“Aventurine and the Reckoning” by Anne Britting Oleson; Encircle Publications, Farmington, Maine, 2021; 288 pages, paperback, $16.99.

“Aventurine and the Reckoning”

In Anne Britting Oleson’s latest novel, “Aventurine and the Reckoning,” the main character and narrator of the tale is a journalist who specializes in deep-dive pieces that uncover secrets. It turns out she’s got quite a few of her own.

As the story begins, Aventurine Morrow’s brother-in-law, Shep, has gone missing during a solo crossing of the Atlantic in a sailboat. How the experienced sailor Shep could have wrecked mystifies all, and Aventurine’s twin sister, Micheline, and 21-year-old nephew, Paul, are devastated.

As it happens, Aventurine has lined up a job writing a biographical piece about a World War II spy named Genevieve who lives obscurely in York, England. Since Shep was last seen alive in Southampton, Aventurine plans to use her trip to meet Genevieve to also ask around the marina about Shep’s last days. The sisters decide Paul should accompany Aventurine on the trip, hoping it will help him deal with his grief.

In England, things go pretty well with Genevieve, who is secretive, manipulative and spy-spry despite her age, and there are some nice descriptions of the city of York, its pubs and, significantly, its ancient Roman wall. Things do not go so well with Paul, though. Aventurine’s wretched grapple with his increasing, sullen distance becomes the emotional focus of the story. Is it complications of grief that are driving Paul away, or is something else going on?

And who is that strange figure Genevieve noticed lurking in the shadows? Aventurine thinks she knows, is aghast at her suspicion, and doesn’t understand how it could possibly be … him.

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At a folk music concert in Southampton, Aventurine’s relationship with Paul goes completely sideways. Amid her desperate emotional state and awkward reunions with old musician friends, secrets from her past return to haunt her.

While the title of the book has a sort of Nancy Drew feel to it, “Aventurine and the Reckoning” is nevertheless an adults’ romance and the best-paced, most vividly realized novel so far by Anne Britting Oleson, of Dixmont. Her previous, more gothically mysterious books include “Dovecote” and “Tapiser.” “Aventurine and the Reckoning” is available through Encircle Publications in Farmington, as well as online book sellers.

“Amber Road” by Sherry Christie; Bexley House Books, Jonesport, Maine, 2020; 496 pages, paperback, $18.99.

“Amber Road”

Expected to be published this year by Sherry Christie’s Bexley House Books in Jonesport is the third installment of her Roma Amor historical romance series.

Set in ancient Rome, the first novel, “Roma Amor” published in 2016, follows Marcus Carinna who is caught up in a web of complications stemming from his brother’s betrayal by the murderous young emperor Caligula. The second book, “Amber Road” published in 2020, finds Marcus wandering the distant, bleak Roman countryside alone in exile, wanted by the authorities, despised for his family name, and seeking a Germanic priestess who may be able to help restore his honor, unless her people kill him first. The third book, “Shipwreck,” a prequel, is planned to be released this year.

Christie goes to great lengths to make sure her stories are accurate to their milieu, including spicing the narrative with Latin terms for which she provides a glossary. These stories are likely to appeal to readers of historical romances, and they offer the kind of swashbuckling, mysterious atmosphere also enjoyed by readers of sword-and-sorcery fantasy.

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The Roma Amor books are available through online book sellers and Sherry Christie’s website at www.roma-amor.com.

Off Radar takes note of poetry and books with Maine connections the first and third Fridays of each month. Dana Wilde is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Contact him at [email protected]

 

 

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