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Dislikeable characters make it hard to get into
on 19 June 2008
Crossed Bones offers us two different story threads- the modern day tale of a woman dumped by her lover, and the record she discovers of a 17th century ancestor who is kidnapped from Penzance and sold into slavery. Unfortunately, although both start well enough, ultimately, neither plotline is particularly satisfying.
In the present day storyline, Julia Lovat has been having an affair with her best friend's husband Michael for years, until he abruptly dumps her in order to go back to his wife. Although naturally we start off sympathetic to poor Julia, in short order it becomes hard to care- she comes across as a weak personality, whilst Michael is so boorish and dislikeable that it's hard to know what either his wife or lover ever saw in him. Even the new love interest introduced later in the novel isn't very inspiring, being so stoic and inscrutable as to merely seem bland, whilst the rapidity with which he develops feelings for a woman he barely knows is a little unbelievable.
Meanwhile, the past storyline is little better- framed as accounts Julia reads in a needlework book Michael gives her as a parting gift, this thread follows nineteen year old Cat Tregenna, a ladies' maid who dreams of a world beyond her dreary Cornish existence, only to get more than she bargained for when pirates kidnap her and her family from a church in Penzance. Although Cat's desires and ambitions are quite understandable, her character is equally dislikeable, coming across as flighty, self-important and even a little manipulative. Her story naturally involves a romance, this time with a corsair captain, and again the relationship feels rushed, unrealistic and completely at odds with the horrors of slavery and captivity that Cat describes. Her friends and family are kept in hideous conditions and sold into slavery- but it doesn't matter because Cat has found love and an easy life! Even her cousin Robert's journey to rescue her isn't particularly interesting, because by the time his part of the story is told, you're just waiting for the series to get to its rushed and unspectacular conclusion.
Overall, then, the story just doesn't really grab you- with its uninspiring characters and a plot that just seems to be an excuse for a rushed wish fulfilment love story, even the historical setting can't really save it. One for romance enthusiasts only- and even then you'd have to be pretty forgiving.