Estara's Reviews > Magdalene

Magdalene by Moriah Jovan
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May 17, 11

bookshelves: ebook, read-in-2011
Recommended to Estara by: I've really enjoyed the previous two books
Recommended for: fans of family sagas of the powerful who don't mind religion and Libertarian ideas in their romance
Read from May 15 to 16, 2011, read count: 1

Yes, this grabbed me again right away - another tale featuring the Dunham family, historically and religiously rooted in Mormon Kansas City but with personal drama and histories making them very un-Mormon Mormons indeed.

And in this book the focus is widening to include family friend Mitch Hollander and his future wife-to-be - who actually is the first-person heroine and unreliable narrator (mostly because she is very effective at lying to herself)- Cassandra St. James. Her first person narration is interwoven with an omnipotent narrator who can look into the thoughts of the others in the chapters focussing on Mitch.

There is undeniably a bonus if you have read the two previous Dunham tales, because this book is a follow-up to those stories (and partially an accompaniment to Stay in particular). This time Moriah Jovan, who is from a Mormon background herself so she should know what she's talking about, also dips much deeper into Mormon faith and organization - which as a Roman Catholic in conservative Bavaria is quite fascinating to me.

As Cassie St. James is not Mormon the information never comes across as an info-dump - which is a relief after the dense economical dealings and intrigues in the first few pages of the book which basically went over my head, being based on how corporations work. They are needed to explain how Cassie and Mitch meet, though, her being set-up as the spiritual successor to King Midas/financial wizard Sebastian Taight (one of the heroes in The Proviso) and necessary to finagle Mitch Hollanders Steelworks company out of a disadvantageous situation.

I adore the fact that Cassie is not a WASP, and nothing big is made out of that. It just enhances her beauty. We also have happy gay people in this book, both married and single. And all the scenes that clearly show the value of female friendship, yay!

Yes, we actually have grown-up people who have grown-up children of their own (both married and procreated very young indeed) as the focus of the romance part of this book, which I actually thought was the main focus (much like Stay. I guess when Moriah Jovan takes the time to focus on one couple only, the romance as a whole stays at the centre of her books). However, as the author tags her own book, this is also all about family, -creating family, dealing with family history, letting-go of family if necessary, the fact that family does not have to do with blood relations.

As is always the case in her books, the protagonists come with hefty baggage - like the book blurb implies. I had been wondering why certain turns in MJ's books were vaguely familiar to me - and now that the focus is more clearly on the importance of religion to these people as well, I have found the books they reminded me of: Andrew M. Greeley's Roman Catholic lovers who worship the women they end up with and often go through a crisis of faith, but also have the support of a large family.

The advantage to me as a woman is that MJ's heroines are not set-up as angels or saints, rescuing the men in their lives and gracing them with their presence (I do have to admit I enjoy AMG's general fondness for women, considering he's a Catholic priest in Chicago). They are extremely competent at what they do (I wonder if the Rand/Libertarian sympathies that are included but not as featured as in The Proviso here, are one reason for that), but they want a partnership where they can help and be helped in turn.

And they go at that with style and panache and zest ^^ (and lots of money because I guess that is a marker of success or even god's favour in that world - I remember learning in history class that Puritan faith had this idea and spread it in the New World to a large extent), no matter if it's dealing with family or business or personal hang-ups. The cameos we got from the couples of the previous books made sense and didn't overtake the storyline, so it was just nice to see them.

The sexual tension between Mitch and Cassie is total fun, and I adore the fact that her is a white man who CAN dance. I like that MJ's men own their bodies, their brains and their sexuality with no bowing under peer pressure by the time we meet them.

I question the idea that paying forward comes naturally to humans and if everyone did it we wouldn't need government support for the disadvantaged in this day and age. However, MJ doesn't harp on this, so the two of us can just agree to disagree - and be happy that the Dunham family sees itself as the protectors of producers (I didn't get the impression that farmers were counted among those, for example) and as distributors of the vengeance of God to the bad guys (and yes they are aware, that this sentiment is out of the OLD testament and not the new one).

So we get a relishing bit of an eye for an eye, which would be over the top but for the fact that the crimes are dastardly (taking advantage of upstanding workers in no position of strength and ripping off their savings, as well as psycho-terror) and that it is dealt with by a woman whose personal history made her a victim from her childhood on and who had to go through horrid times to be able to free herself of ties she had been forced into.

In the end I cheer her and Mitch on for standing up for themselves and triumphing. I sure hope MJ is interested in eventually returning to this timeline (the next one will be a historical prequel), because I've become invested in this family group.

Caveats: (view spoiler)

Aside: As a woman whose teenager time was during the 80s, I loved the various fragments of songs used as the chapter headings. And - as always for her own company - the .epub is impeccably and beautifully formatted.
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