Sunday, 23 August 2015

Review: Flower in the Desert by Lavender Parker

4 stars 

In Flower in the Desert, tracker Jason Rivers is called in by the Feds to find a woman 'lost' in the Grand Canyon. He's done it many times before, but this time he feels a connection to the headshot he's given. The woman staring back at him - Ruby Lucas - is vibrant and beautiful, and a mother of two small children besides.  Intellectually, Jason knows she's probably dead, but he refuses to accept it. And when he finds Ruby still alive and fighting, he's determined to keep her that way, to get her out and back to her stable life as a lawyer and mother. What he's certainly not going to do is get involved with someone in such a vulnerable position, especially when he's pretty sure that her soon-to-be ex-husband left her out in the desert to die. Nor is he going to be her rebound from the murderous jerk, which means there is really no place for him in Ruby's life at all.

Jase and Ruby were both really fleshed-out characters, whose interactions were cute, touching and humorous, but what makes Lavender Parker's characters extra-refreshing is that they are both People of Colour. Jase is part Native American, having learnt his tracking skills from his Hopi grandfather, and Ruby is African-American (don't let the Eurasian cover model fool you). And guess what, publishers? Last I checked, the sky hadn't fallen in and there were no reviews on Amazon or Goodreads complaining that the characters were unrelatable because of their ethnicities. In fact, race is pretty much a non-issue in Flower in the Desert.  It is matter-of-factly mentioned when Jason first sees Ruby's photo that it's of an African-American woman, and his Native American ancestry is only brought up once or twice when relevant.

Although it was advertised as a novella, Flower in the Desert has the feel of a full-length novel, thanks to Parker's simple yet effective plot and understated characterisation, which made it engaging and different read. The second half was not as gripping as the first, but that's fair enough - it's hard to replicate the intensity of struggling to survive in a hostile environment.

However, I did have some quibbles with the HEA, as it touches upon one of my pet romance novel peeves. It really bugs me when children are integral to a storyline or character's life, but the reader is left to deduce their fate because they are not mentioned in the HEA. For example, the last we heard of Ruby's son, he was unsurprisingly having major problems with the fact his mum nearly died and people were telling him his father was responsible. This got to me, and I had to imagine a sequel where Ruby and Jase chipped away at Brandon's sullen and resentful pre-teen exterior to find the boy they knew and loved in his heart of hearts. I'm pathetic, I know, and I'm sure everyone without closure problems will find Flower in the Desert to be a fulfilling read in all aspects!

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