Romance, adventure and schmaltz combine in this â€œepic” tale of lovers caught between worlds.
In the sixth century B.C., the Greek poet Anacreon succinctly summed up the vagaries of affection. â€œThe dice of love,” he wrote, â€œare madness and turmoil.” In her first book-length work, Vanderbilt transforms this pithy sentiment into a protracted verse saga set in 1910 San Francisco, Maine and aboard various cargo ships. Though comprised of a number of poems ranging in form from sonnets to free verse, the narrative centers on the tortured life of a man who begins to prefer the girl of his dreams to his real-life lover. Grayson, a dashing and wealthy shipping magnate tossed in the midst of a bloody battle with a corporate rival, finds himself increasingly drawn from the pressured world of business to the comfort of his dreams, where the alluring red-haired Lara awaits: â€œOne night, out of sorts and damaged by strain, / He dreamed up a lover and suffered the game.” As Grayson retreats further from his real-time woman and urgent business responsibilities, his connection to reality grows noticeably tenuous: â€œA shattered glass, it tinkled in his brain, / His eyes flashed and he saw his room again; / Its muted tapestry and soft rouge ground / Where his wine had spilt and caused the broken sound.” Throughout much of the collection, pat rhyme and overblown imagery serve to heighten the melodrama of Grayson and Lara’s otherworldly love, much as drastic life events (shootings, explosions, drownings) propel the tale’s plot to its turbulent conclusion. Occasionally, however, Vanderbilt hits the thematic nail on the head in capturing the sometimes paradoxical nature of intimacy: â€œNever before had his heart been so laid open / Nor had his life felt so unfree.”
Entertaining verse for the Harlequin romance crowd.