As Jo Ann Ferguson:

The Inconvenient

Rhyme & Reason

The Coming Home Quilt
by Joanna Hampton
(Jove Quilting, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-515-12552-0
The Coming Home Quilt is based upon a lovely image. The title refers to a tradition of the women of the McBride family: each woman begins a coming home quilt when she is a young girl, adding to it throughout her life. The quilt becomes a record of each womanís experiences, bits and pieces of a life stitched together like a story told in cloth. At the end of her life, a McBride woman ďcomes home to heavenĒ in the quilt that has been her creative purpose, her constant companion, and is now her shroud.

I expected such a powerful image to be the foundation of a deeply felt story about remarkable women. Alas, The Coming Home Quilt is not quite the family heirloom I was hoping for.

Chandelle McBride is trying to find her grandmotherís coming home quilt, stolen by a Union Captain who commandeered the McBride home in the mountains of western North Carolina during the Civil War. Her grandmother is ailing and Chandelle is afraid that she will not be able to find the quilt in time. Chandelle hires Matt Winchester, private investigator, to help her. Together they set out by train for Philadelphia, where Chandelle believes the thieving Captain Friedlander, and the quilt, may be found.

Itís a long train ride.

Upon reaching Philadelphia, Chandelle discovers truths about Matt, Captain Friedlander, and herself that change everything she thought she knew about her life. The quilt is retrieved, although the discovery turns out to be anticlimactic since her grandmother experiences an unexplained but timely recovery.

Iím afraid this story, though competently written, just wasnít deep enough to hold my interest. Chandelleís character is supposedly naÔve and sheltered, and she is much attracted to Matt, who she believes is a rogue who will ďdo anything for money.Ē Having never known her father, who died in the war before she was born, Chandelle is leery of falling for a man who will not stand by her, but of course she does. Too much of their protracted train journey consists of scenes where the same conflict is illustrated: she likes him, but she canít trust him.

Matt is likable enough. We are told early on that he is from Philadelphia and that some break with his family drove him to seek his fortune elsewhere. Itís clear that he agrees to accompany Chandelle for reasons of his own. He is attracted to Chandelle, but determined not to be tied down. Havenít we met these characters way too many times before? Matt is a serviceable hero, but not an inspired one. He fits perfectly into a plot that offers nothing unusual in either its pacing or its particulars.

I donít want to divulge what happens when they reach Philadelphia, but I will say that I was most disappointed by the way their relationship was consummated. After having agonized for days about the inadvisability of giving her heart to Matt, and after refusing his very explicit advances, Chandelle changes her mind after they quarrel, and decides there is nothing she wants more than to be with Matt, no questions asked! This issue is as old as time and might arguably be said to be the crux of every Romance plot: how and why does a woman come to trust a man enough to allow him to affect her future? However, no answers are forthcoming here. Chandelleís change of heart occurs too quickly to be believable, much less illuminating.

I hate to be so harsh on a story that rests on such an intriguing image; however, image alone cannot carry a plot and characters that lack depth and originality. If you are looking for very light reading, you might find some enjoyment here; for a story about strong creative women, keep looking.

--Bev Hill

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