4 stars

Category Romance Review: Shadows on the Moon by Peggy Gaddis

Shadows on the Moon, Peggy Gaddis, Magnum, 1960, cover artist TBD

Magnum Books #4200-14

Spoiler Free Review 😊

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Prolific Peggy Gaddis

Peggy Gaddis (1895 to 1966) was a big name in mid-century genre fiction. Born in the state of Georgia, she worked as a pulp magazine editor in New York in the 1920s. She must have learned what the readers wanted because she later became a popular fiction writer in various genres. Gaddis is credited with almost 300 works under a dozen names (that I know of). 

Her fortes include contemporary category romance novels; Shadows on the Moon is one example. First published as a hardcover by Arcadia House in 1960, it has been reprinted several times and on both sides of the pond. The version I read is a Magnum paperback published by Prestige Books in the mid-to-late 1970s. Like all books in the series, the copyright page doesn’t bear the date of this edition.

The title sounds gothic-like, but the novel is actually a brisk, dynamic tale of a young businesswoman (circa 1960) facing problems in her work, her family, and her love life. If you go for zesty, realistic plots full of true-to-life characters, with snappy dialog and a pace that never lags, this book might well be your cup of tea. Or should I say a glass of orange juice; it takes place at a citrus grove and processing center in Florida.

Growing Oranges Can Be the Pits

That estate, a family business, is run by Eve Harrison. She’s doing a great job, but mechanical failures and accidents are cutting into the profits. And she must put up with her only close kin, her embittered brother Peter, who’s confined to a wheelchair. Together they own the company, but only Eve takes part in it.

She has an understanding, sort of, with Doug Hammond, her general manager. They were childhood sweethearts, but the grownup Eve simply can’t work up the requisite passion for him. Against his desires, she does her best to evade the prospect of marriage. Which wouldn’t be possible anyhow as long as Eve must take care of the testy Peter.

Then she picks up hitchhiker Brian Eldredge. Though he seems like just another tramp, he turns out to be a highly-skilled mechanic. Eve gives him a job repairing her trouble-prone machinery.

Brian quickly suspects these accidents are anything but. He says it’s sabotage. But who would do such a thing? Why?

As if all this weren’t enough, enter Valerie Blaisdell—New York socialite, adventure-seeker, heiress to millions. She stumbles upon the Harrison property when a maritime mishap leaves her adrift off its shore. With her beauty, charm, and vivacious personality, Valerie makes herself right at home. Eve likes her. Doug likes her. But how well?

A Juicy Story

A lot happens, but to avoid spoilers I’ll stop here. Shadows on the Moon has much going for it. The author skillfully brings to life her characters, their conflicts, their issues. Ditto the setting, a colorful agricultural-industrial town. Her characters are very much a part of their environment and vice versa. A real slice of life. An orange slice!

Still, I have a few reservations. It’s clear from the first chapter that Brian is the hero. He and Eve are destined for each other. She’s bound to become his main squeeze. (Okay, I’ll cool it with the orange jokes!)

But it takes forever for their relationship to move beyond strictly business. I’m not talking about a slow burn. That term implies the hero and/or heroine feel early on the first stirrings of love. Or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

Here that doesn’t happen until the last quarter of the word count. Way too late for me! 

And then there’s the one major character the author handles poorly. That’s Peter. Even in 1960 the embittered cripple, to use the then-current term, must’ve been a cliché. I just can’t believe him. He gets his own romantic subplot, but I can’t believe that either.

Still, I enjoyed Shadows on the Moon, and recommend it. A few rotten oranges shouldn’t stop you from buying the whole crate.

Oh jeez, there I go again! 🍊

Reviewed by Mary Anne Landers

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