Love Overdue by Pamela Morsi
Buttoned-up book lover DJ is all sensible shoes, drab skirts and studious glasses. After an ill-advised spring-break-fueled fling left her mortified, she’s committed to her prim and proper look. When she’s hired by a rural library in middle-of-nowhere Kansas, she finally has the lifestyle to match-and she can’t wait to get her admin on.
But it’s clear from day one that the small-town library is more interested in circulating rumors than books. DJ has to organize her unloved library, win over oddball employees and avoid her flamboyant landlady’s attempts to set her up with the town pharmacist. Especially that last part-because it turns out handsome Scott Sanderson is her old vacation fling! She is not sure whether to be relieved or offended when he doesn’t seem to recognize her. But with every meeting, DJ finds herself secretly wondering what it would be like to take off her glasses, unpin her bun and reveal the inner vixen she’s been hiding from everyone-including herself.
Story: 3 stars
- Goodreads bookshelves: books-read-in-2014, contemporary-romance
Read from January 26 to February 18, 2014
There were lots of things to like about this book, especially the setting and the cast of secondary characters.
Unfortunately, there were as many or more things not to like about this book, and they tended to be more problematic.
The setup has potential. Eight years ago, prudish Dorothy Jarrow (D.J.) went to the beach for spring break and her 21st birthday just to see what she’s missing. She ended up having a mind-blowing one-night-stand with a handsome stranger. Now, eight years later, having both regretted and looked back with some longing on that night ever since, she’s a tightly wound, buttoned up librarian (seriously—bun, glasses, gray skirt suits!) who’s just accepted a job as the head of a library in Verdant, Kansas—mostly at the machinations of the head of the library board, Viv Sanderson (possibly the only person on the library board, for though we meet a lot of other townsfolk, we never meet another library board member). Viv is a widow whose son is the town pharmacist, like his late father before him; and she’s convinced that D.J. and Scott belong together—to the point she hired a P.I. to investigate D.J. before offering her the job, without ever meeting in person (from an online resume/interview).
So, of course, Viv’s son, Scott Sanderson, turns out to be “the hot guy” from spring break eight years before. But while D.J. remembers him clearly, he doesn’t recognize her (even though he’s dreamed/fantasized about that night ever since, too). However, out of fear that he will, D.J. becomes an absolute shrew and treats him like garbage whenever they’re thrown together. Which is, of course, often. Scott, having gone through a public and embarrassing romance, wedding, and divorce followed by a brief (and regretted) affair with a married woman, SHOULD be jaded when it comes to relationships. But there’s never really a glimmer that he’s learned much from his previous relationships—other than that he’s still “in love” with his “sparkle girl” from spring break eight years before (which happened before he got married).
As with all romance novels, the reader knows it’s inevitable that the two main characters are going to end up together. What we anticipate is how they end up together—it’s the relationship building that keeps me engaged in a romance novel. There wasn’t a whole lot of that here.
Let me take a moment to gripe about a technical aspect of the book that drove me absolutely nuts. One of the things I learned and that I now teach about fiction writing is that you never go back in time to show a different person’s POV of the scene that just ended. Doing so halts the story momentum and confuses the reader who expects the story to follow a linear progression. Scene break (or chapter break in this case) means that we’ve moved another step forward in time. Morsi, however, has a tendency to like to end a scene, then go right back to the beginning of it (or even before) and rehash it from the other character’s POV—with the same dialogue and interactions and everything!
Rant over. Moving on.
D.J, who’s supposed to be someone who grew up with emotionally distant parents who sent her off to boarding school as a teenager and then died shortly thereafter (or something), doesn’t come across as emotionally stunted as someone who grew up like that would be. She does have a hard time trusting people (abandonment issues), but then at other times, she’s easy go lucky and just goes with the flow. It’s not a contradiction that works well. And then her reaction to Scott—the Insta-Hate when she first sees him upon arriving in Verdant—is so over the top as to make her almost unlikable.
So the tension between them for the first half or so of the book is the horrid way she treats him because she’s afraid he’s going to remember her from spring break and think . . . something. It’s never really clarified what she’s afraid he’ll think/say about her if he does remember it’s her. After all, he’d also be revealing that, while dating/engaged to his childhood sweetheart, he took off and went to South Padre Island for spring break and had a one-night stand with a girl whose name he never even asked.
