“Sea Change,” by Karen White

Review by Donna Meredith


Though the back of the book hails Karen White as “the ultimate voice of women’s fiction,” Sea Change is more of a paranormal romance than women’s fiction. What’s the difference? While women’s fiction may have romantic elements, other issues of women’s lives take precedence, such as female empowerment or relationships other than romantic love.

In the novel cover’s defense, a mother-daughter relationship and one between sisters were also important, though romantic love certainly dominated.

Creating a strong sense of place is one of White’s talents, and St. Simons Island is depicted accurately and in detail both in present and past times. White’s prose is solid, and she handles well the shifts back and forth in time.

The story is told through alternating viewpoints, representing three generations and two different historical periods. Ava is a just-married woman in the present; Gloria is her mother, a woman with secrets; and Pamela lived in the 1800s. Of these narrators, Gloria is perhaps the most intriguing because she is less predictable and more flawed than the others. She is a mother who keeps her daughter at arm’s length, leaving the reader to wonder why, when it is clear that Gloria wanted a daughter so desperately. Without spoiling the story, let’s just say Gloria has her reasons for keeping secrets. She’s a great character because she is unique and yet believable. Ava and Pamela, swooning over their lovers, fit too neatly into their roles as romantic heroines to be compelling. They are sweet and innocent. I longed for a little cranky or witchy in their personalities. Oh, yes, Ava fibs to her husband, but it hardly feels like a vice under the circumstances—and he lies to her first and repetitively.

At the heart of the novel is a love so strong that the couple reincarnates in a future time to come back together as their wedding ring says: “forever.” I would issue a spoiler alert about this, except an alert reader will have figured out this paranormal element within the first few chapters. Very few surprises emerge in the novel. It played out exactly as I figured it would after those first couple of chapters. The one small surprise is what happened to Matthew’s first wife. Of course he didn’t murder her—and any reader will know that immediately. But it was implausible that Matthew would keep this particular secret from Ava, his second wife. He has no reason to—except to create trouble in his marriage so the plot can stay tangled.

A second wife curious about the first wife is a tale we know well from Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca. Sea Change has a similar gothic romance feel to it.

The symbol of the circle starts in the epigraph and continues throughout the novel. While it was an appropriate symbol for the story, I would have preferred more subtlety in its delivery.

Readers who love the romance genre will enjoy this novel. It delivers everything you expect from a good romance, and it does so in the exotic locale of St. Simons with all its rich history. Sea Change would make a fine beach read—or let you imagine yourself at the beach without leaving home.

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