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Rumors of War by Peggy Tibbets

The Gulf War is the backdrop of “Rumors of War” by Peggy Tibbets. “Rumors of War” delves into the disruption caused by the overseas conflict during the early 90’s resulting in the activation of Phillip Singleton’s reserve unit. After a tearful goodbye, Ilene Singleton takes over the reigns of running the household while undertaking the stressful job of overseeing some renovations being done to the house.

Phillip’s mother, Marie, comes in to assist, or rather take over, the renovation project in her son’s absence. Ilene resents Marie’s presence, which starts a battle for control. Marie brings in her own crew of contractors to complete the job. Ilene feels this undermines her authority and fires Marie’s crew and hires someone she has picked to do the job. Thus enters Kevin, an independent contractor, who does good work on the house and helps Ilene with her two daughters. Ilene and Kevin bond quickly resulting in an affair. In addition, through Kevin, Ilene soon realizes that things are not what they appear to be regarding her in-laws, the house, and her husband Phillip.

“Rumors of War” starts slowly as Tibbetts goes to great lengths to detail the happy home life of the Singletons and the home renovations, which drag on for what feel like forever. At times, it seems that the novel is more focused on the power struggle between Ilene and her mother-in-law Marie. However, Tibbetts’ attention to detail shines as she describes the turmoil as the entire nation was glued to CNN’s twenty-four coverage of the Gulf War.

The next big step in the novel happens right from Kevin-the-contractor’s introduction. Ilene’s attraction for him is exhibited immediately from the reluctance she has in having him do the renovations. Their affair is foreshadowed from the bickering every time they are around each other. It is just a matter of counting down the pages until they end up in bed.

After Kevin and Ilene’s trist, the novel fast forwards through a series of events that feel unrealistic due to Ilene’s naivete that is demonstrated in the beginning of the novel. She transforms from unworldly housewife to Columbo overnight, having the sophistication to maneuver through international and domestic bank accounts and manipulating bank employees along the way. Once the relationship between Kevin and Ilene is underway, Ilene and Phillip’s own daughters seem to forget about their loving husband and father with no problem. Both kids accept Kevin into their lives with no rebellion or feelings that their mother is trying to replace their father. A fact that is painfully evident after a startling event near the conclusion of the book.

Still, with its minor faults, “Rumors of War” does entertain and successfully manage to transport the reader back to a time when the nation’s fears and pride were experienced through ‘round the clock coverage on CNN.

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