There are several flashback scenes taking us back to their spring break encounter (in detail, with considerable repetition from segment to segment—done, I’m sure, to get the “sexy-time” stuff in, since the relationship in the present time doesn’t lend itself to any of that until toward the end of the book). We learn that he bought her a piece of cheap jewelry which he has obsessed over ever since—and why he thinks of her as his “sparkle girl.”
Then there are Viv’s viewpoint scenes which . . . added nothing to the plot or flow of the story. for the most part, they consist of monologues of Viv talking either to D.J.’s dog or to the grave of her late husband. And she’s not even talking about anything that’s important to the story—most of it is either backstory or inanity. Her little subplot turned out to be very weak and unnecessary. She did have a couple of bright spots of eccentricity. But she could have been a fun eccentric without having viewpoint scenes breaking up the (slight) forward momentum of the story.
Oh, did I mention it’s harvest time in Kansas? Readers of this book are treated to multiple looooooonnnnnngggggg discourses on what harvest time is like in a small Kansas town, what the process is, what heavy equipment is used, and so on. Yes, the author apparently did her research and wanted to make sure all of her readers knew she had done her research.
Something that I did quite enjoy about this book are all of the secondary characters in this small town. Some were quite stereotypical and almost directly from The Wizard of Oz (after all, “Emerald City” is mentioned on the first page of the story): the old “witch” of a former librarian who tries to sabotage D.J. at every step; the “cowardly lion” of the older man with autism/asperger’s who hides in the stacks at the library; Suzy, one of the bookmobile drivers (if she only had a brain!); and Amos, the other bookmobile driver, a “Gulf War” vet whom everyone has written off as having given up on romance (if he only had a heart!). So does that make Scott the wizard and Viv Glenda? Not sure on those two.
So, after several encounters with Scott, in which she treats him like gum stuck to the sole of her shoe—including a “date” that both claim isn’t, when Viv asks him to take her out and introduce her around town—D.J. suddenly decides to stop being so hateful to him. And Scott never even reacts to this about-face in her behavior toward him. He’s spent the first part of the book wondering what he did wrong (because, after all, everyone else in town talks about how nice she is, so he must have done something wrong for her to be so horrid toward him, right?), but he never has a single thought about the abrupt change in her attitude toward him.
Next thing you know, bada-bing, bada-boom, they’re making out in his car on the side of the road. And although he’s realized by this time that D.J. reminds him of his “sparkle girl,” and he’s started seeing D.J.’s face in his recurring fantasy about the encounter, he still hasn’t made the connection. And making out doesn’t seem to help him make the connection either. Huh? If it was so memorable that he’s been fantasizing about it for eight years, wouldn’t he be able to put 2 and 2 together?
Okay, I’ll leave it with that rather than give away the rest of the story.
However, I MUST discuss the “end” of the story.
After a tragic circumstance that brings about each one’s epiphany moment, when D.J. is having an angsty internal debate as to whether or not to come clean with Scott about their spring break encounter, he finds the piece of jewelry that he bought her the night of their one-night stand (she kept it, all this time!). So, naturally, this is going to lead to a conversation clearing everything up, declarations of love, and maybe even a proposal. Right?
WRONG! The chapter leaves off with Scott looking from the chain to D.J. and then . . . wham—it’s eight years later, and they’re back on the beach with their precious little girls discussing if they want to try for a third child, a boy, or if they’re satisfied with two kids and knowing that they have the best sex in Kansas.
This has to be one of the worst endings to a romance novel I’ve ever read. Sure, I’ve read a few in which the wrong people end up together (multiple-character-arc stories, of course) or in which the ending is so cheesy it made me bilious. And I’ve never made it a secret that I HATE epilogues that are all about the “precious babies” that result from the relationship. But to not even resolve anything? To cut away from the big reveal and what should have been the climax of the plot? This was the point the whole plot was supposed to be building toward. It was all build up and no follow through. And since that’s the last impression the book leaves with the reader, it was a very unfortunate choice.
My rating matrix:
5 STARS = one of the best I’ve ever read
4 STARS = a great read, highly recommended
3 STARS = it was okay/not a favorite
2 STARS = I didn’t enjoy it all that much, not recommended
1 STAR/DNF = I hated it and/or Did Not Finish it
Or are they?
Spindle Cove is the destination of choice for certain types of well-bred young ladies: the painfully shy, young wives disenchanted with matrimony, and young girls too enchanted with the wrong men; it is a haven for those who live there.
Victor Bramwell, the new Earl of Rycliff, knows he doesn’t belong here. So far as he can tell, there’s nothing in this place but spinsters and sheep. But he has no choice; he has orders to gather a militia. It s a simple mission, made complicated by the spirited, exquisite Susanna Finch—a woman who is determined to save her personal utopia from the invasion of Bram’s makeshift army.
