The vivid descriptions and character details of this book kept me glued to the pages for three hours...when I reached the end with real tears in my eyes. Ms. Sutcliffe took the time to develop this book as few other historical authors do. I could actually feel the frustration of living in a time when it was forbidden for slaves to learn to read and people could be hung for doing it. I liked the heroine's resilience and determination to rebuild her plantation no matter what it took, even if her beloved rejected her along with everyone else. Kind of a like a nice Scarlett O'Hara.
Unfortunately, there are several inconsistencies and holes in the plot. For example, the plantation--Belle Jarod--had come from her father, Jack Broussard, yet bore the name of Juliette's mother, Maureen Jarod. One is led to believe in the beginning that Maureen was nothing but a prostitute who destroyed her husband's life with her affairs with other men. Then we find that she befriended slaves and worked side by side with them to make the plantation successful. We know for certain that she had one affair--with her husband's best friend--but that is supposedly because her husband neglected her because of his responsibilities on the plantation. So I'm confused. DID she have a lot of affairs? WAS she a prostitute? Or was that all blown out of proportion?
Maybe I read the book too quickly, but I am really fuzzy on how the house burned down the same day Jack found Maureen with his best friend. Jack must have done it, but since Maureen died in the fire, wouldn't that be murder? Such a thing is never suggested. And there are other fuzzy parts. Like how did Juliette end up in the river that day when Chance saved her? It didn't appear to be suicide. And when the five hooded monsters came to Belle Jarod and the black woman died trying to protect Juliette, what exactly did they do? Was it so horrible the author is trying to protect our sensibilities? More fuzzy parts and questions. And Tylor was a caricature of a villain. He didn't have one speck of good in him, so it was too easy to hate him. Ms. Sutcliffe could have given him a bit more depth.
But both Juliette and Chantz are well-drawn characters who are not easily forgotten. Some of the details may be unclear, but it IS clear that I was hooked from the first page, and by the middle of the story, even the thought of eating lunch could not draw me away from it. "Fever" is a much deeper, darker story than I am used to reading, and it left me reeling with strong emotions. I recommend it with these words of warning: don't ask too many questions and don't start reading it if you have a big project to finish.