Fiction from Ashe and Final Thoughts from Shepard | Xpress Reviews

Week ending November 17, 2017

Ashe, Katharine. The Duke. Avon. (Devil’s Duke, Bk. 3). Oct. 2017. 388p. ISBN 9780062641724. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062641731. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Seventeen-year-old Amarantha Vale is so taken with gentleman preacher Paul Garland in 1817 that she follows him from England to Kingston, Jamaica, where he has established a congregation. Still only betrothed, Amarantha has a lot to learn about missionary life as well as her new location as she finds herself trapped in a storage cellar when a hurricane roars through. Her only salvation is a sailor who also takes shelter there. Lt. Gabriel Hume holds her hand during the worst of it, and though she calls him Shark Bait, the two form a bond beyond basic humanity. Fast-forward to 1822, and the now widowed Amarantha sets sail for Scotland in search of her friend Penny, a freedwoman who was Paul’s half-sister. Her quest leads her to the Duke of Loch Irvine, none other than Gabriel Hume, the self-same Devil’s Duke involved with the disappearance of several young women.
Verdict Ashe (The Rogue) delivers the truth behind the notorious Devil’s Duke while covering such issues as colonial slavery, women’s rights, domestic abuse, and back-stabbing business practices. While immediate truth-telling would have led our protagonists more directly to their happy ever after, this multilayered story would have been the poorer for it. For libraries where historical romance is popular and for Ashe’s fans.—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal

Shepard, Sam. Spy of the First Person. Knopf. Dec. 2017. 96p. ISBN 9780525521563. $18; ebk. ISBN 9780525521570. F
Shepard’s final fiction, as enduringly resonant as any of his work, features an older man actively dredging up memories but increasingly stilled by the ravages of a disease that leaves him dependent on caretakers—the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in fact, that took Shepard’s life. At first observed, he becomes observer, offering descriptions of his surroundings and movements in language that’s stripped of superfluity but imaginatively rich in content. Memories frequently surface, coherent but in fragments, and the narrator volunteers that while he can’t stop thinking about the past, “I know the present is the place to be…. Because assumedly the present is what’s making memories.” The spare language offers subtle repetitions and echoes, as if the narrator were turning things over and over in his still attentive mind, drilling down to clarify and fix what he is thinking. The obvious questions of old age appear—“Where exactly do we come from?”—but the reading experience remains astonishingly immediate and tactile.
Verdict Here’s what it was like to have lived in a great mind in its last moments. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 10/22/17.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

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