Susanna has no use for aggravating men; Bram has sworn off interfering women. The scene is set for an epic battle, but who can be named the winner when both have so much to lose
Story: 3 stars
Narrator: 4 stars
- Goodreads bookshelves: books-read-in-2014, audiobook, historical-romance
Read from January 30 to February 12, 2014
The reason Tessa Dare’s books are on my To Sample list is because I’ve read tons of favorable reviews of her books and, most compellingly, a few of the reviews I’ve read compare her to Julia Quinn, who happens to be my favorite historical romance author.
So maybe I went into this book with expectations that were too high. I was expecting a solid plot; fun, witty, and charming characters; and fantastic relationship development.
What I found in the book was a serviceable plot, stock characters (though the main characters had their moments of individuality), and Insta-Lust in the place of genuine relationship development.
It was that third part that had me the most disappointed in this book. Instead of building genuine rapport and romantic tension between Susanna and Bram, it was hard-this and pulsating-that from the moment they met. I’m surprised Bram was able to remain standing for as often as he had physiological reactions to just seeing her across a room. And for an inexperienced woman who’s (supposed) primary concern was for the reputation of Spindle Cove as a place young women could come and recuperate from illnesses or just be themselves when they couldn’t in Society, she sure did “surrender” to the Insta-Lust early—and OFTEN.
And when I say often . . . once they consummate the first time (on the town green!!!!) they’re going at it like rabbits whenever and wherever they can. One morning, in the hour it takes me to get ready to go to work, as I was listening to the audio, there were two (explicit) sex scenes and it seemed like a third one was starting. In just an hour of narration! (The entire audiobook is around 11.5 hours long.) I lost count of the times they’d “coupled” before we got to the end of the book and their epiphanies/declarations of love for each other.
As far as the plot goes, if Dare had made the storyline and the (expansive) cast of minor characters more of the focus of the book, it might have fared better. Instead, because of the way things resolved, it all seemed pointless and unnecessary. There were a few bright moments: Minerva and her reticule full of rocks; Miss Taylor cutting off her hair so she could fill in as drummer boy for the review; the poignancy of Bram’s reaction to Finn’s (or was it Rufus’s?) accident. But other incidents (and viewpoints in the story) were too obvious a setup for the next book, and did nothing to serve the plot/main characters of this story, so came across as distractions.
Now, I will say that I didn’t hate this book. Dare has a fun, breezy writing style that I enjoy. And while I’m not champing at the bit to read another one of her books right now, I’m not taking them off my list either. I was intrigued by several of the minor characters, and I hope that some of them get their own stories.
My rating matrix:
5 STARS = one of the best I’ve ever read
4 STARS = a great read, highly recommended
3 STARS = it was okay/not a favorite
2 STARS = I didn’t enjoy it all that much, not recommended
1 STAR/DNF = I hated it and/or Did Not Finish it
The Monuments Men
US Release Date: February 7, 2014
Starring: George Clooney (who also directed), Matt Damon, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Dimitri Leonidas, and Cate Blanchett.
Run Time: 118 minutes
Rating (U.S.): PG-13 (“for some images of war violence and historical smoking”)
Viewing Experience: at the theater
Viewing Date: February 8, 2014
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I’m nowhere near as good a reviewer as my dear friend Ruth, but since I need blog content—and since I made such a big deal back at the beginning of the year about all the movies I want to see this year—here goes.
The Monuments Men opens with art—the Ghent Altarpiece, to be specific—being hastily taken apart, packed up, and spirited away by the priests who are trying to protect it from Hitler’s forces, bearing down on the city. Then, we get an explanation . . . a lecture, of sorts, with George Clooney’s character, Frank Stokes, explaining to the president his idea behind forming the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas. (In reality, scholars, curators, and preservationists had been working since the 1930s on identifying and trying to protect art from the Nazis. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until 1944/45 that Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Section, comprising approximately 345 members from 13 countries, was commissioned and sent out to do something about it officially.)
So then we go into a montage which has Stokes going around New York (?—I don’t think he went anywhere else) collecting his team: a curator at the Met, an architect, a theater producer (?), a sculptor, etc. Once they arrive in England (supposedly for Basic Training, but we only see one quick scene attesting to it), our team is also joined by an Englishman (Hugh Bonneville, wearing what looked like the same uniform he wore in Season 2 of Downton Abbey) and a Frenchman (Jean Dujardin, Academy Award winning Best Actor for The Artist). They also pick up Sam Epstein (Dimitri Leonidas), “from New Jersey”—a displaced German Jew whose family fled their small town in Germany and landed in New Jersey before the war. Now our team is complete.
