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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Serenity Bay by Bette Nordberg

Patricia Koelher has invited more adversity into her life than she bargained for by marrying Russell, the man she thought was the man of her dreams. They settled together on an island in the Puget Sound, where he became the island doctor. The first year together was wonderful, except that Russel work himself to death. The times they had together were few but memorable. The trouble started when Patricia told him she was pregnant, but refused his order to abort the baby. She knew she should have left him when he hit her, but could not bring herself to, especially when he did not do so again for a long time. But now is the last straw. Russel has clamped down on her life for the past eight years and has stripped her of friends, money, and sanity. Now he has put her and their eight-year-old daughter in the hospital with severe injuries and has dangered the life of their second unborn child. Now, when her baby is born, with the help of her close friend Susan, Patricia is going to run. She does not know where, but she knows that she has to leave before someone dies.

Bette Nordberg has put together a realistic plot based on imperfect characters. No one has written an abuse plot quite like Serenity Bay; it is a one of a kind. Instead of stopping in the usual place, which is after the woman has her final confrontation with her husband and escapes, Bette Nordberg went further to tell what Patricia did after she escaped, how she lived her life. The end is highly realistic, yet weak characters take this book down a notch from five-stardom, a disappointment indeed.

All of the characters are imperfect, yet they lack true personality. I don't know how Bette Nordberg avoided good characters with this plot, but she did. Russell is not your typical villain, and he fits this situation aptly. Patricia clearly made choices that put her in the situation; she is not a perfect victim. Susan is one of the better characters, yet she does not appear in the plot enough. Basically, Bette needs to develop her characters better in order to be awarded a five star book.

The progression of the abuse is realistic. It starts with a slap, progresses to a punch, then to control over her life, then to hospitalization. Bette clearly knew what she was doing when she wrote this plot. One of the best things Bette did with this plot was resist the urge to give Patricia a perfect male lead to bail her out and give her a second romance. This could have been very easily done, and maybe even justified, but she did not do it. Another different thing Bette did that she didn't have to do was show Patricia's life after the escape. Other authors would have built up to the big fight and end the book with a near-death experience in the hospital. Instead, Bette showed the realistic side of the story by taking Patricia to a battered women's shelter. In the end, it comes down to a custody battle over the two children Patricia and Russell produced together. This comes down to one of the more realistic ends I have ever read regarding custody battles. Basically, the plot is filled with a lot of imperfection that was wasted with weak characters.

All in all, with a debut novel this strong, Bette Nordberg is a reputable author who knows what she is doing. If she can strengthen her characters, she is on a fast track to greatness.

4.5 stars

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