Picks and Pans Review: The Raven's Bride
This first novel asks a lot of its readers. It requires tolerance of uninspired prose. It requires protracted interest in a not trivial but hardly seminal figure in American history, Sam Houston, the man who won Texas from the Mexicans—remember the Alamo?
Further, and most frustratingly, the novel asks the reader to care fervidly about Houston's brief (two-month) first marriage to Eliza Allen.
Congressman Sam meets beautiful Eliza at a horse race. Though he thinks she is too young and stubborn and she thinks he is too pompous, they are attracted to each other: "She did not like his gallant, condescending manner, and yet she was drawn to him, drawn to the stress and chaos they shared and to the power he withheld from her, as if he were rationing himself, sprinkling himself down on her like a fine mist when the earth craved rain."
Not that the mutual attraction keeps them from others. Eliza loses her virginity to the son of a man detested by her father. Sam sleeps with anything in crinolines. Yet it is all amazingly uninteresting. It is no more compelling—and it ought to be—when Sam and Eliza get together.
Crook never makes clear what draws them together, never makes their union seem inevitable, never makes comprehensible why Eliza runs away from Houston—except that Sam failed to come clean about the extent of his ambitions for Texas. The reader is left with two main impressions: that he's a bit of a brute and she's a bit of a brat. Not quite the stuff of great romances—or good novels. (Doubleday, $19.95)
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