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Linda Lee Graham
Voices Echo
The third book in the VOICES series, VOICES ECHO stands alone as a riveting depiction of both the beauty of 18th-century Jamaica and the horrors of plantation life in the British West Indies. When Albert Ross sailed to Jamaica months after they married, Rhiannon Ross believed he'd abandoned her for the sanctuary of his West Indies plantation and complacent mulatta mistress. Not one to live life in limbo, Rhiannon has followed in a bid to secure her position as his lawful wife, and to quell her growing attraction to her American advisor, Liam Brock. Determined to put the enticing Mrs. Ross out of his mind, Liam Brock accepts an assignment to escort a young heiress to her father's Jamaican estate. Convinced his and Rhiannon's ships have crossed paths, he is stunned to learn Rhiannon is still on the island, and shocked when he finds her isolated and frightened--a shell of the vibrant woman who still fills his dreams. He begins to suspect that beneath the exotic beauty of an island teeming with vitality, there beats a sinister pulse. As evidence of smuggling and dark magic are uncovered, Rhiannon realizes that the lives of those she holds dearest are at stake. As greed on the island evolves into violence and violence into murder, Liam and Rhiannon find themselves ensnared in a deadly intrigue. How far will they go in the name of protecting the other, and how much will they sacrifice to attain a future neither believed possible?
A refusal to shy away from the horrors of the past adds urgency to the climactic third entry in Graham’s saga of young Britons emigrating to the Americas—especially Philadelphia—just after the Revolutionary War. This volume, following Voices Whisper, finds Liam Brock, the orphaned Scot, now just a test away from being a Philly lawyer. His thoughts, however, are as always on women, specifically Rhiannon Ross, now married to an old wealthy plantation owner, Albert, who has spirited her away to Jamaica and can’t bring himself to visit her bed at night. At the Fain Hill plantation, Rhiannon quails at the “harsh human suffering” of slavery, and she yearns to be useful, even visiting the understaffed “hothouse” to try to help tend to ill slaves. Her heart, though, is in Philly, Liam, and the inn that she has, through some complex financial cleverness, trusted Liam to secure for her, in the hope that one day she can get Albert to settle there.

Complicating matters, of course, are the horrors of slavery. Rhiannon’s interventions when slaves face cruel punishments tend to make matters worse, she exhibits grace for Albert’s out-of-wedlock son and his enslaved mother, and as hints of a revolt rock Jamaica as surely as the earthquakes, Rhiannon’s feelings for Fain Hill are complicated, and not just because of the centipedes. Liam, meanwhile, is soon en route to Jamaica as chaperone to a prickly young woman (“Even her curls appeared tightly wound,” Graham writes). His real mission, of course,is to see Rhiannon. One delicious twist: rather than find the young man, an abolitionist, a threat, Albert hires him on.

Graham spins the tale with brisk, engaging prose, palpable longing, and a strong sense of intrigue and gathering dread. The novel builds to inevitable but surprising tragedies but also a satisfying ending that does not diminish the weight of the history. Like Rhiannon, Graham abounds in grace, with even that tightly wound young woman proving, in the end, a compelling and nuanced creation.

Takeaway:Humane historical novel of love, law, and the horrors of slavery in the Americas.

Comparable Titles: Natasha Boyd’s The Indigo Girl, Sarah Lark’s Island of a Thousand Springs.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A