In order to maximize the benefits of these efforts, we keep a spreadsheet as a Google document. That way, should she manage to find a title on the “books to get” list she can mark it off, and I won’t be carting duplicates to her. In the same manner, I will mark off those books she requests as I get them.
Unfortunately, she hasn’t done the best job at this so far. Not only did I take her one duplicate on this trip–despite begging her since February to double check the list–but I found seven other duplicated books, from previous shipments, that she had sneaked to my mother’s house.
After some swearing (out of range of the parental unit), I grabbed them and tossed them in my bag. Good thing I did, because while my flight down there was on a new plane, the trip back was on a relic that didn’t have outlets to charge my phone. All those books? Yeah, out of reach.
But there it was, a dog eared print copy of one of my favorite Linda Howard books, coming to my rescue.
Now you get my thoughts.
Please note: there’s an attempted suicide, subtle sexual coercion, and some generalized Southern asshattery in the novel
After the Night, by Linda Howard
There are a couple of things you may want to take into account as you read this review.
The first is that I am a fan of Ms Howard. I have read everything she wrote up to 2008, and I still own all of those books, save five: All That Glitters, An Independent Wife, To Die For, Drop Dead Gorgeous and Raintree: Inferno. The first two are her debut and sophomore efforts, both released in 1982. The next two are the Blair Mallory novels, which a) are narrated in first person, and b) I hated, with the passion of a thousand suns. The last one I just couldn’t get into.
I also own, but haven’t finished reading, Burn, which she released in 2009. I may also have Ice, and perhaps even Veil of Night, but there was something about Burn that put me off trying any of Ms Howard’s newer work.¹
The second is that this novel was, if not my very first, one of the first Linda Howard books I ever read, back in 1997. As such, it holds a special place in my heart. I can see some of its problems, but I know I’m blind to others. This is very much a book of its time; it was published in 1995, likely written the year before that. Not only are faxes essential for business, there are no cell phones. Hell, not even car phones are mentioned! You may correctly assume that some of the gender and social issues in the book follow pattern.
I cannot even begin to fathom how a reader would react to this book today.
Here’s the blurb, from the print copy in question:
She returned to uncover old secrets…and new desires.
Faith Devlin: A poor, outcast child in Prescott, Louisiana, she’d always adored the town’s golden boy from afar. But he called her white trash that sultry Southern night when his rich, respected father disappeared, along with her pretty Mom. Now Faith wanted to hate Gray Rouillard…not to feel a powerful surge of desire. But she couldn’t quench her passion, any more than she could hide the truth about the past she had waited so long to unravel.
Gray Rouillard: Even when he raised hell, he did it with style. Reckless, charming, and backed by Rouillard money, Gray controlled the town of Prescott–and Devlin was a name he never wanted to hear again. But when he gazed at Faith Devlin, all he saw was a swirl of tangled sheets and her silken flesh beneath him. To care for her was impossible, unthinkable…because Gray Rouillard planned to use all his power to ruin her.
I love the beginning of this book, so very much. The first line is awesome: It was a good day for dreaming.² :happy sigh: Lovely.
Faith is the fourth child of Amos and Renee Devlin. He’s a drunkard prone to violence against those weaker than himself. She’s more concerned with getting laid and, if at all possible, getting pretty, shiny things in exchange, than with her five children. The three older kids, Russ, Nicky and Jodie, are happily following into their parents footsteps whoring, drinking, stealing. Faith…is not.
Faith is a fanciful, quiet girl who loves to read, and who has taken full responsibility for her youngest brother, Scottie, almost since his birth. Hers is a life of drudgery; it’s not only that her family lives in poverty and squalor, is that they live down to their reputation as trash, with a vengeance.
By virtue of being a Devlin, Faith struggles to live her life under a different standard, hoping to prove to everyone–and her idol Gray in particular–that she’s different. That she is a good person, that she deserves respect instead of mistrust, innuendo, insults and disdain.
