Land of the Afternoon Sun

Written by Barbara Wood
Review by Beth Turza

During Prohibition, an ambitious lord arrives from England with his bride, and they establish themselves in the largest home in the rural California desert town of Palm Springs. Although Nigel Barnstable has a title and an inheritance, he lacks property and the amount of money needed to begin again. He had seduced naïve Elizabeth during the crossing, and then married her to obtain her huge trust fund. The Barnstables import mature date trees to begin their business, making enemies of the Indian tribes adjoining their vast lands. Elizabeth soon learns that she was a tool for her husband’s insatiable lust for money and power, and his abuse and her feelings of loneliness teach her to rely on her new friends and neighbors for strength. Her champion, a drifter named Cody McNeal, quietly stands by her during dark times and shares with her the mystic beliefs of the Indians and the ancient places of the area. Her desire to save these places from developers becomes the turning point of her metamorphosis into a strong, independent woman.

This riveting story brings a clash of cultures and changes in the American West to light, along with the growth of well-developed characters. The author has researched her period well. Both Prohibition and women’s rights are being challenged, and laws make it difficult for women to obtain divorces and birth control devices. Readers will become aware of the many concurrent issues of this era in America’s growth as a country, as well as the impact of the laws concerning women and the need to challenge them. The story has an exciting and satisfactory conclusion.