A review of Sweet Charlotte (Michaela & Trisha, #3) by Kate Genet

READ JUNE 2012

ONLINE PLOT SUMMARY: ” When a dear friend of Michaela’s holds a séance as part of her research for a book she’s writing, things don’t go quite as planned. Communication with those beyond the grave is no sure thing and the spirit who comes through is not the right one. That should have been the end of it, but things are just never that simple. Finally, in desperation, Michaela and Trisha are asked to help unravel the mysterious and frightening events that follow the séance.

Michaela won’t turn her back on a friend in need but Trisha thinks they would both be seriously crazy to get involved. Trisha’s even more worried when her sister Caro is determined to play paranormal investigator right alongside Michaela. Drawn into a dangerous web of madness that claws at them from beyond the grave, can the girls find the strength and courage to do battle? Thrown in the deep end, Trisha especially has to decide whether her faith in herself and her love is enough to save them all. ”

MY REVIEW: Like strong female characters? Lovers whose affection for each other is evident on every page, but never cloying? A budding romance involving a likable secondary character from earlier in of the series? Fierce loyalty and friendship? Plenty of humorous dialogue? And enough spooky shit to make Shirley Jackson jealous?

This, then, is the book for you.

As with the previous two entries in the series, I totally love the two main characters, and, no, I don’t get tired of saying it. They aren’t just likable, they’re strong, and worthy role models. Yes Mr. & Mrs. Middle America, lesbians as role models. Deal with it! I also enjoyed Caro’s increased level of participation. As a whole, it’s good to see Genet widen her character base, as the earlier books were a little restricted, character-wise. Genet does a nice job handling the expanded dramatis personae, too, keeping them all interesting and actual parts of the story rather than filler, as so many secondary characters are. BTW, the fact that Michaela & Trisha are lesbians is treated very straight-forwardly; it’s not one of those “Hey, look! These people are gay!” books where sexual orientation is used for shock value, and certainly not for titillation. Thank god & goddess. It’s, quite simply, who they are.

The plot is intriguing, more than enough to keep the story going, but as before, at least for me, it’s the wonderful characters that are the big attraction here. That doesn’t mean the plot is bad, far from it. It just means, ah, I love these characters. (I may have mentioned that.) The humor in their interactions is great, but, when things turn serious, they prove they’re up to the task. One of the things I really liked about this addition to the series is that Trisha, albeit reluctantly, takes a more assertive role, at least at the end. In the first two books, Michaela took more of the lead, with Trisha as her Watson (or her Mary Russell, if you’re a Laurie King fan), but the better balance here  considerably  strengthens the pairing.

A major area of improvement, since it was really the only fault, from Shadows Fall is in Caro and Trisha’s dialogue. While there are still one or two lapses, they sound a lot more “American” than previously. I apologize to those north of the 49th parallel for the use of “American,” but “people from the US” seems awkward, as does “United Staters.”

Technically, the writing, as in the earlier volumes, is very accomplished, not showy, but well-suited to the story. So is the editing. No complaints at all of a technical nature. Far too many books read like first drafts; you need not worry about that where Kate Genet is concerned. Great story-telling paired with well-constructed prose is becoming something of rarity; with this writer, I’ve come to expect it, but with appreciation, not taking it for granted.

To sum up, Sweet Charlotte is a compelling story with realistic dialog, fun, engaging — and, yes, lovable — characters, unpretentious, well-written prose, humor, lots of suspense, a bit of romance. And…it will seriously creep you out. What more can you ask?

Highly recommended!

BTW, Genet’s Remnant is next up in my to-read list.

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