Rush of Shadows

A vividly imagined historical drama of racial tension on America’s last frontier.
Spanning the turbulent years between 1855 and 1867, Bell’s debut novel follows the trials and tribulations of young newlywed and soon-to-be mother Mellie Pickett after she leaves the metropolis of San Francisco for the wilderness of Northern California with her husband, Law—“a man who could hardly read, a man who said ‘the-ay-ter’ and had never been inside one.” While the debate about slavery intensifies elsewhere in the country, Mellie and Law encounter a different conflict in their new home, which lies between the indigenous people native to the land and the white settlers arriving in search of unblemished country. Law is distrustful of—but not hateful toward—their neighbors, while Mellie, inspired by the example of her progressive father, makes an effort to better understand their customs and way of life. In the process, she develops a friendship with a healer woman she calls Bahé—whose skepticism about Mellie’s naïvely good intentions (“Got to be grown and still didn’t know how the earth gives and takes”) makes her easily the most likable character. Bell’s richly textured, well-researched narrative, which alternates between first-person chapters narrated by Mellie and third-person chapters following Law, Bahé and the rest of the valley’s ever growing population, captures the settlers’ varied attitudes toward Native Americans, as well as the uncertainty and indiscriminate tragedy of frontier life. While Bell’s prose occasionally errs toward the overwrought (“[a] heartless moon burned over the corral,” “blood over his shoulders like a cloak,” etc.) and includes a few too many tired devices such as letters and dreams, she writes with a natural ease and authority. From its first line—“It was a beautiful country, though I hated and feared it”—Bell’s is a nuanced, intelligently crafted debut.
This complex, confident novel introduces a promising new voice in historical fiction.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1941551028

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Washington Writers' Publishing House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters...

TRUE COLORS

Female rivalry is again the main preoccupation of Hannah’s latest Pacific Northwest sob saga (Firefly Lane, 2008, etc.).

At Water’s Edge, the family seat overlooking Hood Canal, Vivi Ann, youngest and prettiest of the Grey sisters and a champion horsewoman, has persuaded embittered patriarch Henry to turn the tumbledown ranch into a Western-style equestrian arena. Eldest sister Winona, a respected lawyer in the nearby village of Oyster Shores, hires taciturn ranch hand Dallas Raintree, a half-Native American. Middle sister Aurora, stay-at-home mother of twins, languishes in a dull marriage. Winona, overweight since adolescence, envies Vivi, whose looks get her everything she wants, especially men. Indeed, Winona’s childhood crush Luke recently proposed to Vivi. Despite Aurora’s urging (her principal role is as sisterly referee), Winona won’t tell Vivi she loves Luke. Yearning for Dallas, Vivi stands up Luke to fall into bed with the enigmatic, tattooed cowboy. Winona snitches to Luke: engagement off. Vivi marries Dallas over Henry’s objections. The love-match triumphs, and Dallas, though scarred by child abuse, is an exemplary father to son Noah. One Christmas Eve, the town floozy is raped and murdered. An eyewitness and forensic evidence incriminate Dallas. Winona refuses to represent him, consigning him to the inept services of a public defender. After a guilty verdict, he’s sentenced to life without parole. A decade later, Winona has reached an uneasy truce with Vivi, who’s still pining for Dallas. Noah is a sullen teen, Aurora a brittle but resigned divorcée. Noah learns about the Seattle Innocence Project. Could modern DNA testing methods exonerate Dallas? Will Aunt Winona redeem herself by reopening the case? The outcome, while predictable, is achieved with more suspense and less sentimental histrionics than usual for Hannah.

Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters and understanding of family dynamics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-36410-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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Briskly written soap with down-to-earth types, mostly without the lachrymose contrivances of Hannah’s previous titles...

BETWEEN SISTERS

Sisters in and out of love.

Meghann Dontess is a high-powered matrimonial lawyer in Seattle who prefers sex with strangers to emotional intimacy: a strategy bound to backfire sooner or later, warns her tough-talking shrink. It’s advice Meghann decides to ignore, along with the memories of her difficult childhood, neglectful mother, and younger sister. Though she managed to reunite Claire with Sam Cavenaugh (her father but not Meghann’s) when her mother abandoned both girls long ago, Meghann still feels guilty that her sister’s life doesn’t measure up, at least on her terms. Never married, Claire ekes out a living running a country campground with her dad and is raising her six-year-old daughter on her own. When she falls in love for the first time with an up-and-coming country musician, Meghann is appalled: Bobby Austin is a three-time loser at marriage—how on earth can Claire be so blind? Bobby’s blunt explanation doesn’t exactly satisfy the concerned big sister, who busies herself planning Claire’s dream wedding anyway. And, to relieve the stress, she beds various guys she picks up in bars, including Dr. Joe Wyatt, a neurosurgeon turned homeless drifter after the demise of his beloved wife Diane (whom he euthanized). When Claire’s awful headache turns out to be a kind of brain tumor known among neurologists as a “terminator,” Joe rallies. Turns out that Claire had befriended his wife on her deathbed, and now in turn he must try to save her. Is it too late? Will Meghann find true love at last?

Briskly written soap with down-to-earth types, mostly without the lachrymose contrivances of Hannah’s previous titles (Distant Shores, 2002, etc.). Kudos for skipping the snifflefest this time around.

Pub Date: May 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-345-45073-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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