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by Ron Rash

The opening paragraph of this dramatic novel sets the scene for the rip-roaring yarn that is to come:
ďWhen Pemberton returned to the North Carolina mountains after three months in Boston settling his fatherís estate, among those waiting on the train platform was a young woman pregnant with Pembertonís child. She was accompanied by her father, who carried beneath his shabby frock coat a bowie knife sharpened with great attentiveness earlier that morning so it would plunge as deep as possible into Pembertonís heart.Ē
What follows is an adventure story featuring a heroine that makes Lucrezia Borgia look positively demure.

During a visit to Boston, George Pemberton, a North Carolina lumber company owner, meets and marries the eponymous Serena. Sheís an imposing woman, five foot nine in her riding boots and jodhpurs, tanned with bobbed blonde hair, an excellent horsewoman and a sharp shot. Serena, who was born into the timber industry, lets it be known that she is not your typical blushing bride and, with Pembertonís blessing, is soon exerting her influence on the company. Sitting astride the white Arabian horse that her husband gave her as a wedding gift, with her tame eagle on her arm (she trained it to hunt rattlesnakes - thatís the kind of gal she is) she cuts a magnificent figure on the equally magnificent landscape. The men, bosses and workers alike, are understandably in awe and none will cross her. Itís the depression and jobs are precious.

Thereís trouble at camp. The government is intent on procuring the land for the nation as part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park but the avaricious Serena is intent on logging the mountainside bare and nothing and no-one will stop her. Serena and George have personal troubles too. When her chances of bearing the child she longs for fade, Serena turns her attention to the aforementioned pregnant young woman with devastating consequences.

Populated by a great cast of characters, including a Greek chorus of lumber workers; a mad preacher; an acerbic doctor; a wronged innocent and a couple with a deadly lust for power and money, Serena is an excellent romantic adventure story beautifully written by Ron Rash a poet who, with his elegant linguistic ability, elevates it above just a ripping yarn. This parable of greed and hubris is a must for lovers of escapism everywhere.

Irene Haynes


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