This final installment of a trilogy of novels centered on Christian singles life, LOST IN ROOVILLE provides a satisfying if foregone conclusion to the events of the first two. The core group of characters is back --- Steve and his girlfriend Darcy, Jay and his beloved Allie, and newlyweds Neil and Alexis, on their honeymoon trip. Haven't read FLABBERGASTED and A DELIRIOUS SUMMER? Stop right here and read them first. LOST IN ROOVILLE is not a stand-alone novel, and you'll be happier reading it in sequence.
As with all singles' series, the destination is usually inevitable, and in this concluding novel the ending is predictable from the earliest pages. However, Ray Blackston makes getting there a fun trip. The story mainly takes place in the Outback of Australia, a place seemingly perfect for romance. Both Steve and Jay have an engagement ring stowed away for just the right moment to propose, and the tension builds as they take off in their rental Land Cruisers to see the land Down Under. Their conversations about commitment as they travel cross-country (swapping off with the girls as passengers) consume many --- perhaps too many --- of the early pages of the novel.
The most enjoyable portions of the book include glimpses into the heart of the Outback. The couples travel from Alice Springs to see the big rock at Uluru, and as various mishaps follow, Blackston paints a compelling picture of the dusty, torrid heart of Australia. There are some nail-biting moments when Jay and Allie are left stranded in the desert, but as well as this is portrayed, it seems repetitious to have Darcy and Alexis later end up stranded as well. Once was fun. Twice was a little too much.
Those looking for a vicarious tour of Australia's biggest touristy landmarks will be disappointed --- the Outback is about it. But that said, the Outback by itself is enough to provide any novel with plenty of material. After Jay is sent home early, we also get a few allusions to some time spent by the other characters in Sydney.
An unfortunate aspect of this concluding installment is some serious overwriting, which was present in both FLABBERGASTED and even more so in A DELIRIOUS SUMMER. The cumulative effect is that the pacing slows down, the descriptions (which are often beautiful) veer into overwrought, and eventually the reader is as mired in the adjectives as the adventuring girls are in their Land Cruiser. (Darcy's "mist-green" sunglasses are mentioned twice in one paragraph, as just one example). Lines like "Moonlight paled her frown," "Quench her thirst, then quench her singleness," will challenge the reader. If Blackston can be more ruthless with his prose (and his editor can take a hard line with him about what needs to be cut), he has the potential to be one of CBA's most enjoyable authors.
What is present in this novel --- and in all of Blackston's novels --- is a sense of playfulness and good humor. His setting is irresistible --- who doesn't want to read about Australia? Fans of the series will enjoy seeing the characters they've grown to love happily settled and moving into the next phases of their lives. Without his South Carolina band of singles, though, what will Blackston pen next? Stay tuned…. He's a talented writer, and having a fresh start in his next novel could lead to some exciting results.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on July 1, 2005