This is Louise Gaylord’s third novel, and as a writer her style has matured greatly. This maturity shows in her use of plot and character development in Julia Fairchild. This is a very well crafted piece of work.
Set in New Mexico, we are thrust into a world that I found reminiscent of the 1980s TV series Dallas. Instead of revolving around the oil industry, the backdrop for Julia Fairchild is pecan nut and chile pepper farming in Las Cruces. This seemingly sedate and serene sounding lifestyle is portrayed as anything but by Ms. Gaylord.
From the opening page, where our heroine is struck by lightning, an occurrence that starts a downward spiral of events, the reader is swept up in a web of intrigue, lust, and bitter family feuds. The characters are sketchy in the beginning but take on richness as the book continues, each interaction revealing a new facet of the protagonist.
Ms. Gaylord uses her main character (after whom the book is titled) in an interesting and from a book reviewer’s viewpoint, novel way. Julia is not so much heroine but more the conduit and catalyst through which the story can unfold.
The two families involved are the Brantleys and the Pierces. Early on we discover that there is a long-standing animosity between these two high profile families. Page by page we learn little dark secrets about all of the main players, amounting to little jigsaw puzzle-sized clues which the author uses to tantalize the reader.
All of the leading characters have skeletons in the closet - some very old, from 30 years ago, some very new. And all of them are disturbing.
Not wishing to reveal too much and spoil the plot, I will instead tease you with a couple of the dark secrets contained within the pages. There are untimely deaths, there is adultery, there is even incest, although at the time the participants were not aware of their shared parent.