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IN A WORLD WHERE INSTANT LOVE IS PRIZED, WHAT IS INTEGRITY WORTH?
Reclusive ex-physician Kary Ashe transmutes personal tragedy into beloved best-selling novels. Actor Andrew O’Connell revels in the enviable status of leading man, with a reputation for perfectionism, an Irish temper, and broken hearts in his wake. Reigning Hollywood princess Bianca Doyle fears she’s already past her peak, and schemes to cement her position in the pantheon with Andrew as mate.
When Kary appears on a NY talk show to support a cherished cause, and becomes obsessed by fellow guest Andrew, movie star, she thinks she’s safe because she will never see him again. While Bianca, watching the show from far-off LA, is confident she can offer Andrew her own coveted insider rank.
But his next movie is filming near Kary’s Sanctuary, with Bianca as costar. Can Kary risk friendship with this intriguing man? Or will Bianca seduce him and meld her star to his? And will either ultimately satisfy Andrew’s twin lusts for fame and love?
Pride’s Children PURGATORY is a powerful literary debut. You don’t read PURGATORY, you live it. A deeply psychological experience, without flinching, from the driver’s seat right behind the eyeballs of three passionate people who can’t all get what they want. The choices, the devastating decisions, the consequences are all presented with the intimacy of a conscience. Ehrhardt conveys to you the gut-wrenching secrets of a disabled writer at the peak of her powers, a charismatic actor waiting in the spot where lightning strikes, and a ruthless woman who sees a golden future if she can but stick the Hollywood landing once and for all, as if you were wearing their skin.
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Ex-physician Kary Ashe is a reclusive writer being dragged into the limelight; Andrew O'Connor is a dashing heartbreaker; and schemer and aspiring Hollywood star Bianca is ripe for her next conquest. When these three disparate personalities come together to clash values and cross the country in an unlikely state of affairs, all hell breaks loose.
On one level, Pride's Children: PURGATORY, the first in a trilogy, is about movie stars, love, and thwarted passions and purposes; but look deeper and you'll find much more is going on here. A thread of death, resurrection, and revitalization affects each of the characters, along with a focus on abandonment, broken promises, challenging decisions, and the lasting consequences of bad choices.
While all this might sound like a romance conundrum, Pride's Children: PURGATORY is much more literary in its approach than one might expect from this description of its many themes.
Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt takes time to build her characters, winds a number of different challenges into their lives, and keeps tension high as her storyline slowly evolves. While this contrasts with and may prove challenging for readers used to plots with nonstop action, Pride's Children: PURGATORY is not based on thriller elements; but upon the slowly evolving relationships, personalities, and behaviors of a dissimilar group of individuals who come together during a project to find their lives unexpectedly entwined.
From descriptions of filming and the underlying relationships and social encounters of everyone involved ("He'd gotten used to the sense of royal progression whenever he crossed the set. Everyone had a job to do. Equals - but not.") to expressed values in life ("Children are the most important thing in the world." Kary's tone conveyed deep conviction. "Choices have consequences. Nothing else is as crucial as protecting the children."), Pride's Children: PURGATORY's real strength lies in Ehrhardt's ability to take the strings of emotion governing each character's choices and give them tugs that, in turn, tug at the heartstrings of her readers.
Twists of plot keep readers guessing about some closely-held secrets that dictate how the characters relate to one another, while fine observations of different perceptions of integrity and its impact on life choices contribute additional facets in a story that is hard to put down.
Readers of women's fiction and literature will relish the slow, methodical, involving progression towards change that each of the characters experiences along their paths to being true to themselves and those around them.
Elegant literary fiction which is also literate, modern, gripping, and extraordinarily entertaining, to label the subject matter a 'love triangle' would be like daubing the Taj Mahal with graffiti. Alicia Ehrhardt takes the reader into the persons of Kary, Andrew and Bianca by turns, and uses this approach with consummate skill to construct characters whom one comes to know, ((dare I say this?)) rather better than one knows one's spouse, or significant other. She does this better than any other author I have yet read. The plot is more than character-driven; there is a sense in which the plot is the characters.
The pace is unhurried, almost meditative at times. By contrast, the tension is considerable, and the reader is kept in suspense all the way to the disappointing end. I have to call it disappointing because Ms. Ehrhardt has clearly planned the whole story across a trilogy, and this is therefore only the first part. Disappointing, because by the time one reaches the end of this first book, one is aching for resolution. ((Well, I was, at least.))
The writing itself is beautiful, witty, and considered. I felt at times that every word had been weighed. Ms. Ehrhardt has created characters of rare power and beauty, whose natures result in relationships of living, breathing complexity. Beside the central three, other characters look quite flat - and yet, they are as developed as most good authors' central protagonists. The settings and situations are fully realised, being founded upon either the author's own experience or diligent, exhaustive research. ((I can't tell which. Ha!))
I cannot recommend this book, this trilogy, highly enough - but not to everyone. This is a book for readers who appreciate literary fiction and a very deeply developed romance with a thoughtful debate on ethics. I believe the pace and the delayed gratification will frustrate many modern romance readers who look for fast-burning romance, titillation, and simple love stories. However, if you are a reader who will appreciate a modern 'Jane Eyre', this trilogy is for you.