For sharp-tongued food critic Miranda Wake, the chance to spend a month in Adam Temple’s kitchen to write an exposé is a journalistic dream come true. Surely Miranda can find a way to cut the hotshot chef down to size once she learns what really goes on at his trendy Manhattan restaurant. But she never expected Adam to find out her most embarrassing secret: she has no idea how to cook.
Adam’s not about to have his reputation burned by a critic who doesn’t even know the difference between poaching and paring. He’ll just have to give the tempting redhead a few private lessons of his own—teaching her what it means to cook with passion…and doing more with his hands than simply preparing sumptuous food.
200 pages in; My patience is starting to wan. I wanted to like this book. I really did! I went into this thinking it would be a quick, light, fun read. The characters are boring - and annoying, the plot twists could be seen from a mile away, & both romance plots seem far too rushed and "magical." Even though food is the driving force behind this novel, I was immediately jerked out of the moment anytime Adam would have a food-related simile or thought. Ms. Edwards really didn't want me to forget that Adam is an amazing chef. Miranda is having a pouting fit again and Adam is comparing her mouth to dessert. See? SEE?? He's such an awesome chef, you know.
Adam is turned on whenever Miranda uses her "ten-dollar words" in the bedroom. Call me crazy, but having a restaurant review mixed in with the bedroom scenes is not sexy.
Frankie is, time and time again, referred to as a sex fiend who goes through both sexes without a second thought. However, once he lays eyes on Jesse, he's suddenly romantic and caring, and in love. Surprise, surprise.
I don't understand where all the 4- & 5-star reviews are coming from.(less)
Even though this book has all the makings of a paranormal romance novel - hello, living woman from the present and dead man from the 1860s fall in love - it doesn't read like one. In fact, if it weren't for the constant reminders Tristan's dead, Spirit of the Rebellion could easily be hailed as a regular ol' romance novel.
I'll keep this one short and sweet: our two main characters, Shae and Tristan, meet when Shae takes a position translating Civil War documents. She moves back to the United States (she had been living in Norway for the few years prior) and is given temporary residence at the Starling Plantation.
It's no secret Starling is home to multiple spirits. People don't enjoy spending time there and anyone who attempts to settle in has been driven out quite forcefully by a particular spirit. Unfortunately for him, Shae is as stubborn as they come and having papers scattered about her desk isn't nearly enough to scare her off.
As Shae comes to know the spirits (I loved how she introduces them to modern technology - they have movie nights, for example, and 12-year old Timothy is particularly intrigued by Lord of the Rings), she uncovers the truth regarding Tristan's past and the cause of his death. History branded him a traitor and as she translates documents, she discovers what really happened.
I have an extremely large interest in the Civil War and was eager to read this novel. Its faults are few and the writing is gripping. The story moves very quickly and the chapters are all fairly short (around 10-ish pages). Unfortunately for me, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. lol multiples times I fell for the trap of "I'll only read one more chapter!" and, because the chapters are so short, wound up sneaking a couple more in. Before I knew it I was halfway into the book!
Sixteen-year old (almost seventeen, thank you very much) Lori Chase has just made the move from a swanky hotel in Philadelphia to history-obsessed Gettsyburg, PA. Her brother is stationed in Ghana and her parents thought it would be fun to renovate a Bed & Breakfast. Once July rolls around, business is booming: spectators and reenactors alike flock to the town for the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. For three days 1863 is alive and well: the townsfolk are decked out in giant hoop-skirts and Union blues and replica rifles send the scent of gunpowder into the air.
Lori is less than enthused with her new home - until the night she captures a ghost on film. A Skype session with her brother must have been all-too tempting for the young soldier, for an image appeared on the screen. Lori wasn't alone in her bedroom. After a few more encounters with the boy, Lori learns his name is Nathaniel Pierce. He grew up in Punxsutawney and enlisted as a member of the 93rd Pennsylvania regiment when he was nineteen. He shocks Lori by sharing with her the true nature of his death: it wasn't the battle that killed him. He's convinced he was murdered and needs her help solving the mystery. Unfortunately, he only has three days - once July 3 comes, the reenactors will pack their things and Nathaniel will depart as well.
