by Julie Lessman
Historical / Inspirational
Release Date: September 2010
What happens when the boy she loved to hate becomes the man she hates to love?
The 1920s are drawing to a close, and feisty Katie O’Connor is the epitome of the new woman–smart and sassy with goals for her future that include the perfect husband and a challenging career in law. Her boyfriend Jack fits all of her criteria for a husband–good-looking, well-connected, wealthy, and eating out of her hand. But when she is forced to spend the summer of 1929 with Luke McGee, the bane of her childhood existence, Katie comes face-to-face with a choice. Will she follow her well-laid plans to marry Jack? Or will she fall for the man she swore to despise forever?
Of the three books I received for review from Graf-Martin Communications this month, I was most excited about reading this one. I mean, just look at the cover! It’s not often that you see a 1920s-themed novel, particularly inspirational fiction, and this one sounded like a good read to boot.
Oh, how quickly things change.
I almost didn’t finish the book. It’s long – over 500 pages – and by the time I made it halfway through, I didn’t care about any of the characters or what happened to them. In fact, I put the book aside and said to my husband “I can’t finish this, I’m so bored”. But I ended up finishing it for one reason alone: I had to fall asleep early a few nights in a row (I had to get up earlier than usual for a few mornings) so I used to book to help me fall asleep. I know, it’s a terrible thing to admit, but this book just wasn’t for me.
However, I’m going to put a big asterisk on my statement, because I suspect the story will actually find a very wide audience, and here’s why: The whole entire book reads like a soap opera. I’m completely serious – if you like watching soap operas, you will probably love this book.
Here’s what didn’t work for me:
- Ten billion characters: there were way, way too many characters in this book, and by the end of the novel, I still didn’t have straight who was married to who and whose kids were whose… and I read fantasy, people. I’m no stranger to large casts, but when everyone in the book looks and sounds the same, it’s very confusing. But you know who has large casts that are hard to keep straight? Soap operas. Yep.
- Changing points of view without changing voice: Sometimes, a scene would end, only to pick back up in the exact same spot in the next scene break, but from the point of view of the opposite character. Now, this is an interesting way to provide insight into your characters and give a sense of perspective, but if you’re going to write in multiple voices, the voices must be distinct. And that’s hard to do when you have, oh, say ten to fifteen different POVs at various times throughout the novel. I also found that this constant shifting made it very difficult to get invested in the main characters, because it was hard to know which person/couple/issue we were supposed to be connecting to and investing emotionally in.
- Cliché, melodramatic plot twists: (SPOILER ALERT) Will they be together? Won’t they? No, they can’t, because this person’s sense of duty requires him to marry this person, but OH MY GOSH NOW SHE’S DEAD so it’ll work, but no, the heroine is now with someone else, but OH MY GOSH HE WANTS TO BE A PRIEST so it’ll work, but no, the pain of death is too fresh, but OH MY GOSH THEY CAN BE FRIENDS INSTEAD until a proposal comes OUT OF THE BLUE and they all live happily ever after.
Like I said: Soap opera.
For me, this was pure tedium. I didn’t care about anyone, and the plot “twists” made me groan at every turn. However, it’s just like a soap opera in the sense that there are too many people, the twists are random (and convenient), and the schlocky romance is over the top. If you love soap operas, I honestly think this is the kind of book you’ll enjoy. As for me, I hope I never go near another book like this again.
P.S.: The writing is also very good, apart from the whole voice-doesn’t-change-with-character-POV-shifts thing. The author has received a large number of RWA awards, so I have to credit her for being able to tell a good story, even if her stories aren’t for me.
About the Author
Julie Lessman is the author of A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, and A Passion Denied. Lessman has garnered several writing awards, including ten Romance Writers of America awards. She lives in Missouri.