Carolina Rose

Tides of Love by Tracy Sumner
(Zebra, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8217-6696-1
Elle Beaumont has loved Noah Garrett for as long as she can remember. When the young girl arrived in Pilot Isle, North Carolina, from France in the early 1880ís, she was in need of a protector. Someone who didnít make fun of her poor English or push her into the dirt in the schoolyard. Noah, a bookish young man nicknamed ďthe ProfessorĒ by the other kids, became her self-appointed defender and young Elle was infatuated right from the start.

As the years passed, Elle never wavered in her devotion. At fourteen, Elle has in her possession information that she knows could tear Noahís world apart. While helping to clean the attic after the death of Noahís mother, Elle stumbles upon the late Eliza Garrettís diary. A quick glance reveals Noah was the result of an affair. Elle realizes this information would devastate the sensitive seventeen-year-old, who worships his older brothers Zach and Caleb, but who has always felt a bit different and out of place.

Elleís attempt to hide the diary failed when Caleb, who has always been a bit of a troublemaker, spied what he mistakenly thought was Elleís diary and began to read to aloud to Noah. Calebís reaction to the diaryís contents was violent fury. Blaming the affair for his fatherís desertion he lashes out at a stunned Noah, striking him with words and fists, letting years of frustration over his parentís separation cause Caleb to destroy the relationship between the two forever.

After the confrontation, Noah disappears. Itís believed he just needs time to come to terms with what heís learned. No one, especially Elle, imagined heíd stay away for ten years.

The separation has changed them both. Elle has been banished from her home by a selfish father who cares little for Elleís needs. After being arrested during a womenís suffrage rally while at university, Elle has been sent back to Pilot Isle and is forced to work as a companion to an elderly widow. Her dream is to someday be able to return to finish her education. But with little money, this appears to be an impossible dream.

Noah, after years of struggle living on the streets of Chicago, has finished his education and become a well-respected marine biologist and the professor the kids teased him about in his youth. Now, the impending opening of a marine laboratory on Pilotís Isle has Noah reluctantly returning to face the past he had run away from a decade earlier.

When Elle and Noah meet again, she soon realizes her feelings for Noah are just as strong as always. But Noah has built a wall around his heart, one that appears impossible for either Elle or Noahís brothers to penetrate.

When I picked up Tides of Love, it was just to give the book a quick peak. Well, that quick peak turned into four hours of reading that didnít stop until I finished the book.

Author Tracy Sumnerís sensuous writing style engages all of the readerís senses and the pacing was perfect. Every time I reached a spot where I anticipated a lull, something totally unexpected happened, enhancing that canít put the book down feeling. Thereís a lot happening in this short historical, much more that I can possibly condense into a short synopsis, but the author pulled it together without a hitch.

Elle was my favorite character. Her maturation from a gawky schoolgirl that trouble always seemed to follow, to an intelligent woman who stands up for her beliefs was convincing. Her continued growth into a woman who does not need a man to be fulfilled was especially appealing.

Noah was a bit more problematic for me. I was uncomfortable with his motivation for leaving Pilot Isle and that affected my impression of him throughout the book. I think I would have understood his deserting his family a bit more if the relationship between Noah and his brothers had been rocky. But the brothers appeared to have a loving relationship, one that Noah should have recognized. He came across as a bit self-focused and I did wonder why Elle would put up with some of the hurtful, thoughtless things Noah did. Thankfully, she made him grovel a bit at the end of the book.

Tides of Love is a engaging choice for readers who enjoy a turn of the century read. Tracy Sumner will be an author Iíll search out in the future.

--Karen Lynch

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