Monday, April 4, 2016

Book Review: Compulsion by Martina Boone

Title: Compulsion (The Heirs of Watson Island #1)
Author: Martina Boone
Publication Date: October 28, 2014
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 433
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Three plantations. Two wishes. One ancient curse.

All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lives with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison at her aunt’s South Carolina plantation instead—a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions.

Stuck with the ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who knows what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family's twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn't what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead.

I purchased Compulsion when I saw it on a 25% off rack at my local indie bookstore, although I really didn't know what to expect from it. It had a beautiful cover and, although the synopsis was a little out of my comfort zone, it was signed and on sale so my mind was easily made up! It sat on my bookshelf for a good year before I finally decided to give it a read and it was pretty much exactly what I expected it to be - a sweet and slow and magical contemporary romance.

Barrie Watson is the protagonist of this story. She's new to Watson Island, having been sent there after the death of her mother and the subsequent incapacitation of her caretaker. Her family there are strangers and the dilapidated property is strange, but Barrie intends to make the best of the unusual situation. Right away I liked Barrie. She was a strong and capable heroine who, despite the circumstances, never let herself be pulled under. She tried to see the best in everyone and made it her mission to be the support system for the aunt she never knew. Her decision making skills did not always seem quite on point, but a little lapse in judgment here and there can be easily forgiven when a character is wonderful in every other way!

The love interest (no love triangle!!!) on Watson Island is Eight Beaufort, who I wasn't quite sure what to think about at the beginning. Right to start with, he has a weird name. I have a hard time with weird names because I think they're usually unnecessary, but here I can let it slide since it was a family tradition (his father was Seven). I enjoyed Eight as a character and found him to be both likable and surprisingly complex. Barrie is instantly attracted to Eight, but is not instantly in love with him. Instead, their relationship is slow and believable and even a little adorable!

The youngest in two of the founding families of the island, Barrie and Eight both bear their family gifts. Although the mythological explanation behind the gifts (tied up in the three founding families, voodoo, and curses) were a little confusing, it was unique and made for an interesting story. Cassie Colesworth is Barrie's cousin and a descendant of the third founding family - the one that didn't get off quite as lucky as the Watsons and Beauforts. The conflict between the Colesworths and the rest of the island is best described as tense. The mixture of magical elements and possible real-world issues made this story feel really unique to what I usually read.

I also really enjoyed the southern gothic setting of Compulsion. I've never really read anything with this setting and I think Martina Boone did a fantastic job of creating an atmosphere that felt somehow... heavy? But in a good way. I don't know if that makes any sense at all. I was born and raised near coastal North Carolina and, while reading this book, I felt like I was there on Watson Island laying under giant trees watching lightening bugs and breathing in the humid air. I really don't know how else to describe it other than to say it was fantastic!

My only problem with this book, and I'm honestly not quite sure it's really a problem, is the pacing. At times it seemed extremely slow, almost meandering and lazy, but I also feel like that could kind of fit with the setting of the story. Because of the pace, it took me a little longer than usual to get through all 400+ pages of Compulsion.

The good news is that Compulsion didn't end on a cliffhanger so, when I did reach the end, it left me feeling satisfied. I really did enjoy this book even though I wasn't quite sure I would. The magic fit nicely and believably with the gothic atmosphere and the romance was really well done! I don't feel like I necessarily need to read the next book in the series based on how this one ended, but I probably will anyway. I'm interested to see what Persuasion has in store for Barrie and Eight!