by Marsha Briscoe

June 2002
ISBN: 1-58697-409-2
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After marrying Lyman Graves, a wealthy mine owner twice her age, to ensure her motherís medical expenses will be paid, Salina Faye discovers her husband is the man her mother once jilted at the altar and the same man who drove her beloved father, Minos Drummond, to suicide. Minoís journal will bring Lymanís deceit into the open and restore the Drummond reputation, but before Salina can locate the stolen book, Lyman is injured in one of his mines and lapses into a coma. Salinaís search is temporarily stalled as she and her handsome stepson, Mick, wait for Lyman to awaken.

Mick has been unable to trust a woman since his mother abandoned him as a young boy, but he still finds himself tremendously attracted to his beautiful stepmother. Salina herself feels the same attraction. Itís one that threatens to tear their lives apart, and they desperately fight to deny their feelings.

Even as they struggle with these scandalous desires, Salina and Mick must also confront other obstacles which stand in the way of their happiness. Who is the mysterious Iphegenia and what secrets does she know about Salina and Mick? And exactly how far has Lyman gone to punish those he felt has betrayed him?

Itís tough to put a contemporary twist on anything from the past so applause is certainly in order for Marsha Briscoeís A Family Matter which deals with the Greek Phaedra myth. Unfortunately itís only mild acclamation, sort of like one of those unconditional ribbons for everyone who participates.

Though the storyís premise was enticing, this book did not work for me. The writing was stilted and unmoving, and I could feel little sympathy for the characters who seemed paper-thin to me.

Salina chose to marry an older and wealthy man who wined and dined her and offered to pay her motherís medical expenses. She was so caught up in all this that she didnít even look into the manís past before the wedding. Perhaps if the writing had been better, I might have shed a few tears for her, but as it stood, all I could think of was American Idolís Simon Cowellís famous words so what?

My sympathy for Mick was the same if not less. He was not a strong hero. He is allowed a few personality flaws because of his motherís desertion and his unhealthy upbringing by his father, but he was irritating in his weaknesses. I quickly grew bored with his troubled childhood. I just wanted him to get over it already. And then there was the matter of his fighting his attraction for Salina. If he was so busy fighting it, then why was he caressing her all the time with a touch here and a touch there?

Lyman was the only interesting character in the novel, and he spent most of his time in a coma. He should have been conscious more and given some life to this tale. I would have loved reading more about his younger years. He is worthy of his own novel.

Iphegenia? I could not understand her at all. Her reasons for her actions were not enough to justify her behavior in my opinion. "Forgive me because Iím dying." Havenít we all heard that one before? I know the book is supposed to be a new twist on an old tale, but that didnít mean there couldnít be an original concept or two.

The most appealing aspect of this story was the title itself, A Family Matter. It led me to a couple of different avenues of thought, and I thought it was well chosen. Family was what led Salina to make the choices she made, and then the lack of a suitable family in Mickís childhood is what made him who he was.

Though they were interesting, the references to the Phaedra myth didnít fit the flow of the story. They were unwanted interruptions. The book would have read more smoothly without them. The conclusion of the story was also too brief. After taking forever to get to a solution, it was all summed up in a matter of minutes. Even then, I was still saying so what?

Reviewed in April 2003 by Natasha.

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