Seemingly alone after the death of her father, Theena bravely faces a frightening world that is often unfriendly to young women just trying to survive in Craig’s historical novel.
The youngest of three girls, Theena (short for Athena) is suddenly adrift when her father passes away. Before his death, he makes Theena promise to marry rich suitor Randolph Chase if asked. Her father knows, even if Theena doesn’t, that 19th-century Florida is not a nurturing place for a woman. Her mother abandoned the family a while ago, and Theena’s father knew his other two daughters (Hera and Dite—the latter short for Aphrodite) wouldn’t wait long to take their leave of the family homestead. Theena does as her father asked, but her heart isn’t in it. She allows herself to believe she’s in love with Randolph because she knows it’s the smart thing to do, but having grown up in South Florida between the Everglades and Atlantic Ocean, she would much rather take her dog fishing than spend the day inside embroidering with a mother-in-law who thinks she’s nothing more than gold-digging trash. The author has a strong, smart heroine in Theena, though she’s not perfect; she doesn’t always make the “right” decision, but her actions make sense for her in the moment, and it’s those decisions that push the story forward. In grief, she shares a night with her best friend, Billy. Against her better judgment, she can’t help being in love with her sister’s husband, Jack. Craig infuses her tale with rich emotion and, by naming the three main characters after Greek goddesses, she’s able to take a shortcut in describing who these women are; Theena is wise and courageous, Hera is jealous by nature and Dite is a cold beauty. This allows the reader to jump right into the plot, and a dizzying plot it is. Some things seem to happen too quickly with the tipping points occurring off the page. For instance, Theena falls into Jack’s bed, even after she swore that she would be faithful to her husband, as well as swearing that she would never hurt her sister that way, leaving the reader confused as to her motivations. However, it’s such a quick, rip-roaring read that these small holes don’t deflate the overall tale. It’s a fun novel filled with rich characters.
The backwaters of post-Civil War South Florida could hardly be further apart from ancient Greece, yet Craig infuses her coming-of-age tale with the pathos and heroism one might find in myths, but on an all-too-human scale.