This is the first time I've read the series straight through, all in about 2 weeks, and I have to say, there are little things that stand out to me, nThis is the first time I've read the series straight through, all in about 2 weeks, and I have to say, there are little things that stand out to me, now that I know what to look for!! The clues are there, but they are very very slight, in fact, if you don't pay attention to every little encounter with 'Cousin' Michael and his family, Charlotte Harris, you'll probably miss it! From the very first book when Charlotte has to talk to Lady Kirkwood about her relation Lucas Winter, Lady Kirkwood is very brittle to Charlotte, until the school headmistress opens up about a possible match for her son, a very wealthy young miss, who is desperately wanted by the Kirkwood clan. It's so slight as to brush it off as bad manners on Lady K, but now I know why!!
Charlotte Page grew up the daughter of a wealthy commoner, hoping to make a good match for her in exchange of political connections to the peerage. She was basically told to marry David Masters, heir to Viscount Kirkwood, even though they had not seen each other since they were children and he made fun of her. Not wanting to do what her father says, but threatened if she doesn't, Charlotte agrees to meet him, and ends up liking the grown up David. She's wary of his less than stellar reputation, but is willing to give him the benefit of the duobt, that is until she sees him having his way with the maid! Heartbroken that all his tender words have been a lie, she writes a horrible letter about his profligate ways and how it broke her heart, using nicknames for each other in case any one might come across it, somehow the letter ends up at the newspaper and is printed. Of course, the letter makes fun of his silly striped robe that everybody has seen, so everyone knows it's him. Fearing what her father might do to her in the wake of the scandal, Charlotte runs off with a Captain Harris and gets married. After a few years, her husband dies, leaving her in dire straits, and a mysterious 'Cousin' Michael becomes her benefactor, loaning her the money to get her dream of a school for young ladies off the ground.
David Masters' heart turned to ice the day the letter was published, and he never let it thaw in 18 years. Eventually he found out it his younger brother Giles who Charlotte had seen dally with the maid. Giles was wearing the silly striped robe after Charlotte had laughed at David in it, and he gave it to his brother. Of course, Charlotte did not know that then, but eventually learned it several years later herself. Neither did anything to solve anything between, instead they let their love die, and hatred fester. Which is why David initially loaned Charlotte the money under the false name. He was upset, thinking she had escaped the scandal unknown and unscathed, while he suffered for years from the fallout. The idea was to give her everything, then snatch it away and break her heart, leaving her humiliated. Except she wrote him a letter giving her sincere thanks. And another letter, and more and more, the correspondence between Charlotte and 'Cousin' Michael grew into a friendship, and David's vengeance died. Instead he wanted her to succeed.
Which why they meet up again 18 years later, when the land David has held the lien on for 15 years is about to be up, and Charlotte needs to move the school, only she doesn't know it. She has no idea who 'Cousin' Michael is, and David is determined to keep it that way. He just might succeed until he is accused of killing his late wife, and his alibi is meeting with the barrister who is the intermediary between Charlotte and Cousin Michael, but he can't admit that without angering Charlotte. Eventually everything works out, and they all live happily ever after!
I have liked Charlotte the entire series, but I can't say I picture her as a heroine I would like to read about. She seems a bit old for me in a regency era book. Thirty-six is fine for a contemporary book, but in a regency, 36 is practically in her dotage! Her constant vigilence for being an independent woman is a bit tiresome at times, but she is still a likable enough character for me.
Now David is a different matter! I really did enjoy him, maybe it's because he was willing to take on so much, all for the love a woman who had wronged him, but he couldn't not help her and want to be with her, and didn't want to hurt her. Granted his deception was wrong, but without it, Charlotte would be nowhere. He wasn't that great of a husband to his first wife, Sarah, but they knew they married each other for reasons other than love, and he tried to make the best of it. Ultimately her death was kind of sad for me, she really did want to stop fighting with her husband, so wasn't as bad as everyone thought, but she had to die for David and Charlotte to marry. It might have made an equally interesting story if Sarah had grown up, and they were to fall in love after all these years, but I guess people wanted to make Sarah the bad guy in all this.
