cover image Blue Willow

Blue Willow

Deborah Smith. Bantam Books, $7.99 (544pp) ISBN 978-0-553-29690-7

Artemas Colebrook is the stuff of myth: a proud, intelligent boy who vows to salvage his Southern family's name, which has been tarnished by his father's philandering and squandering of the Colebrook fortune. Though Artemas's quest is vaguely medieval, the story is planted squarely in the 20th century. At age seven, Artemas is precocious enough to assist at the birth of Lily Mackenzie, linking them forever. A series of family squabbles and misunderstandings keeps these two star-crossed lovers from each other, although as the book progresses the reasons for their separation become more and more ridiculous. All is exaggerated and melodramatic: after Artemas loses his virginity in the forest in a tender (and anatomically unbelievable) scene, his father rides by on a horse, snatches up his son's beloved and rapes her. An architectural collaboration between Lily's husband and Artemas's sister collapses, killing the celebrants at the building's opening gala. The battle over who is at fault for this tragic accident drags on, and even when Lily and Artemas can finally be together, Smith ( Miracle ) fails to resolve definitely the question of blame. (Feb.)