A second chance
Treasure Me — Christine Nolfi
Christine Nolfi has had a life which has taken her all over the US, having lived in Ohio, Virginia, California and Utah, and currently residing in South Carolina. Christine was the owner of a small Cleveland-based public relations firm, and had many articles and press releases published in magazines and journals throughout Ohio. In 2004 Christine made the decision to close her PR firm to pursue her love of writing and began writing fiction full time. Her debut novel Treasure Me, the first book of the Liberty, Ohio series, was released in 2011.
Treasure Me is the romantically framed story of a petty thief’s journey towards self-discovery. Birdie Kaminsky has travelled to Liberty, Ohio with nothing more than a slip of paper, which she hopes will be her ticket to a new life. The paper, a note passed down through generations in her family, alludes to the whereabouts of a secret treasure, hidden since the Civil War. Unbeknownst to Birdie, Liberty holds a treasure far greater than mere riches. Nolfi introduces the reader to a complicated world of desire, love, realisation and second chances.
The first thing that struck me about Nolfi’s writing is the vibrancy of her characters. Each character is presented with their own individual traits and a well-rounded personality: Birdie Kaminsky, a sassy, petty thief with violet eyes; Finney, the hot-headed cook, always ready to swing her skillet if someone annoys her; and feisty Theodore, forever reaching into her handbag to retrieve her gun. Too many overly prominent characters can sometimes make for a rather confusing storyline. However, Nolfi’s masterful grasp of the third person omniscient narrative style provides a comprehensive view of each character, to the effect that the reader can identify each character purely from their individual mannerisms.
I feel the book has a lot more to offer than an average romance novel, while still encapsulating all that which makes a good romance satisfying. At the very core of the novel is the relationship between Birdie and newspaper reporter Hugh, a chemical attraction which has been simmering since they first laid eyes on each other. Interestingly, I only began to realise how attractive both Birdie and Hugh were once they met. It is through Hugh that Nolfi first takes the time to fully describe Birdie, and vice versa.
While there is obvious sexual tension between Birdie and Hugh from the onset, the relationship itself is built up slowly throughout the book, allowing the ending to be all the more rewarding. While Birdie and Hugh are clearly attracted to one another, and flirt like wildfire, they do try and resist one another, both realising their relationship would not work. I feel that romance within a novel works best when there is more actual romance and less sex. So many contemporary authors dive into sexual encounters almost instantly, which makes for quite an unsatisfying read. Birdie and Hugh dodge each other for so long that the reader is practically praying for them to get together.
There are several overarching themes within Nolfi’s book, the first and possibly the most evident being progression. Birdie is first portrayed as living a sad, bleak existence as a small-time crook, slipping from place to place, never getting to know anyone and always finding herself on a bus to somewhere new:
“She pressed her face to the window and blew out a breath. A moist haze settled over the countryside reflected through the glass. Sunlight pooled in orange puddles beneath the hills as the blue of night bled into the horizon. It would be dark soon, and her muscles were leaden with exhaustion.”
As the book draws on, more details about Birdie begin to emerge as Hugh takes the time to try and discover more about the mysterious girl who has appeared, seemingly without reason, in Liberty. Once Birdie’s tragic past is revealed, so too is Hugh’s desire to protect the girl and attempt to make Birdie trust him:
“Birdie managed to lift her head to regard him. The truth knocked around in her throat, trying to get out. But it was professional suicide for a petty thief to trust a newspaper reporter.”
Drawing on the theme of progression is that of hope, encapsulated in the character of freed slave Justice Postell, or rather her memory. Justice serves as the beacon of hope guiding Birdie towards a better life. Birdie craves what justice had, not in the form of riches but, without realising it, in the chance to start afresh.
“Justice overcame impossible odds to reach the north and build a new life. Did Birdie dream of escaping the shackles of a world with nothing but the criminal arts to guide her?”
Justice is the woman that Birdie looks up to, the only thing close to a role model that she has ever had. On her journey, Birdie begins to realise that she is more like Justice than she originally thought and her initial fears that she was cut from the same stone as her mother begin to fade away.
Perhaps the most important vein running through Nolfi’s work is concealed within the novel’s central setting, the Second Chance Grill. Nolfi’s overarching theme is that of second chances, being able to escape from the life that seems written for you. Justice Postell was able to break away from the shackles of slavery, and this very fact echoes in the lives of so many characters in the book. Liberty offers Birdie the second chance at life she so desperately craves, but also gives new meaning to the lives of Hugh and the many other characters whose lives are affected by Birdie’s arrival in the small town.
Finally, Nolfi presents the reader with the true meaning of treasure. Birdie travels to Liberty in search of riches but what she finds is so much more precious. For what seems like the first time in her life Birdie is loved. Not only does Liberty offer her the second chance she needed, but family and friends, who treasure her in return:
“You are a treasure, child. Bad-mouthed and sassy and more fun than a woman my age ought to have. But there it is”
The town and the people, new and old, are the real treasures, just as the clue suggested: “Liberty safeguards the cherished heart.”
On the whole, I very much enjoyed my first encounter with Nolfi’s work. I expected Treasure Me to be a very soft, romantic love story, but found it to be so much more. Nolfi gives the reader a well-paced and exciting storyline, which is far from being a traditional romance novel. Nolfi’s writing style is free flowing and easy to read, making this a perfect novel to relax with.
Many thanks go to Christine Nolfi for sending me a free review copy of her book.