Karla's Reviews > Savage Oaks

Savage Oaks by Julie Ellis
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's review
Mar 23, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: eras-antebellum, historical-romance, big-misunderstandings, marriage-of-convenience, sibling-rivalry, son-i-am-disappoint
Read from March 20 to 23, 2011

Suzanne Duprée is a happy convent-educated girl in France. She's got friends and is on good terms with the nuns. But one day her guardian/uncle shows up to tell her he's bought a plantation house for her in Louisiana. She's excited because she will be going to the country where her dead parents came from and, hopefully, she will learn more about them. (Everything about them has been kept a mystery by her "uncle".) While there, she is met and courted by Keith Savage, a neighboring planter, and the starry-eyed girl falls in love. Unfortunately, this is an arranged marriage and Keith, out of anger at being manipulated because he needs Suzanne's money for his plantation, installs a quadroon mistress in a secret location on the property. When Suzanne discovers this, she is torn between love and anger, and Keith's siblings Phillip and Jane have their own pasts that interfere with the present.

This had all the potential of being a solid romance, except it was marred by a weak heroine. Suzanne spends most of the first half of the book obsessing over discovering details about her parents (leading to some pretty dull scenes, including looking at census records), and the last half obsessing about Keith's mistress and how she will leave him soon. I mean, NOW. Wait, tomorrow. Errr, TODAY. Little things kept putting off her resolve - a glance, a warm look, etc.

Of course, it doesn't ever occur to her that she might want to tell him just why she wants to leave so he can rectify the situation if he needs prodding. She gets progressively more angry and depressed that he doesn't send the mistress away without any communication on her part other than a locked bedroom door. And Keith ain't the sharpest crayon in the box anyway, so he's thinking, "Fine, I'll keep the other wench around since I'm not getting any at home." Joy, it's the Big Misunderstanding! Can't get enough of those.

So that was the annoying part, and it was annoying and protracted enough to really bring the whole book down.

I did appreciate all the detail that Ellis put into the book to really pinpoint the time the story takes place. It has the feel of being taken from articles in the Picayune - a lecture tour by Thackeray, local police matters, the weather, violence at the polls, etc. It showed greater effort than some of the generalities that tend to exist in romance, so I liked it. However, I would have liked it better if Ellis had had her characters more directly engaged with what was going on in New Orleans and the current scene. We're told that Keith is ambitious for a political future and he spends two violence-ridden days in the city during Election Day, but it's glossed over in a paragraph. He goes off to Cincinnati to the Democratic Convention, and just as quickly returns. It would have benefited his characterization to have been shown "in the moment" since he was pretty shallow in the depth department. The vapidity of Suzanne made his faults more glaring than they would have been had the heroine been stronger. I did like his more hands-on approach to his plantation, even when Suzanne's money makes him working on the levees and in the fields unnecessary. So that was a plus in his column.

The dramatic peaks were pretty few and far between, the biggest one provided by a flashback of Jane's which really had no bearing on the overall story, so it seemed pointless.

I was considering giving this 2.75 stars, but the ending was bittersweet and realistic, so it pushed the rating up a notch to a round 3. It's nothing spectacular, but there was enough in it for me to like.
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Reading Progress

03/20/2011 page 1
0.0% "Since the book I read for the Plantation Genre read at the BR Group sucked ass, I'm having a second go. This one sounds a bit gothicky as well. Sweet!" 1 comment
03/20/2011 page 34
11.0% "Things are going to be difficult for our heroine from the get-go. 'twill not be a happy household."
03/20/2011 page 80
25.0% "So far Suzanne's wedding night is a total wipeout."
03/20/2011 page 107
34.0% "BIG error. Suzanne Dupree is on the search for her parents and looks at the 1830-1850 Savannah censuses (in 1855? Was there no law that decades have to elapse first?), "turned to the D's and ran a finger down the list of names." Oh, if only they were alphabetical! MAYBE she was looking at an index for Savannah or GA (if one had even been compiled by then), but I highly doubt it."
03/21/2011 page 154
48.0% "Had a rocky patch - got kinda dull - but it looks like things are kicking up a notch with the hubby's brother, the quadroon mistress, and some dark agenda."
03/22/2011 page 224
70.0% "I appreciate the author getting some really specific details about what's going on in NOLA and the country at large at the time, but I wish she'd have the characters do more. :-\" 3 comments
03/22/2011 page 244
76.0% "Hell just broke loose during that flashback! And incest too!"

Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

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message 1: by Misfit (new) - added it

Misfit Nice cover.

Karla I agree, although it's not often that you see orange and coral pink contrasted. :P

message 3: by Misfit (new) - added it

Misfit It works. She kinda reminds me of Genie Francis in N&S.

Karla Hey she does! I've got to get cracking on one of my plantation porn series soon, but I needed a comfort read after the two boring Indian roms, something I know I'll like.

message 5: by Misfit (new) - added it

Misfit Always pull out an old favorite when a slump hits.

Karla I think I'm going to be finally getting around to re-reading The Masters of Rome series that way - read a book during a slump.

Sandi *~The Pirate Wench~* Going on my wish-list :)( if I could have one "wish trip"..it would be to book shop with Karla LOL!)

message 8: by Karla (last edited Feb 14, 2011 03:43PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Karla My sister just got 50+ books for me today. *__* Won't see them until May or so, but I can't wait to get my hands on them.

Well, "got them for me" as in "I reimburse her for 75% of them." LOL

SmittenKitten Sandi wrote: "if I could have one "wish trip"..it would be to book shop with Karla LOL!)"

Me too!! :D

Karla I think we should all meet in Albuquerque, because they have lots of old smut there! I envy my sister mucho.

(I bet it's the demographic. Old retirees and their old porn. LOL)

Sandi *~The Pirate Wench~* Karla (Mossy Love Grotto) wrote: "I think we should all meet in Albuquerque, because they have lots of old smut there! I envy my sister mucho.

(I bet it's the demographic. Old retirees and their old porn. LOL)"

Maybe so! :D

message 12: by Kerrie (new)

Kerrie Karla (Mossy Love Grotto) wrote: "I think we should all meet in Albuquerque, because they have lots of old smut there! I envy my sister mucho."

YES!!!!!!! Come to Albuquerque! :D

message 13: by Misfit (new) - added it

Misfit Thanks. I did pick up a copy via Bookmooch but it might not move up the pile too quickly.

Bark's Book Nonsense Great review. I love those old school covers.

message 15: by Misfit (new) - added it

Misfit Hah! I forgot I had this on my WL at bookmooch until I got an email offer this morning. I'm guessing you just listed it. I'd already picked one up at PBS.

Karla I saw you on the WL and thought, "It's so hard to keep two WLs all synced." :D

message 17: by Kerrie (new)

Kerrie I was *just* about to pick this up to read it, and wondered, "Has Sis read it?" Review doesn't make me optimistic. Not wasting My Precious Time. :(

JadedlilFecker Damnit, I thought she was back on the raunch and deliciously dark. >:|

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