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The House Girl

The House Girl - Tara Conklin Now that the busy holiday season is behind me, I can get back to the stacks of books that beg my attention from the coffee table in the living room, to the nightstands in the bedroom, to the over-flowing shelves and nooks of my home. And, yes!! I am ordering STILL MORE BOOKS!! ~So many great books out there.~ I NEED them all!!

I have spent quite a bit of time on this last book, The House Girl. It is NOT due to the fact that this was boring. It was not. It was very interesting and I rather enjoyed the storyline. I just wasn't compelled to read on and on into the night. But it WAS GOOD. Just not THAT good. It didn't consume me the way I thought it would because I so love historical fiction. That's not to say that there weren't parts of this book that I didn't eat up in one big sitting. The last 3/4 of The House Girl were absorbing. However, I just couldn't wait for it to be over. Then again, to be fair, perhaps if I could have given more attention to this, without so many interruptions, I could have enjoyed it more. I don't know. I am kind of sitting on the fence with this one.

Josephine is the young house girl owned by a childless couple, the Bells. Josephine simply calls them "Mister" and "Missus Lu". I call them selfish, Virginia slave owners and I was always hoping to turn the page and find their rotten plantation burned to the ground or some other misfortune to befell them. All of this takes place around 1852. Mister was a pretty lousy Southern tobacco farmer, who lost most of his families grand wealth and mistreated his slaves. Missus Lu was of a different sort. She kind of took pity on Josephine. I suspect that because the missus was childless, she did have a somewhat civil and motherly way with the young Josephine, who had been with the Bells since she was a small child, her own mother having passed away. Missus Lu, in her twisted affectionate way, sometimes allowed Josephine to paint with her and as the missus became ill, Josephine often finished the paintings that her missus began. Josephine enjoyed these moments of freedom. She was a natural and gifted painter. Josephine was also strong willed and determined to one day paint and walk the streets as a freed woman, living her life as she pleased, her time her own. Running away was all she thought of now.

"A breeze came up and pushed at Josephine's back as she walked the path. Run, it whispered. Run."

"Josephine had tried before to run, one night some years ago. She had been no more than a child
then, twelve, maybe thirteen years old, with no understanding of the dangers or the true
northward route or the way the shadows played tricks on the road. The journey back to Bell Creek
had been long. This time she would not turn back. This time she would keep on, across the great
Ohio River, all the way up to Philadelphia or Boston or New York, the northern cities that
lived in Josephine's mind like Lottie's ghosts lived in hers."

The present day. New York City. Lina, a corporate lawyer, living with her famous artist father. Lina and her father are haunted by the memory of Lina's mother, Grace, who passed away suddenly when Lina was 4. They do not speak of Grace. But Grace is always there, pain separating father and daughter. Lina submerges herself in billable hours and a monumental slave reparations case and a disputed claim of art work from the Stanmore Foundation, which owns the rights to Bell Creek and the art work of Lu Anne Bell. Or WAS Lu Anne Bell the actual artist? Could it have been her house girl, Josephine? Lina is left to unravel the mystery of Bell Creek and it's descendants. Can she uncover the truth and set Josephine, the house girl, free at last?

While Josephine's story is entertaining, Lina's portion of the story is just downright B-O-R-I-N-G! I simply didn't care about her. Lina is brood-ish and appears to be very lonely. Does this chick have ANY friends? I don't know. I just couldn't get in to her. I think she needed to cut her father some slack. Lina wasn't a very likeable gal. I know that this subject matter is not a feel good topic but it would be a bit more believable for the protagonist to go to such great lengths to find truth and justice IF she had a bigger soul. Lina left me feeling chilled, to say the least. I hope Conklin gives her next characters more emotional depth and doesn't try to hurry the end along so quick, neat, and tidy. Again, I LIKED The House Girl. I just didn't REALLY LIKE The House Girl. And I certainly didn't love it.