I could go on and on about this series, but I believe you should read it for yourself and see what you think! It really is one of my favorites!...more
I think this is the 4th time I've read this book! I really do enjoy this series! If you do read this, I highly recommend you start with the Royal BrotI think this is the 4th time I've read this book! I really do enjoy this series! If you do read this, I highly recommend you start with the Royal Brotherhood series, specifically To Pleasure a Prince so you don't feel lost!
There's not much I don't like about this book, I love that Louisa is her own person, despite the fact she is Prinny's illegitimate daughter and could have a easy life. Instead, after the death of her beloved half-sister in childbirth, she works diligently for prison reform for women, trying to improve their conditions and help them to reform themselves. Simon has made a bargain with the devil, Prinny to be exact. Marry Louisa and keep her away from her work, and become the next prime minister. Except Prinny has never been someone you can trust. But Simon has lusted for Louisa for seven years and decides he can't lose, that is until Louisa finds out! Back and forth, back and forth, their chemistry is off the charts, but so is their suspicion of each other. It makes for a lot of tense and angst and drama, but I tend to like those sort of things, especially when it's well done, and I think Ms. Jeffries does an excellent job, but I could be biased! ...more
I'm changing my previous review from 4 stars to 5! And this is my new favorite of the series! First, let me start by saying, yes, these are light-hearI'm changing my previous review from 4 stars to 5! And this is my new favorite of the series! First, let me start by saying, yes, these are light-hearted historical romances that Ms. Jeffries writes, but it doesn't make them any less worthy or enjoyable. In fact, I'd argue with anyone who says writing these are easier than the darker more angsty stuff. Just because they are easy to read and maybe not as serious as others would like doesn't mean it's not well done. The story still has to flow and make sense, being an aspiring writer myself, I know nothing in writing is as simple as it looks. This is why I love Sabrina Jeffries! Sometimes I don't want the dark or heavily laden plots, sometimes I want something simple and sweet and steamy!
First off, I want Lachlan for myself, but I guess if Venetia is the one I lose him too, I don't mind at all. I love all the characters, all of them!! Not a one angered me or annoyed me, not even poor Jamie when his feelings were hurt by his unrequited love of Venetia! Everyone in the book is well thought out, enjoyable and distinct, which is a rare accomplishment, in my honest opinion. The buildup of the Scottish Scourge throughout the first two books does a great job of heightening expectations of this simply horrible man who must be villainous. Except, in the first book, when kidnapping Amelia and Lucas, he is gentlemanly to Amelia, and does not want them harmed. You get a glimpse of his true character even then. When he is introduced to us in this book, being his charming and dashing self at a masquerade, it doesn't ring false, as he's only being that way to win Venetia's trust, he really is charming as well as devilish. And Venetia is the kind of heroine I adore! She's smart, funny, minx-ish, emotional, quick to anger, all things I think should be expected of women. In too many romances today (be historical or contemporary) the heroine is portrayed as a strong and independent woman, when we all know we aren't all that way. At least I'm not! Yes, I can hang tough when needed, but everyone has a breaking point, everyone has a soft heart about something, and if you say you don't, they you have no soul and you're not the kind of person I want to read about in a romance. I want passion! Several times in this novel Venetia cries, and in none of them do I see her as weak. When she realizes how injured Lachlan is, and what he has endured, most likely at the hands of men her father hired, it breaks her heart. After she has gone out of her way to be cold to him while conniving with his mother to drive him mad, he goes to a lot of trouble to get her ballads and chocolate, things she adores, just because he wanted to, it makes her so happy she cries. But she's no simpering miss either, and I think the balance is important. Venetia stands up to Lachlan throughout her kidnapping, when he stoically denies he loves her and has bedded her in front of her father to right an injustice he believes has been done, she does not cry then. No, she gives him a piece of her mind, and an ultimatum! They are great characters in my opinion!
