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ARC Review: The Divorce Colony

The Divorce Colony: How Women Revolutionized Marriage and Found Freedom on the American Frontier by April White April White’s The Divorce Colony is set during the Gilded Age, in the America of the late 1800s. It revolves around the lax divorce rules then to be found in South Dakota.  Today, getting divorced is almost easier than getting married. But in the Gilded Age, divorces were not so easy to obtain. Divorce was viewed as a moral concern for the state, and was denounced from the pulpit for threatening the sanctity of marriage. Even President Theodore Roosevelt spoke out against it.  Laws around divorce tended to be most lax on the frontiers of the United States. By the 1880s the territory of Dakota gained the dubious honor of posting the largest rise in divorces in the country. At the turn of the century one city - Sioux Falls, South Dakota - gained a reputation for having the laxest divorce laws of all, and required only a three month residency in order to take advantage of them

ARC Review: White Nights

White Nights by Deb Davies

I’ve lived in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (known throughout Michigan as “the UP”) for the past six years, and I love it here. It’s a great blend of northern wilderness, wonderful people, and year-round outdoor sports and adventure opportunities. Deb Davies’s White Nights is set here in the UP, so I had high hopes for this book. It’s a thriller about two couples on vacation who find themselves thrust into the middle of a murder investigation.

This is the second book in Davies’s Coast-to-Coast Michigan Mystery series. The four characters in the book are the same four main characters from her first book, Northern Light (which I have not read). In this book we first encounter them as they converse over dinner at a culinary school along the Lake Huron coast. There really is such a school, and I appreciated the great job Davies does highlighting some of the UP’s attractions. 

Another thing she’s done well is to come up with the book’s plot. A local officer investigating an apparent suicide case suspects it may in fact be murder. The couples get drawn into the case because one of them is an ex-cop. The local officer is grateful for the outsider’s help as small town politics have left him untrusting that the victim would get a fair shake if he shared his suspicions with his Sheriff. Seems he and the Sheriff don’t get along.

This introduction to the case is followed by a series of escalating events making it clear that someone doesn’t want the truth to be revealed.

Now, unfortunately, while I liked the idea of this book, I found the execution wanting. 

Firstly there are the characters in the book. The two couples  are a very confusing bunch. It took me until about half way through the book to be able to keep straight who was paired with who and how they related to one another.  They swear ALOT, dropping f-bombs throughout the book. 

One of the men is very interested in birds and nature, so the couples’ conversations are often punctuated by paragraphs-long discourses from him about local wildlife or local history. 

One of the women is an avid reader and frequently drops references to authors and books she’s read. 

At one point in the book one of the couples has a lengthy discussion about how the woman wants to have breast reduction surgery. 

These conversational gambits are, I think, meant to add local spice or to enrich our understanding of the characters over the arc of the series. But they were simply dropped into the story without any connection to anything else going on, and so made the story more confusing.

And then there was the plot, which, while it’s a good one, unfolded badly. By that I mean that things just kind of happen. For instance, one of the couples takes their camper on a side trip, and they are suddenly confronted with a truck driver who runs them off the road. He then jumps out of his truck and tries to shoot them. Thankfully they escape due to the quick action of the woman. 

But confusingly, there was absolutely no build up to this event, it just happened. And then the bad guy truck driver was quickly disposed of by the even badder villain of the story. In a couple of paragraphs. Paragraphs that are completely disconnected from the story around them.

There are more plot disconnects, and more character issues that I could talk about, but you get the idea. 

The bottom line for me is that, with better editing I really think this could have been an excellent thriller. Sadly, written as it is, it didn’t live up to my high hopes. So much so that I can’t recommend it. It’s a Two Star ⭐⭐ read for me.

NOTE: I received an advanced copy of this book courtesy of LibraryThing and BHC Press. In return I am providing a fair and unbiased review. This book will be released on April 19, 2022.

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Title: White Nights
Author: Deb Davies
Publisher: BHC Press
Publish Date: April 19, 2022
ISBN-13: 9781643972930
Publisher’s List Price: $15.95 (Paperback as of 04/2022)