Christine W. Murphy: Through Iowa Glass
Like inheriting a company and a fortune from that selfsame stepfather.
Or saving the town the company's supported for years.
It's enough to make a guy wish his amnesia would come back.
Too bad it didn't. Through Iowa Glass starts out with a bang. Mysterious ruffians attack Clayton Alexander Jackson III directly after he suffers a suspicious accident on the road to Close, Iowa. Alex, as he prefers to be called, has traveled to Close for the reading of his stepfather's will. And to prove his stepfather killed Alex's mother in a fit of rage.
What Alex doesn't expect is lovely Skye Devries, widow and former music teacher. Skye loves Close, and hopes to persuade Alex to rebuild his stepfather's failing glass company and save the town. However, Alex is a man with a past. A lot of past.
Again, responsibility rears its nasty head. Following his mother's death, 12-year-old Alex ran away to New York where he worked as a male prostitute for two years. Thanks to his pimp, Alex also became a heroin addict.
However, Alex neglects to mention this to the heroine until the very end of the book. Worse yet, he makes no attempt to practice safe sex, much less provide a reason why she or any other woman should feel herself safe from contagion.
This stopped me dead in my tracks. After 25 years, AIDS shouldn't be an issue for Alex, but what about STDs? Herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea are routine afflictions for prostitutes that never go away. Yet the hero at no time mentions that he has tested clean for any of the above. If I were the heroine I'd have smacked him with a two-by-four.
Then I'd smack him -- or someone -- again. How could a book so charged with issues of social and personal responsibility miss the responsibility issue of the Nineties -- sexual responsibility?
Through Iowa Glass also failed to follow through in a number of other areas. The book lacked meaningful description of any characters other than the hero and heroine. We never learn what Skye's 14-year-old stepson looks like. Our picture of the killer is limited to his name and a physical defect. Continuity flaws abound.
These defects loomed even larger in this reader's eyes, because I found the opening to Through Iowa Glass so strong and so intriguing. I kept wanting -- passionately -- for the book to be better than it turned out to be.
Responsibility really isn't any fun. Yet without it, what could have been a really interesting romantic mystery, ends up as a frustrating and, for this reviewer, ultimately maddening read.
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Our Readers Respond
I absolutely loved this book. It kept me up 'til I could reach the end. I would call it more a thriller than a mystery, and it had me going to the end wondering how they would catch the killer. Or if the killer would catch them. And a wonderful love story through the entire thing.
As for the writer not using condoms in the love scenes, I was relieved. I have enough reality in real life. I don't need it in my fiction reading. When the characters are drawn as responsible human beings, I accept them as such. I don't need to see the hero get up off the bed and fumble around with a condom. Fictional characters can't catch STDs and if I need medical advice I'll see a doctor, not a writer, or a reviewer.
The Reviewer Responds
To ensure the accuracy of my review, I checked with the nurses who care for STD patients at Columbia Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. They advised me there are no conclusive tests for STDs. Some STDs do not show up on any tests, including several forms of herpes.
Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C remain with you for life; once a person contracts them, he or she will always be a carrier. It's highly unlikely a doctor who contracted either form of hepatitis would be allowed to practice in an emergency room or anywhere the risk of transmission was high.
The symptoms of HIV can take 10 years or longer to appear. It's a medical fact that you cannot test once, say that you're "clean" and never worry about it again. To have a hero -- especially one who is a doctor -- be so cavalier about his sexual habits horrifies me. No matter how celibate he had been, he could not in all honesty say he was clean.
Readers should worry about STDs appearing 20 years later. It happens -- every day, the nurses told me. This is why the medical profession is so passionate about the use of condoms.
The Writer Responds
I thank the reviewer for reading my book and won't argue with her judgments. However, I wouldn't want readers to worry about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) 20 years after they received testing. As the reviewer stated, the hero was exposed to unprotected sex and IV use 20 years before the first chapter. [The reviewer] also read he received lengthy medical care. I didn't list the medical tests received. This wasn't a medical thriller. Standard procedure tests for STDs, including HIV, initially and months later. After these tests no person should spend their life wondering if a virus might show up 20 years later.
Early in the novel, you learn the hero hasn't had sex for four years, the heroine for seven. In both cases, sex was with their respective spouses. Some people consider sex without being certain of dead spouse's fidelity too risky. Since my book isn't about cheating, I didn't deal with the issue. The hero is shown seeking medical advice for other problems and makes changes to improve his health. The hero is a doctor shown involved in invasive medical procedures and personally involved in their safety. Any doubts, and he would had additional tests.