Okay, guys. It's SO not a secret that the Civil War holds a special place in my heart. I've gone to Gettysburg multiple times - yay for only living a few hours away! - so right off the bat this book and I got along well. Allow me to fly my bias flag: if a book deals with any of the battles (particularly Gettysburg), you can bet I'll be reading it. It's one of my things. A YA dealing with a Civil War soldier and his suspicious death? SIGN ME UP!
When I read, I'm constantly doing research or googling certain figures/events/paintings/what have you. In Rebel Spirits a great deal of the novel was devoted to the Kalunga Line, something I had never heard of before! Basically, it comes from certain religions in the Congo and refers to a 'line' stretching across the Atlantic Ocean that was the path between the world of the living and that of the dead. I'm all about stuff like this and absolutely loved its inclusion in the book.
As for the characters, there were quite a few, but they were fun and well-developed. Lori's parents are ever present and that was a refreshing change from the usual absentee parenting typically found in YA. Nathaniel was a sweetheart, but I just couldn't get into the romance aspect. Over the course of three days the two only met a handful of times for a few minutes at most. Yet somehow they fell in love. Sorry, but no. It was cute when Lori tried to explain modern technology and I easily could have accepted a friendship, but more...? I'll admit I delighted in Lori's dad calling her out on her insta-love!
Any reader of historical fiction knows research can make or break a novel. There were a few things Nathaniel didn't know about that would have existed during his day. Punxsutawney Phil/Groundhog Day as we know it didn't officially begin until the 1880s, yet it's origins go back to Celtic tribes and Germany's Candlemas Day. I suppose that could be splitting hairs, since Groundhog Day wasn't a part of American tradition until German settlers came over in the 1880s, but it's certainly been around for quite some time. Anything thing unknown to Nathaniel was the word cahoots. Unfortunately, a quick google search shows this word first entered the English language in the 1820s - 40 years before Nathaniel's death.
Apart from a few tiny issues, I had a lot of fun with Rebel Spirits. I'd say the mystery was more Middle Grade in nature - it's pretty obvious from the start who the bad guys were - but I was able to overlook it and go with the story. If you enjoy Civil War settings, or want a fun story to entertain you for an afternoon, pick up a copy of Rebel Spirits.(less)
"So, Megan. The first thing you should know about me..."
"I don't want a divorce."
Megan Scott had her life figured out: she had her job, her apartment, and a potential sperm donor lined up after a horrible break-up made her swear off men for good. Unfortunately, life doesn't always go according to plan and after a particularly disastrous night in Vegas with her fellow bridesmaids, Megan finds herself waking up next to a stranger who claims to be her husband.
Harlequin recently announced their new Harlequin KISS line dedicated to fun contemporary stories. I suppose this is a year of firsts for me guys: I just recently read my first Goosebumps book and now I can say I've read a Harlequin.
It's no secret I work in a bookstore. I'm no stranger to series romances and ladies love their Harlequins. To be honest, I never gave much though to Harlequins other than to giggle at their ridiculous Mad-Libs-esque titles.
HOWEVER. There's always a however, isn't there? I've been craving a light-hearted romance, something to make me laugh and escape the dreary, oh-so-snowy Pittsburgh weather. A few bloggers have been discussing the new Harlequin KISS line, Waking Up Married was free to download, and I had a day off. Perfect combination!
Waking Up Married starts off great. There's no long, drawn-out beginning here. From the very first page you know all the details. At least, what Megan can remember (which is pretty much nothing). Instead Conner is left to provide the details and convince Megan to give this marriage a shot.
Now I can totally suspend my belief in favor of a fun story. But Connor's instant - and fierce - determination to stay married didn't sit well with me. If he was toned down a lot I wouldn't mind him, but he's VERY Christian Grey with his stalking (shows up on Megan's doorstep in Denver AHEAD OF the moving van coming from San Francisco), insistence on what/how much she eats, there's even a contract! No thank you.
