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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Woman of a Thousand Secrets by Barbara Wood

Woman of a Thousand Secrets by Barbara Wood. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2008. ISBN: 978-0-312-36369-7

First and foremost, be it known that this book is a romance novel. I could tell that from the cover painting, and subsequent reading certainly bore it out. The woman and her putative lover are kept separate for as long as possible (a standard element in many a romance genre plot). First they dislike, even hate each other, then they come to appreciate, and eventually love each other madly, but numerous twists and turns of the storyline are devised to keep them apart. It is not until page 446 (!) that they finally consummate their relationship with the sexual act.

But this book is a lot more than that, and not merely a romance novel, or I wouldn't have bothered to read it. It's a historical novel of sorts, set primarily as it is in pre-Columbian Mexico. It takes for the culmination of the book, the traditional tale of the founding of the Mexica civilization, also known as the Aztec empire, which is believed to have occurred in the 12th century AD.

Although there is plenty of scholarly debate over how that civilization began, since much of the written record was deliberately destroyed by the Spanish after the conquest by Cort├ęs. The version portrayed here is no doubt fancifully embroidered with lots of artistic license by the novelist, but I'm no expert to judge the authenticity of any of the details as depicted here.

As I've written before in this blog, give me a story set far enough in the past, especially in a very different or unfamiliar culture, and it's almost like reading science fiction. The novelty of the setting provides a great deal of the interest. Add to which the author is a darn good story teller. While I wouldn't class this at the level of the best page turners I've read, it comes close enough. There are always interesting things happening that pull you along and keep you wanting to find out what's going to happen next. Even when you realize you're being manipulated, and that there's no real logic to the events as they unfold.

So, ultimately recommended for anyone who enjoys a big, thick, romantic yarn, entertainingly set in an exotic locale, replete with good folks and bad folks, and bad folks turned good, and so forth and so on, ad infinitum.

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