A View of the River
When hero and heroine Rochelle LeClair and Birch Trueblood are together, A View of the River is a satisfying, wonderful read. But, sadly, the biggest problem with this book is that they’re just not together enough.
In a sort of 50-30-20 mix of women’s fiction, contemporary romance and paranormal, Kathleen Eagle devotes an enormous amount of time to telling the story of the complicated web of relationships Rochelle shares with her sister and aunt in addition to the romance. If this part of the book – one to which enormous amounts of the novel’s total pages are dedicated – had been a shade more subtle and a shade less obvious, A View of the River would have been a different book and, quite frankly, a better one. Add in a sort of half-hearted paranormal plot and the book’s ultimate power becomes even further diluted.
Rochelle lives with her beloved aunt and her aunt’s companion in an old estate on the Mississippi River. With the family fortune nearly gone, former schoolteacher Rochelle is well on her way to turning the family home into a thriving inn. Her motives are noble and her goal simple: hold on to the rural Minnesota property long enough for her aunt to continue living in the style to which she is accustomed for the remainder of her life.
Birch is a Native American and descendant of a tribe whose land was largely co-opted by white men, most notably Rochelle’s lumber baron ancestor. Making a lucrative living providing sort of New Age Shaman services for a happily paying clientele, handsome Birch is persuaded by her aunt’s assistant to come to Rochelle’s home for a sort of cleansing ritual designed to chase away any negative energy. But, as the reader knows right from the start, the estate is indeed occupied by more than simply bad vibes and the ghosts whose unresolved issues in life keep them tethered to the estate are about to make their presence known to the living.
Now, what worked very well for me here was the central romance of Rochelle and Birch, even though it’s a shade on the tepid side – and by that I mean that I never became convinced that these two were overcome by an enormous passion they couldn’t deny despite Rochelle’s lifelong crush on sexy Birch. But, even though that’s okay because real life is often like that, what I found less satisfying were the relationships between the women since Rochelle’s sister Tracy comes off as one of those e-e-v-i-l and selfish Other Woman types from a Silhouette or Harlequin of the 1980s, while her aunt is the all too familiar good, slightly eccentric, loving, and appealing dotty older relative well known to readers of romance and women’s fiction. Add in Birch’s all too adorably “grown up” young daughter, and it becomes even harder to stick with the portions of the story in which Birch and Rochelle do not figure together.
And then there’s that sort of half-hearted paranormal plot. This isn’t the first book I’ve read recently in which it seems that the paranormal elements were kind of shoved in to the plot. I’m starting to wonder, quite honestly, if the currently popularity of paranormals isn’t prompting editors and authors to include a paranormal plotline, even when the author’s heart and soul aren’t quite in it. I like ghosts and I like paranormals, but I like them best when they make sense in a story and aren’t simply there as one of the elements of an already overcrowded plot. I have to admit, that’s what it felt like here.
So, why the B-? Kathleen Eagle’s prose sings, her dialogue is always terrific, and the romance at the heart of the story is a good one. If one of the parts is definitely greater than the sum of the whole, there are still plenty of reasons for readers to try A View of the River. You may, however, want to do something as a reviewer I was unable to do and skip some of those 392 pages and go right to the good stuff.