Dangerous Waters by Anne Allen
Tragedy seems to follow Jeanne Le Page around . . .
Can she really go through it again and survive?
She is lucky to be alive at sixteen Jeanne was almost killed in a boating accident which brought heart-breaking family tragedy. Now, fifteen years later, Jeanne returns reluctantly to the island of Guernsey following the death of her beloved grandmother. Struggling for breath as the ferry nears the island; she is overwhelmed by a dark foreboding as hazy memories of that terrible day resurface.
Only returning to sell her inheritance – her grandmother’s old cottage – Jeanne has no intention of picking up her old life. But the cottage holds a secret, dating back to World War II and the German Occupation, and Jeanne becomes drawn into discovering more. Then, soon after her arrival, a chance meeting with an old teenage crush leads her to thoughts of love.
Jeanne is forced to face her demons, reliving the tragedy as her lost memory returns.
When the truth is finally revealed, her life is endangered for the second time.
Dangerous Waters is the first in the Guernsey Novels series
The author Anne Allen proudly presents an exciting prize draw to win a short-break to the beautiful island of Guernsey & signed copies of The Guernsey Novels, enter at end of review
Dangerous Waters is a good story. A really good story. Author Anne Allen plays with genre; mixes it up, and slips seamlessly between them. This is romance, history, and mystery, but on so many levels – distant past, recent past, and present. She maintains a good balance on the whole, though I would have liked more of the distant past story, it’s research, and piecing it together (but then I’m a historian).
The writing is too verbose for my taste, with irrelevant information and over-laboured issues. Examples:
- Unless the dishwasher is ploy to introduce a character or an incident, and being used to move the plot along, we don’t need to know anything about it
- There is a lot of eating and drinking, but the real food interest is the collection of historical family recipes and their modern reconstruction. An important catalyst in Jeanne’s story. By the time we get to their being cooked, I was bored reading about characters eating & drinking. Writing should have been confined to the recipes.
These are an historian’s dream! I appreciate that Jeanne is not an historian, but she is a journalist and writer. Who in their right mind would delay reading them? Yet Jeanne does. This doesn’t quite fit in with her character and motivation.
AND YES *head in hands* tracing ‘W’ IS a priority. The letters and the recipes are the whole soul and centre of Jeanne’s book. It is their stories from the 19th and 20th centuries that give it a unique selling point, and thereby make it very attractive to a publisher. Equally, they are at the centre of this book too. An amazing opportunity allowed to just gradually slip away by the end (which came too swiftly). I couldn’t help but think that with DNA kits, Ancestry, Find My Past, and myriad of other sites online, Jeanne potentially had the chance to find someone from W’s family. DNA is a part of the story, but missed that vital and fascinating opportunity.
What I loved.
Anne Allen’s genre mix is excellent, quite well-balanced, and works well. She doesn’t follow the easy path of an angst and issue ridden character where ‘misery loves misery’, creating morose people missing opportunities to make their lives better. Of course life’s experiences leave their mark, but her main characters generally take responsibility for themselves rather than sink deeper and further into their unhappy episodes.
Jeanne, Marcus, and Nick are great characters; well-drawn, rounded, and full-bodied, to pinch a wine metaphor. If we ignore the occasional ‘not so great’ dialogue, the interplay between characters is good. Jeanne’s inner monologue could have done with an edit, but its insightful, funny, and utterly realistic. I certainly felt an affinity with her on certain points.
There are typical romance novel teases. Will she won’t she? But I also loved the will he won’t he? I don’t know why, but at one point I half expected ‘A’ to appear full of remorse (or with an eye to the main chance, given Jeanne’s inheritance). At first Jeanne comes across as an easily manipulated young woman, but her development through the novel is subtle, and she soon shows that she had an iron rod back.
Molly and Peter are lovely, though more use could have been made of Peter. Molly is gentle and loving, though at times I think a little misguided. This makes her a lovely flawed human being, and she is certainly not a ‘substitute-mother’ trope. They’re Islanders, they know the people Jeanne went to school with and with whom her parents and Grandmother were friends. They would have heard the gossip and rumours, but little is made of this. This is an island community, people know things, guess things, and stories would have been flying around about the accident. Even so, they add an interesting perspective.
Historically, wartime occupation romances can be tricky things, and depending on the country, retribution against females was mostly violent and abusive, even towards the children of those relationships. Allen is no apologist. She writes fictionally about events that actually happened, and the character of Mrs Ozane was crucial. She came into the picture late in the day, but not too late. A lovely little old lady now, yet a very vibrant young woman during the occupation. What a lost opportunity – in real life she could have furnished us with a fascinating tale or two from wartime Guernsey. Through her we get to feel the desperation and despair of the elder Jeanne, her fear of the consequences of her actions, but no guilt. Love is love. Although these things are merely touched upon in comparison to other parts of the story, she still tugs at our heartstrings, and we can only feel sympathy for such awful events in a terrible time.
There are lovely descriptions of the island, the walks on the beach, the countryside – I’ve never been to the Channel Islands, but the author makes Guernsey a ‘must see’ place.
Then there is the garden. I could see myself there, in summer, with a good book. All the way through I hoped for something magical to happen concerning it, because young Jeanne clearly has some sort of sixth sense, and with all the herbs and so forth, it sounded like a white witches’ charm! (And I wanted magic, damn it!)
Dangerous Waters a great story, and I did enjoy it. I just wish Anne Allen had a much better Editor. On the whole her writing is lovely, and she certainly has great story-telling instincts. It’s a shame so much was lost in the extraneous prose. I’m torn but for this novel can only give 3 stars while wishing it could be 5.
Please pick up Dangerous Waters and read it. If you’re unsure, try a sample from Amazon first.
I will never read Anne Allen’s entire series – not all the plots appeal to me – however I’m hoping that, with another five books under her belt, the editing skills have been honed. So I have chosen three that do interest me, and downloaded samples. If I do read the books in full, I shall post reviews for them here, though it may be many months before I can.
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