I hesitate calling this a romance because the romance does not drive the story. For a story called “Marrying Mozart,” there’s actually very little ofI hesitate calling this a romance because the romance does not drive the story. For a story called “Marrying Mozart,” there’s actually very little of Mozart courting the Weber sisters.
The main push is really the love story between the four sisters. Well, kinda. I doubt Aloysia actually can feel love and wonder if she’s really a sociopath. She’s definitely a narcissist—and her parents don’t help. They shower Aloysia with attention and let her get away with things because she is beautiful and talented. Especially the Weber matriarch, probably because Aloysia is the most like Maria Caecila. More on her later. Back to Aloysia…She is self-centered and only sees things in how they impact her. Aloysia berates her older sister Josefa and ignores Constanze and Sophie for the most part. And while Mozart did make her wait, she only thought of herself and not of his feelings, (view spoiler)[eventually calling off their engagement (hide spoiler)].
Wait, was that really a spoiler? It’s hard to determine what is as this is history. All one has to do is look up Mozart’s wikipedia entry for spoilers. But I'm going to keep tagging some spoilers. You know, just in case.
Josefa is more sympathetic than Aloysia, though she has her moments. However, there was a time I was rooting for her to end up with Mozart because I wanted something good to happen to her. Aloysia spews hatred at her as does their mother. Most people overlook her in favor of Aloysia. Even Mozart, though he starts off being friendly with Josefa. But then he ignores her for Aloysia like everyone else. Only Sophie and their father seem to give a damn about her, which then makes it hard to condemn her later actions. (I doubt we’re supposed to).
Sophie is the most sympathetic. Of course, she’s also the narrator as revealed in the framing chapters scattered throughout the book. Sophie is the one who tends to run interference between Josefa and her siblings or their mother. She also has no interest in her mother’s matchmaking, instead wanting to join a convent. She also has a sisterly relationship with Mozart, when he’s in the picture.
Constanze is just…there. She’s a nonentity for most of the book. It’s only for the last third of the book she becomes a character. (view spoiler)[Her relationship with Mozart is rushed. Cowell only tells us they spent time together and fell in love. (hide spoiler)] She doesn’t show us which makes it hard to root for them. It's also one of Cowell's weaknesses.
Like with the Weber parents, Fridolin and Maria Caecilia. There are times Cowell insists they love each other but what she shows us is different. I see a couple held together by societal conventions and lust. Well, maybe Fridolin loves his wife. I don’t think Maria Caecilia loves her husband. I think she resents him and always imagined a grander life than the one she had. And she may have married him out of desperation due to a secret learned later in the story. (view spoiler)[Which is that Josefa's father wasn't Fridolin but someone Maria Caecilia had a love affair with before meeting Fridolin. (hide spoiler)]
Which brings us to Mozart. He’s probably the most intriguing character, right up there with Josefa. And probably because he was an interesting character in real life. He has big dreams but is haunted by his early success. In some ways, he’s like a child actor who struggles to transition to adult roles. He’s also a young man mostly on his own for now. So he’s enjoying himself with wine, friends and women. And by women, it's namely the Weber sisters. He has relationships, some platonic and some romantic, with all four girls. Mozart also struggles to do what he wanted and not what everyone else expected. He knows he can still achieve greatness but things continue to keep him down until he decides to do what he wants. And that’s a fascinating read. Too bad there wasn't more of that.
So, should you read it? Given my low rating, I'm not going to recommend it. But, hey, it's up to you. ...more
I loved this book. So before I go into raving mode, let me explain why it got four stars rather than five.
What is that reason? The book is based on aI loved this book. So before I go into raving mode, let me explain why it got four stars rather than five.
What is that reason? The book is based on a web series and I expected more of what we didn’t see in the videos. However, there were several entries that just repeated everything we had seen on The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. There were a couple which were direct transcripts of things that had happened on the show. I wanted more than that!
But when we get to Bing’s party, we started to get more of what we didn’t see. The diaries finally did what I expected them to do—add another layer to the videos. We get more about Lizzie’s growing feelings for Darcy. We saw more of their interactions off screen, especially once Lizzie starts to shadow at Pemberley Digital. The relationship between Lizzie and her parents is better explored here as well since the Bennets never appeared in the videos. (Well, Mrs. Bennet does appear in one but we never see her face). There is also something revealed about Jane that was never even hinted in the videos and was a big surprise to me.
I had the Kindle edition, which was interactive. At the end of each chapter was the corresponding video from the series. For those who had watched the videos before, they could get refreshers. And for those who are picking up the book for the first time, they can watch along with the entries. It’s a great idea, one I wish more people would embrace.
