Congratulation to writer Rita Hogan for successfully producing her first novel, The Dark Side of the Rainbow!
A finalist in CrossBook’s and Westbow’s 2014 writing contest, Ms. Hogan began writing in 2012. As stated on the book’s back cover, her greatest joy is: “to walk a reader through the hardships of life, feeling as if they have gained more than they have lost, to illustrate with words a backdrop for the hurt that is a very real place for us all and to phrase for readers the beauty of the moments in between”.
Midway through her high school years, Olivia Nelson faced such a hardship, the death of her adored, older brother, Jacob. One rainy Portland afternoon, rich kid Landon Gray challenged Jacob to race his 1968 Mustang GT against Gray’s souped up 1957 Chevy Bel Air at the causeway. When Jordan’s car swerved and flipped, Olivia vowed to revenge her brother’s untimely death.
Fast forward about twelve years and the reader meets Brooke Johnson, a dark-eyed beauty, who leaves her $65,000 accounting job behind to pursue her interest in photography. With a forged driver’s license, social security card and passport, Brooke flies to the Patagonia region of South America to set her carefully conceived plan of retribution into motion.
Reservations at the Garden Vue, the flagship resort of the NLG Property Group, brings Brooke face to face with an older version of her sworn enemy, Landon Gray. Still the handsomest guy she has ever known, Brooke pushes onward with her plot to sully Gray’s reputation and land him in jail for embezzlement.
The incredible natural beauty of Patagonia should have provided Brooke with ample material for her camera lens, but when Landon solicits new photos for the Absolution’s cruise brochure, the photographer quickly accepts his offer. Spending time with Gray during the photo shoot, dinner and dancing afterwards, Brooke glimpses sorrow and brokenness that she had never expected to find. “Everything was going as planned, but nothing was going right.”
When a 2 a.m. stroll on the dew-slicked deck leads to a disastrous fall, Gray quickly summons a medivac helicopter and pleads, “Oh God, please don’t let her die!”
Six reviewers on amazon.com have awarded The Dark Side of the Rainbow five stars. One reader characterized the story as, “wonderful, with well developed, but flawed characters which persevere in the end”.
Another reader classified the book as an “ultimate combination of romance and mystery”. Additionally, a third reader said that she read Ms. Hogan’s book in one day, “because I could not wait to find out how it would end”.
Not being a romance aficionada, I was not able to finish the book in one day. The use of flashbacks in the first 100 pages made for a slow start. On the other hand, each section was clearly labeled to facilitate the reader’s understanding. Also, I soon grew tired of the excessive emotions displayed by the main characters. Like I said, romance novels are not my thing.
That being said, The Dark Side of the Rainbow presents several good discussion points within its 265 pages. You’ll find some suggestions for your book club listed below:
- At an early age, Olivia and Jacob developed an inseparable bond, almost like identical twins. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of such a close relationship between siblings?
- How did Jacob’s untimely death affect both Landon and Olivia? How did each deal with their grief, rage? Was either character successful?
- Olivia learned two paramount truths about life: “Enough money really could buy a person most anything and diamonds weren’t always a girl’s best friend”. What is she referring to? Do you agree or disagree with her assessment?
- Was Olivia’s father derelict in his duty to his daughter after the loss of Jacob? How and why did your opinion change by the end of the novel?
- What did Landon’s account of the accident on pages 174-75 reveal about him? Did his version differ from Olivia’s on page 10-11?
- Throughout much of the story, both Olivia/Brooke and Landon were deceiving each other. In your estimation who was the better actor? Supporting actor?
- Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken was referenced several times within the story line. What did it mean to each of the main characters?
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
8. Aunt Sarah teaches Olivia how to use makeup: calling it, “a rite of passage when a young girl begins to feel more like a woman”. Is this statement still true today? What does wearing makeup mean to you, the average woman?
9. Why purpose did Landon have in naming the 200-passenger excursion boat, Absolution? Did the boat’s name accomplish his purpose?
10. In what ways did Javier Cesar’s embezzlement scheme at the Lake House resemble Olivia’s plan to ruin Landon’s reputation?
11. How would you rate The Dark Side of the Rainbow? Would you read another book by Rita Hogan?