Step-back cover exterior & interior The Jacaranda Tree, Rebecca Brandewyne, Warner Books, 1995, Elaine Duillo cover artist
From the back of the book:
A sense of foreboding had gripped Arabella Darracott when she left England to join her guardian in Australia. Years before, a gypsy fortune-teller had told her of a purple blossomed tree, a far-off shore, and a devil of a man who awaited her there. Now, as she neared her destination, shipwreck and fate threw her into the arms of a rescuer, “Demon” Lucien Sinclair, the notorious ex-convict who had become rich in the gold fields of New South Wales. Lucien – wild and wickedly handsome – was the fallen archangel of her dreams. But the crime in his past was linked to a dangerous secret. And the passion awakened under the Jacaranda tree could cost Arabella her future, even her life…or give her Lucien forever to cherish, forever to love.
The Jacaranda Tree was the last historical romance Rebecca Brandewyne published with Warner Books. After that, she wrote a few contemporaries, some paranormals, and a few gothic mysteries for Harlequin, before disappearing from the writing field entirely.
The plot is centered around an Englishwoman, Arabella Darracott, who is seeking employment in Australia. There, she finds love with a mysterious former convict named Lucien after they are shipwrecked together. Not just a love story, The Jacaranda Tree also a murder mystery written in Brandewyne’s gothic style.
Since I wrote this comment in my reading notes for The Jacaranda Tree: “This is RB’S Frankenstein, with plot points and verbatim scenes gutted from her previous books and stitched together into this one,” I’d figure I’d make a Frankensteinian review from my notes.
1) When I started The Jacaranda Tree by Rebecca Brandewyne, I figured I’d play a drinking game. Rebecca Brandewyne always repeated the same terms or clichés over and over in every book. This was is extremely repetitive. Grab your choice of poison and take a sip (or a guzzle) whenever you come upon of these words or phrases:
-mat/pelt of hair on his chest
-coppery taste of blood on lips
-Gypsy/ Gypsy curse
-of her own volition
-smoking a cheroot
I was on page 88 when I finished my second glass of sherry. (I have to justify it somehow and this is better than just ‘cuz I’m bored!)
2) If Jennifer Wilde is the king of the run-on-sentence, then Brandewyne is the queen of the subordinate clause!
3) Lots of info-dumping history/ecology lessons here… I know the author graduated Magna Cum Laude and is a Mensa member, but is this really necessary?
4) Arabella and Lucien make love. Then Arabella sees Lucien’s “Murderer’s Brand”… And now Lucien is now Michael Myers while Arabella does her best Jamie Lee Curtis imitation.
5) It was painfully obvious who the villain was and there tons of clichés throughout (the serial killer who put coins on the eyes of his victims, for example). Even so, it wasn’t bad. The love scenes were beyond purple prose, they were ultra-violet, yet I liked that. If this had been the first Brandewyne I’d read, I would have enjoyed it more.
6) Well, the bad point about this was that this was the worst Rebecca Brandewyne book I’ve ever read. The good thing is that this was still an ok novel, although not near her best. The Jacaranda Tree was my least favorite of Rebecca Brandewyne’s historicals, mainly because it was almost a verbatim regurgitation of conversations, plot points, and love scenes from other books (mostly from Upon a Moon-Dark Moor and Desperado).