Thursday, July 31, 2008

Crystal Passion by Jo Goodman

I was looking forward to reading more of Jo Goodman. She is one of my favorite authors, although I haven't equally loved all her books. Somehow the muse of book naming has escaped Ms Goodman or her editors, and once again I wondered what in the world the name of this book meant and what it had to do with the story...

This is the first in a trilogy about the McClellans - and the hero is eldest son Salem, who is in England supposedly to locate a specific horse for his father from the Duke of Linfield. A filly with a brand, to be specific.

The Duke's "ward" is Ashley - raised as the poor relation to the Duke, and mistreated, she is about to be married off to an elderly gentleman, again for a horse. Because the fiancé is impotent, the Duke cruelly decides to have Ashley lose her virginity to the next visitor to the house - and wouldn't ya know it would be Salem? And, this is a slight spoiler, but what the heck, it happens early in the book - the Duke branded Ashley at birth... so... she's the filly Salem's father is looking for.

Not sure exactly how dad thought Salem was going to figure it out unless he undressed her, considering where the brand is - so that part is a little muddy in my own head. Was he prescient and figured Salem would want her? Or that the Duke would somehow fix them up? Well, Salem doesn't take her virginity but he does find the brand, and figures out she's the one his father wanted.

Then the Duke further complicates the matter by having Salem thrown in prison for smuggling, and Ashley must figure out a way to get him out. This is a major stretch for a character who has been pretty meek and sheltered her entire life, but she pulls it off.

Well - to say much more might spoil the plot for anyone who wants to read it - Ashley heads off to America with Salem - and it's 1775. There's a question of the relationship of Salem's father to Ashley, and therefore his own relationship - could they be half-siblings? There's a sea voyage to complete, just the 2 of them in a small cabin. There's this revolution talk...

There is a hint of Goodman's layered and complex prose here, but it's not as well developed a story as her later works. I found myself skimming ruthlessly near the end, wondering where she was going with the plot but not much caring. There were ends left undone that I figure will be addressed in the next 2 books in the series.

3 stars - didn't hate it but was a little disappointed.

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