If you love Pride and Prejudice, give this a read and watch. You might just fall in love with Lizzie Bennet all over again. ...more
In this volume, we see more of Bea’s waking life. But things aren’t so rosy, which is understandable given how things ended in the first volume. Ben iIn this volume, we see more of Bea’s waking life. But things aren’t so rosy, which is understandable given how things ended in the first volume. Ben ignores her and she’s testy around everybody. It builds until she explodes in the cafeteria, a very natural occasion, thanks to Innes' skill. I was glad she didn’t keep Ben and Liz angry at Bea for too long.
Even if Bea was in the wrong. In both cases.
I really like this character, I can tell.
Onto the historical aspect…I’d like to cheer Innes for mentioning the Staten Island Peace Conference. It’s often overlooked. I just wish she had mentioned where it took place. John Adams does appear but there’s no historical evidence that suggests the representatives visited Manhattan. Everything in my research shows that they stayed in New Jersey and returned there when the three hour unsuccessful conference concluded. They then continued on to Philadelphia to report what had happened to Congress. But still, nice to see it included.
The tension in the story is good, in both worlds. The Patriots vs. the British in one house, with the Patriots trying to escape, is a highlight. Added to this is the fact the British are still trying to find Bea, which makes it better. Meanwhile, Bea tries to live her life but can’t shake her thoughts of Alan. He haunts her every move. Even when she’s with Ben, adding to more tension.
I like that Bea is in the wrong, especially with Liz. It’s good that Innes lets her character have flaws and doesn’t try to cover them up.
As with the last volume, the art work is great. I don’t know if there’s much more I can say. Go read it. ...more
"Diamonds" tells the story of Nessa Mulholland, Marilyn Monroe's biggest (13 years-old) fan. She boards a boat with her father bound for Paris. Her fa"Diamonds" tells the story of Nessa Mulholland, Marilyn Monroe's biggest (13 years-old) fan. She boards a boat with her father bound for Paris. Her father is a sociologist who specializes in human sexuality and is using the cruise for research purposes. But Nessa has found something to be excited about--the one and only Holly Isles is on the cruise! Holly befriends Nessa, who believes that she is living the movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Knowing Holly has come off a devastating break up, Nessa conspires to help her idol find PM--the Perfect Man. Will this result in a happy ending or a disaster movie?
For a young adult novel, this is pretty good. It's not as good as "The Heiresses" in my opinion--as on my own blog, I rated it Five Moons which translates to "I love this book so much I want to marry it." While I have issues with it, it's not with Nessa. I think Nessa is very realistic teenager. She thinks she knows best but doesn't. She just doesn't realize how wrong some of her advice really is. She has good intentions, though. But a savvy reader can see the embarrassing fallout coming a mile away. And all you can do is cringe when it hits.
(Though it's not as bad as I thought it'd be).
My main problem lies with Holly Isles. She's just...not believable. At least as an adult. It dawned on me toward the end of the book that Holly would've worked better if she was the same age as Nessa. It felt weird to have a woman in her 30s taking advice from a person she thought was 16. Advice from movies that were from another time and belief system about women. Advice that is acknowledged to be a set back for women, but it is also insulting to men. Nessa's advice assumes that men can't stand women who are smarter and better than them. And if they do, are they really who Holly wants to attract--even for "fun"? I feel another teen would be more likely to fall for such bad advice and learn that it was bad advice.
It would also make how much time Holly and Nessa spend together make more sense. I haven't been on a cruise (yet) but from what I've heard from those who have, the age groups are pretty segregated. It didn't appear that there were many teens on the cruise, so I'd imagine all the crew members assigned to the teen passengers would be overattentive to her. Or that she wouldn't be allowed to constantly do the adult activities.
But when Holly is allowed to be an adult, she's pretty cool. I did see the romance coming a mile away, though.
Compared to Rushby's "The Heiresses," description is sorely lacking here. There were times I forgot they were even on a ship.
But it's good for the age group and good on a rainy day. ...more
I debated what to rate this because, once again, Goodreads doesn't use half stars. This will most likely get three and a half stars on my own review bI debated what to rate this because, once again, Goodreads doesn't use half stars. This will most likely get three and a half stars on my own review blog. (Shameless plug?: http://readingbythemoonlight.blogspot...)
And the main character is the problem. But more on that later. First, the plot. Anne Boleyn doesn't lose her child but rather gives birth to the son Henry has been longing for. The story proper picks up seventeen years later where that son, named William, is getting ready to enter his majority. He is getting anxious to be free of his regent, Lord Rochefort (his mother's brother George Boleyn), while fighting off the Catholics who still support his sister, Lady Mary. The few people William trusts are his sister Elizabeth and their friends Dominic Courteny and Genevieve "Minuette" Wyatt. The four find themselves pulled into political intrigue when Minuette's roommate is found dead. And as they go deeper down the rabbit's hole, they find themselves involved in complicated love relationships. Elizabeth is drawn to her friend, the very married Robert Dudley. William takes on a lover while mulling over political marriages. Dominic and Minuette start to feel an attraction toward each other and it isn't long before William feels the same. How will this effect their friendships? England? And what about that plot?
