|In The Winds Eye|
|By Charlotte Boyett-Compo
(DLSIJ Press– 1998)
Reviewed by Trace Edward Zaber
|es, readily do I admit, I am jaded. Nothing bores me to tears more so than a novel—supposedly an action-packed novel set during the era of the American Civil War—that does not live up to its hype. The promise of righteous heroes and wicked villains, in-depth research and a flair for period speech, nail-biting suspense and chills galore, even steamy love scenes, mean virtually nothing to me after countless disappointments. It is rare, then, when a book lives up to expectations.
In The Winds Eye is one of those rare books!
There is nothing I enjoy more, nor find more intriguing, than to watch a character—one whos had his fair share of personal misery—have to deal with additional consequences in order to put his life back in order. Confederate Captain Rory Sinclair MacGregor is such a character. After enduring months upon months of untold horrors in Chicagos Camp Douglas Prison during the last years of the war, Sin (I love that contradictory nickname) arrives home in Savannah, Georgia, not only to find his family homestead, Windlass, gone—sold to his arch enemy, Edward Delacroix for back taxes—but to learn that his sweetheart, the woman hes been thirsting after since childhood, Ivonne Boucharde, married to Edward. Already scarred, both physically and mentally, from wars evils, Sinclair moves into his relatives homestead, Willow Glen, and tries to make sense of his life—a life, that in the space of four years time, has gone terribly and painfully awry.
Still, once the novels overall premise became clear, I bided my time before giving it the thumbs-up, waiting for that usual bit of cliché to creep its way into the story. From the opening chapter, a part of me—albeit, the jaded part—felt the words Ive already seen it forming on my tongue.
I never had a chance to voice those words. What I received, however (thank the heavens!) were unexpected twists and turns in the plotline—most of them at breakneck speed—that immediately set this book apart from the majority on offer. Not only do we have several heroes besides Sinclair, but countless—and Im talking countless—villains throughout, including Sinclairs own grandmother, the elegant yet wicked Grace Vivienne Brell, a woman who makes it abundantly clear that she does not, nor has she ever possessed, a smidgen of love for her grandson. Were talking Dorothys Wicked Witch of the West in a hoop-skirt here, folks—a vile, cunny, perpetually ruthless woman who has to be the Civil War equivalant to Dynastys Alexis Carrington Colby. This is a prune-faced dowager who has not only done her fair share of whipping Sinclair—again both physically and mentally—throughout his life, but also enjoys it immensely. Vicious, to say the least! (And I absolutely adored her!)
Who else do we have to bring misery upon Sinclair? Unfortunately for Sinclair, there are many. Edward Delocroix, who not only stole Sins family home and fiancée, but raped and impregnated his wife prior to the marriage, has Sinclair beaten to a pulp and left for dead, and plays Snydley Whiplash to a T. Also on offer is Evangeline Hardy, Edwards fetching yet amoral sister, who, with her lethal concoctions, makes a career out of playing the widow for the sake of money, and even slips Ivonne a dose of poisonous brew to bring about the miscarriage of Edwards child. And wait until you discover what nefarious scheme Evangeline and the aforementioned Grace Vivienne have in store for Sinclair...well, I wont ruin the intricate and fascinating plot, but I will confess it made my skin crawl. (This duo is like a 19th-century pairing of Squeaky Fromme and Ma Barker!) Ms. Boyett-Compo has one dastardly mind, and I admire her (and fear her) for it!!!
Overall, within this thick tome, we are treated to a page-turning, spell-binding tour de force of murder and mayhem, suicide and madness, victory and defeat...I can hardly wait for a sequel. And please, Ms. Boyett-Compo, give us a sequel. I beg you from the depths of my soul—Gods-be-da@#ed!
(Editors note : You can read the first 3 chapters of In The Winds Eye in our Archives section—May 1999 Issue.)