Shadows of Love
This is an example of a book that I knew better than to finish. The writing left lots to be desired, the dialogue was stilted and clumsy, and my palms itched to slap some sense into the heroine. But the plot was just intriguing enough to keep me reading, long after those elements should have made me throw the book down. That’s the only reason it didn’t hit the wall.
The story starts with a definite bang. Celeste Bates wakes up – in a coffin. She’s been buried alive, a pawn in an elaborate white-slaving scheme. When her captors exhume her, she manages to slip out of their clutches and stumbles around in the fog of London’s dockside neighborhoods. She’s pleading with a couple of prostitutes to help her when her path crosses that of studly American sea captain Brent MacGraft, who’s hot on the trail of the man he believes is responsible for the disappearance of a female colleague of his. Brent immediately recognizes the locket around Celeste’s throat as belonging to said colleague, and since she’s in the company of a couple of doxies, he comes to two erroneous conclusions: Celeste must be a prostitute, and she must be in cahoots with the man he’s chasing. For her part, since Brent speaks the name of the man who accosted her, Celeste is convinced that Brent is part of the plot against her.
Brent takes the poor girl to his ship, hoping to get a confession out of her. But she admits to nothing; she even tells him who she is, but Brent doesn’t believe her because he was at her funeral. Through various circumstances he ends up keeping her aboard as the ship returns home to Wilmington, North Carolina. Of course, once they’re at sea the attraction between the two of them is too much to resist, and during the voyage they fall in love, although neither wants to admit it. After their passion overcomes them, though, Brent has his first mate marry them, but Celeste thinks it’s just a sham. When they reach Wilmington, she takes the first chance to run away, and falls straight into the clutches of her evil uncle, who banished her to England years before so he could get his hands on her plantation.
Then the plot starts to get complicated.
While I could see through the suspense element with no difficulty, I was curious to see how the author was going to straighten everything out, and really, that was the only thing that kept me going. Celeste is a complete ninny, prone to panic attacks – understandable, since she had been buried alive, but irritating nonetheless. Brent comes from the “I don’t trust you but I want you, and I know you’re a whore but that doesn’t matter to me” school of heroes, and his big secret is altogether implausible. I also found his conversion from distrust to love thoroughly unconvincing. The main villain of the piece is little more than a caricature, and there’s another bad guy who’s patently transparent. As a matter of fact, all the characters are little more than stick figures clomping across the pages.
The stilted dialogue is not helped at all by awkward, grammatically incorrect dialogue tags, punctuation errors and run-on sentences. The narrative flow of the story is ruined by all these errors which should have been corrected before the final copy-edit was approved. Sometimes a plot gets overly complicated and the reader gives up, too confused to go on. In this case, the plot was the only thing that engaged my attention in a positive way. I know this book is not going to make it to my keeper shelf, but at least it didn’t hit the floor.