REVIEW: Sparkle by Jennifer Greene
Dear Ms. Greene,
Several of my friends count you among their favorite authors and have for years. Lately I’ve had good luck with the Harlequin Next line (which I understand is now defunct) and I jumped at the chance to try one of your books. Overall, it was a good experience but not the best.
Poppy and Bren are nodding acquaintances in their small Virginia town but they never expect what will end up bringing them together. A woman scorned by most of the town her whole life leaves them both an inheritance of jewelry. What everyone had thought was nothing but cheap, tacky dime store stuff turns out to be worth a cool $250,000 for each woman. Stunned at their luck, both have some choices to make. Poppy quickly decides to spend some of her money on plastic surgery. She’s always considered herself somewhat homely and now’s her chance to fix that.
Bren knows she should tell her minister husband and turn over the money for their struggling church but lately Charles has been criticizing everything she does. Bren loves being a minister’s wife, loves the church, and helping people. But Poppy can’t seem to get her to accept that Charles’ physical violence has to stop. Bren would be the first to advise any other woman in this situation to leave but her faith in her marriage vows as well as some other things tie her to Charles. Something keeps her from revealing the money and her growing friendship with Poppy until it’s too late.
When I read a book that features two heroines/heroes/whatever, I go into it expecting the book to more or less be divided equally. What I found with this book is that Poppy seemed to dominate the story. It’s not that Bren wasn’t in it or her issues mentioned throughout the book but I felt that there were far more extended scenes with Poppy, Poppy and her animals, Poppy at work, Poppy with Web, etc….Don’t get me wrong, I love animals. I think of my two as my children. My mother thinks of them as her grandchildren. It wasn’t that I hated these scenes but there were just so many of them. I already got that Poppy gets along better with animals and men than with women. I didn’t need that many examples of it.
I also felt that Charles is shown with almost no redeeming features. He’s so unrelentingly down on Bren, on everything she does, on everything she suggests, on everything anyone says about her, etc…I never saw any good interactions between them. Yes, I know you’re trying to get across that their marriage is troubled but sheesh, the man is doom and gloom and hellfire all the time. I also thought it unlikely that Bren would have no problems getting extra funding for her shelter. Non-profits go begging for money all the time yet this first timer has it coming at her hand over fist? Hmmmmm….
I did enjoy meeting both Poppy and Bren. Both are down to earth, friendly, easy to like women.
Neither woman suddenly changes her personality or actions just to further the plot. I loved watching these two very different people find their commonalities and become best of friends. Not that they totally get along, of course, as best friends often do bicker a little and feel no hesitation pointing out what the other should be doing.
I also like how their windfall gives them options but doesn’t essentially change either woman. Each finds that she has to look within and make the changes happen herself. I thought the way you ended the book for Bren showed some ingenuity and still stuck to her basic self and lifestyle. Your writing style was pleasant to read and I think you nailed the small Southern town descriptions. B- for this one.