Monday, August 15, 2011

In Broad Daylight by Jane Vollbrecht

Publisher:              Regal Crest Enterprises

If you have read Jane Vollbrecht's earliest books, you're in for a surprise when your read In Broad Daylight. This book is very different from her other work. The story is better crafted and the characters are more dimensional. This book shows an ability to turn a plot in a way that is missing from her previous work. 

The framework of the story is that Elizabeth Albright is the owner of Sappho's Shadow Publishing - Triple S in the business - a company that she hoped would open new avenues in lesbian literature and produce cutting edge novels. Elizabeth thought she would break out of the mold of the formula romances so popular in the genre, but she finds that she's publishing the same stuff that everyone else is.

At this moment, Elizabeth finds herself involved with Colleen McCrady, an aspiring writer who shows tremendous promise. They begin an affair fraught with problems. Elizabeth is afraid her other authors will resent her being involved with Colleen, and Colleen seems to be hiding so many things about herself that a stable relationship may not be possible. Though both of them are "out" lesbians, they find themselves living a clandestine life hidden away from everyone. While they are grappling with this, Colleen gives Elizabeth a manuscript to read, one that she never expects to see published. The Curse of Canaan then becomes the heart of the book, a book within a book. The manuscript tells an engrossing story about Willie Rice, whose story begins in the racial atmosphere of Mississippi in the 1940s and ends in Minnesota in the 1950s with a mystery. 

Willie's story drives In Broad Daylight and gives it richness as he strives to survive as a black man in a white world. The story is just as compelling to Elizabeth, who finds she can't leave it alone despite the fact that there are no lesbian characters in it. This could be the answer to her publishing dreams if she can find a way to fit it into the genre. Elizabeth also becomes convinced that solving the mystery of "Coon Willie" will tell her a great deal about Colleen and may lead to possibilities that neither of them imagined.

There are numerous aspects that make this book interesting to read. In the opening chapters, there is a perceptive insight into the philosophy driving lesbian publishing. If you are not familiar with the thinking that prevails in many of the publishing houses, this will be a true education. There is the relationship between Elizabeth and Colleen, two older women who find that the happiness they want comes with a lot of strings attached. The most interesting part of the book is the story of Willie. There is the racial situation of the post World War II, pre-Civil Rights Movement period that is so emotional and tragic. Then there is the story of Willie in Minnesota and the final mystery of what happens to him. All of these combine to make In Broad Daylight a most unusual book.

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