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Sue Moorcroft

REVIEW: Love and Freedom by Sue Moorcroft

REVIEW: Love and Freedom by Sue Moorcroft

Dear Ms. Moorcroft,

What caught my attention about this book is that you, and English author, are writing an American heroine. I’m so used to the reverse – especially historicals – that I wanted to see how well you’d pull it off. Um, still a few issues and / or word choices here or there to give the game away but those didn’t end up being the main issues I had with the story. Let me get to that in a minute.

Love and Freedom by Sue MoorcroftHonor has arrived in England and rented a small house near Brighton for a few months to get away legal issues dogging her from things that happened at home in Connecticut. Her introduction to Martyn, her landlady’s relative isn’t a pretty one as Honor discovers that falling asleep for hours in the sun leads to nasty sunburns wherever you might be. Now this handsome man’s first view of her is as a lobster red woman two shakes from sunstroke.

Honor’s stated intention for coming is to find out information about her English mother who abandoned her as an infant. Who is the woman, where is she and why did she up and leave with no further contact for all these years? While searching for those answers, Honor takes menial jobs to pay the rent and begins to fall for Martyn who returns the interest until he discovers something that initially puts him off a romance with Honor.

As Honor begins to fit into everyday life in the small English town, she and Martyn finally give into their feelings. But when old secrets and past relationships come home to roost, will they even want to work out a future?

Honor does come across as more American than English yet because she’s half English and – here’s the important part – has apparently spent lots of time in England – I would expect, and did find, more Englishness to her than I would expect from someone who had no ties to the country and who hadn’t been there. Yet, there are UK English phrases in her speech that threw me as well as UK spellings I found jarring such as in an email from her US father. Cases for suitcases, “down tools” for stopping work, prawns for shrimp – all these struck me as things the average American wouldn’t say.

One thing, as an American, that I wondered about was the ending of the small town names in the area – Rottingdean, Eastingdean, Saltdean. I would have been curious about that and inquired into it. I had to laugh at how the locals were ready to rip off American tourists.

Honor seems to drift. She drifts into a relationship with her husband Stef because of their childhood past and how he protected her from bullies. But I don’t recall her ever saying she was madly in love with Stef. She puts off contacting her family and ending the relationship with Stef until events force her to do that. Even after Stef shows up in the story, she still sort of drifts around dealing with him being there and creating havoc. Honestly, this annoys me about her and seems to be something that is habitual for her. When she seemed almost ready to let Stef blackmail her into another go at their marriage, I wanted to smack her.

I do like how Honor doesn’t back down in certain situations like when attacking the bullies with fish and chips and then telling Martyn’s friend off when he lewdly inquires about her sexual fantasies. This part jibs with her statement that she has anger management issues while her drifting around relationship with Stef doesn’t. But she does finally deal with Stef once and for all before starting over with Martyn so I guess she learns something over the course of the book and puts it into practice.

Then there’s the whole thing Big Secret. There are scads of clues there but, wow, how can Honor manage for that long and not give any clue about it to anyone, even in her private thoughts? And when Martyn, bless his heart, finds out I can understand his anger. Honor’s reasons for keeping her secret just don’t match with the sheer “ick” factor floating around from all this.

Martyn’s family background is Catherine Cookson – and weird. It took me aback for a while after the technicals about it got explained. Both of them had bizarre family backgrounds but still had loving family members just the same. Though I honestly doubt the FBI would have gone after Honor’s mother had she taken Honor with her. Good for Martyn that he doesn’t want to get involved with a married woman on principle. Just because he’s gorgeous, doesn’t mean he’s a dog. Thank God Martyn tells Honor to sort her relationship with Stef out before they get involved. Martyn is initially attracted to Honor because she’s hot though he skitters away when he learns she’s married and doesn’t resume anything physical until she tells him her marriage is off. They feel a physical connection – that part is obvious but when does it slip into something deeper? I’m not sure I felt this bit.

As an exercise in how well you can write an American heroine, I think you did okay but with room for improvement. It certainly is an eye opening reverse example of what UK readers have complained about from portrayals of their own by American authors. However, the Major Reveal and the flow towards the HEA in the romantic relationship though are what ultimately didn’t work well for me. C+


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REVIEW: All that Mullarkey by Sue Moorcroft

REVIEW: All that Mullarkey by Sue Moorcroft

Dear Ms Moorcroft,

Do you have some inner drive to write flawed heroines? Because both books of yours that I’ve read have featured them but here in “All that Mullarkey,” you’ve really gone all out and presented us with a woman who might trip a few triggers.