So back to the main character, who proves to be Minuette. Most of the story is hers, though Andersen gives time to the other three as well. But the problem is Minuette is a Sue. She shares a birthday with William and is good friends with him and Elizabeth. She's beautiful and entices many men at court. Including William and Dominic, who both are fiercely protective of her. Elizabeth too. She is spirited and does things that would probably get other ladies of the court scolded, but she only gets smiles. She is as intelligent as Elizabeth and it is noted that when Henry once visited their classroom, he was impressed with her and showed her affection rather than his own daughter. And Elizabeth doesn't begrudge her that because it's Minuette. And that's really where I drew the line over how much I could tolerate from this character. And she had nothing else to redeem her. Nothing else to endear me to her. There were a few hints of something dark happening to her as a child when she visited her mother after the woman's remarriage to Stephen Howard. (view spoiler)[It's a bust in the end, though, as the big dark secret she couldn't remember is walking in on her mother and stepfather having sex. Look, I know no one wants to walk in on our parents doing it and, let's face it, even when we learn about sex, we'd still rather pretend we came from the stork/cabbage patch. But at the rate it was going, I thought she had been sexually assaulted as a child by a Howard relation. Especially as Andersen wants us to believe Minuette is so desirable. (hide spoiler)] But she remains flat and unengaging. Even when she is in peril, because you know someone will swoop in and save the day. Though she does manage to rescue herself in some way when cornered by Giles Howard.
Elizabeth is probably the one least seen of the four main characters. And probably because she's actually a real-life person. It's a shame because she's more intriguing than Minuette. Her forbidden romance with Robert Dudley is way better than everyone fawning over Minuette. And she seems the most competent to deal with political intrigue and conspiracies/plots. But she is ignored for Minuette, both by the author and those around her. Besides Henry, Anne seems fond of Minuette while she is often cold and stern to her children. Which is odd because Anne was known to be very attentive and affectionate to Elizabeth. I would think it would continue with both her children now. It was an odd choice for the author to make, in my opinion.
Then we have William. His characterization is good for a young king as well as the son of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII. He is hot-tempered yet intelligent. And he has an understanding of his duty. Though this point is a bit muddled by the author. William at one point wants to choose who he marries but in the next chapter is set on marrying for political gain while taking mistresses. He is content with this until the last third of the book when he wants to marry who he wants again due to the sudden love triangle between him, Dominic and Minuette.
Last is Dominic. Of the new characters Andersen is created, he's probably the best. Yes, he skirts the Gary Stu line: While he has very little interaction with Anne Boleyn, it is revealed Henry was impressed by Dominic's abilities on the field. And Dominic is well known to be an excellent soldier. He is chosen by Lord Rocheford, William's uncle and the regent during the king's minority, to be a diplomat in France. William only trusts him to do a lot of his work. And women want his attention but in the end, he only wants Minuette. But he is everything Minuette is not: intriguing, engaging and not quite so perfect. He's my second favorite of the four, after Elizabeth.
While Andersen had a good sense of description, she often failed when having to describe well known places. Especially in the beginning at the scenes set in Hampton Court Palace. Andersen seems more concerned about creating her characters than the world they inhabit. But it seems to have been corrected in later chapters, though some of the palaces could be better described.
This novel remains me a bit of By His Majesty's Grace in that the intrigue is much more engaging than the romance. Well, the main romance between William, Dominic and Minuette and mostly because I don't think Minuette is much of a prize. Once again, I think Elizabeth would be better to be the star but then the whole "Anne Boleyn had a son and lived" twist would probably be a bit pointless.
As for that point, I felt there were some changes Andersen could've done but didn't. For example, what happened to some of the women who became Henry's wives in real life? Jane Seymour is mentioned in the prologue where Anne is in labor and notes Henry is already having an affair with the woman. But nothing is mentioned of Jane afterwards. And there was an ideal time to do so--during the time when William takes and then discards a mistress. He could think about what Henry did to Jane--which I figure was to marry her off and then ship her far away from court at Anne's behest. Another small detail was in the mentions of Lady Jane Grey. While she would still exist, I doubt her name would be Jane. Most scholars believe she was named for the queen so it's more likely her parents would name her after Anne in this universe.
But the biggest omission is Katherine Howard, especially as her family plays a pivotal role in this novel. What happened to her? Was she shipped off due to her scandalous relationships? Just not around? A mention would be sufficient rather than the glaring omission it is now.
I'm torn about reading the sequel. On one hand, I want to see where the intrigue goes. On the other, it means more Minuette.
