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Sea-Born Women
By B.J. Mountford
Review by: Elaine Bienvenu

  1/1/04

ISBN: 089587265X

There is a 300 year old legend from the Outer Banks of North Carolina about a woman whose birth at sea saved her Irish emigrant ship from a pirate captain. Her name was Jerushia Spriggs O'Hagan, and she is one of the sea-born women of interest in this novel. The other is Roberta "Bert" Lenehan, also born at sea, who comes to Portsmouth Island as a National Park Service volunteer.

Bert's job is caretaker of Portsmouth Village, a ghost town on the tip of the island, whose previous caretaker burnt herself to death. Bert was looking forward to a peaceful summer, between jobs and lovers, but strange sounds and even stranger visitors disturb her first day on the island. She meets the attractive Park Ranger Hunter O'Hagan, who charms her with tales of his long-dead ancestors, Jerushia Spriggs O'Hagan and Captain Francis Carrington Spriggs. Then Bert finds another woman dead in the marsh, and she is disturbed by reports of artifact hunters digging illegally on Portsmouth.

The mystery of the murdered pirate and sea-born woman unfolds as chapters in the novel, revealing Spriggs's murderer and the reason Jerushia had been haunting the island. The 300 year-old puzzle blends with the present day thriller as Bert searches for answers, and finds herself the target of a killer.

Two heroines: one, a 300 year old ghost named Jerushia, the other, a 50-something park ranger named Bert. Quite daring names for a first novel! I loved the sea-born women and the story-- an intertwining of historical and supernatural elements with a classic suspense theme. The author's narrative evolved seamlessly into the exciting denouement, our heroine alone on an island, in the middle of a hurricane, being stalked by a killer.

Although there seems to be a great many books published lately using the Carolina coast as a setting, this novel used the history of the Outer Banks as a character in the plot. The lonely beauty of the coast comes across as key to the storyline, not tired background imagery for a romance novel.

 



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