I know some have listed the dialog or the phrasing of the dialog as part of the problem, it not being true on Lachlan or Venetia's part. I honestly can't judge this, as I'm no expert. I can tell you that excessive brogue in a novel gets a bit distracting for me, especially if it's an audio book. I know the characters are Scottish, and every once in a while, a gentle reminder of it with a few words and phrases is enough for me. I think one of the reasons I didn't love Outlander is this point. I enjoy the accent something fierce, and if Gerard Butler were to whisper sweet nothings in my ear is that devilish brogue, I'm sure I would be distracted, but for other reasons! But when I'm reading a book, I don't want to be distracted by a dialect I'm not familiar enough with to make it sound natural to me. If a few modern day phrases are thrown in, I may or may not notice, as I'm a modern woman and they are commonplace to me. I don't need to be totally immersed in the culture or scenery or even the language to get the feel of the book. I do have an imagination, and I rather enjoy using it. As I've said in other reviews, give me the basics, and the important stuff, I can handle the rest, thank you very much.
If you can take this book at face value, as something that's fun and easy and has a devilishly sexy hero and an emotionally stable and tender-hearted heroine, then this is a book I highly recommend. I don't promise you'll love it, we all have different tastes, but it's worth a try! If you want to pick apart every detail, every nuance, then avoid, and let me avoid your reviews. I read for fun and enjoyment, if I wanted to have the book dissected, I could just read every critic's review ever of romance novels, as they all accuse them as light, fluffy, and a waste of time for their lack of depth. I only have to point out the loyalty and book sales of the romance genre to show how much people appreciate these kind of books!...more
This is absolutely one of my favorite Sabrina Jeffries books ever! But then again, I could be biased, as I love all things Sabrina Jeffries and she isThis is absolutely one of my favorite Sabrina Jeffries books ever! But then again, I could be biased, as I love all things Sabrina Jeffries and she is an auto-buy author for me. This book has tons of things going for it: a sexy American alpha marine, a high-spirited beautiful heroine, possible scandal, kidnapping, highway robbery and ransom, action, adventure, what else could you want?
One of the things I really love about this book is the love story between Lucas and Amelia. They truly are attracted to each other, but are wary of each other (without the other one knowing it at the beginning) and keep secrets from each other, Amelia to protect her step-mother, Lucas to protect his mission and himself. It's not the typical miscommunication romance, which gets old for me. No, this is secret keeping at its best, for good reasons. The stakes are very high, if Amelia is wrong, her beloved step-mother Dolly is a criminal, if Lucas is wrong, the demons that have been hounding him may never go away, and he will have wasted the last 3 years of his life, and the guilt at not being there to help his father (even though it he was in an English prison) in the worst of times, times that made his father commit suicide, will continue. Neither want to be wrong, but they also don't want the other to be hurt. It's a great premise, and I think it works very well between these characters.
Some have said their romance and intimacy happened too soon, but I don't have a problem with that, in fact, I think it works with these two. They are both attracted to each other, but feel they can use that attraction to get information out of the other, but it ends up backfiring as they both begin to care deeply for the other. When Amelia is kidnapped, Lucas doesn't hesistate to rescue her, even though it means if he can't save her in time, he will have to marry her to save her reputation. I love that he genuinely does have reservations about that, but the thought of Amelia in danger pushes those away, and even though it will greatly complicate his mission, he'd still rather save her than see her ruined.