Goddess of Spring tells the story of Carolina "Lina" Santoro. She runs a bakery in her Oklahoma town but has fallen on hard times thanks to a shady acGoddess of Spring tells the story of Carolina "Lina" Santoro. She runs a bakery in her Oklahoma town but has fallen on hard times thanks to a shady accountant. So she has to save her bakery and starts looking up new recipes to use. After a trip to the bookstore, she finds one which involves an incantation to the goddess Demeter. As she performs the ritual, she spots a narcissus flower and picks it. It transport her to Mt. Olympus where she meets Demeter. The goddess explains that the woman has traded places with her daughter Persephone. The young goddess will save the bakery while Lina will go down to the Underworld. She does so and ends up falling in love with Hades.
The romance. Hades and Lina-as-Persephone's relationship pushes the plot forward. And this time, it is a slow burn. Hades and Lina build a relationship and don't rush straight to sex. The only downside to the romance will be discussed when we get to "what doesn't work."
The set up. One of my complaints of Goddess of the Sea was that the setting was too vague. Was CC transported back in time? To another world? Here in Goddess of Spring, it is made clear that Lina is transported to another world where the Greek myths (and some Roman ones) exist. Ms. Cast does a better job at describing, painting a picture of the Underworld. The beauty of death and dispelling our modern beliefs of it looking like Hell. I am also glad that this time, Cast sticks to one set of names unlike in Goddess of the Sea where she used different sets of gods. Saying that, it makes my next statement seem hypocritical, but there was one place where Cast should've used another name. Early on, when Lina turns to the cookbooks to save her bakery, she picks up one that is Italian. In it, there is a ritual to the goddess Demeter. But that is the Greek name for the goddess; it would make more sense for an Italian cookbook to use the Roman name--Ceres. But all in all, a minor quibble.
Hades. While I have some quibbles about him, but for the most part he is an interesting romantic lead. Of course, I tend to favor the silent yet strong type and boy does Ms. Cast's Hades fit that description. He is described as very handsome and muscular. My quibble comes in some other aspects of Hades' personality. Namely, how he has this idea that he wants to love forever. It's not bad but...it's very cliche. Having Hades be different from the other gods and not feel like he fits in which is why he avoids them is fine. Adding in the scenes where he recalls the other goddesses talking and laughing at him behind his back starts to push him into woobie territory. But for the whole "Hades is like the awkward kid at the dance" vibes, he's a good character.
The side characters are well-developed. Well, the ones in the Underworld that is. Lina's coworkers at her bakery are not very well developed: I couldn't tell you a lot about Dolores and Anton is a walking gay stereotype. The problem for them lies in that we do not see as much of Lina in her day-to-day activities; she is whisked away pretty soon after the start of the book. So Eurydice and Iapis are a bit more fleshed out and their side romance is very interesting, even if Cast has to put a new spin on the Orpheus myth for it to work. (view spoiler)[Namely, that she makes Orpheus a possessive jerk and Eurydice died while running from Orpheus, not from getting lost on her way to their wedding. Lina-as-Persephone prevents Eurydice from returning to the mortal realm and tricks Orpheus into looking back, so Eurydice can never leave the Underworld. (hide spoiler)]
Now, for what is done...not so right.
The book has no tension. I realized it at about the 70% mark when I kept waiting for something to happen. And the "will-they-won't-they" aspect of Hades and Lina-as-Persephone's relationship was not enough. Cast likes to head jump, which isn't bad. But because we know both characters are attracted to each other, it's only a matter of time before they admit it and get together. So there goes that tension. Otherwise, there is no antagonist and it never seems that Lina has anything to lose. She is deceiving more than Hades and when the liar revealed happens, it is just done to Hades. And Lina is whisked away before we can see how everyone else reacts. (view spoiler)[But from later chapters, we learn the residents of the Underworld have absolutely no problems with Lina's betrayal. They recoil when the real Persephone returns and call her a pretender. One would think it would be the other way around. Not even Eurydice, who was Lina-as-Persephone's faithful maid and friend, seems to feel betrayed. (hide spoiler)] See, no stakes--nothing to lose!
Another reason why the book has no tension is because Lina has no faults. I sat down and tried to figure out at least one. And the only one is that she tends to be pessimistic. But otherwise--nothing. She also faces no obstacles. When she is sent to the Underworld, there is a mysterious bank of information for her to tap into when she doesn't know something. In Goddess of the Sea, while CC pretended to be an amnesiac, she at least made mistakes that made some people suspicious. No one ever suspects Lina. Even Apollo, who we are told was a former lover of Persephone, doesn't have any questions. He could've been made into an antagonist. Suspicious, he could send a spy into the Underworld. Demeter was already shown to be the opposite of Gaea--not willing to support Lina, just having her do what Demeter wants without any question. But as Apollo starts to reveal he knows more and Lina starts to fall in love with Hades, Demeter tries to extract Lina. But the reveal happens before a large gathering and everyone is betrayed, not just Hades. Just something to add tension or raise the stakes.