Naturally Megan immediately wants to call up a lawyer and find some way out of this mess. Conner realized that after just a few hours, she was his perfect match - he even calls their marriage a 'partnership' - and insists they enter into a two-month trial. Megan will move into his giant mansion and Conner will spend the next few months trying to convince his wife they shouldn't divorce.
The secondary characters could have been cut and the story would have remained the same, that's how little of a role they played. The bride/bridesmaids are Mean and Spiteful. Conner's best friend (I can't even remember his name now! Something with a J I think) is There For Him. Of course Ex-Girlfriend shows up at a dinner party.
When all is said and done, I took Waking Up Married for what it was: a super-short contemporary romance. I knew exactly what I was getting into and for that I couldn't fault it too much. It kept me entertained - despite a few eye-rolls - and I'm genuinely interested in seeing what else Harlequin KISS has to offer.(less)
On a beautiful day in June, in front of literally half the town, wearing a wedding dress that made her look like Cinderella and holding a bouquet of perfect pink roses, Faith Elizabeth Holland was left at the alter.
With that first opening paragraph, The Best Man hits the ground running. Faith Holland, baby - and therefore, princess - of the famed Holland family (not only was the family one of the founders, but they also run an extremely successful winery) had the ultimate dream wedding. She first met Jeremy in high school when he carried her to the nurse's office after she suffered a seizure. For the next eight years it was as close to a fairy tale relationship as you can get. Gorgeous, football-superstar (he was even recruited by the NFL) Jeremy and sweet, kind Faith. No one was surprised when Jeremy proposed and nearly the entire town turned up for the wedding.
Jeremy would have gone through with it too, if it weren't for those meddling kids his best friend Levi. Levi Cooper was a good football player in high school, but he grew up in the trailer park and it wasn't until Jeremy came around that Levi had a real friend. Jeremy's parents never treated him any differently and Jeremy always had a great time whenever he stopped by Levi's for dinner.
After graduation Jeremy and Faith both left for separate colleges but still maintained a long distance relationship and Levi headed for Afghanistan. He came back a decorated war hero and Jeremy announced he was getting married and wanted Levi to be his best man. Finally, at the alter, Levi managed to convince Jeremy to tell Faith the secret he had been hiding from everyone - including himself! - for years: he was gay.
Three years ago Faith found herself sitting in an airport in her wedding dress, heartbroken and determined to still take that honeymoon, albeit solo: she flew to San Francisco and started up a fairly successful landscape design business. Now, at the behest of her family, Faith is back in her hometown and not quite ready to deal with her past.
That's how it went, right? Love came when you weren't looking, except in the case of the millions who'd found mates on Match.com, but, hey. It sounded good.
Sometimes you just want to throw on a big hoodie and pj pants and read some chick-lit. I was SO in the mood for one recently and decided to give Kristan Higgins a shot; customers adore her books, so she must be doing something right. I received a copy of her latest, The Best Man, and dove right in.
Guys, apart from a few bumps, this book was so. much. fun. Faith comes back to town and tries to avoid Jeremy for a few days. Ultimately, however, they decide to get together for dinner and finally sort out their feelings. Jeremy turned down the chance to go pro and instead opted to stay in town where he launched his own practice. As the town doctor - and a gorgeous one at that - business is booming. I loved how Jeremy and Faith truly cared for one another, even after what they went through. They're able to maintain a wonderful friendship - though at times, it seems as though Jeremy had more screentime than Levi.
Levi was awesome. I loved him. He and Faith go way back and there's definitely a history between the pair (including a forbidden kiss their senior year). However, she was also Princess Super-Cute, going out of her way to be polite and change the world and, quite frankly, Levi couldn't stand it. Not to mention she was Jeremy's girlfriend. Now that she's back in town, old memories have resurfaced and Levi is starting to look past the Princess Super-Cute surface.
The characters shine in The Best Man. Higgins is such a skilled author when it comes to fleshing out her characters and each one felt like a real person, someone I could easily picture meeting. Naturally, a few were totally over-the-top (Mr. Blind-Date-From-Hell and Lorena, the gold-digger trying to worm her way into Faith's dad's heart), but everyone was so fun and fantastic.
