Changing Seasons
by Judith D. Harris
(New Concepts, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 1-891010-23-4
***
Let me first say what a pleasure it was to read a book set someplace other than the American West or in British/Scottish/Irish history. Changing Seasons is a time travel set in the Normandy countryside, with an American heroine, Danielle Dumont, who is an authority on French history.

For years, Danielle has been fascinated by the history of the ancient Chateau sur la Falaise, and following the death of her husband, finds herself on a quest to learn the identity of the mysterious woman who helped the Marquis of Andelys, Alain Maximilien Grandmaison escape the bloody terror immediately following the French Revolution. The chateau is now a glorified B&B and lo and behold, during a late night earthquake, Danielle is flung back into time and into the arms of the irresistible Alain.

As a French nobleman, Alain is clearly at risk from the bloodthirsty revolutionaries, including the evil Vallandre, henchman to Robespierre and executioner of the innocent, and our heroine quickly finds herself caught up in a series of exciting and tragic historic events.

This is the first published effort by Judith Harris, and let me first say that this author demonstrates promise. Her story is intriguing and original, but ultimately, her inexperience shows. The writing tends to be laborious, with an overabundance of adjectives and similes.

Worst of all are the stereotyped characters. The Frenchwoman who acts as the tour guide to the house is flamboyant. The couple from New Jersey spend all their time pawing each other and talking in New Jersey-eze.

Most annoying to those of us living in the Lone Star State is that the two Texans in the story are portrayed as hicks, complete with bad accents, poor grammar and lousy dining habits, at one point asking for catsup with their fine French cuisine. Perhaps the author needs to have dinner at the 5-star Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas for an appreciation of Texas-style cooking!

But the biggest problem is that the heroine and hero keep doing things that just don't make sense. For example, in one scene the heroine wants to ask the tour guide a question about the hero, Alain. For nearly a page she worries and frets about this, going to extraordinary efforts to be seated next to the tour guide for dinner "she had failed in her attempt to site next to Madame and it did not soothe her mood." For the life of me I couldn't understand why she had to sit next to the woman to ask a simple question.

Later in the book, when it becomes obvious the mob is going to kill the hero, does he escape? No, he hangs around for the most flimsy of excuses, putting his family and servants in harms way. Bad, bad, bad.

And finally, how are we to believe that the heroine, described early in the book as a 35-year old prissy college professor-type, suddenly transforms herself into a femme fatale who is so gorgeous that the bad guy becomes blind with lust and the hero is able to escape. Puhleeze!

This book is far better than many I've read by so-called "name" authors, and has received awards from the Virginia Romance Writers and the East Texas Chapter of Romance Writers of America. With her sense of history and her knack for interesting settings, Ms. Harris author shows a great deal of promise. With a little more experience and a lot better editing, I look forward to reading her future efforts.

--Leslie McClain


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