Source: From the author.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Brightwing: A Criminal Love Story
Edgar and Mallory Battle are on the run after a spectacularly violent escape. Now, with a trail of bodies behind them, they need a hostage against the inevitable standoff with the police. Their first doesn't last long, thanks to sociopathic Mallory. Edgar has been hiding his brother's crimes since they were kids. Now he's torn between family loyalty and self-preservation.
They carjack Lucy Brightwing, a criminal fresh from her own heist, with a fortune of uncut gems hidden in her vehicle. She could escape - but she won't abandon her millions. She could kill the Battle brothers, but she has to be careful. For one thing, if the law investigates, they'll find her ill-gotten loot. For another, her own life is sacred. She's the last member of a Florida paleoindian tribe thought to be extinct - the Tequesta. With her share of the money she plans to buy, bribe and blackmail her way into her own ancestral tribal lands in the heart of the Everglades: a Tequesta nation.
Lucy leads the brothers into her beloved swamp, determined to kill them. But when she falls for Edgar she must decide whether to risk her heritage and the future of her tribe to save the doomed brothers.
This book was not what I was expecting, the crime is more of a backdrop than the point of the story, which is the developing relationships and the love story between Lucy and Edgar. And I would call this a love story and not a typical romance.
The book starts off very exciting and grabs your attention right away. This is a tough-talking, almost macho book, but with a light edge. The criminals are hard and brutal at times, but also have their own kind of concious.
Lucy and Edgar's relationship is a complicated one - they are both criminals and Edgar's brother, Mallory, is a very disturbed and violent sociopath. I love Lucy, how strong and sure she is- I love strong heroines. There is never any doubt that she is the more competent criminal and survivor. She can make her way through seemingly deadly and impenetrable swamps, and not only survive, but thrive. She is the last of the Tequesta, someone who is protected by the other native bands and who has a great responsibility as the keeper of her culture. This culture has a rich and long history, and reading this book, we really feel the weight of that responsibility as well as being treated to tastes of the culture.
Edgar is likable enough, in his way, and he too as a huge responsibility, that of caring for his brother. I could really feel for him - Mallory obviously can't be around other people, but how does Edgar abandon him? It is a terrible dilemma. He wants a more normal life, but finds himself a star in a twisted drama and he doesn't know how to get out.
Then there is Mallory. His characterization is difficult for me (which I assume is intentional). He is an extremely violent sociopath who kills and rapes without remorse. In fact, he comes off as childlike, unable to help himself and so his actions are often excused. Like I said, this is hard to take, though I certainly felt how creepy and disassociated he is. Ultimately, I find it hard to dismiss Mallory's behaviour as "innocent" because he can't help it, that he is genetically predispositioned for violence and rape.
Lee gets us into the heads of each of these characters as she shifts the point of view to each of them throughout the book. This allows us to understand them on a different level. Mostly this was effective, but at times it did get confusing.
It is clear that the author has done a huge amount of research or is very familiar with her topic - her descriptions of the Florida swamps are detailed and intimate, as is her knowledge of the Native culture. She incorporates stories and details from the Tequesta culture and history that add richness and another level to the book. I don't know if the Tequesta are real or not, but there is an air of authenticity to Lee's descriptions.
I like how Lee doesn't describe every detail of the gory scenes, that she leaves much of it to the reader's imagination. I always find that innuendo makes a scene more creepy and horrible and I am not a big fan of overly descriptive violence. She is also able to add humour to some of the tense situations.
I especially enjoyed the ending of this book, but don't want to give anything away here. I'll just say it has a quirky twist that added to the book that really made the book for me.
Lee's writing is very good and thoughtful, full of rich stories, details and characterizations. If you are looking for something different, not your typical romance and like the meandery feel of storytelling, then you would probably like this book. I found while reading this that I wanted to listen to Ani DiFranco music. If you don't know her music, click here for an example.
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