Susan McLeod Publisher, 2009
132 Pages, Romance
4 out of 5 stars
Reluctantly, grudgingly I’m giving Susan McLeod’s Soul and Shadow four out of five stars. Wow, that’s some pretty enthusiastic praise there, Boogle.
Let me explain.
Anyone who participated in the What Qualifies as Romance? debate a few weeks back, or has read The Boogle’s Submission Guidelines understands that The Boogle doesn’t do romance. Even books that aren’t true romance novels but heavy on romantic themes will be overlooked in favor of more gritty, adventurous books or bloody novels. I agreed to review Soul and Shadow because I love Egypt and was intrigued by the story. I continuously told myself to read it objectively, fairly, without preconceptions or memories of past fictional romantic horrors. Once I set my attitude aside and put the prejudice on hold, I was able to read Soul and Shadow with a clear conscience – and was pleasantly surprised!
Admitting that I like a novel heavy on romance is like a diehard Led Zeppelin fan admitting to his metal-headed buddies that he “kind of likes” The Beatles. I’m reminded of my childhood hatred of tomatoes – which I had never eaten – but had always insisted that I could not stomach their awful taste. Admitting that I enjoyed a romance novel is like admitting that something I want to hate isn’t really that bad and is in fact, pretty good.
Wow, Boog – this is some VERY enthusiastic praise. Susan must be so happy.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Spare me, because about halfway in I decided that I liked Soul and Shadow, and here’s why: it is very well written – even the romance stuff rings true, which is VERY hard to pull off. Writing good romance is like painting modern art. Most of it sucks but every once in awhile someone comes up with something brilliant.
McLeod’s writing feels autobiographical, and deeply personal, which humanizes Lily’s thoughts and feelings. We’re right there with her, and we hope she ends up happy. The story is about Lily and a guy, or a couple of guys, and an intriguing and mysterious necklace that conjures images of 3,000 years past. Unfolding in parallel, we follow Lily in the present day and Amisihathor, (Lily’s past life?) in ancient Egypt as they engage in melodramatic yet genuine pursuits of love. It reads like a soap opera at times, with exchanges between lovers that summon memories of daytime television.
“Nothing will stop us.”
“Nothing,” she repeats, flinging herself against him.
And it’s here that I admit my weakness – as much as I can’t stand romance novels, I have a soft spot for shows like Melrose Place, 90210 and Dynasty. Soul and Shadow is right there with them, hamming it up in the most sincere and loveable way. By the end of the book I wanted – no I needed to know if Lily would end up with Kent, or if she’d get back together with her ex, and what will happen to Briggs?!!??
It’s a good book, a quick read, and an easy way to pass the time. Check it out.
Strengths: easy reading, good writing, strong and realistic dialogue
Opportunities: novels told in first person are difficult, especially when a lot of thing happen when the narrator is not around. We have to settle for being told vs. being shown
Will appeal to: this novel is for romantics and sentimentalists only!
Soul and Shadow is available on amazon.
Reviewed by Mark McGinty, September 2009