So, of course, the first thing that happens is the splintering of the group. Two-by-two (sort of), they are sent out to try to track down where Hitler/the Nazis, on the run from the Allied forces, are hiding/taking the art they’ve stolen. Clooney and the script writers did something very important here: They gave us three very specific pieces of art to really focus on and come to care about: the Ghent Altarpiece (Hubert van Eyck), Madonna and Child (or Madonna of Bruges) by Michelangelo, and a self-portrait of Rembrandt, which had been stolen from the museum in Sam’s hometown.
I loved that even with this large of an ensemble cast, none of the characters felt unnecessary or useless. Each had a moment to shine and the relationship building between them was wonderful—it truly felt as if these men did know each other. That’s either a strength of the caliber of actors cast in this film or the fact that they may know each other well off screen—either way, it worked.
Many reviewers didn’t like this film, thinking it didn’t pay proper tribute to this heretofore little known piece of history. But I thoroughly enjoyed it, as, for me, it provided an accessible entry into a facet of WWII history that I hadn’t known anything about before seeing the film. I’m not a WWII buff, nor am I a huge fan of literature/film that focuses on it. What I am a fan of is good storytelling based on a solid plot (history, in this instance) with compelling characters. And that’s where this movie shines for me.
I made this comment on a Facebook discussion about this movie:
It reminded me a lot of the 1990 movie MEMPHIS BELLE. A lot of that is because of the ensemble group, though here you have George Clooney leading this motley crew rather than Matthew Modine. … To me, it’s [not a "caper film" but] more of an adventure (with a little action) film that looks at a serious time and serious events in history with a light-handed script which takes a lighthearted look at this through the camaraderie of the men involved, but which also adopts a more serious tone when appropriate. It’s definitely not SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Yet there were still times in MM when I found myself getting choked up. Especially in a couple of scenes with Hugh Bonneville and Jean Dujardin and again toward the end.
While the music was a little heavy-handed in places (“You should be feeling *this* now!”), I thought the humor and gravitas were perfectly balanced.
In the same thread, I also mentioned that the balance of humor and drama reminded me of M*A*S*H.
I was also extremely happy with the way the one possible romantic entanglement in the film was handled. With only one (main) female character in the film, and with hers being a smaller, supporting role, it would have been easy for the script to have taken the relationship in a certain direction. After all, “It’s Paris,” as she remarks. And we all know that Paris is the city of romance. It was a delicate situation, and I truly appreciated the way it was handled.
Highly enjoyable. Highly recommended.
I just finished watching the miniseries based on this, and the other Cousins’ War novels, so I thought it would be a good idea to post this review while the miniseries is still fresh in my mind.
The White Queen is the story of Elizabeth Woodville, a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition, who secretly marries the newly crowned Edward IV. Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for her family’s dominance, but despite her best efforts, her two sons become pawns in a famous unsolved mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the lost princes in the Tower of London. In this dazzling account of the deadly Wars of the Roses, brother turns on brother to win the ultimate prize, the throne of England.
Story: 1 star (DNF)
Narrator: 4 stars
- Goodreads bookshelves: books-read-in-2013, audiobook, historical-fiction
Read from May 20 to June 06, 2013
I could not bring myself to finish listening to this book—and that’s the first time that has happened to me with one of Philippa Gregory’s books.
Philippa Gregory didn’t do her usual good job of making me care about the characters in this story. I figured it would be easier for me to grow to care for characters I didn’t know anything about (unlike in the Boleyn books)—I had no preconceived ideas or feelings about them one way or another. However, there’s no depth given to any of the characters in this story to make me care what happens to them beyond the basic historical knowledge I have of what did happen in reality. Perhaps the first-person narrator doesn’t work as well in a book like this which tries to cover 20 or so years of history, especially given that most of that history is about the war in which the first-person narrator is not personally involved. But even when the scene does switch over to Edward and the battlefield, there’s no emotion in it. It’s all just dry prose telling what’s happening and a strange emotional detachment from all of the characters.
Compared to the other books of Gregory’s that I’ve read (also on audio, The Boleyn Inheritance—a favorite—and The Other Boleyn Girl), it seems like she sacrificed a lot in the way of character development for inclusion of historical events. And, for me, that didn’t compel me to keep reading/listening.
