This book was so infuriating. It has a great premise, and starts out well, but the poor quality of the writing, characterisation, plotting, and overalThis book was so infuriating. It has a great premise, and starts out well, but the poor quality of the writing, characterisation, plotting, and overall execution really lets it down. Grace and Noah are likeable enough characters to begin with; their lives have diverged in the two years since their letters stopped, but it's clear how much of an impact their correspondence had on both of them. Unfortunately once they meet the novel completely fails to capitalise on what should have been a strong existing bond, and instead the start of their relationship takes a pretty standard romance novel course. There's very little sense of the intimacy they shared and how this informs their newfound in-person relationship.
Sadly with the impetus of the premise lost, the creakiness of the writing becomes more obvious. I didn't feel that I got to know Grace and Noah any better after the first few chapters, and there was very little depth to any of the characters. An attempt was clearly made to set up the other books in this series by spending time introducing us to Noah's housemates, but I wasn't intrigued by any of them - not even Bo, Noah's best friend and a character who initially played a small but notable role in the book. In fact I got increasingly annoyed with Grace who even by the novel's end doesn't seem to have matured much, despite the unconvincing gestures the narrative makes in this direction. And I genuinely came to loathe Noah, as his overbearing, chauvinistic qualities became more obvious. He's incredibly protective of Grace, in a macho douchebag neanderthal way which makes him irrationally jealous, controlling, and fond of PHYSICALLY CARRYING Grace and/or her possessions more than seems believable or desirable for an adult woman. Granted this may appeal to some readers, but it's a type of character I do not like at all. I couldn't help but make comparisons with the male characters in Elle Kennedy's Off-Campus series (which I LOVE) who can also be macho douchebags but a) their characters are well-drawn enough that this is forgiveable, or at least understandable in context and b) the female characters generally don't put up with it in the passive, simpering way that Grace does.
The pacing of the novel is odd, with large periods of sometimes narratively significant time sketched out very briefly, and then a couple of pages devoted to what form of transport Grace will take to get somewhere. Important events are completely robbed of drama, as in the case of one scene which is built up to and then punctured before it's even happened when Grace describes it as "a little anticlimactic" before the event itself has been portrayed. And in fact it isn't portrayed, it's described in very bare and unimaginative terms and then the whole thing is over with like it never happened. The same problem afflicts other more spoilery events, completely nullifying any emotional impact they - or subsequent events - might have had. The last act of the novel is wrapped up very quickly, with Noah and Grace overcoming a whole host of problems in the blink of an eye, without any kind of satisfying emotional payoff because the narrative didn't show them earning those outcomes. Without sufficient insight into their characters, or dramatic tension, it was hard to care what happened to them.
The writing itself is workmanlike, prone to describing things in a very 'this happened, and then this happened, and then this other thing happened' way, rather than in a way which facilitates the reader's imagination. There were also odd elements to the writing which jumped out at me such as this bizarre simile: "I felt wrung out, like day-old bread" (who wrings out bread?). And some of the dialogue is stilted and unnatural, as in this line from Grace to Noah: "Why is your nose still unbroken? Or your face rarely bruised?" Not in a million years would a 21st-century American college student speak like that. There weren't a ton of these oddities, but enough that I was repeatedly kicked out of the narrative and left scratching my head, wondering at the author's choices.
This is all unfortunately negative, but while I can deal with clunky writing if the plot is amazing, or vice versa, there really was so much about this book which annoyed me that I didn't enjoy reading it at all, and in fact had to force myself to finish. I don't think I'll be seeking out the rest of the books in this series. ...more
I really wanted to love this book - and it does have good moments - but I found that the problems I had with Dark Horse (the prequel) were more evidenI really wanted to love this book - and it does have good moments - but I found that the problems I had with Dark Horse (the prequel) were more evident in this novel. I love Kate Sherwood's writing and I will continue to seek out her work, but I think this is one book I'm unlikely to reread.