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Monday, April 6, 2009

Honeysuckle by Elizabeth Butler

Honeysuckle by Elizabeth Butler
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length : Full (244 pages)
Heat: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 books
Reviewed by Ivy

Seth Bridges has come to Lofgren, Illinois for one purpose, to determine who is instrumental in the bootlegging operation in the area. As an undercover Bureau agent, his disguise as an itinerant preacher does not seem appropriate, but everyone assures him this is the best way to disguise himself. On his way to minister to a dying man, he asks directions from Aurora Long, a local farm girl. Aurora has big plans for her life, and they don’t include getting involved with a preacher, despite his good looks. However, their mutual attraction is instant, and can’t be ignored.

The word “honeysuckle” has a sweet, southern connotation, but Elizabeth Butler’s novel of the same name takes place in Illinois during Prohibition. This authentically detailed story brings together an auburn beauty called Aurora and undercover agent, Seth Bridges. While one is looking for an advantageous marriage to get out of the sticks, the other is trying to discover who is bootlegging in the small town of Lofgren.

Aurora initially reminded me of Jane Austen’s Emma; a character not everyone will necessarily like. She is ambitious, but not in a greedy, avaricious way. The girl only wants her just desserts. When we meet her, she is knee-deep in mud chasing pigs, which doesn’t exactly color the opening pages with romantic ambience. Seth, though, in his beat up Model A trying to pretend he’s a preacher, is intriguing enough for us to give the plot a chance. He’s certainly open to finding out what this girl’s all about.

The quandary is realistic: What secret agent would want to play pastor and have to give sermons and conduct funerals? Seth’s attempts to wiggle out of the assigned case get him nowhere and it’s a lifesaving predicament for Aurora. Not knowing who is committing the crimes in her neighborhood doesn’t make her lose much sleep--she’s busy hooking up with the town’s rich cad. Luckily, Seth Bridges keeps tabs on it all.

Honeysuckle does not suffer from a lack of formatting or errors; it is well-edited. Butler is a fine technical writer who knows how to balance the dialogue, action, and prose. Unfortunately, I felt the story itself lacked engagement. Perhaps it was when our hero shared that he’d been in love since first seeing his sweetheart chase the hogs (that made me laugh out loud), or the fact there is no attempt at creating any twists, turns, or surprises, but I found myself having to trudge through the pages at some points. Although all of the many characters, such as Aurora’s sweet brothers and a no-good sheriff are necessary, it felt as if they got a little too much attention. The rhythm is at times a little slow and simple.

Despite reservations, I would still consider reading other books by this author. I appreciate her good taste when writing in romantic elements. She created a memorable, original hero that would make a great series character. The historical atmosphere is believable and interesting. My hope would be to find more exciting and unpredictable stories in her future releases.

If you’re a sweet fiction reader and enjoy the time period, you may find Honeysuckle right up your alley.