The Forever Bride
What would happen if a fake spiritualist was hired by an unbelieving skeptic to fool a friend, and then managed to conjure up a real spirit? Judith O’Brien offers one possible scenario in The Forever Bride, a lively and suspenseful romance set in turn-of-the-century New York City. Feisty characters, sinister villains, surprising plot twists, and murder will satisfy the action-lover, while the emotional catharsis and healing of wounded souls who find hope in love will please the romantic.
Celia Thomason was orphaned at the age of eight, and subsequently raised by her aunt and uncle. Upon the death of her Uncle James, she and her Aunt Prudence are appalled to find they are virtually penniless due to failed investments and debts that James had kept secret. Even worse, shortly after the funeral, creditors appear who are in possession of the deed to Aunt Pru’s house, and they give Celia only six months to come up with twenty-one thousand dollars or lose everything. To protect her aunt, Celia does not tell her, but determines to find a way to redeem the debt on her own. One day, while serving tea to visiting friends, Celia and Pru realize that money can be made holding seances, and with the help of their servant, Patrick, a new star in the spiritual world is born.
Celia by nature is an honest soul, but she rationalizes that the deception involved in fooling her customers is offset by the healing and hope the grieving find in “communicating” one last time. Unfortunately, while business is booming, Celia is not earning nearly enough fast enough, and the deadline is rapidly approaching.
Enter one brusque but gorgeous Irishman, Brendan O’Neal, a self-made millionaire devoted to maintaining complete control over his life. Brendan is grieving over the death of his young sister, Amanda Stevens (which is witnessed by the reader in the prologue) but he has not come to Celia to contact the dead. He is a complete skeptic, scorning those who believe such psychic rubbish. He is concerned for Garrick Stevens, his best friend and bereaved husband of Amanda. Garrick’s life is falling apart since losing his young bride, and Brendan hopes that Celia can somehow bring Garrick comfort and peace. The problem is, Garrick is as much a skeptic as Brendan, so Brendan is willing to pay Celia a large sum of money to convince Garrick that her seance is legitimate and Amanda has truly been contacted one more time.
The writing is brisk, witty, and convincing. Judith O’Brien successfully contrives an intricate plot with plenty of turns and twists which keep the reader involved. Subtle clues are woven in which give the reader the opportunity to foretell what will happen, yet somehow the book never becomes predictable, and the ending is exciting as well as surprising. Historic detail that smacks of authenticity permeates the pages. The description of dinner being served at the famed Astor House is just one scene that will delight the history aficionado.
Fortunately, the excellent plotting doesn’t interfere with the character development of Celia and Brendan, and to a lesser degree, that of Aunt Pru, Garrick, and the otherworldly Amanda. Both Celia and Brendan have past hurts which must be faced and put into perspective, and their journey to wholeness and the ability to trust and love again is believable and seasoned with humor. The dialogue is pointed and clever, and flawlessly dovetailed with concise and amusing internal thought which enables the reader to fully understand Brendan and Celia as well as note their growth. Although the secondary characters are very much on the sidelines, they are still well-defined and enhance the tale.
The bad guys of the story are not quite so well developed, and are the only characters who perhaps approach the flat stereotype – this is especially true of the evil creditors. Despite this minor flaw, suspense builds, and the end is both surprising and satisfying.
Altogether, The Forever Bride is a wonderful tale that will more than satisfy the tastes of a variety of readers.
|Reviewer:||Mary Ann Lien|
|Review Date:||November 13, 1999|