I love Amelia! Honestly, I find it difficult to like a lot of heroines in romances. I think the balance is tough to find for just the right amount of backbone vs heart, and too often for me, the scales are tipped to too much backbone. Yes, women can be strong, and I love that authors want to show that, but it's okay for women to cry, or break down, that doesn't show weakness in my opinion, it shows heart. Sometimes things happen that are too much to take in, and every once in a while, a few tears to relieve the stress are necessary. Amelia is not afraid of her emotions, she willing puts herself out there, knowing the only way to live is full out, even if it breaks her heart. That's the true adventure in this book. At one point in the book, after escaping kidnappers, for Amelia it's the second time, she bursts out laughing. Lucas looks at her funny and asks why she's laughing after everything that's happened. She says, (and I'm paraphrasing as I don't have the book in front of me) 'It's either laugh or go insane.' It's that attitude that makes her lovable. And she really does love Lucas dearly, she's very protective of those she cares about, and he's no exception. The comfort she gives him when he's beginning to panic from being trapped, well, it's sexy as hell, and it works for him, and Amelia knows she has to help him in any way she can so he can stop thinking about the terror.
I can't think of one thing I don't like about this book, but again, I'm biased! This is a great start to a great series, one I recommend for every one who likes Regency romances....more
**spoiler alert** So glad I decided to read this right away instead of putting on the shelf and waiting a few weeks! As before stated, I am turning in**spoiler alert** So glad I decided to read this right away instead of putting on the shelf and waiting a few weeks! As before stated, I am turning into a NR junkie, this being my third NR book in a row, and I think I'm just gonna keep on going since I got all the MacKade books on nook for a good deal. Anyway, if you've ever read any of NR suspense books, such as Angels Fall or Northern Lights or Blue Smoke and liked them, I think this one will be right up your alley. It's my new favorite NR suspense!
Elizabeth has such a tragic childhood, and it's heartbreaking to see a mother treat their 'offspring' that way, but without this section of the book, I think we'd lose a lot of the quirks and ways Abigail views life. Elizabeth later becomes Abigail, just FYI. Her life is not difficult, in that she doesn't worry about where her next meal will come from and doesn't experience physical abuse, but how anyone can be such a decent person after an upbringing like that just goes to show how much resilience Elizabeth/Abigail has. What she goes through after the horrifying shooting of her friend, from her mother's lack of concern for her (I mean, seriously, new definition to the words cold shoulder) and seeing her new friends, the Marshals protecting her, die for her, it's a lot for someone to take in, especially at the age of 17. I think NR does a great job of showing us Elizabeth's core and determination to survive.
When we next see Elizabeth, she's now Abigail, and it's 12 years later. If I had to survive on my wits alone, I couldn't do even half the job Abigail has done. Not only is she rich, successful, and keeping herself safe, she's done it with her sanity in tact. Living a mostly reclusive life, which was not a problem in the big cities, Abigail moves to a small town in the Arkansas Ozarks, wanting fresh air, lots of space to keep others away and garden. For the first six months she's pretty successful at keeping to herself, but Brooks Gleason, the new chief of police likes to solve puzzles, and she's a definite puzzle to him. Their interactions are so great, with Abigail trying hard to be polite but closed off, and even downright rude when he won't take no for an answer. It just intrigues him more, drawing him to her. I didn't feel he was too pushy, and being nice to look at and charming to boot don't hurt either! If anything, I was sorta surprised Abigail would be so willing to get into a relationship, something she's desperately avoided for 12 years, so easily. Just a few encounters and they have sex, Abigail figures this is what he wanted all along and would go away, but it just makes Brooks more and more curious!
Seeing the heroine of a book be the slightly nerdy one for a change is fun too. Abigail talks circles around Brooks when it comes to computers, and it doesn't bother him one bit, just adds to her charm as far as he's concerned. And even though Abigail is a typical NR heroine who can physically take care of herself, it's nice to see Abigail want to depend on someone for a change, even if she has a difficult time of it. Brooks is so patient and easy-going, good at drawing her out of herself, without her realizing he's doing it at first. They make a great pair together, and I really enjoyed seeing their relationship grow through Abigail's panic and Brooks care/concern for her. The whole 'protect and serve' vibe from him doesn't hurt either, in fact, it goes a long ways towards making him even sexier because he does it in such a charming and non evasive way.
