In the opening pages of Guarding Charon we meet Grace Adams, who is one miserable girl. She’s trapped in a town and a family that have her future mapped out for her. A future she can’t bear to imagine. She’s meant to marry the rich, brutal, and controlling Bruce Davis, whose family makes the rules for just about everyone and everything in town. Grace can’t keep a job because the Davis’s pressure employers to fire her, then spread the rumor that she quit. Bruce figures if he makes it impossible for Grace to become independent, she will eventually see him as her only alternative. Her family is enthusiastic about the prospect of their daughter marrying into money. Complicating factor: Bruce is a cop, so he’s got a badge and gun to back up his efforts. Thus, if Grace tries to leave town, he, and his father, the chief, can use police resources to track her down.
Dixon delivers the news that Grace has a long lost great aunt in Maine. Lost because she and her mother are estranged (to put it mildly), and her name has not been mentioned in the house ever before. The aunt’s name is Amanda Cross. She is getting on in years and is ready to drop her legacy in a place where it will be treated properly. That somewhere is in the care of Grace Adams.
I’m not quite sure how Collins pulls it off, but she makes it completely believable that Grace would step out the door of her childhood home and fly away with a total stranger on his word that great things await her. I guess it’s the fact we can’t conceive of anything but torture for her if she stays put.
I won’t go too far into the rest of the plot of Guarding Charon because I don’t want to mar the delicious experience of discovery that Collins has created when we land in Cavendish, Maine, meet Amanda, and see Grace build a new life with a new name to keep Bruce from following. It is enough, I think, to say that Amanda is a practicing Wiccan, and Grace becomes immersed in the religion as she gets acquainted with the estate she is to inherit. The paranormal elements of the novel are not here merely to shock or amaze, but are so grounded in the plot that we become as convinced of the appearance of Charon and the River Styx and other supernatural phenomena as Grace herself.
With Guarding Charon Collins has made an exciting and admirable addition to her canon of such triumphs as Daughter of Hauk and the rest of the Raven Chronicles. I know we can look forward to more that’s wonderful from her.