Monday, March 12, 2012

Review: Leaving Lukens

Title: Leaving Lukens
Author: Laura S. Wharton
Genre: historical romance
Price: $20
Publisher: Broad Creek Press
ISBN: 978-0983714804
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Leaving Lukens is Laura S. Wharton’s second novel. The book was advertised to me as a romance set on the North Carolina coast during 1942, intermixed with exciting adventures with Nazi submariners. All those elements appeal to me, and they are in fact in the book, but the combination created by Ms. Wharton proved unappetizing at best.

The novel opens in the present day, with a group of senior citizens assembling for a boat ride to visit the abandoned town of Lukens, North Carolina, a spit of land cut off from the mainland by a marsh. Ella May Hutchins, unseen by all of the locals for fifty-eight years, shows up for the event. Chapter 2 and the rest of the story, save the last chapter, are an extended flashback of her youth on Lukens, when all of the excitement happens. Frankly, I found this structure useless, and would have much rather the novel started with the events of Chapter 2.

My next problem with the book was, well, in Chapter 2. The promised Nazis make their appearance, with one Nazi grabbing Ella May as she walks through the woods at night. So far, so good. Then, they don’t appear again until two-thirds of the way through the book, where they are dispatched with shocking ease. It’s at this point we discover that Ella’s boyfriend, Griff, the one stranger in the tiny town of Lukens, is really a US spy. After the Nazis get sent away, the remainder of the book deals with Griff’s career troubles then closes with a convenient late-season hurricane.

Leaving Lukens is a historical romance, and I found the history problematic. For example, Griff refers to “The Pentagon.” That building wasn’t even built in 1942, and was not headquarters of the US military until 1943. Griff is involved in underwater salvage work for the Navy. He uses scuba gear (not invented until 1943) and a sonar set small enough to rig on a wooden sailboat, which didn’t exist back then either.

Unfortunately, the romance portion of the book didn’t work for me either. In a romance, one needs three characters, namely the two lovers and somebody trying to get between them. There was no such character in this book. So, lacking romance, conflict or historical accuracy, I found very little to like in Leaving Lukens.


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