I recently added the Starz premium channels to my cable subscription. (No, it’s not to watch Black Sails. Really, it’s not.) And one of the things that gave me access to was the programming they have available through On Demand. And the entire (first season???) ten episodes of The White Queen were available for
The reason I subscribed to Starz? Because I watched the first episode for free—and unlike the book, it sucked me right in.
Maybe it was because I had read about 2/3 of this first novel in the book series (the miniseries is based on The White Queen, The Red Queen, and The Kingmaker’s Daughter) and so I was somewhat familiar with the characters and where the story was going, for the most part.
This could be considered a prequel to The Tudors—and, as it was produced by and aired on Starz, it fills that role quite well. (Were the nudity and nearly pornographic sex really necessary to this story? No. At one point, I actually said aloud, “Oh, yes, we haven’t seen a woman’s bare breasts in this episode yet. That’s why she [the queen] is lying there in bed with the sheet neatly tucked under one boob.” Except I might have used a less eloquent word for breasts/boobs.)
The story covers the latter years of the War of the Roses—the battle for the crown of England between the Lancasters and the Yorks. It begins with Elizabeth Woodville and Edward York’s first meeting under an oak tree as he’s riding off to war with the Lancastrians. It’s been speculated throughout history that theirs was, indeed, a love match. He was nineteen; she was five or six years older, and a widow with two sons to boot. She went out to the road to meet him, even though her family were Lancastrians and her father and brothers had fought for that side, because it was apparent the Yorks would win and Edward would be king, to beg Edward to restore her dead husband’s title/lands for her sons to inherit (oh, and Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days’ Queen, was her great-great granddaughter from one of these sons).
According to this version of events, Edward instantly fell in love (or lust) with Elizabeth. In a matter of days after meeting, he convinced her to marry him secretly (with her mother, his priest, and one other witness only). When her older brother Anthony discovered this, he assumed Edward was repeating a pattern—tricking a woman into thinking they were married so he could sleep with her. However, Edward did keep Elizabeth as his wife. Could be because it was true love, could be (as this fictionalized version posits) partly as a way to declare his independence from his uncle Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (also known as “the Kingmaker” for his role in helping Edward/the Yorks overthrow Henry VI and take the throne). Elizabeth, a commoner, wasn’t popular; and the marriage created a lot of issues for Edward in his early reign—not the least of which were the rumors/accusations of witchcraft toward both Elizabeth and her mother. This part, of course, is played up quite prominently in the novel/miniseries.
As I was watching the series, I kept comparing it to other fictional portrayals of political intrigues, stories involving the toppling of monarchs/leaders, etc., and realized that if these events hadn’t actually happened, an author who came up with this would probably have been laughed out of a pitch session for proposing something so far-fetched. Yet it happened—it’s verifiable history. Though, there are still some mysteries—like what happened to the Princes in the Tower (Elizabeth and Edward’s two young sons) after Edward’s death and his brother Richard usurped Prince Edward’s throne before the boy could be crowned King Edward V? How did Isabel Neville, wife of Edward IV’s turncoat brother, George, really die? And could it be possible that Elizabeth Woodville and her daughter Elizabeth of York really did curse the entire Tudor line so that it died out with no surviving male issue?
So . . . I guess you can say that I enjoyed the TV series MUCH more than the book. Maybe, because I now have watched this, I might be able to go back and try re-reading the book and see if I would enjoy it more.
It’s the first Monday of the month, and you know what that means . . .
If you’ve challenged yourself to—or even officially signed up for—a reading challenge in 2014, now’s as good a time as any to start reporting your successes. (And I’m a bit perturbed that the widget for the Goodreads reading challenge up there hasn’t updated to show that I’ve actually finished three books so far.
In addition to telling us what you’re reading, go ahead and share your goal(s) for the year (if you have any) pertaining to reading. Then, tell us what you’ve finished over the last month, what you’re currently reading, and what’s on your To Be Read stack/list. (And if you’ve reviewed the books you’ve read somewhere, please include links!)
- What book(s) did you finish reading (or listening to) since last month’s update?
- What are you currently reading and/or listening to?
- What’s the next book on your To Be Read stack/list?
Here’s my report:
What book(s) did you finish reading (or listening to) since last month’s update?
- What Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved by John Mullan
- Divergent by Veronica Roth; audiobook read by Emma Galvin
- Secrets of a Summer Night (Wallflowers #1) by Lisa Kleypas; audiobook read by Rosalyn Landor
Click titles to read my reviews
What are you currently reading and/or listening to?
