Thursday, October 6, 2011

Review: Claire's Not-So-Gothic Romance

Claire's Not-So-Gothic Romance
by Bonnie Blythe

genre: Contemporary Christian Romance
source: self-purchased ebook

First words: "I, the mysterious mistress Claire, clutch the collar of my aubergine cloak more tightly against my ivory throat while my silken, vermillion tresses undulate on the fog-laden breeze that slips across the bracken moors as my tortured heart and vaunted emotions wrestle with the complexities of the choice that lies before me."

My thoughts: Quite the opening sentence! The novel continues like this for some time, as we discover that mistress Claire is the fantasy identity of Claire Parnell, florist and closet Jane Eyre fanatic. As the novel progresses and the story line picks up, Claire slips less and less into this internal Gothic monologue as real life creeps in. Although I picked this up without knowing it was Christian fiction, and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. In fact, it was out of my comfort zone for two reasons: it was not only heavily Christian, it was contemporary romance. 

It's also charmingly written in a distinct, accessible voice. Anyone who loves Jane Eyre will find something in this book. Claire, the protagonist, loves Jane Eyre, has seen every movie version multiple times, and recites more lines from the Gothic novel than she does actual scripture. Sam, the handsome yet grounded stranger who (to Claire) inexplicably finds her attractive, is a great romantic hero. He's one of my recent favorites in adult contemporary, anyway. 

The setting is maybe my favorite thing. Claire's little town is full of memorable characters, from her nosy Cockney neighbor to her newly-Goth co-worker Chip, who insists on being called "Darkwan." Claire's church, which of course figures heavily in the narrative, is pretty funny too, from the cadaverous dietitian to the catty meat market that passes for her Sunday School class. 

I did find the way Claire's entire town seem fixated on seeing her married, and to a doctor, no less, annoying. It just went on way too long. Also, it would have been nice if Claire's mother, who raised her as a single mother, hadn't given single parenthood such a horrible reputation. Claire also seems to have no greater ambition than to marry a nice Christian man and have babies, even though she paradoxically resents her mother and neighbors for the very same thing. 

The bottom line? The religion is pretty thick, and it gets heavier as the novel progresses. But if you're looking for a sweet romantic read with memorable characters and a great setting, this is a pretty good choice.

My rating: Four Stars! ****

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Review of Red by Kait Nolan

by Kait Nolan

genre: YA Paranormal Adventure
source: self-purchased indie e-book
Every fairy tale has a dark side...
Elodie Rose has a secret. Any d
ay, she’ll become a wolf and succumb to the violence that’s cursed her family for centuries. For seventeen years she’s hidden who and what she is. But now someone knows the truth and is determined to exterminate her family line. Living on borrowed time in the midst of this dangerous game of hide and seek, the last thing Elodie needs to do is fall in love. But Sawyer is determined to protect her, and the brooding, angry boy is more than what he seems. Can they outsmart a madman? And if they survive, will they find a way to beat the curse for good?

First words: 
"I was thirteen when I found out why my mother left me."
My thoughts:
I cannot say enough good things about this book. A survivalist YA love story with fairy tale roots. It's epic. I do not usually like werewolf stories. Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver was the single exception for a long time, but no more! Shiver has a friend- Red! And that's some of the highest praise I can offer- Nolan takes a sub-genre that's not my favorite and makes me not only love the book, but kind of turns me on to the subject of werewolves in general. All that's missing is the warning: Werewolf haters beware, because this book will convert you. Also loved the unique spin on the Red Riding Hood legend. There's just enough of it, and it's so uniquely done, that it adds a wonderful spice to the whole novel. I really liked the way the book was told with alternating 1st person POVs. I found Elodie to be exactly the kind of strong supernatural heroine I love, but she wasn't so tough as to be unapproachable or hardened. One of my favorite scenes with her is of her cooking over a campfire- and breaking out a package of spices to make a really excellent meal. To me, that's kind of the essence of her character: prepared, ready to deal with anything, but insists on having the things that are important to her. In this scene, it's spices, but in the bigger picture, it's things like honor, morals, and independence. Nolan manages to craft a unique male heroine with Sawyer. He's protective and possessive, but reigns in his werewolf instincts enough to respect Elodie's independence. Unless she's in danger- which happens a time or two. But being rescued by Sawyer isn't something Elodie (or anyone else) would complain about.

Five Stars