Spectrum ISBN: 9780998964805, published, copyright and written by Shelia M. Sullivan.

The story opens with Frances Olar Kavenaugh, one of the children of a large devout Irish Catholic family living in Missouri, who is completely grounded in the edicts of the church. Her first career love was art but was severely frowned upon and cancelled by her parents. She obtained a PhD in economics and began a career in consulting. Successful but unhappy with the choice and in spite of gaining a very lucrative career, she decided to become an artist, abandoned her lucrative career, and moved to San Francisco and rented a studio. She married a man who began to control her life, a partner selection probably influenced to a greater or lesser extent by her mother’s controlling tendency and the strength of the religious influence. Now finally divorced she has moved into a loft converted it to a studio, and rejoins friends she deserted during the two-year period of marriage. The friends in her “Buena Vista Irish Coffee Club are a motley group consisting of husband and wife Russell and Simon, Cheryl and Winter who was supposed to help her reenter the dating game. The group discuss the various prospects, although Winter’s help is somewhat curtailed with her involvement with Jason. The discussion leads to further thought on Francis’ part, Nathan, a highly successful art dealer accepts her work and the story continues following her journey to ‘find the true Francis and a satisfying way of life and love.’ Along the way she finds a number of interesting characters of both sexes, experiences ecstatic love and disappointment, discovers unrealized facts about members of her family and is threatened by a matter that she had completely overlooked.

Discussion: This is the first book in the F.O.K. (Francis Olar Kavanaugh) series. It follows the life of this young woman from a seemingly somewhat dysfunctional family as she, accompanied by zany friends, moves through life in a rather confused manner discovering alternative romantic attachments and unsuspected danger along the way. It is well written, providing often amusing incidents and interesting characters. At times it is a little slow moving and contains many ‘side issues’ that, although not seemingly pertinent to the plot, do contribute to the entire tale.

4* A well done tale of a young woman’s alternative life style investigation.

A Slave of the Shadows

A Slave of the Shadows ISBN: 9781775067610, Huntson Press an e-book by Naomi Finley.

The protagonist is Willow Hendricks, the young daughter of a wealthy businessman, importer/exporter owner of a large plantation in South Carolina. She has no remembrance of her mother who died when she was very young and is very attached to Mammy, the slave who raised her, her daughter and to Jimmy, an important ‘handyman’ slave on the plantation. All of these latter provide her with affection, which appears to be sadly lacking in her father who is away on business more than he is at home. When at home, he is most diligent in being sure she learns the requirements of ‘being a lady’. He does appear to love her and being a man who treats his slaves well, seems not unappreciative of her attitude but is more concerned and very strict that she not be vocal in her beliefs with respect to slavery. She now is seventeen and just returned from studies abroad. Seemingly from these several sources she believes slavery is very wrong and especially abhors the often vicious methods employed for slave control – a particularly dangerous stance for her to take in the gathering storm with respect to the entire issue. She becomes acquainted with Whitney, the daughter of the neighboring plantation owner to whom she only recently has returned after being raised by her aunt in New York as a result of her father’s other interests. He, incidentally, is one of the owners who treats his slaves viciously. The story evolves as Willow, now accompanied by Whitney, and eventually along with handsome and stalwart Bowden Armstrong and Knox Tucker, attempt to help the many mistreated slaves. A dark secret also appears to exist for Willow to unravel with respect to something relevant to the loss of her mother. She ultimately gains some small measure of closure and the rather ‘open’ ending sets the stage for Book 2.

Discussion: The plot is interesting, the pace nicely accelerated and the characters empathetic, although many questions never are answered with respect to some who are most prominent. Briefly and specifically, this is a book that should have appeal for many readers, especially those who are not particularly prone to reading historical novels. If you are in this category buy the book and thoroughly enjoy. Do NOT read beyond this point which is provided for those who are more attuned to history.

SPOILER ALERT: For the knowledgeable history genre reader, the presentation of this novel, set in this particular era of American history, regrettably causes a difficult to define, underlying ‘feeling’ of discomfort. It is possible that this Canadian author, who although professing a “love for history and the Deep South” who had “several years she spent as a child living in a Tennessee plantation house” is not aware of the mass of material written about this particular period in American history and how aware of this material are most historical genre readers. Matters such as occurred in school in childhood as a main cause of animosity between Bowden and Willow appears to imply a grade school or similar setting completely out of sync with actuality of education of wealthy plantation children. Willow’s seeming knowledge of the ‘feminist movement’, and of the overall slavery situation also is ‘unusual’. Having studied abroad, she may well have garnered some knowledge of these factors, but it does leave a reader a little ‘uneasy’, as do a number of anachronisms as well as much of her activity, Whitney’s, and others generally involved.

Summary: An interesting, well-paced story whose enjoyment would greatly have been enhanced through proper research. Hopefully, this will happen before the next volume.

3* Novel requiring better historical portrayal to enhance enjoyment.