>> Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Looking For The Past...It's not every week that I write two A+ reviews in a row! But that's the only grade that can do both this one and To Have and To Hold justice. Very different books, but each perfect in their own way.
Ellie Connor is a biographer with a special talent for piecing together fragments of the past. Her latest project, though, promises to be her most challenging--and personal. Not only is she researching the life of a blues singer who disappeared mysteriously forty years ago, but Ellie is also trying to find the truth about the parents she never knew. The love child of a restless woman who died young and an anonymous father, Ellie has little to go on but a faded postcard her mother sent from a small East Texas town--the hometown of her latest subject.
Could Mean Finding Her Future
It is there that Ellie meets Blue Reynard, a man with deep roots and wide connections who may help her find answers. With a piercing gaze and cool grin, Blue is as sultry and seductive as the Southern night air. Beneath his charming surface, however, lies a soul damaged by loss. Despite her better judgment, Ellie finds herself irresistibly drawn to Blue's passion--and his pain. But Ellie's been lured by sweet talk and hot kisses before. How can she possibly stay with blue when every instinct tells her to run.
ITMR has a wonderful heroine, a simply to-die-for hero, and a sweet, romantic and truly hot romance between them. When Ellie arrives at Pine Bend with certain investigations she wants to pursue (more about them later, as they're a huge and lovely part of the book), she wasn't expecting her email acquaintance, Dr. Laurence Reynard, could be such a young, beautiful man. And Blue was expecting something a bit different, too.
Ellie's immediately drawn to Blue. Who wouldn't! The man is that yummy... beautiful, intelligent, caring and tortured, but in a way that he doesn't take it out on the people around him. In fact, he's caring and nurturing. The way he took care of his old cat made me completely fall in love with him.
Ellie feels all that, but she just knows getting involved with Blue will not be good for her. He's just too tragic and has too much baggage for her to believe that he could heal enough, and is too gorgeous for her to believe he could be seriously interested in plain Ellie Connor. She just knows that if they do get involved, she'll fall in love and have her heart broken.
But Blue soon starts to fall for her himself, and once he starts to seriously pursue her, she doesn't stand a chance. And the romance that develops as they each fall in deeper for each other is wonderfully romantic and beautiful. But Blue's had so much loss in his life, so will he be able to dare to fall in love again and put himself in a position to risk losing someone else he cares about? You can probably guess the answer, this being a romance novel and all, but the path to getting this question answered is one of the most beautiful, evocative reads I've ever experienced.
But this book is so much more than a wonderful romance (not that "just" a wonderful romance is anything to sneeze at, of course!). Ellie arrives at Pine Bend with a two-fold mission to accomplish. First, as part of her research into singer Mabel Beauvois' life, which she intends to turn into a biography, she's trying to find out what happened to Mabel when she seemingly disappeared into thin air all those years ago, never to be seen again.
At the same time, Ellie wants to try her hand at finding out something a bit more closer to home. She never knew who her father was, and since all she knows is that her mother spent a few months at Pine Bend around the time Ellie was conceived, she suspects her father might have been from the area. This is not her priority in coming to Pine Bend, but she figures that, as long as she's there, she'll ask a few questions and see where they lead.
Both these mysteries Ellie tries to unravel are incredibly engaging and intriguing, and they weave together in some surprising ways. I loved finding out more about Mabel's life, what it could have been like for a talented, young, black woman in an area of the US where life musn't have been easy for her.
Related to this, something I especially enjoyed about ITMR was the way the issue of race was explored. There are no stereotypes here, and each person is simply him or herself, but Wind acknowledges different experiences and the effects these must have had on people's lives.
Anyway, Ellie's search for her father was fascinating, too, and I think it was my favourite of the two mysteries to be unraveled. Ellie soon hits on several possibilities, and her exploration of them brings back the summer in which a group of young men left for Vietnam, many of them never to return. These sections were just so poignant and sad and beautiful! And, I don't want to spoil any surprises, but when the resolution to the mystery is revealed, it is just perfect and brought tears to my eyes.
In fact, the entire conclusion did. And a few of them were simply because the book was over and I didn't want to leave that world yet. The true mark of a keeper, that!