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Prisoner in a Red-Rose Chain

A young Shakespeare professor pursues the problematic girl of his dreams in this Canadian writer’s first novel, a lively, clever, but eventually labored yarn that focuses almost exclusively on Jeremy Davenant’s duck-and-chase affair with the elusive Milena Sarakali Modjeska, whom Jeremy sees as his proverbial “dark lady.” He meets Milena in a chance encounter in a movie theater, and his imagination and hormones immediately go into overdrive at the prospect of dating her. But the party-happy Milena is less than enthusiastic, and Jeremy seems oblivious to the shallowness of her personality, continuing his insistent pursuit despite what he learns about her seriously checkered upbringing. Milena redeems herself, though, in an entertaining scene at a stuffy faculty gathering, as she outwits a boorish professor. Unfortunately, Milena’s lack of appeal is a mere side issue in the book the real problem is that Moore has written a lengthy one-note samba in which Milena endlessly teases Jeremy, causing them to break up and get back together again. Moore fills in some of the narrative gaps with heartfelt scenes in which Jeremy connects with his free-spirited Uncle Gerald (in reality his mother’s eccentric ex-boyfriend); Moore’s satirical view of academia has real bite. His ability to craft engaging scenes with witty dialogue and solid character work promises well for the future, but in this outing Jeremy’s emotional rite of passage is overextended, and readers may not stay glued long enough to enjoy the series of revelations at the end. – Publishers Weekly

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