The Story had Potential But It Failed to Hook Me- Some Spoilers
Reviewed in the United States on 20 September 2012
I think some people will adore this book. I'll be upfront; I didn't adore it but I don't think I wasted my time, either. It was a pretty interesting read even if I didn't love it. I can see where some readers will be very happy with the book. However, I'll give my opinion, for what it's worth.
The book had all the ingredients to be a really fabulous story with well-shaded characters but I felt it just never followed through on its potential nor connected all the dots that the author put in place. It felt like major plot points were put in place but never really re-visited or easily dispensed with. I'll admit, this is a personal preference, but when an author introduces a serious topic, like abuse, I like it to be followed up thoroughly and sensitively. In this book, the author created fairly dark back-stories for the hero and the heroine that weren't fully addressed in the overall character development and final, happy ending. I think it interferes with my emotional connection to the characters and I fail to really get involved with the story.
As I am a late-comer to this book, I won't bother to summarize the story except those plot points that illustrate my review.
I thought the book spent a great deal of time and description on the back-stories of its hero and heroine but never really followed through on fully incorporating all the back-story plot points into the overall character development. When the hero and heroine triumph over their past adversity, I like to be totally along for the ride. Both the hero and the heroine suffered physical abuse in their back-stories. This abuse, to a certain extent, formed each of the characters. The heroine was wary and distrusting- especially of peers. The hero was emotionally stunted. The hero, especially, had terrible back-story. He was abused by someone he had to depend on at a young age. He had no escape. His abuse was tolerated by someone close to him. His abuse impacted his self-image. On the one hand, his character was presented to us as never having dealt emotionally with the abuse. He drinks, gambles, and acts promiscuous as a direct result of the abuse. He is aware that it ruined him. On the other hand, he has moments of obvious and observable decency. It is obvious to the reader that he is a redeemable hero. What didn't seem to connect, for me, is his own role in his redemption and conquering his own demons. He was totally consistent until the very end of the book. He was angry towards those who had harmed him. But, he reversed a decision of a lifetime based upon one sentence from the heroine and confronted one of his abusers for the heroine, though he didn't expect her to know. There was some disconnect, for me, there. The moment felt unfulfilled. The hero got his due from the abuser but the reader got an incredibly short time in the hero's thoughts about this revelation. This is potentially one of the hugest moment's in this hero's life and the action in the book immediately turned to something else equally important. It felt like his entire abuse back-story was resolved with a simple, brief speech. Like I said, there was something unsatisfying about how that was resolved and there wasn't enough of the hero's thoughts about this resolution.
There are other more superficial examples of this introduction of something that felt like it should be important but ended up not being very important at all. The hero was a painter and it was introduced as if that was a vital part of his character- the one thing that wasn't destroyed by his past abuse. But, that was all. The reader got to infer all the importance because it was a very tiny portion of the hero's actions and occurred almost entirely outside of the narrative. The hero rescues urchins. Again, the reader was mostly left to infer what all this meant to the hero because very little of it happened inside the hero's head. There is a scene where you wonder whether the hero has an actual death wish but it is not really explored. It just seems like the author implies that the hero is this really deep and complex guy suffering all this emotional pain but most of the reader's interaction with the hero has a wall around most of his genuine pain and emotion. He likes to behave superficially with everyone. In his own head, he is uniformly down on himself. It is just a disconnect between the disillusioned and emotionally scarred rake and the sweet, adoring husband. Sure, he can be both but I like a little more insight into the journey.
The only other main problem I had with the book was the tone felt a little off for me. On the one hand, the book has these very dark implications. On the other hand, it has all this superficial lightness. The heroine dresses as a man. The silly valet. The urchin going to live with a sweet Willy Wonka. It is hard to articulate this point but it felt like the author had some indecision over the overall tone of the book. That taking the really dark back story and the somewhat nihilist hero into account, she deliberately tried to inject some levity. Yet, the back-story is just too dark for the levity to really take. Perhaps, that is just me, but I thought the back-story was too dominant to make all the grimness fade.
I think some people will absolutely love this book. I really do. Like a house, the book has excellent bones. I'm just not sure it lived up to its potential. But, then, I can be a fairly serious reader who takes some subject matters very seriously and it really does impact my personal enjoyment of a book. I have no illusions that everyone has the same taste. That is a long way of saying, don't let my review discourage you.
8 people found this helpful