I picked up this novel because of the mystery of what happens to the dressmakers. While I enjoyed contemplating what would happen next to Hannelore anI picked up this novel because of the mystery of what happens to the dressmakers. While I enjoyed contemplating what would happen next to Hannelore and Margaret, the romance and plot were disappointing. In this novel, you can expect plenty of Harlequin-esque drama and superficial relationships among the people of high society.
WHAT I LIKED
Interesting Mystery The mystery of the missing dressmakers intrigued me. Conditions for women, much less working women, were poor in the past, and I was curious to see what happened to them. Some elements were predictable while others were a surprise (though the erratic pacing threw off the build up to the climactic reveal). I had to suspend disbelief with some of the plot happenings. In the end, however, I appreciate the balance that Jaeger finds between trying to fulfill romantic fantasies and portraying realistic conclusions.
The Culture Speaks for Itself Jaeger didn't need to tell me what time period I was in. The culture spoke for itself. Macs, Apple earbuds, the Lexus of the modern era easily contrasted with the pocket watches and three-quarters sleeves of the 19th century. Such details bring life to the setting.
Gentlemanly Men I did have to suspend disbelief with the romance. Rich, handsome young men who take interest in the working woman's life and end up being romantically involved with them...? That sounds like something straight out of a K-drama. I do have to give a nod to the gentlemanly men. They're a warm ray of sunlight in a market flooded with bad boys (whom I would be terrified to introduce to my mother)!
Positive Sibling Relationships Y'all know me. I have to give a shout out to positive familial relations whenever I see them! In this case, the positive sibling relationships belong in the historical time period. The parents were drunks, MIA, or dead, but the siblings know how to look out for each other. I especially love the sensible Martin :)
WHAT I DISLIKED
Cookie-Cutter Characters The characters were bland and underdeveloped. Especially given the fast-paced (and unbelievable) romance, it felt like they stepped straight out of a Harlequin romance novel. Plot happenings and character backgrounds threaten to tear the lovebirds apart, but love has a way of overcoming everything without the characters needing to attend counseling sessions or communicating further than "I love you" or "I forgive you." (Very, very unrealistic.)
Rollercoaster Execution The story is slow to start and quick to end. I was tempted to drop the story in the first quarter. As I've developed a bad habit of not finishing my books, however, I decided to give this one a chance. The last quarter was fast-paced as the plot came together into a climactic ending (in the historical past); I found myself drawn into the story. That was pretty much the highlight of the story.
Like a rollercoaster, this novel had a few buildups that ended in one thrilling drop, and then it was over.
Lightning flashed . . . and she fell in love. If your eyes rolled at that line, I'm afraid that was my reaction to the romance.
I liked the ending to Hannelore's romance with rich boy (that was the most believable element of their romance), but the letter at the end ruined it all for me. I don't want to discuss this further because of spoilers. If you've read this novel and would like to talk about it, however, feel free to send an email. I love talking with readers!
FINAL THOUGHTS Readers that enjoy a Harlequin Romance with mystery and crime woven into the plot may enjoy this novel. If you're not a big romance reader—especially when they seem written to fulfill romantic fantasies that don't translate well into real life—then you'll want to pass this one over. While the mystery/crime aspect was interesting, it wasn't well executed (refer back to the rollercoaster analogy above). Pure mystery-crime novels will have more to offer for readers of that genre.
Love the sister-brother bond. (As a big sister, I appreciate books where sister and brother take care of each other) Love the wacky cast of charactersLove the sister-brother bond. (As a big sister, I appreciate books where sister and brother take care of each other) Love the wacky cast of characters. Love how the MC matures. (What she does at the end is one of the hardest things we can ever learn to do as humans.)
This is a books to keep on the shelf for the family to share with younger readers. In particular, it would make for a good bedtime read (it DOES happen in the wishing world after all).
Quite frankly, it was this gorgeous cover that piqued my interest in this novel. I'm in love with it, and I can't begin to express this love in cohereQuite frankly, it was this gorgeous cover that piqued my interest in this novel. I'm in love with it, and I can't begin to express this love in coherent words. It's beautiful and says so many things about this novel.
I was also interested by the promise of "elements of Jane Austen's beloved Pride and Prejudice" (as advertised in the synopsis), but I wasn't prepared a full-blown retelling. That came as a surprise. I wasn't thrilled by how closely this novel follows the original storyline as it made the romance and general plot much too predictable (the author has crafted a fascinating world, and I was hoping to be more surprised by it). That said, there so many other compelling elements of this world that it more than made up for it. (And I can see other readers enjoying the P&P retelling much more than I did.)
Fascinating World Building My favorite aspect of this novel is the world itself. Elle Katherine White has crafted a fascinating world in which magical creatures are divided among the Shani (friends of humans), the Tekari (who kill humans), and the Idar (indifferent to humans, for the most part). Some of my favorite characters are Shani. (I especially love how the hobgoblins are introduced.) I'd love to talk more about this world, but I'm going to refrain from further comments to avoid spoilers.
Compelling Secondary Characters Many of the secondary characters are much more likable than their P&P counterparts. It delights me that these characters are given a chance to shine and to show growth (Leyda in particular). One in particular I detested and am happy that he's even more villainized in this classic retelling, though I can't morally support what happens to him in the end.
A Likable, if Bland, Heroine Aliza Bentaine, our heroine, is a generally likable character. For the most part, Aliza seems smart and capable, and I love her friendship with the hobgoblins (they're delightful little people) and Akarra (now, that's a dragon with a personality). However, there's not much else to her. She doesn't have any dreams for the future as far as I can see, and she spends her time nosying about other peoples' business until she gets caught up with the battle (because: Alistair Dareid). It's the world and her adventures with the others that make this a compelling read.
A Solid Male Lead Though Alistair is arrogant and prideful, he means well. As a Rider who fights Tekari as an occupation, I'd expect him to be blunt and down to business, so I was fine with him not being all sunshines and rainbows. Aliza's prejudice towards him isn't well developed and seems unfounded after all these nice moments (that is, until everything comes out following the failed proposal). Out of all the characters, Alistair shows the most growth. I would have loved to see his perspective added to the story.
Fast Pacing with Unresolved Storylines For retelling of such a long novel, Heartstone wasn't long enough to do the whole story justice, especially given all the fantasy elements that are incorporated into the story. I feel like the author is too focused on retelling P&P for much of the novel and forgets to followup on other elements of the novel. The plot moves forward rather quickly, and some storylines fall through. In particular, it's disappointing that the storyline with the mysterious stranger is never fully resolved.
The epic battle at the end also begins and concludes rather abruptly. I wish that the buildup was more gradual and consistent with more hints at the fight to come. It also doesn't help that Aliza misses out on much of it and isn't able to tell us what happens. I would have loved to see another character's view on it, preferably one on the frontlines like Charis (now, that's a character whose backstory and perspective I'd love to see).
ORIGINAL THOUGHTS: Wasn't thrilled with how my knowledge of P&P made the romance and much of the general plot predictable (this was such an interesting world; I wanted to be surprised). I did love the epic fantasy elements though. Looking forward to more from this author!