James Manlow
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Buy *Attraction* online


James Manlow
MacAdam/Cage Publishing
280 pages
September 2004
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Jack Prentis Stone is in France awaiting the arrival of an English police inspector, ruminating over the past few days and the direction of a life run off the tracks by panic, fear and jealousy. Obviously, Jack is in serious trouble.

As Jack reveals his tangled memories in a mix of past and present, he revels in memories of love new and bright until the potent seed of jealousy leads to tragedy. As a student of science, Jack lives through a filter of scientific theory, hyper-aware of the impermanence of matter in a constantly changing universe, beleaguered by timeís imperfections and memoryís own deception in service of self-protection.

While Jackís actions are logical, Anne-Marie is far less predictable, her emotional temperature more closely guarded, certainly affecting her behavior and life choices. A gradual erosion of all but the most superficial emotion has created opportunity, and each party is dangerously susceptible to misinterpretations of each otherís motives.

The novel opens with a blend of fear and anxiety, the sure knowledge of loss and the inability to make everything right in a world that has spun out of control. Jack Prentis Stone relates, bit by bit, the story of his life since meeting his wife, Anne-Marie, a talented artist. Anne-Marie has lived in England since her teenaged years, when her mother left France behind, along with a philandering husband she could not bring herself to forgive. The legacy of this broken home is a daughter who can never find peace with her father, their relationship forever defined by suspicion and confusion.

With an acute attention to detail, the author maintains a relentless emotional pace as Jack moves from short flashes of recognition to total confusion about his own motives and actions for the past few days. His calmest moments are spent reminiscing about the fresh passion of beginning love as it takes shape between two people as inevitable as the next day's sunrise. Yet something has clearly gone terribly wrong between Jack and Anne-Marie.

As Jack attempts to deal logically with an escalation of events that he can barely remember, the story lurches from thought to confrontation, idea to finally irreversible action. At the core of everything is Jack's commitment to his wife, a commitment skirting the edges of obsession. After three years of marriage, the couple has fallen into familiar patterns, taking their relationship for granted, victims of an insidious decay, ignoring the warning signs.

Jack orbits his wife, the emotional center of the universe of a man raised by women, desperate to find his way back to their primary connection, recalling the simplicity and perfection of early love, their travels in the French countryside and joyful pairing as man and wife. At no time do we doubt the love of this couple, trusting Jack to come to the end of this psychological maze, driven deeper toward an awareness of what he holds most precious.

Perched on the dangerous precipice of love gone terribly wrong, a few moments of bad judgment throw all into chaos, as tension drives the characters to their inevitable conclusion. Passion. Love. Betrayal. Murder.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2004

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