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REVIEW: Cloudy with a Chance of Marriage by Kiernan Kramer

Dear Ms. Kramer:

Let me share how I came about to read this book. When the first book, When Harry Met Molly, was published I was immediately caught by the title. It was cute. Like an LOLCat. I read it and thought it was enjoyable, well written, but a bit on the kitschy side. Kind of like its title. The second book, Dukes to the Left of Me, Princes to the Right, I started to read but never finished. I received Cloudy with a Chance of Marriage from the publisher but I prefer to read “e” so I trotted off to Amazon and purchased the digital version the day of its release.

Cloudy with a Chance of Marriage - Kramer_ Kieran There are those that like the titles of your books and those that loathe them. I find them entertaining and to a large degree, I think that they fit the tone of the stories which tend to try to exploit the humor of a situation for effect. However, that type of satire (the Oscar Wilde type) is tough to pull off. In When Harry Met Molly, my biggest problem was the silliness level. The over the top characters weren’t the issue in this story. It was the anemic chemistry between the two leads.

I wanted to like this story so much because it is about an untitled gentleman and an untitled lady. Huzzah for the commoners finally getting love stories. Taken individually, Captain Stephan Arrow and bookshop owner Jilly Jones are very likeable people. Stephan wants to just enjoy his retirement from the Navy, if only the government would come through on the money that they owe him. Jilly is trying to hide from her husband. Yes, husband.

I do understand that some of the exaggeration of the characters is purposeful but when humor is mostly situational and through caricatures, I think that it is easier to fall flat. In other words, the characters were caricatures such as Jilly’s manservant, Otis, who dresses extravagantly and refuses to let anyone buy the books in Jilly’s store because the patrons aren’t good enough. Then there is everyone on Dreare Street who is disgraced and impoverished or nearly so from the unwed mother, to the abandoned artist, and the failed investor. Jilly says that every type of Londoner lived on Dreare Street, but the only ones that are profiled in the book are the down and out, the dreary. Even the weather is added for effect. A cloud of fog hangs around Dreare, nearly obscuring the street from passersby.

So yes, everything is an exaggeration but because the characters themselves are so bland without their costumes and their awkward situations, the story itself stalls. The residents of Dreare Street need a better life but the overstatement of the characters’ made them less sympathetic and really served to distance the reader from investing emotionally in the story. And even though I knew that a lot of the eccentricities were done purposefully, the little plot points lacked credibility. Like how did Jilly come to buy the bookstore when she was married? Wouldn’t her inheritance from her father been controlled by her husband? How would she have managed the sale? What was the deal with Stephen’s money from the government? Why was that even brought up? There seemed to be quite a bit of fluidity between the classes. I would have liked more explanation regarding that. The story seemed to lack historical accuracy and even in a parody or especially in a parody, I would have thought accuracy would be important to ground it. It just felt off to me.

The most compelling parts of the story was the very beginning when Stephen and Jilly seemed to be at odds because Stephen just wanted to have drunken party after drunken party and Jilly wanted to make a go of her bookstore business. But Stephen’s partying came to a quick end and he was far less interesting without the aura of dissipation, sadly. Jilly was such a standard character for romance that her “running away from a terrible husband” plotline didn’t rouse me in any way. The end, when Jilly had to face her past, was also compelling, likely because it had more authenticity.

Thus while both characters were likeable, they didn’t have any magnetism for me and it seemed for each other either. I thought the two main protagonists made better friends than lovers. To some extent the characters were passionless, even the mild sex scenes seemed forced as if the idea of making love to each other was better than the act itself.

In fact, I felt as if everyone and everything was dressed up in a crazy outfit in order to move the readers’ attention away from the blandness of the characters. It probably needed to be more over the top in order to sell this as a spoof, but it wasn’t. I spent much of the book, sadly, bored. I don’t feel like I can give a grade lower than some version of a C here because there is a certain level of competency that is present here even if this book was not to my taste. C-

Best regards,

Jane

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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. Son
    May 25, 2011 @ 05:55:39

    Historical romance is getting so silly. I realised the other day I haven’t read one for more than a year.

