Janice Graham – Firebird

Published by Little, Brown and Company 1998

ISBN 0 316 64751 9

Set in the majestic Flint Hills of Kansas, Firebird tells of a man caught between two women – one who shares his life and his dream of land and cattle; the other a stranger whose love threatens to destroy the dream he has built.

 Ethan Brown is a gentleman rancher – a Yale-educated lawyer as comfortable in the company of cowboys as he is amongst his books.  Engaged to the daughter of the county’s wealthiest landowner, his dreams of cattle-ranching beneath the Flint Hills are about to become a reality.

 Annette Zeldin is a Paris-based concert violinist.  Returning to Cottonwood Falls to settle the estate of her late mother, she feels every inch the outsider and clings to her young daughter for support.  Ethan expects his involvement with Annette to stop at legal formalities, but before long they must acknowledge the passion growing between them.

 A tragic prairie fire shatters Annette’s and Ethan’s romance.  But even a deadly fire cannot tear apart two souls that are meant to be together.  With a twist that will at once shock readers and reach deep into their hearts, Janice Graham’s Firebird richly articulates the enduring possibilities of love.  It is a novel impossible to forget.

The blurb really doesn’t do this story justice, and it is rather misleading.  I probably wouldn’t have picked this story up if the librarian hadn’t recommended it.

Ethan Brown is engaged to Katie Anne Mackey, a much younger woman.  To start with their relationship was full of fun moments, but now Ethan isn’t too sure.  As the town lawyer, he is engaged to settle the estate of Emma Ferguson and meets her daughter, Annette Zeldin, a snooty nosed ex American, now living in Paris.  She acts as if she is above everyone else, and soon manages to alienate most of Cottonwood Falls.

Ethan discovers her passion for reading the classics, his law office is full of Wordsworth and Yeats, and a friendship develops between the two.  While Katie Anne is planning their wedding, Ethan discovers that as the day draws nearer, he doesn’t want to be with Katie Anne, and instead he ends the relationship to be with Annette.

But Katie Anne has other plans and tells him she is pregnant.  He falls for it, and goes ahead with the marriage, trying to block Annette out of his mind.

On the day that Annette is to leave for Paris, she decides to visit her mothers house one more time, a place she shared some intimate moments with Ethan. The house is old and rickety and right in the path of a prairie fire which is burning out of control and Katie Anne is caught in the middle of it too.

I won’t tell you any more of the story, but this is the twist in the tale.  Which one survives and which one doesn’t.

Ethan, a likeable character at the beginning of the story, becomes somewhat shallow towards the middle of the book.  You begin to wonder what Annette saw in him because he becomes selfish and self centred, as he tries to deal with his loss.

By the end of the story, you are back in love with Ethan again, as he rights the wrongs and realises the mistakes he has made and how they affected other people.

I liked the character of Katie Anne, even though at the beginning you think she is young and immature, a picture we get from Ethan discussing her with his best friend.  But her character develops into one that is less shallow as well.

Annette, the snooty Parisian was a great character.  She protected herself by being standoffish and her character was well developed.  The heartache and pain that she suffers seemed real, and made her more vulnerable.

This story was one that I struggled to start with, but couldn’t put it down in the end.  The flow of the story was consistent, and a couple of times frustration at Ethan had me swearing at him through the pages, but it is a love story like none I have read before.

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