But back to Lina. She's a set of dead parents away from being a Mary Sue. Animals love her. To a ridiculous extent. Cerebus is putty in her hands. Orion, one of the dread steeds of Hades, acts jealous if she even looks at another animal. She talks to them--and scolds them--like they are toddlers. And they dip their heads in shame when scolded or they try to get her to pet them. And it's made clear that Persephone doesn't have the same connection or affinity for animals. Once again, this doesn't raise any suspicions. Lina also makes no wrong decisions--or if she does, it's not her fault! (view spoiler)[The first time, Orpheus tricks Hades and Lina-as-Persephone into returning Eurydice to him. His music fades and Lina realizes she has made a mistake. She corrects it. (hide spoiler)] And therefore, she never has a true character arc. In Goddess of the Sea, CC goes from a passive young woman who eats KFC and drinks champagne by herself, wallowing in the fact no one remembered her birthday, to a strong woman who uses the resources she has to keep herself ahead in a dangerous situation. Lina starts out as a woman with a problem--her bakery is in danger of being closed due to shoddy tactics on her accountant's part. But this isn't her problem to solve--Persephone solves it. And Demeter doesn't send her down to the Underworld with any specific problem to solve. She just has to go down there and let the spirits know there is a goddess among them. It increases their morale and she doesn't have to do much except be there. There seemed to be a hint that there was more to Demeter's plan but nothing ever came of it. So there really is no arc--the only change is that now Lina loves Hades. Perhaps if along with her foundering bakery, we had seen more of Lina's foundering love life instead of been told about it. See her on a lackluster date. Or trying to get rid of an overzealous suitor. Just show us Lina being closed off to love rather than introducing it as a means to prolong the inevitable hookup. It would at least provide an arc for Lina.
Persephone. She's not really a major character but more a plot device. And at first, it appears she will be a major character and, in some ways, Cast treats her as one. Demeter has the prologue, talking about how her daughter needs to mature. Cast does allow the readers to glimpse at Persephone-as-Lina and then there is a part after they switch back featuring Persephone. Once again, Cast tells us that Persephone has matured but we have to take her word. We don't see much to base a decision on and, to me, Persephone always seems like a teenager. Once again, no arc. I want a story featuring Persephone's experience on earth, but feel it will just be more "Persephone excels at everything with very few problems."
Pop culture references. I am a firm believer that unless the writer is trying to evoke a certain time frame for setting, pop culture references should be kept to a minimum. Here, I felt P.C. Cast went overboard--especially with "Batman." At first, it was a good comparison for Hades. But then Cast went overboard, in my opinion.
In Cast's YA novel, Air Force officer Christine "CC" Canady wishes for some magic in her life. She is deployed to the Middle East but never makes it.In Cast's YA novel, Air Force officer Christine "CC" Canady wishes for some magic in her life. She is deployed to the Middle East but never makes it. Her plane goes down in the middle of the ocean. About to drown, CC encounters a mermaid who offers to change places with her. CC accepts and switches bodies with the mermaid, Undine. She learns Undine is the daughter of Gaea, the goddess of the Earth, and Lir, the god of the sea. The mermaid was looking to escape her life, pursued by her brother Saepedon who won't take no for an answer. Undine seeks the protection of Gaea, who gives her legs. She washes ashore and pretends to be a princess suffering from amnesia after a shipwreck. A brave knight named Andras rescues her and leaves her at a nearby monastery. But she isn't safe there. Saepedon finds her and begins to possess Andras. Meanwhile, the abbot is suspicious of CC. She has to sneak around to talk to Gaea as well as transform back into a mermaid every third night. When she's a mermaid, CC meets Undine's childhood friend Dylan. The two are drawn to each other and CC realizes she loves him. But Saepedon discovers their tryst, forcing CC to use her magic. The other women in the monastery cover for her, but Abbot William still is suspicious. Meanwhile, CC decides to pretend to be a Viking princess in order to keep the abbot in line and Andras decides to marry her. CC learns to be creative in her ways to avoid the men but she is caught while sneaking back from a meeting with Dylan. There, on the beach, everyone's fate is decided.
CC is an interesting protagonist. She's one women can identify with. She's insecure and believes she isn't as drop dead gorgeous as other women. She feels like men see her as the "best friend" or "little sister" type. After she performs her ritual to Gaea, she feels more confident and sexy. The following day, she gets noticed by a few men. I liked that; CC didn't have to change her appearance but only her attitude. It's empowering. Though shown in a stupid way. CC goes to get new dogtags for her mission and is waiting for an elevator. A woman stops her from getting on and then she gets tackled by a fireman. Turns out the elevator was out of service and CC was going to walk into an empty shaft. Now, many people who rely on elevators have this fear. But this is a very improbable situation. Pressing a button doesn't cause the elevator doors to open. It sends a signal to the elevator car to stop and then the car sends a signal for the doors to open. If the elevator is broken, the doors just won't open. So it's highly unlikely you will step into an empty shaft. It would probably be better for her to nearly walk into a hole or something to convey this.
