Monday, August 22, 2011

Relief by L.E. Butler

Publisher:               Regal Crest Enterprises

Katie Larken is escaping from her past in Boston.  After eduring a murder-suicide in the family and a stay in a mental hospital, she is a slave to the drugs that help her to cope with her life, except that she isn't coping very well.  She thinks that Venice, Italy, will give her a chance to start over and live off of her painting.  Venice in 1912 is a center of bohemian art and radical politics and, at first, Katie, is totally lost.  When she meets Rusala, a Russian ballet dancer, she is drawn into a world of artists, poets, and various ex-patriots.  The women dream of making a life from their art and escaping to where they will be comfortable to be together without anyone telling what to do.  Katie paints, Rusala dances and they plan while being surrounded by a unique group of friends.  Katie still has serious lessons to learn about the undependable characters of friends and the betrayal of love.  Everything revolves around a secret Rusula is keeping that can destroy all that they hope for.

Relief is a different type of book.  The setting of the book is very lush and the life of turn of the century Venice provides a unique atmosphere; however, the characters are difficult to relate to and are more interesting than likeable.  It's never quite certain if Katie is going to go off the deep end and lose it completely to insanity.  Her nervousness translates into the book and gives it an edge.  Rusula is a shadowy figure, not quite honest and not quite a charlatan, or so the reader will want to believe.  The relationship between the women doesn't seem to click or generate any real emotion and their friends are as shallow as they are portrayed. The description on the back of the book promises an erotic love story and a mystery.  Some readers will say that is misleading.  The love story is understated to almost not existing and the ending isn't so much a mystery as a surprise that probably should have been expected.  Readers who have been asking for books that depart from the typical formula should find this one fits the bill.  This story doesn't promise happily ever after or that love is eternal.  It also shows that lesbians can be as deceptive and manipulative in a relationship as heterosexuals.  That alone makes this a different story.

It's difficult to know if a reader is going to like this book or not.  One of the perplexing details is where the name Relief fits into the story.  It's not clear that anyone feels relieved over anything at the end.  The reader is most likely to finish this book with a "Huh!" rather than a feeling of completion.  If the reader is looking for a tale that is about a place and time and the peculiar people who inhabited it, then this book is worth trying.  If it's a standard romance that is sought, keep looking.

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