Desperate Deceptions
by Linda Hudson-Smith, contemporary (2001)
Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-141-3


Before I start giving the synopsis of this story, I have to say this: I don't understand the heroine. At all. Maybe some people who think that Special Homes for the elderly, the diseased, and the handicapped the greatest evil since the Teletubbies can understand. I can't.

Putting her mother who is showing advanced symptoms of pernicious anemia (which are pretty similar in a sense to the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease) into a special Home is what caused heroine Dr Erika Edmonds to whip herself bloody. As a busy ob-gyn in Pittsburgh, she is already having troubles juggling with her schedule when her mother wanders off in a haze of confusion in the opening pages. In despair, she decides that the Home manager is right: she has to put Vernice into some special care center.

After doing so, she collapses into tears. She will never forgive herself again! As she walks down empty hallways, she hears voices calling her Traitor, traitor, traitor!

Frankly, I think she needs some extra-strong tranquilizers. I don't get what this big fuss is all about. She still visits Vernice regularly. It's not as if Vernice is in a concentration camp. If I'm old - okay, older - and unable to function normally in some way, I sure don't want my overworked daughter leaving me alone in an empty house in her misguided notions of piety. Put me in a Home with nice handsome male nurses anytime.

Not surprisingly, our heroine is like a coiled spring of frustrations and anger and bitterness. She's an evil daughter! Cruel! Unworthy! Evil, evil, evil! A fellow doc, Michael Mathis, however, gets it into his head that this rude, snappy ice sleet of a woman is sexy, and he flirts with her. But he has a Big Secret to keep from Erika: Erika's father is someone else, not the man she always believed to be her father. It's another no-biggie if you ask me. I mean, Erika's a big girl now, what's a little paternity confusion in the mix?

But Erika runs down the hallway screaming that the whole freaking world is against her. Or something to the effect.

Erika's a doctor and I fear for her patients. This woman is unstable in my opinion. She bloats all small matters into giant Himalayas and spends all her time beating herself and blaming herself for every problem imaginable. I sincerely hope she isn't holding a syringe when she finally snaps and takes hostage of the poor patients in her office.

Mike is a decent hero, if a little one-dimensional. Can't blame him: the author creates this story to be heroine-driven as much as possible. Well, with Erika's extreme neuroses and inexplicable emotional hysteria, I'd say she has enough hot air to drive the story from one end of the Trans-Siberian Railway to the other.

In the afterword, the author invites a specialist in pernicious anemia to write a brief article about the disease. Clearly, Ms Hudson-Smith wants to drive the message across: this disease is serious, and we should all care for and understand the inflicted souls. But with a story like Desperate Deceptions, I can't help but to wonder she should have just written a family-service pamphlet instead.

Rating: 55


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