Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyThough slow-moving, contrived and sentimental, this first novel offers a sensitively detailed picture of a vanished class structure and way of life, as well as colorful settings in various exotic countries. In 1889, well-born Eugenia Paine of Philadelphia is engaged to George Axthelm. Her gushing diary entries, accurately reflecting the style of the time, are laced through the third-person narrative, summarizing the action, but often introducing characters whose presence is extraneous to the plot. In 1903, Eugenia and George and their three children embark on an around-the-world voyage on a luxury yacht, a 10th-anniversary gift from George's powerful but corrupt father. Melodrama on the high seas follows, as passion, betrayal and the family's secret criminal involvement in a gun smuggling scheme lead to tragedy. Readers who are not impatient with the leisurely pace will find Biddle often delivers graceful, evocative prose, especially in tracing Eugenia's slow awakening from a narrow-minded, stultified society matron to a strong woman whose self-awareness is gained through physical passion and whose maturity is earned through pain. Biddle robs the narrative of tension, however, by telling too much too soon, by excessively rendering Eugenia's tortured self-consciousness and by succumbing to simplistic melodrama. (Aug.)
Library Journal - Library JournalGenie Axthelm is unhappily married to George Axthelm, scion of 19th-century Philadelphia's wealthiest family. In the yacht the couple is given as an anniversary present by George's father, they sail for Borneo on business, accompanied by their three children. George has been assigned a mysterious task by his father to be carried out on their arrival; it soon becomes apparent that he is troubled and drinks to excess. Ignored and mistreated by her husband, Genie embarks on an affair. Tragedy is the eventual outcome of events. Though the family begins as five, it finishes as four before book's end. Victorian and romantic in tone, this first novel is easy to read but plodding. Story and character development occur at a snail's pace, and it is difficult to care about the characters. A secondary purchase. --Bettie Spivey Cormier, Charlotte-Mecklenburg P.L., Charlotte, N.C.
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