Why don’t men come with a warning label? (Alex) was a lethal weapon… This was not a man who’d write a letter just to get his way. Not the man who held her at night, whispering sweet words into her ear after a nightmare… – Line from Patricia Elliott’s ‘Her Lover’s Face’
I just read ‘Her Lover’s Face’, by Patricia Elliott…
I wish I could tell you more about the story. I wish, my dear reader, that I could offer you a thorough review. I wish I could lay out the basics of the story in the hopes that you might read it… and in so doing, enjoy it as much as I did.
I can’t, because with every word I type I risk ‘blowing it’. ‘Her Lover’s Face’ has so many layers of intrigue that to say much of anything would risk unraveling them pre-emptively, and thus there’s very little I can write here.
All that I can safely say is this: ‘Her Lover’s Face’ revolves around a coincidence. As Stephen King brilliantly put it (in the intro to Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’) coincidences are usually unforgivable in fiction. There is only one exception to the rule, and that exception is this: Coincidences are only allowable if the coincidence is the premise of the tale. (An excellent example is the classic film ‘The Parent Trap’, in which estranged twins just so happen to meet at summer camp.)
So rather than give you an exhaustive review, I will simply share how the story made me feel…
When I was fourteen, my mother gave me a ratty paperback copy of what would go on to become my favorite book: ‘Rebecca’, by Daphne du Maurier. I would never have read such a story if I hadn’t run out of new books to read, but I was so bored that I gave it a whirl anyway. Little did I know that ‘Rebecca’ would forever alter my view of literature.
‘Her Lover’s Face’ left me feeling much the same way ‘Rebecca’ did. Engaged, breathless, and eager to turn the next page in the hopes that one of the umpteen mysteries of the tale would be revealed to me. But yet ‘Rebecca’ is not a ‘thriller’ or even a ‘mystery’, and neither is ‘Her Lover’s Face’; the tale is too somber, too angst-ridden, and too racked with searing pain.
Like du Maurier, Patricia Elliot understands all too well the complicated workings of relationships, and adroitly uses her knowledge to weave a bewitching tale. Even more noteworthy, unlike many (not most, mind you, but many) romance novelists, she writes men very, very well. Too often romance-novel heroes are just women with square jaws and washboard abs. They’re sexualized, sure, but they very often don’t behave the way real-life men do. (Call me old-fashioned, but I have always believed that men and women are inherently different, and thus there are certain behaviors that are fairly typical of each gender.)
Alex is a man. He behaves like one.
Laryssa is a woman. She behaves like one.
It takes some life experience to learn the difference, and – as a writer – to deftly place oneself into the opposite sex’s shoes for the purpose of telling a story. Patricia Elliott’s public bios describe her as a ‘family woman’, and it’s obvious that life has given her the knowledge she needed to write men just as convincingly as she does women.
As a Christian, I don’t believe in Reincarnation. But if I did, I would suspect that Patricia has been on this earth before…
And I’m betting her name was Daphne. She writes similarly tormented characters, and fills her stories with layer after layer of dark secrets – secrets that sometimes take the entire story to unwind.
And that’s all I can tell you, honestly, lest I commit the unforgivable crime of spilling those secrets. You don’t need to read those revelations from me. You need to read them from the Literary Enchantress herself: Patricia Elliott.
‘Her Lover’s Face’: Available on Kindle if you’re on a budget, but trust me… you’ll want the paperback!
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