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Monday, January 21, 2008

Review: Alvarado Gold

Alvarado Gold
by Victoria Pitts-Caine

As the hot, oppressive Texas heat takes the breath from her lungs, Addie Brown stands at her grandfather's grave. Deep within her, she senses her anchor to family is gone. She looks across the freshly dug chasm at three of her four cousins. Nothing more than smiling faces on Christmas cards an d vacation photos, she remembers once when they were close but something happened. Snapping her back to reality, the minister reads, To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. She wonders when will be my time? But Addie has bargained with God and lost and she feels she can never share her secret with anyone. But through an unusual turn of events, she realizes there is a truth and meaning to the passage from Ecclesiastes that begins to drive her life.

If you want a book full of mysteries and surprises, you'll find it in Alvarado Gold. A stubborn, self-sufficient heroine, a treasure hunt for gold, intrigue, danger, unclear motives, deep inner struggles, romance. Good grief, this book has it all! Even more impressive is the fact that Vicki Caine has managed to make it all so real. The characters are all well developed and quite believable, the plot well constructed and plausable.

The main character, Addie, is likable and delightfully flawed. She is intelligent and independent and has a deep secret in her past - a secret that keeps her separated from God and from true love. When Addie meets Gary Wright she wonders if he is "Mr. Right" - and she keeps on wondering until almost the end of the book. Is he a hero or is he a foe? No quick and easy answers here; The confusion lends a wonderful emotional tension to the story.

We also meet Addie's cousins, all of whom join her in a hunt for a long buried treasure of gold. Will they end up competing as enemies or will they work together for their common good? Then there's the one bad cousin, the black sheep, the trouble maker. He's a lively antagonist that keeps the story hopping and the reader wondering what will happen next. The book's only real weakness (and it was a small one in the scope of the entire novel) is the rather sudden and somewhat unrealistic resolution of one of the conflicts near the end of the story. The changes happen a little too fast and seem just a tad contrived - more like the wrap up of an episode of Murder She Wrote than "real" life. Other than that, this is a wonderful read.

Caine's gentle, forthright style paces the story beautifully. I ended every chapter by saying, "Just one more chapter, then I'll quit." I didn't quit, though. I read the whole book in two sittings! I'm betting you will do the same.

Review by Black-Eyed Susan