- A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare; audiobook read by Carolyn Morris—historical (Regency) romance. I’ve read glowing reviews of Dare’s books over the past few years, favorably compared to Julia Quinn, who is one of my favorites. I’m only about 1/3 into the book, but I’m disappointed that the “relationship” between the hero and heroine has so far been built only on the insta-lust they each feel for the other the moment they meet. It’s got a cute setup, and they’re both likable characters, so that makes me even more disappointed that there isn’t the same kind of emotional and intellectual relationship building here that I love so much in Quinn’s books. Otherwise, Dare seems to be a good writer.
- Love Overdue by Pamela Morsi—general-market contemporary romance. Cute so far (I’m about 50% into it), but a bit implausible and predictable.
I started The Stand by Stephen King, but it’s just not the right time for me to try to get into a 40-hour-long audiobook, so I’ve put it back on the “shelf” for a while.
What’s the next book on your To Be Read stack/list?
- The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. Each semester, my grad school program chooses one book from one of the representative genres of Popular Fiction that all students in the program must read, then the first session of the next residency (the week the students spend on campus at the beginning of the term) is spent discussing it. For the upcoming term, this is the Common Reading. There were 15 holds on it at the library, so I figured it would be a couple of months before I got it. But my notification came in last week, and I downloaded it Friday. So, as soon as I finish Love Overdue, I’ll start this one.
- I’m not sure what my next audiobook will be, but most likely something lighthearted and uncomplicated.
With the renewed interest/hype in this book due to the announcement/production of the TV miniseries based on it (which was announced a couple of months after I wrote this review last year), I thought this would be an opportune time to post this review.
The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon–when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding Highland clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.
Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into intrigues and dangers that may threaten her life…and shatter her heart. For here she meets James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, and becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire…and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.
Story: 1 star (DNF)
Narrator: 4 stars
- Goodreads bookshelves: audiobook, books-read-in-2013, historical-fiction, fantasy
Read from March 17 to 27, 2013
Audiobook read by Davina Porter (excellent reader).
I put over eight hours of listening into this book (and had more than 25 hours remaining) before I gave up on it. My first problem is the whole extra-marital affair/bigamous marriage aspect. Then . . . I really just didn’t care about Claire, and because it’s 1st person, I didn’t care about anyone else. Jamie has almost no personality whatsoever. And what is the obsession with beatings equating marital and paternal love?
Claire, as a character, is not only unlikable–she’s downright unbelievable. She has almost no reaction to the time travel, and it takes her no time at all to adjust to living 200 years in the past. There’s no worry, no anxiety, over what happened to her and what it means, not just for her but FOR HER HUSBAND.
Which brings me to the biggest problem I had with this book—the husband factor. So much (too much) time is devoted in the beginning of the book to the focus on Claire’s life in the 20th century, so much so that the ONLY character I had any sympathy for in this book is Claire’s long-suffering husband, Frank. Even when she engages him in conversation, it’s patronizing at best. She doesn’t pay attention to him and basically paints him as a windbag with nothing of interest to do or say. Then, once Claire goes back in time, I got the impression that I was supposed to equate Frank with his historical counterpart, Captain Jack Randall, who is the villain of the piece, because he’s not only her husband’s ancestor, he also looks like Frank. So, now, this guy she’s legally married to in the 1940s, who has never been anything but nice and loving toward her, is supposed to suddenly be thought of as the bad guy? No thank you!
I’ve read a whole lot of reviews of this book since setting it aside, thinking that maybe I was just in a bad headspace when I tried reading/listening to it and I should give it a second chance. But, frankly, nothing I’ve read since I put this book down (actually, it’s the only audiobook I’ve ever “returned” for a refund). Some reviewers excuse Claire’s lack of shock/adjustment to the time travel because she was a battlefield nurse in WWII. No. I’m sorry, I don’t care how much trauma she saw in the war, she’s still going to have trouble adjusting to living in 18th century Scotland (which, from Gabaldon’s descriptions, sounds like it was closer to 16th or 17th century living conditions).
There isn’t a reviewer in the world who can convince me that the “romance” between Jamie and Claire isn’t wrong. Claire is married. Her husband is still alive, even if they aren’t in the same “place.” I don’t care if her husband is 200 years in the future. She’s married. End of story. But why did she need to be married? Had Claire merely been engaged to Frank or been on the trip to Scotland with a relative, Gabaldon could have still accomplished the feat of getting her where she needed to be in order to do the time travel. So, again, I ask—what’s the point of having her married in 1945 only to go back in time to be forced to marry someone else?
