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If You Could See What I See

If You Could See What I SeeUnknown-1

by: Cathy Lamb

Kensington Books New York, NY 2013

ISBN:978-0758259400

Cathy Lamb writes novels about women who have been in abusive relationships.  Their stories are told as they overcome the odds, struggling to find their strength and build new lives.  This novel is not an exception to the rule.

The center of the story is a lingerie company Lace, Satin and Baubles.  The main character Meggie O’Rourke is returning home at the request of her grandmother and sisters because the business is in trouble.  So is Meggie.

She left the family business, started by her immigrant grandmother, to pursue film making.  She became a noted documentary film maker.  She also met another filmmaker and they became involved.  The twist on many of Lamb’s novels is that Meggie’s new husband is struggling with manic depression.  He’s been fighting his mental illness since childhood, but neglected to mention the problem to Meggie before their wedding.

We learn about that relationship in bits and pieces as Meggie works to rebuild herself and the business.  She is inspired to use her documentary film making skills to tell the stories of the employees of the company.  Many of these women have been with Lace, Satin and Baubles since their 20’s and continue to work into their 60’s and 70’s.  They all have stories, many of them expressing gratitude to Meggie’s grandmother for helping them get out of difficult relationship circumstances themselves.

We all know the fashion industry hires overseas workers and this lingerie company is no exception.  Still the theme of providing a safe place for women to become independent carries through even in the third world.  The manager of the oversea’s plant is a spitfire.  She’s clearly proud of the fact that she left her abusive husband and is happy to show off her “war wounds” across the Skype.

Even Grandma has a story to tell.  She’s kept her secrets all these years.  In its final scenes Meggie’s work brings this story full circle.  This novel is a tear jerker, but you are never sure if you are crying in sorrow or in joy for what these women accomplish.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2013 in Fiction, Romance

 

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Little Gale Gumbo

Little Gale GumboUnknown

by: Erika Marks

Penguin Group New York, NY  2011

ISBN: 978-0-451-23465-0

Little Gale is an island, not in the Gulf of Mexico, but in Maine.  The Bergeron sisters are brought there as pre-teens by their mother to escape their abusive father.  They are a long way, both by distance and by culture, from the New Orleans where they spent their childhood.   Sadly, it’s not far enough.

This is a tale of the ties that hold a small town together.  It is about what it means to be a family.  It is about choices and consequences.  It’s about keeping secrets and sharing traditions.

The racism that exists in the town is not overt, as is typical in the north.  The interesting thing is that an insular town like this might treat any newcomer in much the same way, regardless of racial heritage.  It is the cultural differences, the food, the easy New Orleans jazz, the Creole Voodoo that make the Bergeron’s stand out among the hard wintered lobstermen.

In the family itself it is the racism that sparks a goodly portion of the abuse.  Charles, the father, is a red-headed, freckle faced jazz trumpeter.  His oldest daughter is as black as her grandmother.  The younger one looks much like Charles.  The differences of temperament, acceptance, and expectation between the girls are underscored by color.

The gumbo is good, and it is the analogy at the center of the story.  What makes a good gumbo: the carefully crafted dark roux, the holy trinity of vegetables, and the shrimp.  The story shifts back and forth in time starting and ending with family secrets.  At its heart it is a tale about what makes a family.

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2013 in Fiction

 

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Gottcha!

Gottcha!Gottcha

by: Fern Michaels

Kensington Publishing Corp. New York, NY  2013

ISBN: 978-0-7582-6602-6

I find Fern Michaels to be an uneven writer.  Much of her early work is about battered women getting away from their abusive relationships and those themes continue in her current work.  What I appreciate most about her later writing is that her heroines don’t need to be 22.  Many of her Vigilantes (from the Sisterhood series) are in their late 60’s and 70’s.  She writes a strong grandmother figure.

I enjoy her Vigilantes the same way I enjoy the Punisher and for much the same reasons.  I am very much aware that our legal system is occasionally unfair and unjust.  Sometimes we have all fantasized that the true culprits get the comeuppance they deserve.  Just like the Punisher, the Vigilantes are graphically violent when meeting out that justice.  More like Batman than the Punisher, the Vigilantes get away with it because they are filthy rich, well respected in the community, and ultimately little old ladies.

This book is framed by the Vigilantes and so it is a part of that series.  I was rather confused though when the focus immediately shifted to our heroine (in her 50’s).  The plot centered on the heroine moves along much like a typical romance novel.  The allusions to the “hardship” which drew the Vigilantes attention are minimal and undefined.

A freak accident changes everything and again the focus is back with the Vigilantes finally showing up at our heroine’s door.  In the end this is indeed a Vigilante novel with the potential of romance rather than the romance novel it appeared to be.

The other interesting thing about this piece is the way the abuse figures into the story.  For once the abusive relationship is very mutual.  There is no interest in separating the woman from her abusive spouse or visa versa.  They’re both villains and come up against the Vigilante’s in full form.  This time the true victim redeemed is a child.  This minor character has a resilience and in spite of her exposure to the abuse seems to come through it all without a scratch to her psyche.

Fern Michaels also writes about dogs.  It’s clear she knows them and loves them.  It’s the dogs in the story, rescued from the pound, who have apparently suffered the trauma of abuse.  The secondary story allows us to watch the dogs find their way past their anxieties.  They also seem to find a purpose for themselves in their new and loving homes.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2013 in Romance

 

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