from New York. The postcards establish a connection between Miss Love and the rest of the women of Cold Sassy, as they find common ground in fashionable clothes. Miss Love’s business sense brings her closer to Rucker too. Rucker feels Miss Love’s commercial savvy refreshes and challenges him, and he seems renewed every time she reveals a new scheme for the store.

Rucker’s confessions about his relationship with Mattie Lou reveal his love for her to be more complicated than it initially seems. Before this confession, we, along with the rest of Cold Sassy, are inclined to think of Rucker and Mattie Lou’s life together as a paradise of unconditional love, devotion, and mutual respect. However, their marriage seems less idyllic when Rucker reveals that he and Mattie Lou stopped having sex years before her death. Rucker admits that their lack of intimacy scarred their marriage and resulted in a loss of desire. Rucker truly loved Mattie Lou, but his confessions reveal that like all marriages, his had its flaws and frustrations. Rucker feels great shame because he loved Miss Love since the day they met. This admission complicates our perception of him as a wholly devoted husband and makes his marriage seem realistically bumpy. Even the normally open-minded Will, with whom we align our sympathy, comes to agree with his grandfather’s claim that to love two women is a sin.

The revelation that Miss Love’s father raped her is a tragic moment in the novel, but it becomes the first step in Miss Love’s learning to love again. Miss Love’s awful secret goes a long way toward explaining her character. Although she usually seems warm and affectionate, her earlier encounter with Clayton shows that she is hiding some deeply hidden pain. We can also begin to understand why Miss Love so longs for security and safety, and see how she could marry in order to secure herself a home. Rucker and Miss Love’s whispered conversation in the bedroom is a painful moment at first, since they each reveal the guilt and shame they have carried. With these revelations, however, comes the potential to start things anew. Rucker and Miss Love’s relationship becomes deeper, and the growth of their love brings renewal and healing to both characters.

Rucker shows a spiritual renewal prompted by Miss Love’s growing affections, but this rejuvenation is also evident physically. Earlier, Rucker begins to appear more youthful as a result of Miss Love’s giving him a haircut and shaving off his beard. In these chapters, it even seems as if Rucker, normally so stingy and controlling with every aspect of his home, might consider her request to have a bathroom installed in the house. Rucker also exhibits a new love for technology. The fact that he purchases a car becomes an important indicator of his newly energized outlook. We do not even have to look closely at Rucker to realize that he is happier than he has been in a long while.