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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Magnolian by Lisa Greer

Magnolian by Lisa Greer
Publisher: Siren-Bookstrand
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (207 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 books
Reviewed by Poinsettia

When her father dies, college dropout Lillian Mullins steels herself for a future of nothing special in Pittsburgh. An invitation to Magnolian holds promise, but nightmares, ghosts, and murder threaten to derail her attempt to get a life.

Lillian heads to the South, leaving Donovan Ross, an angsty potential lover, behind. After she finds her mother's old journal at Magnolian and learns a shocking secret, Lillian resolves to find out what happened nearly forty years ago to her mother's African American lover, Samson Jones. Mysterious accidents and threats make her wonder whom she can trust: her enigmatic distant cousin Willoughby Tate, who is running his father's gubernatorial campaign, her Aunt Lorelei, who warns of a dire future, the ghost who beckons her in the night, or her father's voice in the recurring dream that will not let Lillian rest.

After the death of her father, Lillian just wants a little peace. Unfortunately, the dead won’t let her rest.

Ms. Greer wasted no time in setting the dark tone of the story. “The autumn wind always cut through bone like a surgical knife, but today it was especially incisive as she stood against it, her long hair unfurling behind her. On the edge of Berry Creek Cemetery, bony trees waved stiffly in the breeze like standing dead men.” With great descriptive language like this, I was pulled into the story and felt as though I were standing in the cold with Lillian as her father was buried.

Lillian had my sympathy from page one. The weight she had to bear could have crushed her, but she is made of stronger stuff than most. Rather than immersing herself in grief, Lillian takes a chance and accepts her grandmother’s invitation to stay at Magnolian in Alabama. When she finds that she’s being haunted by the ghost of Samson, Lillian again proves what a tough character she is. Rather than running scared, she immediately sets out to solve the mystery of Samson’s death. I loved Lillian’s spirit and resolve to discover the truth, no matter what that might be.

Lillian has a couple of love interests in the story. Donovan Ross is the piano player at her church in Pittsburgh. He is very easy to like. He is a quiet, thoughtful soul with a gift for music. When Lillian’s father died, he is there to comfort her and never asks for anything in return. Could Lillian’s relationship with Donovan a budding romance? Lillian also finds herself drawn to Willoughby Tate. Will is the complete opposite of Donovan. He has a reputation with the ladies and is the most sought after bachelor in the area. I never really warmed up to Will. His manner seemed a bit brash and I had a hard time discerning his motives because he played mind games with Lillian. Still, he has a soft spot for Lillian and comforts and supports her in his own way. Lillian and Will have great physical chemistry as well, but is it simply lust or something more?

I won’t spoil the book by revealing which man Lillian chose, but I will say that I don’t think the relationship was explored to its fullest. Lillian shared some tender moments with her choice, but they never talked or thought about what their relationship actually was. A happy ending is certainly implied, but readers looking for grand gestures and declarations won’t find them in this story.

Ms. Greer weaves the mystery surrounding Gretchen, Lillian’s mother, and Samson very well. The ghostly visits and nightmares combined with Gretchen’s journal entries make for an intriguing story. The list of suspects was small, but I was completely surprised when the culprit was revealed. While I do enjoy being surprised at the end of the book, I have to say that I found the conclusion of the mystery to be a little implausible. The character behind Samson’s tragedy had a clear motive and a very ugly disposition underneath a friendly mask. However, this character would have had to hide their not only their crime, but their true nature from their family, friends, Samson’s father, and an entire close knit community for a very long time. I have a hard time believing this character could pull that off without making anyone even a little suspicious.

I must mention that there were three places where Samson was mistakenly referred to as Percy’s grandson. In fact, Samson was Percy’s son. The first time this happened, it really confused me and pulled me out of the story. I had to go back a read a couple sections to reaffirm that Samson was indeed Percy’s son. Once I had this cleared up in my mind, the other two incidents where he was referred to as a grandson didn’t bother me as much and I was able to remain engaged in the story

Over all, I enjoyed reading Magnolian. Lillian is a well rounded character and her lighter romantic dilemma offsets the tragic tale of Samson and Gretchen quite nicely. I recommend Magnolian to anyone looking for an intriguing mystery with a touch of romance.