But then Cast goes and ruins this. CC and Undine's switch means they switch bodies. So now CC has the beautiful body of the mermaid, with long blonde hair and big breasts. She's suddenly the common conception of "beautiful." And there goes the message of empowerment. I think Cast wanted to go with a message of "beauty brings its own problems" but abandons it for "men are intimidated by the power of women."
And the body switch also starts a very confusing section. Undine, as I said, is the daughter of Gaea, a Greek goddess, and Lir, an Irish god. CC is transported to a place where all the gods and goddesses live together. And that includes Christianity. Because Undine seeks shelter at a monastery in an island said to be medieval Wales. Cast even gives a year: 1084. So, I'm confused. Is it another world inhabited by the gods and goddesses? Or our world, but only certain people can see the gods and goddesses? And if so, why did she have to go back in time? There is never a proper explanation given. And CC reveals a good deal about her time, which the women love. They even enjoy dancing in modern ways, though I doubt a group of medieval women would be okay with being told to thrust their hips in a suggestive way. But if CC can't affect the future, than I guess it is a separate world.
As a Roman Catholic, the inclusion of Christianity doesn't offend me as much as it baffles me. Why did Cast feel the need to include it? Why couldn't CC just run into a powerful man who distrusted her? A man who was a priest for a god jealous of Gaea's power and influence? Or was it done just for the chance to accuse her of witchcraft? Which at the time, Christianity viewed witchcraft as heresy (evidence of idoltry) but not as its own crime as magic does not exist. Anyway, while the inclusion of Christianity isn't offensive to me, there is one aspect that is. It's when Ms. Cast says Mary, the Blessed Mother, is an incarnation of Gaea, the goddess of the Earth. NO. You cannot compare the MOTHER OF GOD to a PAGAN GODDESS. As far as I'm concerned, Mary was a real person. Gaea wasn't. So it is insulting to Christianity to say Mary is just our reimagining of Gaea. This is another case where it probably would've been best if Cast left Christianity out of it as well. Just use all the mythical gods and goddesses and not try to mix them in with Christianity. (view spoiler)[Especially as it is ultimately revealed that Abbot William is the son of Gaea and Lir.
Which leaves so many unanswered questions about one of our villains. Why did William then turn to Christianity? And why did he just scorn women when both his parents exiled him? Is that why he chose to settle into a religion which denies the existence of the other gods? And there were several hints that William was gay and sexually attracted to Andras? So why was he drawn to a religion that forbids such a relationship? Or is it because he is able to twist Christianity's beliefs to suit his needs? Or that being a priest gave him power he may have been denied by his parents? He did, after all, befriend Andras' father and that is how he ended up being abbot. There is so much left unanswered for a villain as complicated as Abbot William. Saepedon isn't: he's the son of the sea god and used to complete control. Undine spurned him and he threw a tantrum. Simple as that. (hide spoiler)]
I also think Cast needs to lose the ancient Wales setting. Not much is going to be lost, honestly. With the exception of some reminders, nothing about the setting screams "Wales." In my head, I see a tropical island honestly. Perhaps because CC's plane crashed in the Mediterranean? And why didn't Ms. Cast just use an island in the Mediterranean? It's by three ancient cultures whose myths we all know--the Greeks, the Romans, and the Egyptians.
Let's move on to the romance. I thought the one with the most potential was the one between CC and Sean, the soldier CC befriends on her flight. But then he dies. And CC ends up in Undine's body, pursued by Saepedon and Andras. It's made clear that there is no chance of romance between Saepedon and CC. But the book blurb makes it sound like Andras is considered a viable romance option when he's not. CC writes him off shortly after arriving on the island. She is instantly attracted to Dylan, the merman who helps her. Except that Cast falls into the same problem I mentioned in my review of By His Majesty's Grace: she mistakes sex for romance. Dylan helps CC to shore and teaches her how to be a mermaid. Two meetings and then sex with proclamation of everlasting love. It may just be me, but one of the reasons I like romances is because you get to watch the relationship grow. CC and Dylan's relationship missed the steps between initial meeting and "love you for eternity." spoilerAnother problem is that Dylan is revealed to be Undine's childhood playmate who had an unrequited love for her. While Dylan is the only one to address her as Christine in this world and he swears he loves her, I still can't help but wonder if those steps were skipped because Dylan now has what he wanted--Undine, even if the soul is different. I think we needed to see more of CC and Dylan's relationship than just them having sex. (view spoiler)[Perhaps then Dylan's death at the end would've been more nailbiting. I saw what was coming immediately. CC decides to go back to her "world" or "time" (still not sure), back to the moment of the accident. She is rescued by dolphins--which is apparently shocking to everyone despite repeated scientific studies showing dolphins will help humans in need--and Sean suddenly comes back to life. Yes, Dylan's spirit now resides in Sean's body. I would rather Sean come back or CC move on with someone who didn't like her because she looked like his ex. (hide spoiler)]
So is the book one to avoid? Not necessarily. It's good escapist fantasy and has a good story. I just think Cast needed to tighten a few things to make it a great story.