In addition to Claire’s easy transition to the 1700s, it’s also unbelievable to me how easily she’s accepted into the clan community. Maybe it’s because I was weaned on the Highland romances penned by the likes of Julie Garwood and Jude Deveraux in the 1980s and early 1990s, but my understanding is that Scottish clans were very insular and didn’t welcome outsiders at all—especially those from south of the border. No, granted, her acceptance wasn’t unconditional, but it was a lot wider and a lot easier than it should have been.
I know there are people who will defend this book to the death as one of the greatest romance novels ever written. And that’s your right and prerogative. But let’s clear up that misnomer—even though this book is labeled as romance, it really isn’t, at least, not once you get past the first (too-long) volume. This falls more into line with epic historical fantasy/fiction. Yes, there’s a strong element of what some would call romance (bigamous marriage, sex, beatings, sex, etc.), but the focus of the story isn’t necessarily the developing relationship of the two main characters culminating in a happily-ever-after ending, which is what defines the romance genre.
Will I watch the series once it hits Netflix streaming? I’ll at least give the first episode a go. I might like the characters better as brought to life on screen instead of how they come across in the book (remember, in the book, we’re stuck inside of Claire’s head and can never get anyone else’s thoughts or perspectives). But it will still be a hard sell for me, since my biggest problem with the book is a fundamental of the storyline.
Have you read Outlander? What did you think of it? Do you plan to watch the miniseries?
Annabelle Peyton, determined to save her family from disaster, decides to use her beauty and wit to tempt a suitable nobleman into making an offer of marriage. But Annabelle’s most intriguing and persistent admirer, wealthy, powerful Simon Hunt, has made it clear that while he will introduce her to irresistible pleasure he will not offer marriage. Annabelle is determined to resist his unthinkable proposition, but it is impossible in the face of such skillful seduction. Her friends, looking to help, conspire to entice a more suitable gentleman to offer for Annabelle, for only then will she be safe from Simon and her own longings. But on one summer night, Annabelle succumbs to Simon’s passionate embrace and tempting kisses and she discovers that love is the most dangerous game of all.
Story: 2.75 stars
Narrator: 3.75 Stars
Overall: 3.25 stars
- Goodreads bookshelves: books-read-in-2014, historical-romance, audiobook
Read from January 15 to 25, 2014
I’ve been wanting to read a Lisa Kleypas book for a while. She seems to be a prolific writer and several of the romance review blogs I follow rave about her books.
After reading the descriptions of the first book in each of her “major” series, I chose to read this book, the first book in the Wallflowers series, as the premise sounded great to me. Four young women make a pact to help each other find husbands. Not only did it seem to fit my liking for a lighthearted tone in a romance novel, but I love historical romances that feature friendships between women and not just rivalries. So I should have loved this book.
Except that I couldn’t stand the heroine, and the hero was largely absent intellectually and emotionally, so I never connected with him—yet, even so, I still thought he was too good for the heroine. And that’s not how I want to feel at the end of a romance novel.
Technically, Kleypas is a moderately good writer. I was continually critiquing her style in my head, though, as she tends to head-hop quite a lot—but in a way that’s probably only noticeable to another writer who’s been dinged on it time and time again in critiques.
Storywise, however, is where this novel was lacking for me. Annabelle, our “heroine,” is petulant, spoiled, snobbish, and snotty—with absolutely no right to be. I know that Kleypas wanted us to see her as part of the down-on-their-luck gentility, those on the fringes of aristocratic society, who would have only socialized (and married) within that sphere. But the truth of the matter is that Kleypas never really gives us a solid explanation of how Annabelle’s family is tied to the aristocracy and why, if they’re so poor that her mother is having to prostitute herself to a disgusting old lord of something or another, Annabelle is even accepted into aristocratic society. She has no title, no dowry, and no future. In reality, people like this weren’t typically invited to social functions with earls and viscounts, much less courted by men at that level.
Yet Annabelle’s driving motivation is to marry a peer—someone with an inherited title and A LOT of money. But . . . this is set in the 1840s, which happens to be one of the times of transition in England when a lot of the peerage were hemorrhaging money as the Industrial Revolution was beginning to pick up steam (ha-ha) and the economy was changing and leaving most of them behind. It was the rising middle class—men like Simon, our hero—who were emerging as the movers and shakers in society. And while it really wouldn’t be until after the Great Exhibition in 1851 that this class of wealthy entrepreneurs would really start taking their place in society, Kleypas set up Simon as one of these: an independently wealthy (filthy rich, apparently) son of a butcher who rubs elbows with some of the highest echelon of the aristocracy. Again, not really realistic, but, for the sake of suspension of disbelief, we’ll let her run with it.
