Looking simply at the premise of Night Falls Like Silk – unlikely partners with troubled pasts somehow find a way to overcome all obstacles to be together – this would be like so many other romance novels. But Kathleen Eagle has a way of making hers rise far above the stock in trade. Part of that mastery is how she handles the mechanics of scenes of intimacy. They are never ordinary. In one scene she writes, “Love? They were both going soft, standing there looking into each other’s eyes like lusty, besotted teenagers.”
“They” are Cassandra Westbook, an art gallery owner in Minneapolis, and Thomas Brown Wolf, who creates superhero comic books deeply entrenched in Lakota history and myth. They meet at an auction in Chicago where Cassandra outbids him for some ledger-drawings, which she wants because of their historical value, and he wants because they belong to his people. After the sale, she discovers that they share a hometown but doesn’t anticipate that they will meet again. After all, Minneapolis is no small town and there is nothing to draw them together.
To her surprise, this dark, mysterious man turns out to be the person her friend Angela suggested as a mentor for Cassandra’s nephew, Aaron -- a shy, somewhat moody boy of twelve whose sole interest in life seems to be the pictures that he draws, pictures that are similar to the dark images that Thomas creates.
When Thomas agrees to a first meeting with the boy, he is wary. Not because he doesn’t like kids, or that he wouldn’t welcome another reason to be close to Cassandra. But being unattached is easier. “It had been years since Thomas had permitted himself to become personally involved in real people’s lives. He’d had enough of that as a kid. People were a lot of work, and half the time the work was wasted.” With Cassandra, however, his philosophy shifts. As their relationship grows, he becomes almost as obsessed with her as he is with his work.
Despite the difference in their ages and the secretive side of Thomas, Cassandra shares his obsession. They have connected on so many levels she doesn’t want to believe that he could have anything to do with the disappearance of the ledger-drawings, even when evidence points to him. That belief is shaken even more when Aaron disappears and Thomas admits that sometimes the lines between him and the central characters in his latest book are blurred. Thomas has always worried about following his older brother, Stoney, down that slippery slope into drug use and criminal activity, and the near manic quality of his creativity unnerves him.
Yet when Thomas is arrested for the kidnapping of Aaron, Cassandra knows in her heart that he didn’t do it. She visits him at the jail and tells him, “I believe in you, Thomas. You’re a warrior of the heart, and you’ve conquered mine.” Taken out of context, that line might elicit a groan - be too over the top – but Eagle has deftly laid a foundation throughout the story that makes it perfect.
For many readers, this book is the long-awaited follow up to The Night Remembers, Eagle’s debut novel, and they won’t be disappointed. It is an engrossing story of mystery and the challenges of relationships, written in the exquisite prose that has marked all ten of her books.