Be warned though. There were a few scenes I definitely did NOT enjoy, such as the 'she-male' (yes, that word was used in the novel) scene. Certain attitudes rub me the wrong way, and the way this character was portrayed - as little more than a comedic tool - put me off. However, over all, The Best Man was a quick, delightful read and perhaps I'm being overly emotional, but I cried more than once while reading. (And, a quick note: Faith is described more than one as not being a tiny, petite woman. The woman on the cover is so not how I pictured her.)
The Best Man was my first Kristan Higgins's book and I can assure you, it will not be the last! This one is the first in a new series and I'm beyond excited for the sequel!(less)
Ten years ago 17-year-old Leah McMahon ran away from her tiny Texas town. Suddenly the only life she had ever k...morethis review goes live on the blog10/25
Ten years ago 17-year-old Leah McMahon ran away from her tiny Texas town. Suddenly the only life she had ever known - and the boy she thought she loved - was gone and she found herself along and scared in Minnesota. The preacher's perfect daughter was pregnant with the town's bad boy. At the time adoption seemed the best choice, along with feigning ignorance as to the baby's father. Until now the open adoption has worked: Leah and her son maintain contact and have a special bond. Unfortunately, her father's surgery has called Leah back to Sultry Springs and they both know questions will be asked - and certain people can't be avoided in a town as small as theirs.
Going into Surrender to Sultry I hadn't realized it was the third - and last - novel in the Sultry Springs series. Thankfully, however, this is a series where each book focuses on a different couple, so I had no problem jumping in at the end. Leah's arrival back to Sultry Springs raises questions - and eyebrows. As far as the rest of the town is aware, a decade ago Leah and her father had a huge falling out and haven't spoken since. What they don't know is that Leah discovered she was pregnant with Colt's child. Through the wonders of Skype and the Internet, Leah and her father have remained in constant contact and he's even met his grandson.
When Leah left Colt's world fell apart. A stupid prank by a lousy friend caused the girl he loved to run away and he sort of lost it without her. In an attempt to fill the aching void, Colt spends more and more time with alcohol and strippers, quickly becoming someone he doesn't want to be. This small town sheriff still carries a torch for his first love and no one could ever come close to replacing her.
Leah's first night back in town results in being pulled over...by none other than Sheriff Bea. A decade is an awful long time to harbor pain and heartache. Now that Leah and Colt are older (and wiser?) could they find it in themselves to move past high school? Colt is more than ready to make up for lost time. Leah, however, is still reeling from the hurt and embarrassment Colt and his friends put her through - not to mention she's debating whether or not to tell him about their child.
Surrender to Sultry really took me by surprise. I wasn't expecting to like this story as much as I did! Admittedly, it took some getting used to reading my name over and over again - and, um, let's just say certain scenes were WAY awkward. HA! That said, everything else about this book was great. Leah and Colt felt real. They were both flawed and conflicted. What Colt and his friends did was completely inexcusable and I don't blame Leah at all for being so hurt. He wanted to see how far he could go with the preacher's sweet and innocent daughter, already aware she had planned on waiting for marriage before having sex. Colt bragged to Tommy and soon the entire school found out the two had slept together. By the time Leah discovered she was pregnant she was long gone. The pregnancy/adoption aspect was really nicely done, though the final conclusion was a bit too cutesy for me.
The couples from the two previous novels are featured in this book as well, though obviously they're not nearly as prominent as Leah and Colt. I'm eager to read the other books now, I'd love to see the beginning of the other relationships! If Happily Ever Afters are your thing, definitely pick up a copy of Surrender to Sultry!(less)
Bright Before Sunrise was a completely new experience for me. Until now I had never read any 'takes place in...morethis review will go live on the blog2/18
Bright Before Sunrise was a completely new experience for me. Until now I had never read any 'takes place in one day' books and, honestly, wasn't sure how it would be possible to tell a decent and plausible story in a matter of hours. I typically don't enjoy being proven wrong, but Ms. Schmidt stomped all over my reservations and crafted a remarkably wonderful novel.
