Moonbow in the Mist
Total amnesia from a bump on the head, while rare in real life, is fascinating enough that most of us will put up with it in a romance heroine. I will put up with it when it’s done right. I am fascinated by the thought of what it must be like to have to figure out who you are. That’s interesting. Throwing in the twist of the affected person not wanting anyone to know that they’ve had a mind-altering (literally) experience is a lot harder to pull off. When it’s done well this kind of plot twist can add an intriguing dimension to the story, when it’s done haphazardly, it just muddies the plot and pushes it into the silly range.
Shaw Larson is a flatboat peddler who feels responsible when he waves at a woman on shore and causes her to fall (he isn’t in fact responsible, but he thinks he is.) And when Shaw isn’t able to determine who she is he figures someone in the nearby Appalachian town of Moonbow, Tennessee will know her. In Moonbow she is immediately identified as Naomi Romans, the granddaughter of Hazel Annie, the local healer. Problem is “Naomi” insists that she is Prima Powell, the daughter of a New York millionaire and has no idea why the people of Moonbow would think otherwise. Shaw was once irresponsible when it came to another female in his life, so he agrees to stick around and help Naomi/Prima figure things out.
Okay, that’s the plot in a nutshell. But it doesn’t spell out the inconsistencies, hard-to-believe elements and neglected plot points that abound. Prima had some kind of accident and has, for two years, thought she was Naomi Romans. Fine, but while this may be somewhat plausible, it’s asking a lot of the reader to believe that once she has the Prima memories back she’s now managed to misplace all the Naomi experiences. Amnesia once can be swallowed. Amnesia twice feels like a cough drop that’s been swallowed whole; it just sticks in your throat.
Prima’s solution to her dilemma is equally difficult to take. She decides to keep her new knowledge of who she is to herself so that she can find out what’s going on. That’s all well and good. Anne Perry has used a variation on this idea to good effect in her William Monk mystery series as has Judy Mercer in her suspense series featuring Ariel Gold. But Ms. Hunter doesn’t incorporate this element very well. Though Prima now has no memories of her life as Naomi, she is somehow able to operate in that life exactly as needed to further her investigation. This investigation meanders all over the place before finally kicking into gear in the last fourth of the book.
Prima and Shaw’s unevenly paced relationship mirrors the pacing of the mystery. They have a meaningful discussion about what’s happening to Prima, then spend a good deal of time avoiding each other. The problems they both have with their families, if given a little time, could have made them far more compelling characters. Instead they spend a lot of time talking about their respective dysfunctional families rather then facing them. When Prima finally faces her difficult father, the scene is given short shrift and is about as anticlimactic as they come.
Though the implausibility factor remained high throughout the book, the last fifty pages did finally gain some momentum. I was finally turning the pages out of something more then duty. That was way too little, too late for this reader.