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JOINT REVIEW: Sheltered by Charlotte Stein

Dear Ms. Stein:

I’ve always been fond of your voice but often found the narrative running away. In Sheltered, the balance between the deep point of view and the emotional arc of the characters was better tuned here and for the most part this emotional journey was engaging. DA January and I engaged in an email discussion about this book and thought we would present a joint review.

Sheltered Charlotte SteinEvie is a nineteen year old who lives with her parents. She is sheltered, as the title suggests, but not in a comforting loving fashion. Evie’s parents rigidly religious and she operates under deep fear. There is a ominous tone that hovers around Evie’s thoughts, suggesting she might be the victim of serious abuse. “It wouldn’t even be the belt, for a creature like this in the house with her. It’d be a hole dug in the garden and her in it.”

From her yard she can see a young man buying pot from the next door neighbor. She’s intrigued by him and ventures outside of her comfort zone to speak to him. Everything about him is different. He has a tattoo on his neck, piercings in his eyebrows, a strange haircut. His appearance could not be more different than her own with her Mary Janes and long skirts.

Tyler Vandervoort or Van, as she learns, is attending college and dreams of being an artist. Evie’s dreams are much smaller. She dreams of being freed from her home, her parents control, and perhaps even herself.

 

JANUARY: Overall, I thought this was a really fun story. It was hard to put down when I was reading it, but after I finished it, I was left unsettled by a few things. Evie seemed inconsistent at times and I had doubts about the HEA. But for a ‘first love’ sort of read, this was excellent. I actually really liked that Van and Evie seemed like realistic teenagers/college-age adults with those sorts of problems. I think this story was told all from Evie’s POV and I enjoyed that, because we got to see her mentally blossom and her anxiety as she struggled to cope with the forbidden hopes and feelings she had.

I really liked this story but I felt both characters ‘slipped’ in their characterization repeatedly. Evie is raised so deeply religious that she refuses to touch herself and rubs against pillows. And yet, she uses the words ‘cunt’ and ‘fuck’ while imagining sex. This was jarring. I understand that it would not be sexy if she talked about touching her pee pee, but I also needed the story to be realistic, and this took me out of the realistic every time.

My biggest problems with the book were two fold. First, the dark cloud of Evie’s parents hung over the book but nothing bad ever happened to Evie. Not when she was smoking pot on their front porch, a scent that can linger not only in the area but on her clothes. Not when she and Van made out on the porch for the neighbors to see. Not when she and Van were alone in the house on several occasions. Evie remained relatively untouched during these days and adventures.

Second, Evie desired freedom or so we were told but she essentially trades one caretaker – her father – for another – Van.

JANUARY: I did think she used the father thing as an excuse quite a bit. The father and mother were rarely on screen and it was very convenient for Evie and Van to get together without anyone finding out. But this didn’t ring as contrived as some of Evie’s statements about how sheltered she was. At one point she comments that her parents took her to an orphanage where Oliver Twist ate gruel and she was made to sit and eat with them to teach her about bad children. But this is someone that bikes to college and likely went to public schools. Surely she would have some knowledge of how things worked? This, again, was totally inconsistent for me. I could have understood it more, perhaps, if Evie had been homeschooled all her life and was taking classes online. Then I might understand the total shut-in mentality that she was supposed to have.

I did think that once the two ‘got together’ and they shared a smoke, the sexual chemistry went wild. I really liked how the two of them got together and took it slow, and they seemed to be hiding out together and exploring each other like teenagers, which felt very well done. The second half of the book is excellent. The first half is lukewarm for me.

I did have issues with the ending and am concerned for their future together. Evie has no funds and she has traded one man’s safekeeping for another. The amount of money that Van has in the bank is a decent amount, but when you think about two people and college, it doesn’t seem like nearly enough. If these were my relatives, I would be concerned for them. I think I ended up liking the concept more than the reality. Plus, I was a little concerned that while the sex was hot, he was very into Evie because she was so inexperienced. What happens when she is no longer the wide-eyed virgin and just another girl? Will he lose interest? This did not sit well with me.

JANE: Yes, exactly, her “liberation” was being taken care of by someone else instead of truly stretching her wings.  However, like you I appreciated how different the book was.   One thing a Stein story excels at is scene tension. Each scene is fraught with the possibility of discovery. The tension makes each interaction between Van and Evie vibrate.    B-/C

Best regards

Jane and January

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

14 Comments

  1. DA_January
    May 11, 2012 @ 10:48:51

    I did forget to mention how repugnant I found this cover. It’s just terrible.

  2. Jane
    May 11, 2012 @ 10:51:47

    @DA_January: Yes, good god, the cover could not be more off putting.

  3. Jill Sorenson
    May 11, 2012 @ 11:06:48

    Great joint review. I agree with most of the criticisms but I found the ending very romantic. I don’t think Evie was ready to strike out on her own, and Van was very sweet, not controlling. So I’m okay with him supporting her or them supporting each other. I also really liked the New Adult feel of this: young characters but mature sexual content. This is a subgenre I’m attracted to as a reader and author, so I’m interested to see if it gains momentum or attracts controversy.