Brighton Waterford is perfect. She's pretty, she's popular and kind, everyone loves her. Five years ago her father passed away and since then she's made it her goal to achieve his record back in high school: he managed to get every single person in his grade to volunteer for various projects and drives. Brighton's goal is in sight - there's only one person she still needs to sway. Unfortunately for her, that boy has no interest in anything to do with the snooty town of Cross Pointe.
Jonah Prentiss is not shy about his feelings toward his new life. His mother's recent marriage (and a new baby) upended his world. Sure, he might not have been able to afford a shiny new car or the latest video games, but back home he was happy. He had baseball, great friends, and a girlfriend he adored. Now he feels like a stranger in his family and an alien in his new school where his classmates are on a first-name basis with clothing designers. Things go from bad to worse when Prim and Proper Waterford starts getting on his case about signing up for a book drive. It was bad enough trying to avoid her at school, but that night he goes home to discover his mother had hired her as the babysitter for the evening. It's shaping up to be a long, long night.
I'm a total sucker for dual narratives. Bright Before Sunrise's point of view alternated each chapter and gave a glimpse into the real Brighton and Jonah. I wouldn't exactly call them chapter titles, more like headings? subtitles? Regardless of their technical term, these peeks below the surface allowed me to connect with these two characters and see them on a different level. While she shows off a happy smile, Brighton's still struggling to deal with her father's death. The following day the family will be holding a memorial and every chapter of Brighton's ticks down the time until then: 22 hours, 45 minutes left is chapter six, 14 hours, 9 minutes remaining by chapter 22. Jonah's frustration and utter lack of care shines through: How do you say "fifty minutes of torture" in Spanish? and I'm late for an appointment with Nyquil shooters & my pillow.
Brighton and Jonah were thrown together multiple times over the course of one day and I loved that, for once, there was no attraction at the beginning. They didn't like each other at all initially - Jonah thought Brighton was a stuck-up princess and Brighton only saw Jonah as rude. Their romance was slow and gradual (or as slow as you can get in a story that only lasts 24 hours). The only problem was Jonah's girlfriend. Yep, he was in a long-term relationship before he had even left his hometown. He and Carly grew up together and her family treats him as their own. Carly was a great character and I really felt for the girl. Jonah refused to let her into his new life, this flashy world of Cross Pointe. Of course she was angry and hurt! She felt Jonah thought she wasn't good enough now, that she'd embarrass him and when she discovered one of Brighton's flyers in his car she immediately accused him of cheating (though he hadn't). It was an easy-out and a way to finally push Brighton and Jonah together.
Despite the hurried break-up (I just can't picture Jonah moving on that quickly after being with Carly for years) and some stereotyping, I enjoyed Bright Before Sunrise. Schmidt's writing kept me entertained and the pacing had me constantly turning the page. This was my first of hers and I'm excited to say it won't be my last!(less)
2013 has been an awakening of sorts for me. After a disaster of an introduction to contemporary I had been a bit hesitant to try again and swore the genre off for months. Eventually I gave in and soon discovered some of my new favorite books.
When I heard about Love Overdue it sounded like a book practically written for me: small town librarian, hot pharmacist, the inevitable awkward-yet-hilarious moment when they realize they had a fling eight years ago. I was READY for this one. Unfortunately, Love Overdue left me frustrated more than giggly and irate when I should have been all starry-eyed.
Dorothy Jarrow - DJ - is introduced to her new staff and they're more caricatures than characters and left such a weak impression I forget their names already. There's the Cranky Old Woman who thinks she runs the place because she's been there for years and refuses to relinquish her hold, Overly Bubbly Woman is nearing 30 yet speaks like a 12-year-old, Wounded Soldier can't be healed (until, of course, when he meets a woman, then it's as if PTSD never existed), and James. James was by far the best character and he hardly had any screen-time. He's autistic and prefers to have things run a certain way. DJ's arrival and subsequent upheaval of the library's organization is too much for him to deal with but he has such a shining moment and I loved him.
