has also reviewed:

The Captain's Bride

 
Cranberry Point by Miranda Jarrett
(Pocket, $6.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-671-00340-2
***
Cranberry Point is a rather low-key romance set in 1720 Massachusetts Colony. A third son of a titled English-Irish family meets a woman determined to remain a spinster, and they gradually grow to care for one another. And it's a difficult book to describe, for while it was well-written, I just never connected with the characters or felt anything more than a passing interest in most of them.

Gerald Crosbie arrives in Massachusetts determined to rescue his younger sister, Anabelle, who has married some sea captain named Joshua Fairbourne. Gerald decides he'll simply take Anabelle back to London and try to cover up the "indiscretion" of her marriage. He's in for a shock. Anabelle is not only quite happily married, she's also pregnant. Gerald reluctantly agrees to stay in Massachusetts until the baby is born.

Joshua's sister, Serena Fairbourne, is the aforementioned spinster. She initially runs into Gerald when she is sailing her little boat across the bay in a fog and runs into his ship. Gerald rather cavalierly steals a kiss and extracts two shells from Serena as a keepsake of sorts. Serena is aghast at her reaction to this man. He's everything she distrusts: handsome, sure of himself, and no doubt a scoundrel. When his plans for Anabelle come to light, Serena is convinced.

Gerald finds he's interested in pretty Serena, much to his surprise. When a suitor comes to call, Gerald is agitated enough to push the man into a shooting contest just to humiliate him and get him to go away. This done, Gerald and Serena find themselves in a compromising position and Joshua forces them to wed. Now Gerald distrusts Serena and Serena isn't sure Gerald cares for her.

I kept waiting for this book to catch fire and take off. On page 229, I was still waiting. The romance between Gerald and Serena seemed forced and tepid. I really couldn't see what drew them together, other than her looks and the fact that he had to hang around for four months or so waiting for the baby to be born. There are several Big Misunderstandings, irritating because they underscored how little these two really talked or got to know one another.

I did enjoy the characterization of Gerald. Here's a third son, born to wealth and privilege, who has never done anything remotely useful in his life and knows it. There's a hollow center just waiting to be filled with some sort of purpose. His interest in architecture may give him some direction. Or perhaps it will be Serena who gives him the chance to be noble and important to someone. Gerald's growth is the best part of this story.

Joshua, for all that he was the hero of a previous novel, was little more than a pompous boor here. He orders his wife and sister around, glowers at Gerald, and generally makes himself arrogant and unpleasant. Anabelle vacillates between high-spirited intelligence and romantic twittishness, sure that Serena only needs to find a great love to make her happy. Neither of them made a particularly favorable impression.

I enjoyed the details and richness of the setting. Other than one glaring historical inaccuracy regarding transportation of prisoners to New South Wales (impossible in 1720 as it wouldn't be discovered for another 50 years) the author steeped the story in quite a bit of atmosphere. For a small New England fishing village, it felt authentic.

Slow-paced romances can be a joy when they are focused on the growth of a strong relationship and love. I wish I could give Cranberry Point a wholehearted recommendation. This one missed the mark for me, but others may enjoy. In fact, I know of one person whose opinion I respect who really liked it. Judge for yourself.

--Cathy Sova


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