by Karen White, historical (2001)
LoveSpell (Candleglow), $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52455-4
Karen White's Whispers Of Goodbye treads the fine line between contrived storytelling and entertaining readers. If her voice and engaging style haven't shone through the story, I would be less merciful and administer the savage mojo on this book. But Karen White is so good at creating a voice for her story that reels me in.
This story is told in first person, all from heroine Catherine deClaire's point of view. Like I said, the author gives Catherine a coherent voice and character from the get go. She receives a letter from her sister Elizabeth about how Lizzie is having less than a grand time with her hubby John McMahon. Cath immediately packs her bags to visit Lizzie.
Alas, upon her arrival at John's Louisianian plantation, she learns that Lizzie is missing. Is John's distance means that he is hiding something? If so, what is it? In the meantime, Cath will take time to play Mary Poppins to poor lil' girl Rebecca, who may or may not be John and Lizzy's daughter.
In a mediocre story devoid of originality, this story will end up with Lizzie's name dragged through the mud like those old-fashioned ploughs pulled by bullocks in farms. Well, guess what, this book goes one further and tars both Cath's dead husband and Cath's sister. Love, after all, happens only once in a lifetime, and everyone else who makes pit stops at the hero and heroine's love motel is just plain scum, yes?
Also, the secondary characters are pure stereotypes, right down to the nondescript vodoo-lovin'. superstitious Negro slaves (those who are freed but nicely stay on to wait on their masters) who just cannot speak straight up. The kid, Rebecca, is also treading a fine line between being a genuine character and a mere plot device.
But the one to suffer the most in this story is John. The story, told from Cath's perspective, just cannot come through as a personality at all. Sometimes he is brutal, sometimes he is insufferable, and sometimes he's just being annoyingly vague. But he's a good father, I give him that, and his relationship with his daughter is well done. Since John is more often than not a plot device, his romance with Cath is as explosive as a firecracker show in a thunderstorm.
Still, the prose is skillfully done, and the author's voice, her greatest asset, always keep me reading. I know the plot is rather half-baked, and half the cast here are just ciphers and devices. Nonetheless, Whispers Of Goodbye manages to keep me reading all through the night. It's a good story by the sheer force of the author's style alone. Impressive, I must say.
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