The actual suspense part was a little fast ending for me, and we didn't get as full a description of what happens to the bad guys, but I think the focus remaining on Abigail taking them down, doing it her way, all while knowing Brooks is there for her is the main point we're suppose to get. This isn't about the Russians, it's about Abigail putting the past to rest finally and having a real life. I thought this book might end up more like The Search, with the bad guys coming after her, but I like that it was different, and she took them down, and got to go back to her 'normal' life untouched by the violence. It's good so that she can move on and not have to view that part of her life in her everyday rest of her life.
I really look forward to NR suspense books (who am I kidding, I look forward to all her books) and wish she could publish more sooner, we all know she's probably 50 books ahead, but I also appreciate the variety. Some of the wording NR uses in dialog is a little repetitive, but I don't mind it. It's obvious NR loves gardening, and for someone who has a black thumb, she does a good job of describing it for me in a way I can appreciate it, not feeling like it's a gardening book, in fact making me wish I took more of an interest in gardening, seeing all the colors in nature. And so does all that without bogging the story down. Often in other authors' attempts at suspense, it feels like an info dump or your waiting for the other shoe to drop. With NR, I never feel that way, I'm just happily absorbing all the little details along the way until I stop and realize, 'hey, I've learned a lot!' It's always like putting on my favorite pair of PJ pants and relaxing when I read a NR book.
*5/29/12 Update: Listened to the audiobook, excellent job done by narrator, reading or listening to this book would be great as both are well done and deliver the story beautifully.*...more
**spoiler alert** Book Blurb Caelen McCabe’s young, reckless heart nearly destroyed his clan. Now putting family loyalty above all else, he steps up t**spoiler alert** Book Blurb Caelen McCabe’s young, reckless heart nearly destroyed his clan. Now putting family loyalty above all else, he steps up to marry his older brother’s jilted bride and salvage the uneasy alliance between two clans. While beautiful Rionna McDonald is a fit wife for any man, Caelen trusts no woman, especially not this sweet temptress who torments him with white hot longing.
As the sacrificial lamb in her father’s power game, Rionna will do her duty but protect her heart and her pride from another man’s humiliation. Despite everything, the heat in Caelen’s touch melts her defenses and she craves the sensual delights of a husband who guards his emotions as fiercely as his clan. But when the ultimate battle for the McCabe legacy is upon them, Rionna’s true warrior spirit emerges. She will risk the wrath of her father, the fury of her enemies, and her life to prove to Caelen that his wife’s love is too precious to lose.
My Thoughts:Why is it the best book in the series is always last? I mean, I know that's a silly question, it's to get you to read the entire series, but if you can write a book like this, then all of them should be, (borrowing a line from BDB) 'Ya feel me?
I love a tortured hero so much, I don't know why, but seeing a man who feels hopeless or who has given up on love, find love just makes my heart melt! Caelen's past is finally filled in, for the most part (still would have liked a few more details, but we get enough to be angry for him) and it's just as bad as we were led to believe. I didn't notice in the first book, or even the second one that he ever watched Rionna, much less found her attractive. Either I missed it or he did such a good job of hiding it. I do think he was a bit harsh on the McDonald men, but apparently it was warranted and it all worked out. I love that he wasn't an ogre with Rionna in the bedchamber, she needed a little extra patience, so glad she got it from him!
Rionna, I didn't think I'd like her as much as I did. She seemed at odds with everything, like maybe she wouldn't fit in anywhere, which is exactly how she felt. With Caelen at her side, she seems to blossom, finding her way, not having to hid herself from her father, or prove that she's worthy (love that Caelen tells the men repeatedly that Rionna is better fighter than all of them!). It was hard to watch her be depressed after her attack, and then when she was angry at Caelen because she could have defended herself and felt violated even though she didn't have to, and Caelen agreed! *swoon* I loved that Rionna wasn't afraid to confront him, but at the same time she knew her place as lady of the clan, willing to perform her duties and still being herself. Too often books have heroines who do a complete about face, all because some man says so? No thanks. This is a heroine here I like to see. There's a time and place for everything, and she exudes this well.