The other characters in town weren't much better: Scott's mother was terrible. I hated her and was so put off by her actions. She hires DJ in order to set her up with her son. That's it. She had DJ move across the country because she wanted to play match-maker. A year ago she lost her husband and puts on an act. I never understood why she did this - she just lost her husband. It's okay to cry and grieve. There's no need to have the town see you as bright and bubbly and her obsession with purple (she only wears purple clothes, drive a purple Mini Cooper, and painted her HOUSE purple) was downright disturbing. She also spends the majority of the novel planning suicide only to have all thoughts of it magically vanish in one scene.
My other big issue was the Ending That Wasn't. Right from the start the reader knows all about the spring break hook-up - there are scenes interspersed throughout the novel and both DJ and Scott think back on that night quite often. When they first meet DJ instantly knows who he is and over the next few months Scott's totally oblivious. There are moments when DJ reminds him of that girl he once knew, but he never fully puts two and two together until the 'ending.' Eight years ago he bought her a belly chain and she kept it all this time. One night he sees it, the lightbulb goes off in his brain, and The End. There's a pitiful attempt at an epilogue and the book is over.
Extremely sexist dialogue (Scott boasts about how his women roll over and sit at the snap of his fingers), horrible characterization, and a frustrating payoff on a 400+ page romance simply didn't work for me. Judging from other reviews Love Overdue has found plenty of fans, but unfortunately I am not one of them.(less)
And if you feel that your decision was the right one, know this at least: that somewhere in this world is a man who loves you, who understands how precious and clever and kind you are. A man who has always loved you and, to his detriment, suspects he always will.
I am not a sappy girl. I don't get mushy or go all starry-eyed over forbidden romance. That said, I truly believe Jojo Moyes is on a one-woman mission to utterly destroy me. The Last Letter from Your Love ripped out my heart and stomped all over it...and I loved every second.
Much like The Girl You Left Behind, The Last Letter from Your Lover follows two stories over two different eras. In the 1960s, Jennifer Stirling had it all: a fabulously wealthy husband, a beautiful house, all the finest dresses, and her parties were renowned. A devastating car accident left her with memory loss and as she slowly pieces her life back together, she uncovers letters. Passionate letters from a man who certainly is not her husband. Times were different then - a woman was expected to maintain the house and children while the husband worked and divorce could ruin her reputation. Despite this, Jenny wants, needs to find this man she loved so fiercely.
In 2003 Ellie Haworth isn't where she envisioned herself to be at 32: a year into an affair with a man who has no interest in permanently leaving his wife and trapped in a newspaper office constantly searching for the next big story. With the building undergoing massive renovations, Ellie's tasked with searching through the archives and writing a feature on life in a previous era. While going through decades-old files, Ellie discovers letters - not just any letters, but love letters. The more she reads the more she becomes attached to these two strangers and their forbidden romance that so clearly mirrors her own. She decides then and there to track down these two people and see what came of their romance: did the woman accept his offer and leave her husband? Did she decide it was a mistake and has spent the past forty years trying to put it behind her?
With two Moyes novels now under my belt, I feel confident in saying she's a favorite author. Even before this book, when I had only read The Girl You Left Behind, I knew there was something special about her and I was left wanting more. Moyes has a way of making me completely incoherent and I absolutely love that her books have such an effect on me.
I will say though, that as much as I love her novels, Jojo Moyes has a slightly jarring way of switching eras. The novel opens in 1960 and although there were a few small skips to 1964, the story followed Jenny and Anthony for so long that I began wondering if perhaps I read the summary wrong and 2003 had been left out completely. It wasn't until page 231 that the second story line appeared and by then I was so invested in the previous story that I struggled a bit to get into it. Roughly 150 pages were left to not only wrap up the first story, but also introduce and complete the second, and I felt Ellie's story suffered because of this. My other minor (minor! This is Jojo we're talking about and she can do no wrong in my eyes!) issue is with the letters. While Anthony's words were breathtakingly beautiful and heartfelt, they are read and reread so many times by so many different characters that it felt like overkill - especially since each instance features the letter in its entirety.
