Bound for Sin

Bound for Sin is the second of Tess LeSue’s Frontier of the Heart series. Set in the same dusty ye-olde West as its older sibling, Bound for Eden, Sin is a fun, smart, historical romance. Widowed, broke, and desperate Georgiana Bee Blunt advertises for a capable frontiersman for the purposes of matrimony. Her late husband has left her with a gold claim that is attracting all kinds of unwanted attention from all kinds of men. As a result, the eldest of her five children has been ransomed, which leaves Georgiana under the thumb of some extremely unsavoury characters. Matt Slater, the younger brother of Bound for Eden’s enigmatic love-interest Luke, finds himself saddled (no pun intended) with the task of transporting her and her rambunctious brood across the desert.

LeSue has a talent for characterisation: the laconic and grouchy Matt is a perfect foil for the prim and proper, Georgiana. Georgiana’s many children are also rich and delightful little people. The henchmen of the sinister Hec Boehm provide at times comic relief and tension. A particular delight was the return of Deathrider, a Native American from the first novel. His sharp wit makes him an extremely good verbal sparring partner for Matt. This novel is heftier than most romances but its characters are home to much more interior life than your standard Mills and Boons Western, which makes the trade-off much easier.

Plot is another of LeSue’s skills: she has crafted a Shakespearian-like series of charades and miscommunications that is both funny and clever. The reluctant deal struck between one of the henchmen and Matt, wherein Matt would pretend to be engaged to the leading lady and then break it off with her once they reached California, making room for the henchman as the obvious next choice as her new spouse had me laughing out loud. It’s also obvious LeSue did her due diligence with research – the characters spend almost too long arranging supplies and wagons for their long sojourn to California, particularly if you, like me, have already read Bound for Eden, which has a similar plot structure. I also found that the delicate slow-burn romance between Georgiana and her new frontiersman fiancé got a little bit lost in the novel’s high stakes drama and funny antics. Although, that said, LeSue definitely makes you root for the two to have a proper happily-ever-after.

3.5/5 stars


Words by Riana Kinlough

 

The Secret History

The Secret History, published in 1992, is the debut novel of Donna Tartt. It’s written from the point of view of Richard Papen, the main character.

At the start of the story, Richard leaves his hometown in California to attend Hampden College, a college for wealthy, elite young adults. Having studied Ancient Greek in high school and loved it, he tries to enrol in the Ancient Greek class at Hampden but is told that it’s unlikely he’ll be accepted. This is because there’s only one Classics teacher who only accepts a limited number of students (five) for the Ancient Greek class, and the class is already full. But Richard manages to persuade the teacher, whose name is Julian Morrow, to let him join the class. Richard quickly finds that Julian is trying to breed intellectual elitism into his students.

Richard very quickly becomes fascinated by his classmates, who are each eccentric in their own unique way. They are also removed from the rest of the school population, and also have bizarre and slightly dangerous reputations, like the Greek scholars they’re trying to emulate. Richard becomes fascinated by two of the other students in particular: Henry Winter, an intelligent student who is the unofficial leader of the group; and Edward “Bunny” Corcoran, whose obnoxious and crass behaviour often causes tension. When Bunny discovers that the group (minus he and Richard) has murdered a stranger in their intellectual pursuits and strangeness gone wild, it’s Henry who proposes the they should kill him to keep him quiet.

And kill him they do.

Bunny’s murder is mentioned right at the start of the novel, so it’s not a typical whodunit story. It’s in fact an inverted detective story that delves into the reasons why Richard, Henry, and the other students kill Bunny, and how they deal the consequences.

The Secret History reminded me a lot of The Catcher in the Rye, mainly because Richard resembled, in my mind, Holden Caulfield. He’s not very trustworthy, often telling lies and creating excuses – traits that Holden possesses. But Richard does have a moral compass, shown when he experiences shock and guilt in his part of Bunny’s murder.

Richard and the other students also take drugs, drink excessive amounts of alcohol, and often don’t sleep unless they are incredibly sleep-deprived or have taken sleeping pills. Richard and Bunny are the only ones who are not rich and/or receiving trust fund payments.

You might think that I have a rather low opinion of The Secret History. But I actually have a high opinion of it. It’s really well-written. Tartt has a very conversational style, which I like. The dialogue is realistic as well, and there are good, lengthy descriptions of places, which I like. And even though most of the things Richard and the others do are questionable, they are fundamentally unique, each with their own personal history – they’re not just two-dimensional characters.

4/5


Words by Callum J. Jones

Photo by Dogancan Ozturan on Unsplash

IMG_0080Creative, honest, and reliable, Callum J. Jones loves writing fiction and non-fiction. In his spare time, he likes to read, watch movies and TV shows, and go on walks.

You can follow him on Facebook (@callum.j.jones.writer) and Twitter