Annabelle and Simon meet in the prologue and he steals a kiss. Chapter one opens a couple of years later, at which time Annabelle hates Simon and doesn’t want anything to do with him. The problem is that she’s in her early 20s, the Season is almost over, and she has NO marriage prospects. Her younger brother may have to leave school and go to work to support her and her mother if she can’t find a rich husband.
Simon is still obsessed with this girl from whom he stole a kiss, and so he’s been trying to pursue her by stalking her—I mean asking her to dance at all of these society balls that both of them are inexplicably invited to all the time. Annabelle knows that he’s rich—everyone does—yet, strangely, she basically tells him that he has a snowball’s chance in hell of ever getting her to dance with him, much less let him court/marry/sleep with her.
Let me explain—she’s to the point at which she’s starting to think she’s going to have to take an offer from one of the titled gentlemen to become a mistress just so that she and her mother don’t starve. Yet she continually spurns the attentions of a VERY wealthy man, just because he’s a butcher’s son and not a peer of the realm. Because snob.
So she and the three other girls she ends up sitting in the wallflower corner with at all of these balls suddenly start talking to each other after months and months of ignoring each other. They decide to help each other find husbands. Since Annabelle is the oldest, she’s first. The other girls (well, Lillian, who’s the most outspoken) also hate Simon for being “common” (though Lillian and her sister, Daisy, are upstart wealthy Americans, so that’s really a pot/kettle situation there).
They all finagle invitations to a country house party. There’s a plain, weedy, weak, overly intellectual, nerdy (choose your negative adjective) lord there whom all the unmarried female guests (from the descriptions of them, it seemed like there had to have been at least 50 of them) are after because he’s one of the few single titled men left. Instead of flirting with him, the way they all do, Annabelle takes the approach of trying to appear disinterested in him romantically but interested in his pursuits and passions—which seem to mainly be droning on about the flora and fauna of Hampshire. Yes, we get it. He’s a big bore. But a big bore with a title and, we assume, money.
For some reason, he takes a liking to Annabelle. The Wallflowers decide the best way for Annabelle to win him is to get into a compromising position with him (just to be alone together in this time period was compromising enough, to be seen kissing would have sealed it for sure) and they’ll come by and witness it so that he’s forced to marry her. Although Annabelle has a few qualms about this idea, she goes along with it.
But . . . plans are put on hold due to a health issue. This is the point at which Simon actually starts looking like a hero. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last long.
Without giving away too many spoilers, Simon and Annabelle end up getting married—voluntarily—about two-thirds of the way through the book. And from there on, it’s just sex, sex, sex, interrupted only by his buying her extravagant gifts, like a five-carat diamond ring—which, of course, prompts more sex. And it’s not even good sex. It’s awkwardly written and stuff I would have skipped past if I’d been reading a print version and not listening on audio. The scenes didn’t add anything to the characterization (made her look worse, as a matter of fact) nor did they add anything to the plot or development of the relationship.
Annabelle continues to be snobbish and mercenary even after she’s voluntarily married Simon, even to the point of offending his family. This is the woman who knew her mother was whoring herself out to pay the bills, yet she’s going to look down her nose at the family of a successful merchant who lives in the same neighborhood where she and her mother could barely afford to live?
It takes another massive (and highly implausible) crisis right at the end of the book for her epiphany moment to come—and even then, it’s not enough to redeem her character and the way she’s been throughout the rest of the book.
I’ve read tons of reviews that drool all over Simon as the perfect hero. Um…no. Not only does he stalk Annabelle for a couple of years until she agrees to marry him (and the only thing she really has to offer is the fact that she’s supposedly so beautiful every man who sees her instantly wants her), there aren’t enough scenes from his viewpoint to really give us a reason as to why he’d want to marry her (other than the insta-lust he felt the first time he saw/kissed her) for me to be able to determine if he really does have qualities to qualify him as a “hero” in the truest sense. He’s handsome. He’s wealthy. He’s kind…to a point. In the beginning of the novel, he actually thinks about whether he’d marry her or just make her his mistress! That’s not hero quality, for me.
Now, all of that said, I may go ahead and read the second book in this series, because I hope that Kleypas can actually follow through on the sparks/fireworks hinted at between Lillian and Lord Westcliff.