Color of the Wind

Painted By the Sun

So Wide the Sky

 
Moon in the Water
by Elizabeth Grayson
(Bantam, $6.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-553-58424-3
***
Mississippi riverboat pilot Chase Hardesty is offered ownership of the new steamship Andromeda by Commodore Rossiter, the owner of Gold Star Packets out of St. Louis. It has always been Chaseís dream to captain a steamboat, and itís now within his reach. All he needs to do is marry the Commodoreís stepdaughter Ann. Chase is puzzled by the Commodoreís offer because knows that Ann has been educated in the east and is socially far above him.

The reason behind the proposition is apparent when Chase first meets Ann: sheís pregnant. After speaking with Ann, he accepts her opposition to the marriage. He declines the Commodoreís offer.

When he sees the Andromeda, he feels an immediate connection with the ship. Soon after he has a run-in with Boothe Rossiter, the Commodoreís son. He cannot permit Boothe to be the captain of the ship he now regards as his. He returns to the Commodore and agrees to wed Ann.

The Commodore has arranged the marriage to protect his family name and reputation, but he intends for Ann to remain under his roof. Ann, however, is desperate to escape both her stepfatherís domination and her stepbrotherís abusive treatment. She realizes that by marrying Chase she is now safe. She convinces Chase that she be allowed to accompany him on the Andromedaís maiden voyage. Chaseís brother Rubin and several trusted men will be among the crew.

Chase believes that the father of Annís child has deserted her. He desires his wife but agrees to her request that they wait until they know each other better before living as man and wife. Ann, however, is not pining for her absent lover; she is terrified of any type of physical contact. She discovers that Chase is a kind and honorable man; his loving adoptive family immediately welcomes her as his wife. Even so, she cannot tell him the truth.

She gradually becomes acquainted with the crew members and begins to emerge from her self-imposed solitary isolation. Chase has heard rumors and has doubts about the Commodoreís and Bootheís business dealings. Factors beyond their own feelings may create problems for Chaseís and Annís marriage.

The strongest aspect of this road romance (or more accurately, a river romance) set in 1867 is the journey and details about steamboat travel. As long as the story sticks to the travelogue, things sail along. Chaseís and Annís dysfunctional relationship, however, runs aground repeatedly.

This is one of those books where the Big Misunderstanding keeps the plot fired up. These are two appealing characters who deserve happiness, but they need to work on their communication skills. One heart-to-heart conversation between the hero and heroine could resolve everything, and the story would be half as long. Instead, these two repeatedly speak and act at cross-purposes. The truth behind Annís pregnancy is gradually revealed to the reader, but Chase isnít nearly as perceptive. He is convinced thereís a great love in Annís past. Ann is similarly blind to reality. Itís obvious that Chase is the best, most honorable, most compassionate man who ever lived, but she lumps him in the same class as Boothe and refuses to confide in him. Whenever thereís a opportunity for either one to misinterpret the actions of the other, they take it, and the misunderstandings continue.

The book seems to suffer from some uneven editing. At times the story lags with little happening then action is compressed into a few pages. At one point Chase states that Ann has become close to a crew member because they spent so much time together on board ship, but the narrative never shows that.

Elizabeth Grayson is an accomplished author with an impressive backlist. (She has also written under the name Elizabeth Kary.) TRR has given two of her titles 5 Hearts, its highest rating. Readers who havenít had a chance to become familiar with this authorís works are advised to begin with another title. Moon in the Water is an acceptable romance, itís not among her best.

--Lesley Dunlap


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