    I personally despise the titles. It’s like the publishers are saying, “Hey, we know our historical accuracy is less than ideal, so we’re just giving up completely!”.

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  2. DS
    May 25, 2011 @ 06:38:52

    The description sounds like some of the Marion Chesney regencies I’ve run into. The world in the story just has has to be accepted on its own terms without reference to reality.

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  3. Jane
    May 25, 2011 @ 06:41:13

    @DS – yes, that’s exactly right only this time I couldn’t do it.

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  4. EGS
    May 25, 2011 @ 08:44:38

    The titles of Kramer’s books are just so stupid that I couldn’t read one. Humor is difficult to do well, especially in a historical romance, and cheesy, slapstick humor is the worst, imo.

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  5. Karenmc
    May 25, 2011 @ 09:58:23

    The titles have kept me away from these books.

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  6. MarcieR
    May 25, 2011 @ 10:00:28

    I actually like the titles. They make me wonder what the book is about. I don’t read a lot of historicals, so I have to read an excerpt to see if I would buy. But then I read some reviews. More don’t buy this than buy this. I am still curious. And I may have to go to a used **gasp** bookstore to try one.

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  7. DianeN
    May 25, 2011 @ 10:48:19

    I don’t actually mind the titles, but I couldn’t get through the first book and it sounds like this one would have been a DNF for me as well. I can go along with something lighthearted and maybe not entirely historically accurate if the writing is first rate and the characters interest me–and each other! Sadly this doesn’t seem to be the case. What surprises me is the starred review from Booklist (see the cover blurb). It’s a tool I use for book selection at my library, and their reviewers are usually right on the money. In this case, I’m relying on Jane instead and steering clear of Kramer!

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  8. Jane
    May 25, 2011 @ 11:07:20

    @DianeN – I have a feeling that the book, like the title, is polarizing. Either love it or hate it. This book just didn’t reach me.

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  9. Lindsey
    May 25, 2011 @ 14:30:25

    I’m glad to finally see a review up of this book. I’ve been waffling back and forth on whether to buy it, because I liked the sample I downloaded, but when I started reading review on Goodreads and Amazon, I began to doubt whether or not I really wanted to read it. Kramer’s first two books were entertaining, but when I finished them, I never felt satisfied, like I do after a book with emotional depth. I think the silliness she tried to infuse into her books actually works against her, and tends to take precedence over the romance.

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  10. An
    May 25, 2011 @ 22:41:31

    I actually just started this book last week. I put it down, and haven’t been able to pick it up again. It’s just… too odd for me?

    I really like the title but the plot is just one big “And then what happened? Really? Ok then.” Part of me feels that this book would work better as a contemporary (because it surely doesn’t feel like a Regency) but then I realize that huge parts of the plot so far would fall about without the old stereotypes.

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  11. Yasmin
    May 26, 2011 @ 00:26:04

    I actually like the titles of Kramer’s books. They make me smile.
    And i want to like the books, i really do, just for the sake of the titles. But she writes awfully. I just never manage to finish the books

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  12. Sarah
    May 26, 2011 @ 08:48:25

    Count me as another who likes the titles. They’re cute and a bit silly, which sounds like they match the tone of the book. I have the same reaction to a lot of Katie McAllister’s new books. Also, I’m ready to jump on any historical title that isn’t just a variation on “seduction,” “scandal,” or “pleasure.”

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  13. Amber
    May 27, 2011 @ 10:30:16

    I read the first in the series and that was enough for me. I’m a character reader, and Kramer’s characters are so uninteresting, irritating, and bland that I don’t care to read about what happens to them.

    I don’t mind cutesy titles. At least they are memorable. I have a difficult time remembering titles in general because they are all the same.

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  14. Carolyn
    May 27, 2011 @ 21:46:58

    @Sarah, So you don’t want to read “Pleasure’s Scandalous Seduction”?

    ReplyReply

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