Phyllis A. Whitney

Anyone on the lookout for a slow-paced book where the heroine does a lot of wondering and pondering, have I got a recommendation for you. Unfortunately Phyllis A. Whitney’s Domino contains plenty of just that – and so didn’t work for me, which was disappointing because the setting is beautifully evoked. If only the rest of the story had been as good.

Laurie Morgan can’t remember much of her childhood. Worse, she has panic attacks caused by dazzling lights, so as the story opens, she sits and thinks about her life, with many mysterious references to her problems. Little does she know that her grandmother, far away in Colorado, is also thinking about her past. But she’s about to find out. *cue ominous music*

Foreshadowing is laid on with a heavy hand, especially when Laurie meets one of her love interests, Hillary.

“Laurie Morgan,” Hillary Lange repeated, an odd note that was almost wonderment in his voice. As though in his quick way he already sensed something I would grope my way toward more slowly – that we were going to mean a great deal to one another.

If the heroine marvels at a man’s dark eyes and muscular yet graceful body, I can tell there’s romance in the air without the narrative underlining it. Hillary is directing a play, so when she wanders into the theater, he immediately recruits her for a ‘small part’ that is also a ‘key role’, although he doesn’t yet know her name or whether she can act. The best part is when Laurie freezes up during the play and Hillary tells everyone to take a break while he soothes her, assures her she’s pretty, and asks her to tell him all about her traumatic experiences.

Life then becomes wonderful since Laurie has a long vacation from work and Hillary doesn’t seem busy either, so the two of them discover they both love doing the same things and talking about the same things. By this time I felt as though I’d taken far too much NyQuil. Then Laurie’s grandmother Persis, who’s never contacted her before, sends a telegram asking her to come to the mining town of Jasper, Colorado, where she was born.

So Laurie arrives with Hillary and her dog. A rich entrepreneur is pressuring the bedridden Persis to sell her land so he can turn it into a ski resort, but while she insists Laurie help her, she refuses to tell Laurie anything specific. This is common to all the people in the story -Persis’s lawyer, her nurse, her hired hand, etc. No one will tell Laurie about the past she can’t remember.

Rather than being intriguing, this was annoying, because the story quickly becomes repetitive. Laurie eats, and listens to people making oblique remarks. Laurie wanders somewhere and asks someone about her grandmother or her father, only to get an evasive answer or be told she should leave. She has a flashback, which makes her do what she does best – sit and think about her life. Reading this was like wading through molasses.

That said, I enjoyed the vividly described setting, which made me wish I could visit a silver mine. Though when the lawyer mentions the abandoned mining town of Domino, and Laurie says she’d like to see it, he warns her the mine is dangerous. I guessed she’d get lost in it, and so she does, lured in by a trap so obvious a child would see through it.

As for the other characters, Hillary is swoonworthy.

How they loved him! Not just the women. He was thoroughly masculine, and men liked him too… What a beautiful man he was. What a sometimes outrageous, entirely beautiful man!

Jon, the other love interest, is a cowboy who Laurie thinks of as foreign and exotic because he’s half-Spanish. Naturally, choosing between a city slicker and an exotic (but not too exotic!) cowboy is a no-brainer.

Was I falling in love with him? It was not an altogether happy thought. What about Hillary if this happened? What about me and my ability to love?

What about my wasted time?

That said, it wasn’t a complete loss, because I’d like to try another story set against the dangerous backdrop of an old mine, whether it’s abandoned or not. But it was a relief to finally reach the end of Domino. This had the potential to be interesting, but the endless rumination from a lethargic heroine sunk it.

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Book Details

Reviewer :      Marian Perera

Grade :     D+

Sensuality :      N/A

Book Type :     

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One Comment

  1. stl_reader July 10, 2017 at 10:09 pm - Reply

    Wow, I did a double-take when I saw “Phyllis Whitney”! I read all of her books back in college/my early 20s. I had no idea Domino had been reissued since it was first published in the late 70s. Sorry to hear that it has not stood the test of time.

    TBH, I haven’t ever had any desire to revisit Whitney’s books (or Victoria Holt’s, for that matter), But I did love them, back in the day. (Well, hey, I liked Barbara Carland for a while, too..)

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