All that Mullarkey by Sue Moorcroft“Revenge and love: it’s a thin line… The writing’s on the wall for Cleo and Gav. The bedroom wall, to be precise. And it says ‘This marriage is over.’ Wounded and furious, Cleo embarks on a night out with the girls, which turns into a glorious one night stand with… Justin, centrefold material and irrepressibly irresponsible. He loves a little wildness in a woman and he’s in the right place at the right time to enjoy Cleo’s. But it’s Cleo who has to pick up the pieces of a marriage based on a lie and the lasting repercussions of that night. Torn between laid-back Justin and control freak Gav, she’s a free spirit that life is trying to tie down. But the rewards are worth it!”

As I said, you’re definitely specializing in flawed heroines. Here Cleo reacts to her husband’s unreasonable demands by heading off to a bar to meet her sister. After hooking up with Justin, she – via the inducement of alcohol – goes off with him for a one night fling only to have things go wrong as far as pregnancy precautions go. Which she then repeats with Gav after which she puts off her pregnancy testing until way too late. It is understandable to a point but then, hey, let’s get real as the signs are all there and need to be headed. But the bit about Cleo buying the pregnancy test is hilarious. I do like that once she’s sure of the pregnancy, her first instinct is to tell Justin immediately and, even after his spectacular “don’t contact me” speech, as soon as the baby is born, she still makes the effort to let him know he’s a father.

All that being said, however, after she faces up to her pregnancy, she does a good job and seems to be a wonderful mother. Her interactions with Shona remind me of a coworker of mine who doesn’t baby talk to her daughter either. The advanced things my friend says come out of that child’s mouth…

Lots of people might have problems with some of Cleo’s actions. Though perhaps not with the adultery as it’s only one time and then it turns out that Gav had also cheated once on her. Even her divorce isn’t totally out of line as Gav had kept key information from her and combined with the other failing aspects of their marriage I could see them calling it quits. But, and this is a big but, Gav’s later actions seem there merely to further justify Cleo’s “rightness” in what she did. The major secret Gav had kept from Cleo was enough for me. His further descent appears only to make Cleo look better for her choices. Once Cleo figures out what Gav’s done, the confrontation scene takes the wind out of his sails – too quickly, maybe?

Justin takes the usual female high road in their adultery which was fun to read. He’s outraged at being “used” for sex by a married woman but tends to hissy fit at bit too much for my belief. Plus the number of times he shows up for a key interaction with Cleo, only to conveniently find Gav there as well to cause friction, strained belief. But Justin is right in that though Gav might know a lot about Cleo – her past, her A levels, etc, Justin *knows* Cleo in that he’s got a connection with her that safe Gav doesn’t.

Cleo’s work involves getting business people to listen and interact with each other better yet she hasn’t been doing this in her marriage and doesn’t do it with Justin for ages. She’s got to mature personally in order to get her HEA. I also find it interesting that this is the second straight novel in which your heroine has poor relations with her parents. Is this supposed to mean something?

There is a long, 18 month break in the action and then still more time before the final HEA. Which I find a nice change from a lot of too quick romance novels. It seems to me that the book is more women’s fiction than romance – with a soupçon of chick lit thrown in. But even then it was truly down to the wire before a HEA was in sight. I think you might make some people nervous about this. Cleo’s capitulation was rather sudden and once they finally talked, they cleared things up so quickly – the ubiquitous 5 minute talk – that all the conflict that went before seemed rather pointless.

You do include some touches of realism that I really like. So much of the story is carried out through text messages, emails and mobile(cell) phone calls. As well, not everyone is thrilled with their friend’s choice in romance. And it’s great to see a little of Ratty again – same old Ratty the real estate tycoon. I wish I could deal with my junk mail as Cleo does – in the wood stove fire.

You take a lot of chances with “All that Mullarkey.” I applaud most of them though they might be deal breakers for some readers. And even though I have some problems with the book, you are still an author I do plan to keep up with as you make reading interesting and beyond the ordinary. B-


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