PUBLICATION DATE: SEPTEMBER 01, 2012
lla had big dreams of becoming an artist until she met Harlan Wallace. Though her aunt warned her against Harlan, Ella followed her heart and married the charismatic ex-jockey. But it wasn’t long until her poor decision became the burden her aunt warned of. After accruing gambling debts, mortgaging Ella’s property (by forging her signature), becoming addicted to opium, and ultimately leaving, Ella is left to provide for her three children while trying to stave off foreclosure. As she sinks further into hopelessness, help comes in the form of her estranged husband’s cousin, Lanier Stillis. But he brings his own troubled past, not to mention unsettling healing abilities. Set during World War I in the small town of Dead Lakes, Flordia, rumors spread like wildfire as Ella tries to save her land amidst political corruption and questionable spiritual guidance. With likable characters and an intriguing storyline, Man in the Blue Moon goes a little long, but overall is a highly enjoyable story.
I tend not to read a lot of historical novels since most seem to have very strong romantic storylines. But when I see one that looks like it’s a historical novel with little to no romance, I jump at the opportunity to read it. Such is the case with Man in the Blue Moon. It sounded like just my kind of novel and much to my delight it turned out to be an interesting and quite entertaining read.
For the most part, I like this book. The characters instantly grabbed my attention and I found myself captivated by Ella and Lanier’s stories. Even Harlan who is ‘off-screen’, captured my imagination and kept me wanting to know more about not only the present story, but what brought all these characters to their current situation.
In addition to the main characters, the minor ones are equally well-written and extremely visual in their personalities. These minor characters at times upstage the main ones with their snappy dialog and realistic banner. While there is a little predictability and perhaps even stereotypical behavior from these minor characters, overall they greatly enhance the story and bring an interesting dimension to the book as a whole.
The first part of Man in the Blue Moon is excellent, with a storyline that kept me completely engaged in the story. From Lanier’s arrive, to the gossiping townspeople, to the corrupt banker, to the mentally challenged girl, to Harlan’s departure, and Ella’s struggles, this book is full of gritty, small town life. Morris does an excellent job of creating an environment that’s spot-on for the story being told. The town is alive and the characters fit perfectly into it.
But while I thoroughly enjoyed the majority of this book, I was ready for it to end about 75 pages before it did. The main plot ends early and with a bang. But there’s still quite a bit of story left. One of Morris’ greatest strength is his ability to present his story with an authentic feel and pace. Unfortunately, it’s this talent that makes the ending feel so long. This book takes it’s time wrapping up and in some ways is ingenious, creating a more realistic conclusion. However, the intense climax of the main plot highlights the plodding and dreary pace of the remainder of the story. Again, Morris does a fantastic job of creating an intricate, realistic ending, but it doesn’t work for me.
There are a few scenes in this book which feel very out of place. To be honest, I’m not even sure why a couple of scenes are even in the book. Additionally some of the transitions between scenes are a little rough and jarred me from the story. Since I read an advanced copy, it’s possible these parts received a little bit more editing and were corrected in the final proof.
Overall I enjoyed Man in the Blue Moon. The storyline is quite original and the characters are fantastic. This is the first book I’ve read by Michael Morris, but I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more of his work.