A Light on the Veranda
The heroine of A Light on the Veranda is a busy girl – she moves from New York to Mississippi, switches careers, starts to fall in love, deals with her horrid mother and ex-fiancé, and must face the tragic events in the life of her long-dead namesake. While the paranormal aspects in this book, which can sometimes make or break a story, are handled well, overall A Light on the Veranda was just a slightly better than average read.
Daphne Duvallon really doesn’t want to attend a family wedding. Since she left the cheating Jack Ebert at the altar two years ago, things have been tense to say the least, and she’s been living in New York playing the harp for a living. Daphne is close to her brother King though, and when he calls to ask her to play at his wedding, Daphne can’t refuse, even if it means getting fired from her day job. King and his fiancée Corlis (from Midnight on Julia Street) are not getting married in the Duvallons’ hometown of New Orleans, where Daphne’s disastrous near-wedding took place, but instead three hours away in Natchez, Mississippi, The Town that Time Forgot.
Daphne has to deal with her family and the fact that Jack has not gotten over being jilted, because he keeps pulling incredibly childish stunts. Also, she has to contend with flashbacks she experiences, to another time, where she encounters another Daphne “with similar bad taste in men.” While she is in Natchez, Daphne meets an attractive nature photographer, Simon Hopkins, who is also witness to some strange happenings. Although Simon and Daphne are undeniably attracted to each other, Daphne is wary of becoming involved with yet another man who lives on the road. Simon is wary of becoming involved too, since he has been through a painful divorce, which haunts him to this day. Daphne does love Natchez though, and instead of returning to her life in New York, she chooses to stay. She forms a jazz group with other women and ends up having the time of her life.
Daphne is a sympathetic character, and it is heartwarming to see her take chances as the story progresses, not only when it comes to her life, but also when it comes to her relationship with Simon, who has his own history of not recognizing early signs of trouble in relationships. A last-minute crisis serves to illustrate Daphne’s insecurities and just how easily she and Simon revert to their old emotional habits whenever there’s trouble. There is also an interesting subplot involving Simon and Daphne battling to save a local bird sanctuary (and the local population) from chemical polluting, with Daphne’s ex-finance Jack, and Simon’s ex-wife in the opposite camp.
While these aspects were well done, there were others that diminished my enjoyment of the book. A lot of research was done on Natchez, but it had the feel of a guidebook at times. Pacing was also a problem – descriptions interrupted the narrative flow of the book, which was already filled with a tremendously large cast of characters and so much going on. Another problem was the lack of subtlety when it came to the villains. They were too blatantly bad. Although A Light on the Veranda didn’t make a great impression, it made enough of one that I do plan to check out Ms. Ware’s next offering, or perhaps to search out her classic Island of the Swans.