Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Perfect 10: LIGHT OF THE MOON by Luanne Rice

A Perfect 10
Bantam Hardcover
ISBN: 978-0-553-80511-6
February 2008
General Fiction
Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Camargue, Southern France - The Present

Forty-three years ago while on vacation to see the wild white horses of the Camargue, Margaret Connolly knelt before a statue carved from black wood in a church dedicated to the three Maries and prayed for a child. The statue was that of Sarah, an Egyptian slave girl who legend claimed came to Gaul in AD 45 aboard a rudderless, sail less boat with Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome, the mother of apostles John and James, Mary Jacoby, sister to the Virgin, and Lazarus. Now Margaret's daughter Susannah has returned to Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer to honor her mother's dying wish that she visit the Camargue. The place where Margaret believed the Gypsies' Saint Sarah performed a miracle that allowed her to become pregnant after years of trying.

Susannah is still grieving and beset with guilt at not being at her mother's bedside when she died. Her work as a cultural anthropologist had taken her to Istanbul with her mother's encouragement to see the wondrous sights for both of them. No one knew how fast the cancer would take Margaret and that her mother would die while Susannah was on the flight home.

One-time journalist now ranch owner and trainer of the famous wild Camargue white horses for tourist rides, Grey Dempsey's life has been on hold since the night five years ago when his Gypsy wife ran away with her lover, leaving a devastated daughter behind. On that night, eight-year old Sari heard her mother leaving and ran to stop her. Maria pushed her grasping daughter away so hard Sari slammed against a wall. Still, Sari chased her mother, quickly running to the barn and mounting the mare Mystère. The car her mother was in had stopped down the road. Mystère nearly caught up, but the taillights suddenly diminished as the car again sped off. Sari hadn't seen the oncoming headlights until too late. Although Sari recovered from her physical injuries from that night, Grey knows both he and his daughter are trapped in the psychological damage done. Since her mother's abandonment Sari is color blind, living in a world of black, white and gray.

Author Luanne Rice places these haunted characters in the endlessly romantic setting of Southern France with its salt marsh plains, wild white horses and equally wild bulls, its Gypsies, saints, legends and miracles, and then performs magic. Grey saves Susannah from a dangerous encounter with wild bulls, and once the connection is made between them, life changes for everyone involved. Sari's plight wrenches Susannah's heart and she tries to help, but the teenage girl is terrified of losing her father, a realization that keeps Grey single. He is unwilling to commit to any new relationship if he thinks it will hurt his daughter.

There are memorable secondary characters and some interesting side trips. One to Marseilles and a cave with prehistoric art one can only enter by scuba diving, and another to a circus ranch near Las Vegas, Nevada. Each is described with an evocative vision. All these qualities add up to a Perfect 10. LIGHT OF THE MOON is a story about making choices and learning to live with them. I promise you won't regret reading LIGHT OF THE MOON.

Robin Lee

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