3 out of 4 stars
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Freja O'Connell is blonde, beautiful, and broke. Still reeling from a recent break-up with her long-time boyfriend, she leaves the excitement of Las Vegas for the familiarity and comfort of her hometown in Denver. Here, Freja concentrates on the task of rebuilding her life. In repayment of an outstanding debt, her father gives her a dilapidated old house in the middle of the historic Five Points jazz district. It is a house that badly needs restoration, and it's a challenge that Freja readily accepts.
To pay the bills, Freja works as a waitress at a local strip club, delightfully named Shotgun Willie's. Here, she comes across a colorful array of different people. Slowly, she gains the respect of her boss and colleagues and earns the money needed to restore her house. She has vowed to stay single and concentrate on her work, but an enigmatic suitor captures her attention. Something about Sawyer intrigues her, and she just can't stay away.
Between her work and the restoration project, Freja's days are busy and rewarding. One day, she is surprised by the appearance of a beautiful ghost in her home, materializing and disappearing at will. Julianne is trapped between worlds after dying tragically, but she cannot recall anything about her past. Freja takes on the daunting task of sifting through sketchy memories and old town records to figure out the ghost's identity and why she cannot move on. A drama is revealed that unfolded decades earlier, involving two star-crossed lovers and a heartbreaking tragedy that touched many lives.
The Broken Shade by Michele Poague is a skillfully crafted romance that provides an easy and enjoyable read. This author manages to develop the different facets of Freja's life so that they flow seamlessly, with the narrative never losing pace. She provides us with a well-rounded heroine in Freja who is interesting and likable despite her sometimes questionable life choices. In addition, I found most of the supporting characters were well-developed, which rounded out the story nicely.
The aspect I most enjoyed was the historical background to the events in the book. I checked for accuracy regarding the history of Las Vegas, Glenn Miller's early musical career, and the rich jazz culture in Denver and found it all to be historically correct. The strip club, Shotgun Willie's, actually exists. Interestingly, the story is set in the 1980s, in a world before the Internet. All Freja's research had to be done in a library using old newspaper chronicles on microfiche, and music was played on vinyl records as opposed to iPods. Even the fashions and hairstyles described are very true to the Eighties mode - broad belts, big hair and all.
This story is loosely autobiographical, and Michele Poague is clearly writing about the things she knows and has experienced firsthand. One account tells the story of two men who brought their dead friend along with them to the bar for a drink! The author confirms this story is absolutely true. There are countless light-hearted, interesting anecdotes like this, which is one of the most appealing aspects of the book.
If I were to pinpoint anything I disliked, it would be the lengthy descriptions of the renovations that Freja undertook. I found the abundant technical details dull and unnecessary, and this aspect served only as an unwelcome distraction from the main storyline. Perhaps only a handful of readers who are DIY enthusiasts would find this aspect enjoyable, so I feel that shortening these narratives would be of great benefit.
There were a number of grammatical errors throughout the text. Most of these were minor and in the form of misplaced capitals, missing hyphens, and misspelled words such as using “wondered” instead of “wandered.” The name of the strip club is missing the possessive apostrophe throughout the book, which is called Shotgun Willie's on the official website. I think a book of this quality deserves a more careful round of editing. Some mild sexual references were entirely inoffensive, and even the fact that Freja works in a strip club was handled modestly and with humor. The use of profanity is common, with most pages boasting a few colorful words. For this reason, I do not recommend it for younger readers and sensitive people who may take offense. Anyone who loves a good romance and who is looking for a light and enjoyable read should definitely try this one. However, if intellectually stimulating non-fiction is more your style, you might need to keep looking.
I would rate this book 3 out of 4 stars because of the high standard of writing and for pure entertainment value. I could not award a perfect score purely because of the grammatical errors. Freja's story provided me with an enjoyable slice of escapism for a few hours and left me with a strange sense of wanting more. It would be interesting to see how this author's writing style evolves in her other books, so I will definitely be looking out for more from her.
The Broken Shade
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