Norma Ever After
By Roberta Austin
Oct 15, 2005 - 1:34:00 AM

Norma Dale has always hated her name. It's dull and plain, but seems to fit her life. She was never one of the perky, popular girls. She chose a career as a genetic researcher which only led to more isolation. Her marriage lasted a very short time after she "settled" for someone suitable.

Norma's life suddenly takes a dramatic turn after her father's death. He leaves her a chest full of money and the beloved plush puffin from her childhood. Norma sees the puffin as an omen, quits her job and sets off for the Orkney Islands, home of the puffins. There she is both shocked and enchanted to discover the tales her father told her were true and not just make believe. Norma also discovers that there are men on the island who see her special beauty, and she ultimately must make some hard choices. Is the dark, brooding artist Brian her soul mate or another heartache?
Norma is a bit more edgy than the traditional romance heroine. Her language is rather salty, but it fits the storyline. We all make poor choices and have serious inner doubts at times, so we can identify with Norma. Her journey to find the truth for others leads to her deeper awareness of her own self worth. Brian is a truly appealing hero. He is a man who is passionate about his art and those he loves, but there is an underlying vulnerability.
One of the most exquisite charms of this debut novel is the chance to see the Orkney Islands and all their beauty through the eyes of Norma,who is an American. This far north area of Scotland is described in such lavish detail the reader will feel she has been on a truly exotic vacation without leaving home. The author weaves history and legends into the plot, which lends an extra depth and charm. Along with establishing a profound sense of place, the author has a true ear for realistic dialog.
Ms. Baxter has written an uplifting and compelling first novel. I wish her all the best with her writing career.

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