The title of this post comes from the sad feeling you get when a really really good book ends and you don’t want it to. It’s another reason why I stand by my motto to support indie authors and why I try to read what everyone else is not reading.
It’s a book called The Scarlet Dove by Mark Zero which I finished a few weeks ago. Mark and I became friends over at GoodReads after I read his book, Blood and Chocolate last year, a book I found completely by accident on Amazon while searching for the vampire/werewolf book of the same name for my niece’s Christmas gift.
I emailed Mark to tell him what I thought about the book last week, and this book has stayed on my mind ever since I finished the last page. Not many books I’ve read can say they do that. I could go on and on discussing this book. Instead, I’ll cross post some of my thoughts from the email to Mark, along with my Amazon review of it. Beware! Here there be spoilers.
Email to Mark:
I finished reading The Scarlet Dove yesterday. I really liked it. It kept me entertained throughout, until I got to the end where it was three years later and Diana was doing fine working under another name. I liked the scene where Drumwright recognized her and their brief encounter was interesting. But, I guess I still just wanted something bigger from the end. I definitely wanted her to get away and make it so I’m glad that at least happened.
But after closing the book and putting it down, I tried to think of other ways it could have ended and couldn’t come up with anything that probably would have appeased me more. She either had to make it or she had to die. Pretty cut and dry. The book really builds you up with this energy of how Diana wants to “escape” and do better for herself. The reader almost falls into a dream with her and wants her to get away and do better, especially after the rape scene with Jonathan. Maybe including a dream or inner dialogue of what Diana pictures to be a better life would have made that hope of escape a bit more concrete? However, if the book still ended the way it did (which it should) then I guess the reader and Diana would have still felt cheated and the dream would have only been that. I don’t know…
It’s kind of about the drastic measures (and lives) taken to achieve one’s freedom, but freedom is different for each of us. Freedom for me right now would be no credit card debt and a million dollars in the bank from a New York Times bestseller and calling my 9 to 5 boss and telling her I’m not coming into work today….or ever again. But obviously I’m not going to rob a bank to achieve that. But what if I did? Then there’s your story.
So, in the end, I’ll tell you that I really liked this book, just as much as Blood and Chocolate (if not more). At first, I put it down with a bit of anger because like I said, it wasn’t the ending I wanted, and probably not what Diana wanted either, but we don’t always get exactly what we want in the end, do we? That’s reality. And I thank you for staying honest and true to that and now having Diana fall in love with some rancher who sweeps her away for a happily ever after. She got away. She lived. And that’s all that matters.
Thank you for the kind of book where after reading it I can truly say, “Damn, I wish I’d written that.”
I was first introduced to Mark Zero when I read Blood and Chocolate, a book I found here on Amazon by accident, but fell in love with and have suggested it to others ever since. I immediately wanted to read more from him and chose The Scarlet Dove next.
The story takes place in the small town of Tres Cruces in 1871 which has fallen victim to a horrible flood which has washed the ferry away and trapped everyone in town with limited supplies. It begins with your classic western poker game in the old tavern where tensions are high. Zero sets his plot in motion introducing a cast of traditional characters, leaving the reader wondering who is to be trusted. Meanwhile, the town prostitute, Diana, who lives above the tavern is approached by an odd gentleman who wants her to help him rob the town bank.
Diana was an orphan, raised by the other scarlet doves in town, and is a victim to abuse now that she is the only whore left reporting to Jonathan, the tavern owner. She contemplates the offer as being her best means of escape from the town, and begins to set her own plans in motion to rob the bank herself and escape.
As I have said before, Zero’s style is classic. He embraces the entire setting that revolves around this story. From the store, to the jail, to the bank, to the Notions Shop, he gives careful attention to each detail in the story so that nothing seems out of place or time. And he does the same for his characters…from the piano player in the tavern, to the barber/doctor; to Otis the Frogboy, the slow and odd kid in town that no one really seems to mind.
Diana is faced with a series of obstacles she must overcome to get her plan in place. Meanwhile, the entire town still faces the obstacle of the rain and floods taking place throughout the entire book, causing great conflict on top of the other odd scenarios set in motion to attract attention away from Diana’s plan. There’s not a lot of mystery and intrigue here that goes unsolved for very long or keeps you guessing. Zero moves the story along at a nice pace, but still gives the reader time to cheer for Diana and hope she gets away with it.
I have to admit, that while I kept guessing at how the story would end, I was a bit disappointed at the matter-of-fact ending that did take place. But after pondering it, I have to say that Zero stayed true to his characters through and through and did not build the reader up for false hope or an over-the-top dramatic climax.
If there is any lesson to learn here it’s that we should be careful what we wish for because we just might get it. And wishes coming true are a good thing, but may not always be as good as we’d hoped. We have to accept the circumstances if there are any and not look back. When the rain stops and the dust clears, if we still have life in front of us that is more important.
As my title suggests, Zero really embraces character and setting here. It’s a book that echoes themes of Tennessee Williams or William Faulkner, that were they alive today, they’d probably be praising Zero’s work. I know I’ll be praising it for a long time to come! Well done!