by Kathy Steffen

Medallion Press, $15.95, 352 pages

Siblings Sarah and Tobias Perkins survived their abusive father and his spiral into madness by sticking together, years later their strongest allies are still each other. While Sarah works to become a riverboat pilot, struggling against her rival and former crush, Jeremy Smith, as well as 1910 attitudes on where women belong and that being far from behind the wheel of a riverboat, Tobias combats darker desires and the voice of his murdered father that haunts his alcohol-induced dreams. As the sins of the father return to corrupt his children and death strikes on the river, Sarah stands between hope and illusion.

Those who enjoy powerful female heroines, especially those in historical settings who challenge the status quo, will enjoy Theater of Illusion by Kathy Steffen. It’s an R-rated story reminiscent of The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, a woman doing a man’s job in a time when society preferred women barefoot and pregnant. The novel begins swiftly and the characters are engaging, but the religiosity and murderous ghost feel a little contrived and attitudes of the women in the story feel out of sync with the historical setting. An entertaining read nonetheless and worth a look for those who like a good adventurous historical romance.

Axie Barclay