The overlying question I feel I need to answer about this book is "How close does something based on Pride and Prejudice have to stick to the originalThe overlying question I feel I need to answer about this book is "How close does something based on Pride and Prejudice have to stick to the original's spirit?" Or original material.
And especially with the Darcy character in this book, Taylor. Yes, there was more to Darcy that Elizabeth discovered in Pride and Prejudice after overcoming her initial opinions of the man. But Darcy, by no stretch, was a saint. Taylor, on the other hand, apparently is. He's really into community service, is nice, well-liked and no one--but Chloe (our Elizabeth)--speaks ill of him. And that's not Darcy. In Pride and Prejudice, no one liked Darcy. Not even Mrs. Bennett, who usually threw her daughters at any man with money. So this very altruistic Darcy is not jiving with me. Especially as it makes Chloe look like an idiot. She had a bad experience with a popular kid and therefore writes Taylor off as the same type of boy. But everyone knows Taylor is this great guy who does all these great things and Chloe manages to spend four years not knowing this? And the other problem is that Taylor has no prejudices of his own to get over about Chloe. Darcy had to do so in the novel in order to really win Elizabeth over. It's why his first proposal goes over as well as a sack of bricks. He had to stop focusing on why Elizabeth and he shouldn't be together, forget his social expectations and follow his heart. Taylor has no such impediments. In short, he has no character arc.
And the journey where he goes from stuck-up popular boy to really nice love interest doesn't count. That's Chloe's character arc. And she's a pretty realistic teen. She worries about school, spends time with her friends, works and has struggles with her parents. All without the melodrama one has come to expect from anything aimed at teens. Her problems with her parents, though, seem a bit unfair. I'm not sure if it's because it's from a teen perspective or what, but it seemed the struggles between Chloe and her parents were contrived. For example, Chloe is caught reading a note in class. She opts not read it and is assigned detention. Taylor serves it in her stead because she refused to read the note to protect his privacy. But the teacher still contacted her parents. Now, I was a good girl at a Catholic school. They didn't call home unless there was a serious problem. Getting caught reading a note once doesn't warrant "a serious problem." Nor does it warrant such a response from her parents about her needing to take on more responsibility. Because Chloe read one letter in class. It's a way to get Chloe into a job as a dance instructor, allowing her to meet Georgia, Taylor's sister. This could've been done in a less ridiculous way. Chloe is a senior; perhaps she has to earn money to pay for her own prom dress? Another confusing aspect is the whole deal with Collin. I get the part where her mother agrees to the date as if Chloe were seven rather than seventeen because, hey, moms. It's later when Chloe turns Collin down that seems, once again, contrived. It seems to be just a way to mirror the Collins/Elizabeth rejection scene and to get Mr. Hart to repeat Mr. Bennett's line about not forgiving Elizabeth were she to marry Collins. Why is Mrs. Hart so invested in the relationship? Especially in one that was already shown to be going nowhere? Chloe went on one date with Collin and then proceeded to go out with another guy. She showed no other interest in Collin. And then there was a line about how this also about Chloe pulling away from her family. Huh? I see a mother meddling, not a teen pulling away from her family.
Otherwise, her parents are good--if strict--ones. It's a bit odd because Elizabeth and Mrs. Bennett have a strained relationship but I think in this case it works. Her sisters, Cassidy and Claire, don't play too much of a role in the book. Which is strange in Cassidy's case as she ends up playing the Lydia role. But she isn't fleshed out. No one really is except for Chloe.
And character development isn't the only thing lacking. Description was needed more. I understand the difficulty balancing it, especially as Ms. James wrote the story in first person. It's easy to give in to the temptation to write "My name is Joanie Everygirl and I am tall, skinny, with brown hair" etc. But it takes a while to learn our protagonist has red hair. Or that Alyssa was of Asian decent. Race isn't important, but I had difficulty imagining what Alyssa looked like until then. The same thing happens to Collin. Chloe says he's handsome but we don't know what he looks like to make our own decision.
