Conscience Point by Erica Abeel

Erica Abeel’s Conscience Point, published by Unbridled Books, started off rough for me, with shifts in tone and language for one of the main characters, Nick Ashcroft. After about 60 pages or so, I became absorbed in the dark secrets and the Gothic mystery surrounding the once lavish estate of Conscience Point. Madeleine Shaye is a concert pianist, an arts journalist, a mother, and a lover who allows passion to derail her career and lead her down a path that is wrought with disappointment and heartache. Nick Ashcroft and his sister Violet lead Shaye onto this path and become the center of her world, despite Maddie’s obliviousness. The deep secret that tears her relationship with Nick apart is predictable at best, but Abeel weaves a setting that captivates the reader and lulls them into the fantasy.

Shaye is a young pianist befriended by an eccentric artist from a wealthy New York family, Violet Ashcroft. She’s easily dazzled by Conscience Point’s ambiance, and the stormy eyes of Violet’s brother Nick. She is equally captivated by Violet as an outcast and tormented girl. Despite the separation between Nick, Violet, and Maddie that lasts several years and through one marriage each, they connect as most artists will with exploding passion in a paradise far from their “real” worlds. Maddie and Nick revive their lust, which sweeps up Maddie and leaves her blind to the reality of her self-constructed family. “Love cannot dwell with suspicion” is an apt theme running through the first portion of this novel, which stems from an ancient Roman myth featuring Cupid and Psyche. However, amidst the turmoil that her life becomes, Maddie is once again swept up by her true passion–music.

Through the initial pages of the novel, Nick uses terms like “thistle-y” and “joint,” which seem incongruous, and the narrator interrupts herself to stop digressions. These sections can be disruptive to the reader, but as they become less frequent and the pace of the drama picks up, the reader is absorbed.

“She’d never imagined you could love this hard yet keep yourself for your work. They swung through the hours, grooved as trapeze artists. Nick understood the musician’s life, its ardor and implacable demands. . . . She in turn marveled at how he teased out the shapely book hiding in some winding manuscript;” (page 46)

While the plot of this novel is cliche in many ways, the real gem is the poetic language and intricate weave of music and art throughout the novel. Maddie’s magic fingers hit the keys and the reader is drawn into the world of an artist. Conversations with her friend Anton about music and its composers easily draws readers into their highly dramatic world. Maddie has a great many regrets in this novel, but she has no one to blame but herself for her own misfortunes. This is a novel about finding yourself, learning to live with what you discover about yourself and your family, and staying true to your dreams and promises.

I would like to thank the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program for sending me this book back in October/November 2008.

LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Also Reviewed by:
Booking Mama

The first person to comment on this post about why they’d like to read this novel will receive my “gently used” advanced readers copy of Conscience Point.