An Angel for Emily

The Mulberry Tree

The Summerhouse

Always by Jude Deveaux
(Pocket,$7.99, G) ISBN 0-7434-7901-7
I will confess to being totally bewildered in the early pages of this book. It occurred to me that this must be a sequel Ė there were simply too many characters and too many incidents mentioned that seemed to have nothing whatsoever to do with this story. A little research disclosed that this is the third novel in a trilogy, following Forever and Forever and Always. That is, thereís one book Forever. Thereís another Forever and Always, but there isnít one named Forever and Forever. Now there is one titled Always. Confused? Then youíre going to feel right at home in Always. Confusion reigns supreme here.

This is a book in search of a genre. In the first scene, I thought it was going to be a romantic suspense featuring characters Kayla and Connie. But Ė surprise! Ė they disappear never to return again. Next it seemed like it was some kind of psychic romantic suspense with Jack, Greg, and Darci. Wrong again. Then a psychic fantasy romance with Darci and some hovering spirits who are inadequately identified. Another no. Hereís my conclusion: itís a time travel with psychic elements. Thatís my story and Iím sticking to it.

The following synopsis is what I think happens in Always, but thereís no money-back guarantee. In the interest of clarity, Iíve ignored the silver box and the healing ball and a lot of other gimmicks that donít make much sense and just serve to give Darci and Jack more to worry about.

Jack Hallbrooke (but he goes by Jack Ainsley because he faked his death) is an FBI agent with a bad attitude. Heís the son of a multi-billionaire who never had time for him so he spent the best years of his childhood palling around with Greg Ryerson, the son of his fatherís chauffeur, whoís also an FBI agent. Greg pairs Jack with Darci Montgomery, a psychic, to solve the kidnapping of Jackís father. Darciís husband Adam disappeared along with his sister, and Darci has been searching for him.

Darciís psychic abilities finally pinpoint the source of Jackís attitude problems. Itís not because he had an absentee father and a rotten childhood Ė itís because an angry spirit hangs around him all the time never giving the poor guy a break. The angry spirit is identified. Itís Lavender Shay who died after a fall from a window on the day she was to be married to John Marshall in 1843. Was she pushed? Was it suicide?

Jack and Darci go back in time to fix everything and discover some mid-nineteenth century doppelgangers Ė John Marshall is almost Jack Hallbrookeís double, Adam Drayton is a near match to Darciís missing husband, Adam Montgomery, and Darci closely resembles Adam Draytonís dead wife. Can they save Lavender, straighten everything out, and return to the present? And what happens after they return? Will they be able to locate Jackís father?

This book badly needs a Cast of Characters page Ė a page that will identify all the characters, explain which ones were in an earlier book and safely can be ignored in this one, and specify which are human, spirits, living, or dead. I tried to sort them out and keep track of them all, but because I hadnít read the earlier books, it just wasnít possible. I finally just gave up and concentrated on Darci, Jack, and Lavender.

Some stories can be described as character- or plot-driven. Neither can be said about Always because driven implies the story is going somewhere, and this story is as directionless as a childís spinning toy top. Thereís a lot of motion but little progress. Darci is searching for her missing husband. Jack likes 1843, and Lavender likes him. Simone, another psychic, tells Darci about multiple lives and diminishing powers. Adam Drayton desperately wants to apologize to his dead wife. Darci canít figure out why she had to travel into the past. Me either.

Okay, I lied. I was totally bewildered way beyond the early pages of this book.

I have to mention the bookís ending. Iíve read a lot of preposterous endings, but this one wins the all-time prize. Itís a total cop-out, and I expect that readers who have hung in through all three books are going to be either disappointed or annoyed. Maybe both.

At one point in Always, Adam (the 1843 version) asks Jack where things went wrong with women between his time and the twenty-first century. Jack answers:

ďDonít give them the vote, donít let them drive and, above all else, donít let them read romance novels.Ē

Heís probably speaking about this book.

--Lesley Dunlap

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