The story line, well, I was a little disappointed we didn't find out more about what happened between the former Laird McCabe and Laird Cameron's father on the battlefield. Instead we only get the rantings of a asshat. It still doesn't justify why the McCabes were nearly destroyed, but Cameron didn't take their land. Land was a valuable commodity back then and the more you had, the more powerful you were. It doesn't make sense. Also Caelen doesn't tell his brothers of Cameron's rantings, he keeps it all to himself. I didn't like that, he's still taking on the burden for something that was not his fault. Also, the Elspeth story line was very incomplete. I think delving more into that just a bit would have given the story a more heft. It seemed very after thought, not fully fleshed out.
This is also the first time I've heard of a man in a historical romance giving up his last name to take his wife's name. Doesn't mean it doesn't happen, but I've not heard of it. I wondered how the whole thing was going to work out, Laird McCabe of the McDonald clan who has a son, presumably a McCabe, who will be the next laird of the McDonalds? I guess this is one way to figure it out. Just wonder how historically accurate it is.
If you've read the first two and liked them, of course you'll like this one. These are still not serious, but who cares! They're fun, exciting and highlanders! It's what you'd expect of a typical highlander story, but these aren't just pure fluff. Almost, but not quite, lol. If you've not read them, start with the first, not only because it's only logical and it drives me insane to read things out of order, and so everyone should be like me, but they're also tightly connected, things happen in the prior books that are mentioned in this one, and it might make it a little tough to pick up in the middle or end. Even though this is the best book of the series, but as I said earlier, it's common knowledge you save the best for last!...more
This is the way short stories should be written! It was so cute, and interesting and even though it's a short story, I felt like I got to know the chaThis is the way short stories should be written! It was so cute, and interesting and even though it's a short story, I felt like I got to know the characters, but still wanted more! Take the 20-30 minutes to read this, so worth it!...more
How sweet is this book! First off, I'll admit Beatrix wasn't my favorite character when the series started. She came across terribly young and immaturHow sweet is this book! First off, I'll admit Beatrix wasn't my favorite character when the series started. She came across terribly young and immature, but she definitely came into her own in this one, and adorably so! From the very beginning, this book had my heart and clung to my soul. The letters between Beatrix/Pru and Christopher were heart wrenching and lovely and haunting and devoted, and reminded me of my own experiences with my then boyfriend, now husband. When we were dating, my Christopher (yes, I too have a Christopher!) was in the Army and sent to Bosnia for nearly 11 months. It was difficult for us both, being still a fairly new relationship, but we kept in touch with letters, emails and long distance phone calls. Nothing as difficult as Captain Phelan was endured by my Christopher, but it is a terrific way to get to know each other in a deeper way. I totally understand Beatrix and Christopher clinging to the letters and falling in love with each other. It's such a romantic notion and one that doesn't seem to be in practice much any more, unfortunately. There is something about a soldier in stories that instantly captures my attention (I wonder why that is, *grin*) and Captain Phelan is no different. Especially poignant is the anguish and guilt he feels, and is so true of real service members who know the high cost of war. Beatrix is perfect for him, a patient and caring soul, caring for a lost and guilt-ridden soul who seems to have lost his bearings. They are beautiful together and I adore them! Things I love about this book: - Albert! Who doesn't love a loyal and protective friend, be it man or beast? - Beatrix explaining to Christopher her compulsion to steal, and how she deals with it to make him feel better. - The honeymoon night at the cottage, le sigh! - Audrey and Mark Bennett! I want to read that!
Definitely a re-read and well worth your time, the whole damn series is!...more
This is probably my favorite of the Hathaway series yet! Harry Rutledge is my kind of hero and I really enjoy reading about characters like him. He'sThis is probably my favorite of the Hathaway series yet! Harry Rutledge is my kind of hero and I really enjoy reading about characters like him. He's ruthless and doesn't play fair, but his heart is in the right place, what more could a girl ask for? I wasn't so sure I liked Harry and Poppy together at first, she didn't seem the type to be able to stand up to him, but I was wrong. Of course Lisa Kleypas has made me fall in love with Poppy too, I want to be her best friend!