Then, everything changes. Both Faith’s mother and Gray’s father have gone missing. As they have been lovers (though not exclusive) for years, it’s immediately assumed they’ve left together. And when Gray’s younger sister, Monica, tries to kill herself over the shock of it, it’s natural–though not excusable–that he overreact.
Gray’s family’s influence is enough to get the sheriff to rouse all his deputies, and forcefully, mercilessly, evict the Devlin’s from his land–and effectively run them out of town on a rail.
Twelve years after the night that changed her life irrevocably, if for the better in the long run, Faith has come back to Prescott. Out of curiosity at first, then obeying a strange compulsion to find out exactly what happened that night. Inevitably, her path crosses both Gray’s and Monica’s, with unexpected consequences.
Faith has worked hard–has never stopped working–towards respectability. Still in her mid twenties, she is undeniably successful in her chosen career. Her hard-earned self-respect is shaken by the strong, urgent attraction between herself and Gray.
For his part, Gray can’t believe that he is following his irresponsible father’s footsteps–another Rouillard having an affair with a Devlin? Perish the thought! Except it’s neither that easy nor that simple between them. Because Gray does remember Faith. He remembers the quiet, shy child who didn’t belong with the trashy Devlins. He remembers the young girl he humiliated into the ground that momentous night.
And he wants the woman with an intensity that baffles him. This, as you can imagine, does not make Gray a happy boy.
These two characters have an incredibly combustible sexual tension, which doesn’t diminish any after they finally get it on. The push and pull between them–Faith will be damned if she gives in to her attraction to the man who called her trash, her father a drunk and her mother a whore (true as the last two might have been). Gray is thrice-damned if he’ll fall for a woman who is the spitting image of the whore who stole his father from him and destroyed his family.
But the more they clash, the more they interact and talk with each other, the more they learn about the other that makes their differences seem smaller, less insurmountable.
Yes, what he did to her family–particularly to Faith and her brother Scottie–was cruel and petty and nigh unforgivable. When and why he did it do not excuse this, but explain the actions and words of a grieving, exhausted twenty two year old man trying to handle a crisis beyond his experience.
And while her presence upsets both his mother and sister, Gray grows to respect Faith’s strength in going toe to toe with a man whose sphere of influence is so many orders of magnitude larger than her own. He learns to accept that he cannot buy her out, intimidate her, or in any way order her about. Even when Faith seems to give in to Gray’s dictums, she ends up doing what she decides is best.
Around and through Faith’s and Gray’s relationship, Ms Howard weaves an intriguing mystery.
What, exactly, happened that night Renee Devlin and Guy Rouillard didn’t come home to their respective families? Why is someone so determined to scare Faith away? I confess that I missed the subtle clues in the text and was surprised by the answers to these and other questions. On each re-reading, I shake my head at my obliviousness, while understanding that I was well caught in the narrative, and that Ms Howard had succeeded very well indeed, in drawing me into the story.
The secondary characters, who are barely shadows during the first few chapters, are fleshed out slowly, subtly, throughout the rest of the novel. Only the most minor of these, like the maid and cook at the Rouillard house, are not fully realized by the end of the book.
I have never lived in a small town, let alone a small town in Louisiana some time in the early 1980s, but Ms Howard draws the social dynamics of the place in a way that makes me think that yes, these people would behave like this. That yes, that reaction and this behaviour, are plausible within the context of the novel, and consistent with who each one of these people are, individually, and as part of the group/class/family each belong to.
There were a couple of times I wanted to shake Faith a bit. Yes, she’s had a crush on Gray for most of her life, but come on! The man behaved like an utter, unforgivable asshole towards her! Can’t she control her hormones enough to see this?
The magic of the novel, for me, is that it succeeds in making me see why and how Faith would struggle so with what would seem such a simple decision to make. In the end, I believe in how these two people can come together and belong together.
After the Night gets an 8.25 out of 10.
¹ Dog knows what, as I don’t remember anything about that book; perhaps it’s time I try again?
² In fact, I believe that Ms Howard has some of the best first lines ever. Another classic: He needed a woman. Bad. (Wolf Mackenzie, Mackenzie’s Mountain)