A principle of even moderately successful reviewer is to check impulses to heavily criticize a piece of work and to carefully choose the words with which to do so when the occasion arises. The ONLY reason for treading into these dangerous waters regarding the Keith Publications release of the novel "She" by veteran travel writer Lucretia Bingham is to alert readers that what starts out as a not-so-well written piece of fiction soon gets much better and has many high points.
Your not-so-humble reviewer offers the above caveat to help readers who may share his initial impulse to abandon "She" after a few pages to hang in there; the payoff is worth it.
Passages that create the negative first impression include the following over descriptive sentences from the second paragraph of the novel:
"Ophelia took a deep breath and looked over the small seaplane to where turtles often popped up their heads to breathe, yachts bobbed at anchor, and the candy-stripped lighthouse stood sentinel at the very end of the narrow harbor. The azure water was stippled with the lavender shadows from cloud above."
A few short paragraphs lower includes the Harlequin Romance caliber text:
"Yet. like the jolt that threads through veins when poised to jump off a cliff into water far below, returning to Stuart and his daughters was a leap of faith. A combination of fear and joy galloped through her. The thought of being enfolded in her lover's arms once again throbbed deep in every part of her being."
In addition to providing a sense of the weak start to "She," the passages above are a brief prime to the plot of the book. Ophelia Sawyer is our heroine who has two adult daughters and is trying to determine if the love-at-first-sight between her and boutique hotel entrepreneur Stuart Winslow is adequately strong to somehow form a family with him and his four pre-teen daughters.
The challenge facing this potentially blended family extends beyond those of the "you're not my mom" and "do I love him enough to deal with his kid" variety. Our sextet is on an extended vacation/convalescence in the Bahamas following a severe physical and emotional trauma.
Achieving healing and a recognizing a need to move on in all senses of the word leads to Stuart bringing the girls and the girlfriend to Morocco. The business purpose for this trip is to pursue a business deal with co-venturer/friend Hassan.
The luxury and sense of security that Stuart et al experience in their exotic new temporary home is shattered when seven year-old Caroline is abducted in broad daylight while in the company of Ophelia and oldest daughter Sophie.
A combined desire to not let the trail cool any further and to take advantage of an offer of help by new friend/iPhone coveter Mohammed prompts Ophelia and Sophie to head out across the Atlas Mountains without first communicating with Stuart.
Stuart soon becoming concerned about the unexplained disappearance of half his entourage prompts him to gather up seven year-old Maggie and five-year old Abby to literally head into the hills with their own native guide.
The aforementioned kidnapping and rescue efforts result in alternating plots that revolve around Caroline apparently being prepared to become a child bride, Ophelia and Sophie enduring a grueling trek, and Stuart not having it much better.
This action occurs in the context of the out-dated Moroccan culture in which nomads travel across the desert, children are currency, and the wealthy are as close to a god as a mortal can become.
The titular female who is the protagonist of the book is even more of a deity than Hassan; a cool element regarding this she who must be feared is that Bingham provides an "Eureka" moment in which the identity of this person is easier to determine than the villain in a "Scooby-Doo" cartoon.
Making a likable young girl-next-door type the center of the "ripped from the headlines" element of human trafficking puts a sympathetic face on this deplorable practice. Bringing it home in this manner shows that it is more than a third-world problem.
As stated above, sticking with "She" pays off. It is a good lokckdown read, a grear for a weekend at the beach once we are fully sprung from our cages, or a post-pandemic flight for which you must buy reading material at the terminal gift shop.