WALTZING IN RAGTIME by Eileen Charbonneau


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 Successful YA author Charbonneau's first adult novel, set in San Francisco and environs in the first years of the 20th century, is a tumble of old timey romance (po' man, both uneducated and noble, and proud rich man's daughter); murders and assaults; adventures in bed; triumphs in healing; and scenes of crime and uplift in the city. Olana Whittaker, daughter of a lumber baron, meets ranger Matt Hart while on her first newspaper assignment, covering the opening of Sequoia National Park. Hart, an amalgam of Duke Wayne and Nature Boy, is a fierce defender of the giant trees. Olana loses her way in a blizzard, and Matt rescues her from the storm and from the Carson brothers, pond-scum with raping and killing on their agenda. Afterward, her wealthy dad persuades Matt to continue his Olana- healing in the family mansion. In spite of their mutually igniting desire, though, Olana decides to marry Darius Moore, a wealthy scoundrel. Later, of course, Darius shows his true colors; Olana flees to Matt's family; Darius arrives for an exchange of gunfire; and along the way there's a Cherokee marriage to part-Indian Matt. Then, however, Olana leaves and remarries--this time to a nice homosexual. The lovesick Matt eventually takes a job as a loan officer for a peoples' bank in San Francisco, helping the poor. Then comes the earthquake of 1906 and a fleeing citizenry--followed by handy rub-outs of the inconvenient good and the truly bad. Like the title, a sequence of faintly familiar romance elements out of sync; the pace is fast and frenzied, and events pile up like mobs by a fire exit. Still, Charbonneau has the strength of sentimental involvement and worthy concerns, reminding one repeatedly of the tireless romantic homilies of Howard Fast.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-86180-X
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Forge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1996