Alanna by Kathleen Bittner Roth is an historical romance from the pre civil war era which spans from San Fransisco to Boston to London to Scotland then back to Boston. If this seems kind of convoluted, then you have the correct feel for this novel.
Wolf is famous for his ability to track down missing people as demonstrated in Celine, the first novel in the When Hearts Dare series. Trevor, a self-proclaimed friend-for-life, convinces Wolf to return to Boston and solve the mystery of his own parentage. Twenty four years earlier, when Wolf was six, he was sleepily snuggling with his mom when they were both awakened by strange noises. After quickly being whisked under the bed with a warning not to make a sound, the petrified child witnessed the murder of his mother through the reflection of a mirror, his only memento a garnet earring. The next morning Wolf was whisked away, moving from one place to another throughout his childhood and ending up at an English Boarding School. An angry young man with no roots, Wolf hightails it out of there at the age of seventeen, hopping a ship to America where he experiences numerous alluded-to adventures, ending up in San Francisco when this book begins.
Reluctantly, Wolf agrees to travel back to Boston on Trevor’s brother’s Clipper full of goods to be delivered to China. The trip is long, the water rough at times, but the company is stimulating since the owner of the on- board merchandise is also a passenger, along with his wife and their beautiful daughter Alanna. The attraction between Wolf and Alanna is electric, to the chagrin of her parents, since their daughter is promised in marriage to their co-partner’s son. This politically expedient arrangement is not a love match and Alanna is determined to avoid this unwanted matrimony at all costs. Ironically, Allana was born in Boston a day before the murder of Wolf’s mother, in a house not far from the crime scene. The interplay between a rascally Wolf, the affable Captain Thompson, the hostile Mr and Mrs Malone, and the alluring Allana on this lengthy voyage makes for interesting reading and was my favorite part of the book.
After landing, Wolf is blocked from continuing his search and must hire others to complete the task, especially when the investigation is extended into London. Aided by Trevor, who has an English home with his wife, Celine, the mystery slowly unravels. And the key word is slowly. The rest of the book is an interwoven series of events involving a farm outside Boston, a martial arts trainer named Old Chinese, the high society of Boston, the Malones, Alanna, Captain Thompson and his family, plus at least one dog. Other characters also pop up, all under suspicion of dastardly deeds. Everyone has so many secrets it is hard to keep up, but the resolution of Wolf’s conflict is somewhat of a surprise. Unfortunately, instead of wrapping things up nicely, there is more angst before the final ending.
For a romance, there is a lot of interplay, but no actual sex until about two thirds of the way into the book. The culmination of the main characters passion is satisfying and often repeated through the rest of the story. I like the way Roth interweaves information from the first novel of the series into this book, just enough to whet our appetites for a future reading choice. However, although her characters are fully developed, their actions throughout the novel don’t jive with their original personas. There are too many inconsistencies. In addition, the story has a tad too much plot. I suggest streamlining or deleting some of the drawn out events. Whereas some authors don’t have enough action in their books, Roth over compensates and has too much busyness. Cut out the nonessential parts. The ending is a little far fetched, but it pulls all the events together nicely into a satisfying conclusion.
Despite my criticisms, I did enjoy this novel and look forward to reading others, including Celine, by Kathleen Bitner Roth. I give this book three stars.
I would like to thank Kensington Publishing Corp (Zebra Books) for allowing me to download this book for free in exchange for an unbiased review.