Saturday, August 13, 2011

Aspen's Embers by Diana Tremain Braund

Publisher:              Bella Books

In this time when one of the most discussed topics is global warming, Diana Tremain Braund has set her new book Aspen's Embers in the middle of one of the longest ongoing debates about conservation. How do you balance the needs of people with the need to preserve forest land?

Codyville Plantation is a small town in Maine that has depended on the work provided by the local lumbering company to sustain the town's life. Aspen Brown has lived there all her life and feels that she has a special relationship with the trees. Whenever she feels stressed, she retreats to the forest and climbs a tree until the world rights itself again. As a teacher at the high school, she tries to share that love with her students and she's very active in the local environmental group that is trying to prevent any more logging in the forest. 

When Leigh Wright shows up as the new agent for the company, everyone is suspicious as to what her motives are and Leigh and Aspen are both thrown out of balance when they realize that they are tremendously attracted to each other. The relationship doesn't improve when Leigh discovers that the company plans to stop lumbering, cut down large quantities of the trees and build an expensive community on the land. Codyville is torn between the citizens who see this as a chance for the town to be rejuvenated with jobs and development and those who want to preserve the way of life they've always had. Leigh is torn herself between her belief in conservation and facing the fact that, by staying with the company, she might be able to influence how the company's plans are implemented. 

And then there's the potential damage to her relationship with Aspen who has become a leader in the movement to stop the company. While the town and the women are struggling to find a solution to the situation, a radical professor at a nearby college takes matters into her own hands and violence strikes the town. Finally, Aspen and Leigh find themselves fighting not only for the woods, but for their future together.

Braund has managed to take a very topical concept and weave it with a romance to produce a realistic story with believable characters. The arguments between the company and the conservationists could come off of the front pages of most newspapers. The stress of preserving small town life against encroaching suburbia is one familiar in many communities. This isn't a political novel. Braund does a good job of presenting both sides of every issue without taking a side and maintains the integrity of the story while she is doing so. 

The way the romance develops is also true to life. It's not a foregone conclusion that these two women will find a way to stay together through their differences and the relationship does not develop without problems. In the end, the good guys win, sort of, but not totally and that is true to life also.

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