I can't remember it word for word, but my favorite quote from Harry goes something like this, "You've been courted by a boy who had to ask permission. You should try a man who doesn't need any." *Swoon* So Rhett Butler, as others have pointed out, and that's why it's so great!
Things I loved: * The curiosities room - I wish they had spent more time in there, I want a room just like it! * The hotel staff deciding to help Harry and Poppy come together, how adorable! * The whole salad conversation! I'll never look at a carrot in the same way again! * That Harry was willing to fight Cam, Leo and Merripen just to get to Poppy, even though he was too angry, but that kind of fierceness is sexy to me. * Harry's tenderness and concern when Poppy slipped and sprained her ankle, and the chocolates he earned a kiss for!
I listened to this on audio book first, but am definitely adding it to my nook library, I will be reading this for years to come, for sure! ...more
When a book is hyped as much as this one was, I'm always leery of it. I mean no disrespect to others, but I am not a sheep, or a follower. I tend to lWhen a book is hyped as much as this one was, I'm always leery of it. I mean no disrespect to others, but I am not a sheep, or a follower. I tend to like literary books that are more on the dark side, and that don't always have a happy ending. I realize this is sort of morbid, but it's what I like, because in my experience, real life isn't perfect, and I like my literary fiction to reflect this. If I'm going to reflect on big issues, such as infidelity, animal cruelty and life during the Great Depression, I want it to be realistic, almost scarily so. Please don't sugar coat it for me, give me the whole thing, because when I read literary fiction, I want a real life book, not a fantasy, no vampires, I don't even necessarily want a happily ever after. In fact, I tend to like books without a happy ending, told ya, kinda morbid. And usually by myself, because the general crowd doesn't seem to like to be depressed. One of my favorite books is House of Sand and Fog, and almost everyone dies in the end! This book, well, there were a few areas I felt were skimmed a bit, but honestly I didn't miss them too much, because to go into graphic detail of beating an animal, especially one as adorable and friendly as Rosie, I don't think I could have stomached witnessing it first hand. As it was, hearing about it second hand through other characters was bad enough to make me want to cry!
Right from the beginning, this book made me laugh and brought me into the fold. At the start of the story, Jacob is 90, or 93. Who the hell knows!
"I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other. When you're five, you know your age down to the month. Even in your twenties you know how old you are. I'm twenty-three, you say, or maybe twenty-seven. But then in your thirties something strange starts to happen. It's a mere hiccup at first, an instant of hesitation. How old are you? Oh, I'm - you start confidently, but then you stop. You were going to say thirty-three, but you're not. You're thirty-five. And then you're bothered, because you wonder if this is the beginning of the end. It is, of course, but it's decades before you admit it."
He goes on to describe how you lose track of the years, and why he's not sure if he's 90 or 93. I laughed out loud at work while listening to this part, because I'm 34, no, wait, yeah, 34! I frequently lose track of how old I am, and my husband teases me about this and how I'm going senile already. I love that he explains it's not because he's forgotten how old he is, he's just lost track!
"Actually, it's not so much that I've forgotten. It's more like I've stopped keeping track. We're past the millennium, that much I know - such a fuss and bother over nothing, all those young folks clucking with worry and buying canned food because somebody was too lazy to leave space for four digits instead of two - but that could have been last month or three years ago. And besides, what does it really matter? What's the difference between three weeks or three years or even three decades of mushy peas, tapioca, and Depends undergarments?"