    I think I’m the only one who likes the cover. On reflection, that guy isn’t at all how Van is described. He looks dark-skinned, not Caucasion, and I’m pretty sure this is what caught my attention initially. That and a few glowing reviews on Goodreads.

  4. Jill Sorenson
    May 11, 2012 @ 11:08:36

    Vin Diesel! That’s who the cover model looks like to me. Just put my finger on it.

  5. Maili
    May 11, 2012 @ 11:33:56

    @Jill Sorenson: Heh. I thought he resembled the saxophonist from The Lost Boys [here’s a video on YouTube that jokily amps up the homoerotic tension between Jason Patric and the sax guy].

  6. Jill Sorenson
    May 11, 2012 @ 11:50:50

    @Maili: Laughing so hard I’m crying right now. That is awesome.

    Jane, for some reason the site isn’t “remembering” me. I have to put in my name & info every time. Is there a “keep me logged in” button?

  7. Mandi
    May 11, 2012 @ 11:58:11

    I wish the parent’s had been more of the book as well. And the end seemed abrupt. Also agree she writes very good tension!

    But I really enjoyed this one. I’ve come to read her other books (all much more erotic than this one) and I like her voice.

    And horrid cover. omg.

  8. Megan
    May 11, 2012 @ 12:41:35

    I absolutely loved this book, even tho I see some of the criticisms you mention in the review. What I loved most about it is the newness of sex to Evie, and her self-deprecating awareness of who she is, and who she is not, and how Van is just as private as she is, it just takes us longer to get to know him better (plus tall men float my boat like whoa). I bought the book in spite of the cover, because–I think it was Mandi–was saying how good it was, and to ignore the cover. I’ve started to glom her other stuff, and have liked it, but not in the young, fresh, tender love way of this one.

  9. Delphine Dryden
    May 11, 2012 @ 12:44:18

    It’s no secret I love everything Charlotte, and this book was no exception. But yes, agree about the cover, it didn’t hit the right note for me at all – for one think I thought both the models looked years and years too old.

  10. Fae
    May 11, 2012 @ 13:23:14

    I loved this book so much. I agree with almost all your criticisms, though, with the exception of not believing in the HEA. I totally bought it, those two are going to be together forever in my mind. :) But yes, to everything else you both said. There were minor issues, but overall I couldn’t have been more engrossed and invested in this story and this couple.

  11. Stefanie
    May 11, 2012 @ 13:42:00

    I really enjoyed this book. I was intrigued after I ready Mandi’s review at SmexyBooks, and I’m really happy that I read this one, horrid cover notwithstanding. (Oh, that cover! Gah!) Charlotte Stein was a new to me author, and I definitely went searching for her backlist after reading this one.

  12. Alex
    May 11, 2012 @ 15:50:27

    I found out about Sheltered and Charlotte Stein via Twitter and holy crap, you know when you read something that you enjoy so much you go right back to the beginning and start it again, just because you love the author’s voice so much? That. And then I hopped onto the Kindle store and pretty much bought her entire backlist and did the same thing with all of them. So yup, love Charlotte Stein. I don’t think her books are perfect – the swithering between US and UK terminology in some of them does jar a little at times – but my criticisms of this one don’t really match those listed in the above review. I thought the ending was really sweet – they’re adorable together and (sappy fool that I am) I like to imagine Evie as growing up from this point on, supported by Van, and them living the HEA. Van didn’t come across as the controlling type to me. It was really refreshing to read about first love in characters of this age and have it seem real.

  13. Carrie
    May 11, 2012 @ 15:56:44

    Let me just say I’m a little weary of the “villians” in many contemporary romances being the repressive “Christian” parents. Really. Tired. Yes Christian parents tend to think people ought to be married before sex. It might feel old-fasheioned, but it’s not evil.

    Secondly, can we please put the “homeschooled children aren’t socialized” myth to bed? I realize there are probably isolated children out there, but I’ve been homeschooling for 22 years and honestly, I’ve rarely met a family that didn’t jump at the chance to involved their children in activities and classes. For two decades our inside joke is that we all “van school” because we were so rarely at home. My kids have been involved in community sports, music lessons, choir, drama groups, Toastmasters, Civil Air Patrol and Envirathon. They also take classes with other homeschoolers weekly. This Saturday I’m chaperoning a homeschool “prom.”

    I’ve been involved in homeschooling from the time it was barely legal to today when it’s a multimillion dollar industry. I’ve seen a lot of trends in homeschooling along the way. While some people homeschool in part for religious reasons, in truth there are as many reasons to homeschool as there are homeschoolers. Plus, these days, many people only homeschool for part of a child’s school years. They use the options that work best for each child each year. One of my sons went to a local charter school for part of high school because he felt like he’d do better there. He did and it was a great experience. And with the rise of great online classes, the options just keep growing.

    Thanks for letting me vent. ;-)

  14. If You Like New Adult Books
    Jul 24, 2012 @ 04:02:43

    […] Sheltered by Charlotte Stein (contemporary erotic romance told in first person female POV) [Review] […]

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