Monday, November 27, 2006
Keegan's Lady by Catherine Anderson
Finally. A book so wonderful, I'm compelled to talk it up immediately. I'll get back to my catch up reviews tomorrow. For now, I'll go on about the book I finished only moments ago.
Catherine Anderson has been on my TBR list for some time. No particular title. Just enough buzz about her to warrant her name on my list of authors to try. Last week, I picked up Only Your Touch, a contemporary from Anderson published in 2003. It featured a divorced, single mom, new to a remote mountain town, and an exhiled Native American (mostly) healing wild animals with science and a bit of magic. It failed to grab me. While I found Anderson's writing phenomenal, the story felt laden with cliches. It wasn't, really. I simply found little that I hadn't already seen assembled in a dozen other stories. Though Anderson assembled them with admirable skill and an uncanny attention to detail, it didn't grab my attention completely. I skimmed the better part of the book.
It was that skill and the detail in her decriptions that compelled me to try another title. Keegan's Lady. Wow. It is a western historical constructed upon a tragic injustice and the ensuing pursuit of revenge. Only Anderson turns the previously used plot on its head. It reads nothing like anything I've ever read. Every turn felt unique.
Anderson's characterization is powerful. Ace and Caitlyn could walk from the pages. Her terror is heartbreaking; his frustration palpable. Anderson puts readers there with them, in every moment, missing not a single detail of any given scene. She reveals every side, every facet of their personalities. The heroine is battered, but independent minded. The hero is strong in physique as well as moral character, but suffers some ineptness and stumbles when trying to express himself. Anderson is not afraid to give readers characters that don't exactly fit the fantasy. And it is there, in their imperfections, that readers find humor both poignant and gut-busting, and charm that will interupt your heart's rythym.
The book's setting and its premise suggests the potential for violence--frontier town with corrupt law enforcement and townfolk who turn a blind eye. There is violence. Just very little in the big picture. This book is devoted to the romance. Focused there, giving readers all the time in the world to relax and enjoy the fall each character takes into the other. Character driven. Not plot driven. Basic, I know. But I so rarely see a clear cut example of a good, character driven book. It just stands out to me here. Anderson draws readers into the romance between hero and heroine, capturing our attention with the simplest interplay and spending little time elsewhere. A page turner where the only element of suspense is in the breath-hitching moments when each admits their love for the other.
Anderson's characters come to life with an ease that belies the precision of the craft beneath.