Tag Archives: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Review: Cascade by Maryanne O’Hara

24th May 2013

pg1*This book was sent to me by the publisher Penguin in exchange for an honest review in coordination with Historical Fiction Virtual Author Tours.

In 1934, Cascade, Massachusetts holds tight to its vestiges of glamour. Once the place of a thriving Shakespearean theater where a young Rudolph Valentino graced the stage, the Crash has tarnished the appearance of the once-glitzy resort town.

Desdamona Hart Spaulding, the daughter of the theater’s owner, has left her dreams of a career in art and returned to care for her ailing and bankrupt father, marrying a local who has loved her for quite some time, Asa, in a move she quickly regrets. Once her father dies, Dez realizes just how provincial her life in Cascade will remain, particularly with the theater languishing and the town facing flooding to create a new reservoir.

When Jacob Solomon first appears on her property, commenting on Dez’s painting, Dez recognizes a kindred spirit, and her desire to be free takes over.

Charlie mentions in her review that the word “cascade” refers not only to the falls for which the town is named but also for the overwhelming emotion Dez experiences throughout the novel, and I think that’s apt. Jacob and his weekly meetings with her energize Dez. The two talk about art and artists, techniques and tools, the time flying by. She begins to romanticize their encounters until she obsesses over his visits.

Dez talks quite a bit about responsibility – her responsibility as a wife, a daughter, a citizen of Cascade – but ultimately, what wins out is her responsibility to her art. It’s a bold decision, as Dez leaves a good man, a man who cares for her, in order to pursue this life. O’Hara doesn’t help Dez either, making Asa out to be a hillbilly or a cad. Instead, he’s a stand-up guy and one that, even as you know it’s right for Dez to leave, you hurt for.

Though Jacob Solomon is ostensibly who Dez loves, I did feel that he’s just a means to an end. Dez wants to leave Asa and Cascade but cannot seem to leave just to paint and live in New York without something else propelling her forward. In fact, my one complaint would be that I wish Dez would have been able to acknowledge that. There was nothing to Jacob and Dez’s relationship that felt concrete or significant enough to have haunted her for as long as it does.

In some ways, Cascade reminded me of Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub – the theater, the doting father, the failing marriage. Plus, both are interesting examinations of women who make nontraditional choices in order to forge a life for themselves.

Dez is selfish, but I think O’Hara explores the negative connotation of that word quite well. Dez sacrifices her marriage, her father’s legacy, and, though it isn’t all down to her, the fate of her town for her own gain. And if asked, I doubt she’d regret it.

Add this to your Goodreads shelf.

Review: Highland Fling by Amanda Scott

3rd April 2013

pg1*This book was sent to me by the publisher Open Road Media , in exchange for an honest review.

In 1750 Scotland, the MacDrumin clan fights in the wake of the Jacobite rebellion to remain together, profitable, and safe. The Highlanders are fighting for a way of life. When Maggie MacDrumin travels to London to deliver illicit messages to others who believe in her cause, a literal wrong turn down a London street lands her in court, accused of theft. Knowing only one name, the name of the English earl who has absconded the clan’s lands, she speaks his name – the Earl of Rothwell, Edward Carsley.

Though she saves her own neck, invoking the name of Rothwell brings about circumstances Maggie doesn’t foresee. Determined to bring Jacobites to justice, Edward demands she remain in his house until he can return her to Scotland, but Edward hasn’t encountered a Scotswoman before. Bold and determined to better the lives of her people, Maggie MacDrumin is a force to be reckoned with. As each learns the other isn’t simply a cause or a stereotype, their attraction to one another turns to love.

I think I’ve found the style of romance for me: strong female lead whose existence isn’t wrapped up in love and marriage; good female friendships; love that grows and encounters realistic, valid problems. At her core, Maggie isn’t going to change. She has seen the injustice of the English. Even after she realizes Rothwell isn’t a typical Englishman, she still distrusts his nature. Edward, on the other hand, expects obedience from Maggie, thinking he knows what is best and right regardless of circumstance. It isn’t until each sees the folly in his or her own way that the two are able to truly love one another, attraction or no.

Highland Fling by Amanda Scott is book one in this trilogy, and it’s full of good Scottish brogue, fierce Highland females, and plenty of intrigue. I’ll be hunting down the other books in this series the next time I’d like a little romance.

Add this to your Goodreads shelf. And make sure to check out the other stops on the Amanda Scott Virtual Book Tour.