Reviewed by Tori
Vera Hadley has spent her whole life being a Hadley and all that comes with it. Now poised on the eve of her wedding to a man she doesn’t love, Vera decides to finally live her life on her own terms and sneaks away with the help of two servants. Vera arrives in Round O, South Carolina and soon sets herself up living quarters, a job, and a possible suitor. When she receives a call about an old friend in trouble, Vera has to make a choice on whether she will continue to hide from her father and fiancee or will she finally make a stand and claim her life as her own.
Set in South Carolina during the 1940’s, Palmetto Moon is a southern contemporary about a young woman of privilege whose family’s social and financial ambitions push her to seek her own way in the world. I adore a good bygone era women’s independence story and envisioned a possible mixture along the lines of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Carrie Khoui or Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. Unfortunately, this story had neither the strong characters nor dynamic storylines of either book.
Disney-fied to the utmost extreme, Palmetto Moon is a saccharine story that has all the elements to be a wonderful journey of discovery, hope, and love but fails to deliver. An interesting premise that never seemed to quite gain a foothold and develop. It is a deliciously decorated package that when opened, lacks substance. The best I can say is that it is sweet. The characters are formulaic and sweet; never emerging from their cocoon to develop and grow. It’s all tell and no show. The plot and subplots are sweet with little to no exploration. There were certainly many openings for our heroine to explore her new found freedom in areas of sexuality and social structures that never panned out. Numerous plot holes and dead ends left me frustrated. The ending is sweet and predictable from the halfway mark. Even the villain(s), who aren’t really villainous, are mere caricatures that hint towards a danger we never see. There is no sense of adventure within the main plot. No standing on the precipice, quivering in anticipation wondering what will happen. There is a faint religious theme that flows under the story, giving kudos to the time and place in which Boykin is writing about.
Our heroine, Vera, comes off strong in the beginning of the book. Boykin’s voice slowly draws the reader in as Vera tells us of her dreams, desires, and fears. We learn that she had been planning to run away from her autocratic family for sometime now and has been stealthily putting things in motion to facilitate her escape. She is scared but determined to take her fate into her own hands. Once she arrives in the small crossroad town of Round O however, the story begins to fail for me. Everything just falls into place. She arrives and within 24 hours she has a place to live, a professional job which she has no qualifications for, a handsome suitor, and a new best friend. Vera is perfect. She is beautiful, soft spoken, and well educated. There is very little adversity or moral dilemmas for her to overcome; both which are key components in a coming of age trope. She is the quintessential heroine who triumphs in the face of…no danger.
A variety of secondary characters only to exist in order to tell Vera’s story. They aren’t viable sustainable characters of their own. Frank Darling is a handsome diner/store owner whose dreams were shattered when he was denied entry to the armed forces for a health defect. Stuck in this one horse town, he self flagellates himself for his supposed failings. Once he meets Vera, he falls head over heels and his life mission focuses solely on getting Vera to marry him. We have the stereotypical nasty busybodies that only the southern small towns seem to breed. But Vera is able to put them in their place with a well heeled insult and arched brow. Vera’s fiance and parents are here today-gone tomorrow. Clare, Vera’s new best friend, is a young widow with three adorable small boys. She can’t leave the boarding house because…widowed women can’t live on their own? I didn’t understand that part. She is being pressured to marry one of the older gentlemen boarders but of course, Vera will swoop in and save the day *sigh* Various other characters offer vague humor and depth but as I stated earlier, they are place holders and their issues all fall by the wayside as the main conflict blows through.
The ending comes at us fast and is really the only true obstacle that Vera faces. A small obstacle that is easily and painlessly rectified. And we don’t even see that. We learn of it after the fact. Everyone is made happy in the end and our leads live happily ever after. All in all it wasn’t a bad book. It’s well written with a smooth flow that makes for an easy simple read. I just expected more and was saddened to see it didn’t deliver.
RT Book Reviews