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Savannah Spell

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by N Y W Peacocke

In order to appreciate a book like Savannah Spell, you have to accept it for what it is; and it isn't literature. I don't mean that unkindly. There are books that aim to impress the reader with imaginative use of language and a story that is "true to life"; then there are books whose sole purpose is to entertain. This belongs in the latter category.

I freely admit to not being a frequent reader of the genre popularly known as "romance" - by which I mean the kind of thing that libraries shelve separately from their main bookstock and senior citizens take out by the armful. I do, however, love happy endings, and I always feel better after reading a book where the hero and heroine get together at the end. There is no real suspense involved - whatever vicissitudes the couple face, you simply know that they are going to end up living happily ever after. For some, this would make the reading process pointless; for me, there is some satisfaction in having one's early suspicions proved correct, just as, with a good whodunnit, a successful guess at the murderer's identity may actually enhance one's enjoyment.

Formula writing does not equal poor writing. Quite the opposite - there is considerable skill, or craft, involved in keeping the reader's attention when she (and, let's face it, not many men are going to pick up this book) already has a pretty good idea what is going to happen. In this case, additional interest is provided by the historical backdrop, in the shape of the southern American colonies in the year 1773. What I like to call the "let's-give-a-history-lesson" syndrome does intrude from time to time, but it is much more subtle than in similar books I've read. N Y W Peacocke is actually a resident of Savannah, the town from which the book gets its title; I have no idea how much, or how little, research she might have carried out into the period. Fiction is supposed to be about inventing things, and Ms Peacocke's efforts have enough of the ring of authenticity about them to convince me.

To move the reader, however, and to cause her to remember the book after she puts it down, are feats which may require greater skill; and it is in this area that the simple, conventional vocabulary and banal dialogue fail to command attention: "she looked away from his face, trying not to stare, at once impressed by his height and rugged muscles". The result is a series of encounters which, though undeniably romantic, are curiously sexless. Our heroine, Kathryn Cameron, is a Loyalist; therefore it comes as no surprise when her path crosses that of the devilishly handsome Martin Caldwell, a staunch Patriot. There are a few complications: Kathryn's long-standing admirer, Brent Robertson, not to mention her wayward friend, Mary. The sub-plot, concerning the blue-eyed black slave girl named Sky, is less easy to anticipate. Overall, there are obvious similarities to Gone with the Wind, albeit in an earlier phase of American history.

Savannah Spell is, apparently, the first in a trilogy of novels set against the struggle for American independence. I will be interested to see how well the author's imagination holds up under this challenge, and whether the sequels succeed in being more memorable.


ISBN 1 898030 51 0
Published by Wymondly Press, 2002
244 pp, paperback
Retail price

Open Book

Review by Deborah Fisher

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