Margaret Ann Spence
Wild Rose Press (2021)
Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Reader Views (2-2021)
“Joyous Lies,” by Margaret Ann Spence, is a compelling story of secrets and lies. Main character Maelle Woolley feels more comfortable around plants than she does people. And that’s for a reason that goes back to her childhood, when she learned at an early age the people you care about aren’t always around, and others can’t be trusted. After her mother died under mysterious circumstances, Maelle grew up on a commune belonging to her grandparents, where she was influenced to believe in the utopian dream of peace and love for everyone. She matures into a brilliant botanist. A little shy and awkward, but handsome psychiatrist Zachary Kane stirs up feelings she’s unaccustomed to. But Zachary offers information that rocks her world, and that is that her parents didn’t survive his father’s medical research facility. She is compelled to look into it, and what she finds out flies in the face of what she thought was true. Disillusioned but determined, Maelle has to dig deep to face the commune’s deceptions and find out if she can believe in love again.
Spence has crafted a suspenseful mystery that involves readers from beginning to end. I really like the author’s attention to character development, especially with protagonist Maelle. Through descriptions and actions, we come to learn about her personality, her motivations, her hopes, fears, and beliefs. Maelle isn’t a cookie-cutter character, and she isn’t that bold, at least in the beginning, preferring to play it safe among her plants. But we witness her growth and change along with her as she encounters revelations and truths she never expected. Zachary the psychiatrist is an interesting character too, and they play off of each other well.
The idea of using a commune as a feature of the story is intriguing, as well as the medical aspects. Thanks to Spence’s detail and story development, I found myself interested in the plant work Maelle is involved in, and maybe you will too. The author has created a thoroughly intriguing and entertaining storyline that challenges the characters and gives readers plenty to sort out along the way. “Joyous Lies,” by Margaret Ann Spence, will be a joy for fans of mystery and suspense.