So why isn't this a two-star review? Because there was still something compelling about it. Especially toward the end, once it started the main Pride and Prejudice plot. The book sucked me in and I found myself reading to find out what happens next. So that's why I gave it three stars. ...more
I received a copy of this book after winning it in a Goodreads giveaway. Thought I'd get that out of the way in order to continue with my explanation.I received a copy of this book after winning it in a Goodreads giveaway. Thought I'd get that out of the way in order to continue with my explanation. I signed up for the giveaway without realizing it was part of a series. But as I began the book, I realized it didn't matter. It can stand alone, though some of the information I gathered makes me want to read the other books.
Willow Petersen has returned to Cripple Creek after suffering a breakdown after the death of her husband, Sam. She is staying in the boardinghouse owned by Miss Hattie, close to her brother Tucker and his wife Ida, who is pregnant. Along with her sisters Vivian and Kat. Sadly, Ida suffers a miscarriage and Willow helps her by working at Ida's store. But it's not the career she's looking for. Willow is a painter and she wants to do that.
Her wish is granted by a new arrival in town--Trenton van der Veer, a photographer. He decides to hire an artist to colorize his photographs and chooses Willow. There is a spark between him but he is hesitant due to his stutter and she believes her deceased husband was her one and only. So she leads Mr. van der Veer to believe she is married and he refuses to pursue a married woman. But in an argument, Willow reveals her true marital status. This is a turning point in their relationship and they start to bond. As they grow closer, they are unaware a person from Trenton's past is on her way to Cripple Creek.
Meanwhile, the Sinclair Sisters (Kat, Ida, Vivian and Nell) await their father's return from Paris. When he arrives--via a crashed train--they are surprised to see he has a child with him. (view spoiler)[Cherise is the daughter of one of Harlan Sinclair's coworkers, who died and left the child in Harlan's care. (hide spoiler)] He hopes one of his daughters will take her in, which causes tension as the sisters feel their father is more attentive to her than them. Miss Hattie agrees the man seems less preoccupied with his daughters' welfare than fobbing the girl off on one of them. He dislikes Miss Hattie, (view spoiler)[though it's revealed he was jealous of her relationship with his daughters. They have it out and their relationship changes over burnt potatoes. (hide spoiler)] The Sinclair Sisters--and Willow--smell romance and hope something comes to fruition.
The characters are interesting and though I came into the stories later, I don't feel like I missed much. Important facts are presented in a natural way in the narrative and not in an infodump. But relationships in Ms. Hodgson's book seem pretty shallow. Now, it's not like when I complain romances are shallow because the author thinks lots of sex=good, healthy relationship. There are no sex scenes in this book but I feel both the Willow/Trenton and Harlan/Miss Hattie relationships go from "initial getting-to-know you" stage full of the excitement of new love straight to marriage. Each relationship has a hurdle to get over so it can start and the one to get over to reach marriage. And most of the relationships become romances toward the end of the book. I feel it was too much build up for a rushed resolution. Each couple had sparks, which is what kept me reading. I only wish we got to see where those sparks had led rather than being told everyone was in love.
I feel Susannah's build up also led to a let down. We follow her from Kansas to Cripple Creek, determined to get Trenton back so he could take her to New York so she could become a famous singer. We spend longer there than with her in town trying to win Trenton back. She is not as big a hurdle as she is made out to be. Yes, she comes to town and creates a problem for Trenton and Willow. But this problem is cleared up within the next chapter and Susannah gives up a lot easier than what we've learned about her suggests. I think Hodgson shouldn't have spent so much time focusing on Susannah's journey. If she had blown into town and continually made trouble for Trenton and Willow, the romance would've benefitted from the growth it could provide. As for the Harlan/Hattie romance, we are told they have a lot of conversations in the boardinghouse. I feel Hodgson should've shown more of these to help build the relationship. Because I did like her romances, especially Willow and Trenton's.
I also think I'd like to read the other books just to get a better idea of the Sinclair Sisters. Especially Vivian, who seemed to have a great backstory. The town of Cripple Creek and its citizens are interesting as well. Like Mollie Kathleen, the mine owner. I would love to have seen more of her, but what was in the book was great.
One more thing to note: The religious aspect of the book. I'm a devout Catholic and I know my faith influences my writing as well. I just hope mine isn't as much of a sledgehammer like Hodgson's. Not so much in the beginning, but one of the later subplots involves Trenton returning to church. Willow resolves to make sure he returns to the church, though she doesn't know he's already done so for her. And because Willow's brother, the minister, is more understanding and welcoming than the one who thought Trenton's stuttering was from demonic possession when he was younger. But all the talk about how the Lord was the answer and would save him and would provide for them even made me roll my eyes. And it also made it seem like the characters were becoming passive in their lives by placing it in the Lord's hands.
Otherwise, it's a good, easy read for a lazy, rainy day. ...more