With only two small distractions, I'd say The Last Letter from Your Lover is about as close to a perfect novel as you can get. My heart ached for Anthony and Jennifer and I fell in love with their story. In hindsight, several plot twists are obvious, but while I was reading I was shocked and surprised - definitely the sign of a great writer! Also, Moyes threw in a Doctor Who reference and that alone is enough to warrant five stars! I loved this book and I adore Moyes: do yourself a favor and read The Last Letter from Your Lover. It's sweet and sad and beautiful and heartbreaking.(less)
She would adore her child and tend her husband, but love, that elusive prize, had left her now. What a horror it was to be mortal, she thought, subject to such appalling weaknesses and needs. What a horror it was to be alive.
These are the reviews that are the hardest to write. If I had felt strongly about this book - on either end of the spectrum - I would have no problem putting my thoughts down. As it were, however, I Always Loved You was a novel that more often than not dragged, with the good parts being simply satisfactory. I follow GoodReads's rating system, and according to them, a two star rating means a book was merely okay. And, when it comes down to it, that's all this novel was. Okay. Passable. Decent. Ultimately forgettable. It was an effort on my part to finish (I spent nearly two weeks reading it!) and while there were intriguing chapters, at no point did I feel that calling to rush home from work/grocery shopping/what have you to jump back into the story.
I Always Loved You follows Mary Cassatt from her early days as a young American painter in Paris to old age. Along the way we're introduced to numerous artists - Renoir, Monet, both Manet brothers - nearly all of whom have banded together to hold their own exhibitions after having paintings rejected by the famed Paris Salon. After an introduction to Degas (she had long admired his work and he had admired hers), she finds herself tangled in this misfit group. Reading about these painters was like watching a soap opera. Though many were married, their affections lay elsewhere and even the paternity of a child was called into question (though never in public of course!). With Mary spending more and more time with Degas rumors run rampant throughout Paris and neither really does anything to stop it.
Mary spends her days painting or caring for her ailing sister once her family makes the move from Philadelphia to Paris. On occasion Degas stops by the have dinner or present Mrs. Cassatt and Mary's sister Lydia with gifts. Out of the blue, however, he'll disappear and Mary won't hear a word from him for a month or longer. Despite his gusto when it comes to taking on new projects, Degas always manages to leave the others hanging - multiple exhibitions are held only for the other artists to discover at the last minute, that Degas hadn't painted a single piece. Years of productivity went down the drain after he abandoned a journal start up that many people - including Mary - had devoted time and money to.
While the book was largely devoted to Mary and Degas, there were multiple chapters that followed other artists and, honestly, I wound up getting many of them confused. Was it Édouard who was married to Suzanne yet in love with Berthe or was it his brother Eugène? Who was it again that had been rejected by the Salon this year? The year before? I got lost in the small details that made up I Always Loved You and the confusion made it difficult to become fully invested in the story.
I also had a hard time coming to care to Edgar and Mary's relationship - if you choose to call it that. For decades these two were friends one day, had epically heated arguments the next, ignored one another for months, then rekindled their friendship. Rinse, repeat. They were in love with one another yet never admitted to their feelings. They were stubborn and bitter to the end and each died alone. The passionate romance I had been promised just wasn't there. At one point Edgar carelessly blurted out a marriage proposal, to which Mary slammed the door in his face. I'm convinced there's no way these two would have been able to tolerate a life together.
It's such a shame that this novel was so disappointing. Despite my utter ignorance when it comes to the art world, I do love a good novel exploring it and have read many fantastic books on the subject. Add in the historical aspect plus Parisian setting and I Always Loved You was shaping up to be a book handcrafted for me. Unfortunately that wasn't the case. Slow chapters (entire chapters comprised of only a single multi-page paragraph!), a large jumble of characters, and a frustrating romance led to me having a rather hard time getting through this book. Although I wasn't the biggest fan of this one, I've heard wonderful things about Oliveira's debut, My Name is Mary Sutter, and look forward to giving that novel a try.(less)