Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Field Guide to Deception by Jill Malone

Publisher:                   Bywater Books

A Field Guide To Deception is about two women who are unsettled in their lives.  Claire worked with her late aunt for years writing field guides to plants.  She also depended on her aunt for support in dealing with life's situations, especially raising her small son Simon.  Claire needs to produce another guide, but she's drifting without a sense of direction.  Liv is a handywoman who works odd jobs and has been hired by Claire to do some work on her property.  She's used to being on her own, picking up one night stands at bars and she's not sure she ever wants to settle down, but she's been charmed by Simon and that brings her into a very uneasy relationship with Claire.  They begin to view each other in new ways and find much that is attractive.  They also make numerous mistakes, but seem to be trying to make the situation work.  Then an incident disrupts everything and whether or not they can ever put the pieces back together is very questionable.

This story doesn't totally conform to the usual template of a romance, especially since the ending of the book is uncertain as to what is happening.  There are two layers of plot here, one that is a fairly simple story and then an undercurrent that is hinted at, but elusive. The characters are complex and have a tendency to shift just when the reader is getting a sense of who they are.  In some ways they're also aggravating.  Many of their problems could be solved by simply talking to each other, but instead they jump to conclusions and avoid conversation. Once or twice might seem realistic, but when it keeps happening, the reader might wonder what's wrong with the two women.  The pace of the book is uneven which makes becoming enmeshed in the story difficult.

Bywater Books is making an effort to put out books that it feels go beyond the standard patterns and provide more sophisticated reading.  These usually aren't stories that can be read and digested in a couple of hours, but require more concentration.  The problem is that sometimes, in trying to create more complex books, stories can also become convoluted.  A Field Guide To Deception will require more effort than a casual bit of afternoon reading for the full meaning of the story to be fully grasped.

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