The narration is done with 'old' Jacob and 'young' Jacob, two different narrators, and I love it. I'm not usually a big fan of first person narration, but in literary fiction it's easier to get away with, and the book is basically about Jacob's life, so for him to tell it is fine with me. A lot of complaints have been made about how this is or is not a romance. I think people are missing the point. This is Jacob's life. In people's lives, they often fall in love, and it's often a major earth shattering event (if not, I'd venture to say you're not doing it right), so the parts about Marlena are all told from Jacob's perspective, and we only get to know her through his eyes. Yes, she consumes his thoughts, but this isn't her story, we don't need to know everything about her, because Jacob is already in love with her, and that's all we need to know. There are complaints her personality was dull or she was a flat character. I disagree, but can see where they're coming from. If you compare her relationship to Jacob's with most of the other main characters, I think you'd find she was treated slightly better, as in fleshing her out. We don't find out much about August, except he's a paranoid schizophrenic and he's 12 years older than Marlena, and a sadistic asshole to boot. We hear bits and bits of everyone else and their life, but nothing is complete, because it's all what Jacob knows. As humans we don't get to know our fellow humans completely, not unless you spend a significant amount of time with them, so to get only bits and pieces of Marlena's or anyone else's life, well, it seems very realistic to me. As a result, it is difficult to see why Jacob loves her, but love is funny that way. He fell in love with her from the first moment they laid eyes on each other. That's realistic as well. But I did see her personality, the foot-tapping, the naivete, her love for animals, how because her parents refused to take her back because she not only ran off and married a circus performer, but a Jew at that, she had to struggle with dealing with August. Those things speak a lot about a person, even if it's not the complete picture, it's enough because Jacob loves her, and it's a clean and simple kind of love.
The backdrop for most of the story takes place on a circus train during the Great Depression, and the author did a wonderful job in describing every gritty detail. I definitely felt like I was there, and I wanted a shower, badly. It's such a complex and dynamic world, way more so than I would have thought. There's the cliques, where working men aren't allowed to socialize with the performers, the lingo, the shady dealings, lots of alcohol from Canada, and subsequent raids, the sheer volume of work it takes to set up a whole circus, and take it down just as fast, all in less than 24 hours often. The sad and probably realistic truth of red-lighting (I won't give it away, but it's horrific), the too-terrible conditions for the working men vs the comfort and luxury of the performers, the poor dear animals and all they have to go through! It really was an 'us vs. them' kind of mentality back then, and Jacob is one of the few who could go back and forth, showing both sides in startling contrast, another kudos to the author for that. I could really imagine myself, middle of summer, getting off the train, setting up in the heat, furious I haven't been paid in over 2 months, but unable to do anything else, waiting for the cook house to set up so I can get a meal. This was all in excellent detail. I love stories that pull you in that much!
The rest of the story takes place in a nursing home, present time, and again, great job on the gritty detail of what's probably true for most people in those situations. It almost makes me afraid to get old! I'm pretty sure there are great themes and excellent contrasts that can be over analyzed and described for those with more of a literary mind, I feel those things there, the things great authors strive to show in their work, and I don't care. I'm a normal person, and I get the book. I can't explain why I like it, or break down the structure of the book, and I don't want to. I like it the way it is. This is a book that will stay with me for a long time, both in my heart and in my head, as I think about what it was like to travel on a circus back then, whenever I see an elephant, I'll picture Rosie, who only understands Polish and likes to drink alcohol more than her humans do, and I'll remember what August did to her, and I'll remember what she did to August, and smile, thinking everything will come out right in the end, even if I don't know how, because it did for Rosie.
I'll admit the ending was unexpected, but for me the whole book was, as I was not expecting to like it very much. In fact, I was putting it off, fearing what I would find. What I found was a charming, gritty, lovable story about a man who loved a woman and an elephant. There were a few things I think could have been tweaked, but I'd just be nit-picking. The overall feel of the book was enjoyable, even if parts were hard to bear witness to. Don't go into this expecting a romance, and don't go into this not expecting a romance. Go into this with the doors and your heart wide open, and remember, this is Jacob's story, no one else's. And Jacob is one helluva man, I'm so glad I read this!...more