Lost Souls
by Amber Carlton, historical (2007)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.95, ISBN 978-1-59578-377-6


Our heroine, Celia Drake Rafferty, is a woman on the run. Her husband Julian was an abusive villain but he's dead now and our heroine is on the run, knowing that she'll be arrested for his murder if she is not careful. Injured, she literally stumbles her way to Lost Souls Spit, a remote island with a lighthouse off the coast of Virginia. The lighthouse keeper, Luke Devereaux, has enough woman issues to keep himself company, so Celia's presence in his life is not something he's pleased about. They fall in love, but the bad guys naturally won't leave them at peace.

Lost Souls intrigues me because I have a soft spot for wounded characters finding love, but this one turns out to be more corny than anything else. There are plenty of exchanges that feel more like a pretentious attempt at heavy-handed discourse than anything else.

"I mean, are you well... inside."

"Am I well inside?" she whispered. "No, Mr. Devereaux, I don't think so. I don't think I'm at all well... inside. In fact, I think I might be... dead."

Luke drew back another step. The girl was relentless. Her words followed him, winding around him with a hopelessness that shattered his resolve.

"Do I look dead to you? How can you tell? How do you know when you're really truly dead?"

He could think of nothing to say and that seemed to signal to her that things were as bad as she feared. She dropped her head against her knees and to his horror; her shoulders began to shake as sobs wracked her entire body. He backed up, moving closer to the door. He didn't know what to do against a woman's tears. He never had. If he had the secret to that, he might have been able to stop it years ago when his life had gone from bad to worse.

"I didna mean to make you cry," he stuttered. "Please, lass, what can I do?"

"Nothing," she choked. "There's nothing. I'm nothing. It can't be fixed. It can't be forgotten. Please... just don't look at me. I can't stand to have you look at me."

I can't get into the story, not when there are the author's annoying uses of ellipses to indicate what I suppose must be profound pauses as well as her use of italics to emphasize drama ("well ...inside"). It is as if Ms Carlton is too self-conscious of her attempts to pull my heartstrings and she's determined to make sure that I do not miss a single cue from her to sob and cry.

The story itself is fine. It's nothing particular new or inventive, but I suspect that I won't mind and perhaps even like the main characters were not for the author's melodramatic way with ellipses, italics, and pretentious yet unnatural dialogs in this story. The technique is the problem here, not the story.

Rating: 63


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