Monday, August 24, 2009

“Rose House” & “The Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love” & “The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper”

“Rose House” by Tina Ann Forkner is a gripping novel. It follows the story of a widow named Lillian. She lost her husband and twin children when the car her sister was driving became involved in an accident. Also, Lillian’s parents and two older brothers were killed in a house fire that she and her sister survived. Oh, yeah, and there’s the fact that Lillian’s husband cheated on her with her sister. Lillian’s life is twisted beyond belief, and she truly is down in the dumps. Then, one day, she visits the Rose House. The house covered in roses evokes emotions deep within her. She even makes friends with the owner of the bed and breakfast she stay at--who, by the way, has a daughter about the age of Lillian’s deceased children. Later, Lillian encounters a mysterious painting that moves the story along. She even falls in love with a local. The romance in the book is physical, but there is nothing graphic (kissing is mentioned, and the couple waits until marriage to “make children,” the very process of which is not even described). So, readers do not have to worry about anything raunchy. While God is mentioned in the book, religion is only in the background of this story and Lillian painfully learns not to have God for her circumstances.

“The Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love” by Beth Pattillo is a characteristically complex novel. It follows the stories of several women in a knitting club. There, they talk about literature they are reading--particularly classics that involve some sort of romance. As the book progresses, the women juxtapose the lives of literary characters with their own. The ages and situations of the women vary, but all have struggles. One woman has lost her husband and not sure how to act around men anymore. Another is focused on her career and doesn’t know what to do when a boyfriend distracts her. A teen struggles to forgive a football player that doesn’t want to recognize their relationship in public to the popular kids. A wife juggles her priorities as her husband makes demands of her related to his occupation. A mother yearns to be a better provider and role model for her baby. The stories go on and on. While the book is a bit slow at first, eventually readers find their favorite character that most relates to them. This woman is the one that ends up making the reader turn the pages--eager to know what happens that that particular knitting member next.

“The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper” by Kathleen Y’Barbo is an enjoyable Western novel. Set in the late nineteenth century, the story follows the story of a well-off New Yorker who goes to Denver. She does this so her servant’s relative may marry and not have to be go be a governess in Denver. Catapulted into the new world of child rearing and subservience, Eugenia is beside herself. Eugenia must tame an unruly child named Charlotte, which is in itself an adventure. Speaking of adventures, Eugenia is an avid Mae West reader and desires to live a life akin to hers. In fact, each chapter includes an excerpt from the Mae West novels that parallels Eugenia’s experiences. The real drama ensues when Eugenia writes an indignant letter to Charlotte’s father. She tells him to come home and tend to his child instead of his business. Believing the governess was insulting his parenting skills, Charlotte’s father Daniel returns home ready to fire the girl’s governess. Eugenia and Daniel meet in a store, and neither know who the other is. Flirting ensues, and both characters are enamored by the new stranger they have just met. When Eugenia and Daniel learn who each other are, they are flabbergasted. So begins the back and forth melodrama. Both are infuriated with the other’s character but intrigued by the other’s physical appearance. In no time, Daniel makes his feelings for Eugenia clear. Also, a dear new friend of Eugenia claims to love Daniel (who does not pay her a wink of attention). Delicately, Eugenia also falls in love with Daniel. The town lets on, and both Daniel’s and Eugenia’s reputations are at stake when they kiss in public. Romantic displays of affection without being married are outrageous. The details in the novel are enough to allude to romance but not enough to be considered graphic. The couple goes only as far as kissing, and the honeymoon is only alluded to once they are married. In the end, Eugenia’s cover is blown throughout town when people realize she isn’t who she said she was. The whole secret was kept away from her family, as well as her soon-to-be husband banker. In a shocking turn of events, Eugenia leaves behind her New York life and fiance banker for a wild west adventure with her new husband Daniel.

These books were provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

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