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REVIEW:  The Bodies We Wear by Jeyn Roberts

REVIEW: The Bodies We Wear by Jeyn Roberts

bodies-roberts

Dear Ms. Roberts,

My thriller kick continues, this time with one falling into the science fiction genre. I’ll be the first to admit that the science fiction is light in The Bodies We Wear, which is fine with me because I’m not in the mood for a rigorous read. Your book almost has a dystopian feel but I’m pleased to say that this isn’t a case of dystopian masquerading as an SF thriller. Publishers have tried that before, and it’s never worked.

In the near future, a drug called Heam reigns. Highly addictive, it has the effect of showing users a glimpse of a place many consider heaven. But it has some other side effects. People who overdose come back marked with a spider’s web over their chests. Thus marked, they’re ostracized by society — unable to complete an education, get an job, which in turn only encourages them to pursue their addiction.

Faye is a survivor of a Heam overdose, through no fault of her own. Her father was a Heam dealer and when things went wrong on his end, his boss went after Faye in retaliation. While Faye’s best friend died, she survived. Unfortunately, her mother kicked her out and eventually Faye was taken in by a former detective.

Driven by revenge against the men responsible for ruining her life and killing her best friend, Faye trains day in and day out in the hopes that one day she’ll be ready. Then one day she meets a guy named Chael, who seems strangely familiar and makes her begin to question her mission.

I thought this book had a promising concept. Even the beginning worked fine for me, but as it continued, I found myself frowning at various point. For example, the book makes a point of talking about how Heam is “so” dangerous, that in some countries, creating and distributing it results in the death penalty, not just a life sentence. This displayed an ignorance of international drug to me since many countries already have anti-drug trafficking laws and it is already an automatic death sentence. This is not actually a change.

Another thing that kept bothering me was the death of Faye’s best friend, Christian. Christian’s death is the primary impetus for her revenge quest. That’s fine. But she goes on and on about how Christian was the love of her life. This happened when she was 11. Now I’m willing to buy that you might meet your soulmate very young, but I’m not quite so willing to believe that you’ll recognize them as your soulmate until you’re at least in your teenaged years. It doesn’t seem like a big difference in years but I can buy this type of declaration in a 15- or 16-year old, not in an 11-year-old. I just couldn’t buy it as a motivation.

Chael’s true identity was not a surprise or a revelation. It was obvious very early on what was going on there, so I found it irritating that Faye took a huge chunk of the book to put the pieces together. Part of it is also that I didn’t like Chael at all as a love interest. He stalked Faye and he constantly came down hard on her mission. We all know how I feel about stories where random boys who come along and tell the girl they supposedly like that their way of doing things is wrong. You’ve known each other for 5 minutes, come on. And in particular, there are things he does later in the book, that take away Faye’s agency and choices, which made me unable to like him.

The Bodies We Wear isn’t entirely bad. I liked Faye’s experiences in school and wish we could have seen more of her trying to have a normal life in spite of the overdose stigma. I liked her attempts to help other overdose survivors. There are passages that I really loved:

“The bodies we wear,” he says. “They’re not the ones we always want. They get damaged. Used. It’s who we are on the inside that counts. The person waiting to jump free.”

or

The bodies we wear can only take so much damage. We wear them down and eventually they stop working. But I now know that who we are lives on, even without our bodies.

A lot of my dissatisfaction with The Bodies We Wear stems from mislaid expectations. I went in, thinking I’d get a revenge story. What I got was ultimately more of a meditation on life and death, what we do with the time we have and what happens after. I don’t want to spoil the ending but let me just say, if readers expect an HEA, that’s not what happens here. C-

My regards,
Jia

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REVIEW:  The Accidental Abduction by Darcie Wilde

REVIEW: The Accidental Abduction by Darcie Wilde

Elaina started reading romances in high school, but only started telling people she read romances within the last few years. Historicals will always remain her favorite, although she finds herself reading other genres depending on her mood. Favorite authors include Elizabeth Hoyt, Lisa Kleypas, Tessa Dare and Meredith Duran. She’s always on the hunt for innovative historical romances—especially non-Regency historicals—so drop her a line if you have a recommendation.

 

Accidental Abduction Darcie Wilde

Dear Ms. Wilde:

I must admit I wasn’t sure what to expect with your novel An Accidental Abduction. All I knew was that it was a historical by an unknown-to-me author. When I realized that this historical contains both a working class hero and heroine, I was so excited. How often do you get to read about merchant heroes? Rarely, if ever. I’m so tired of rakish dukes that anything slightly different will pique my interest.

The story begins with, well, an abduction of sorts: when Leannah Wakefield (I have a difficult time imagining Leannah a common name in the 19th century, I must admit) discovers her younger sister has eloped, she drives off in a mad dash to catch her. When Harry Rayburn sees a carriage hurtling down the street, he thinks the driver has lost control of her team and attempts to stop the carriage. What results is Harry being dragged along on Leannah’s errand, an accidental abduction of sorts.

Leannah and Harry experience instant attraction to one another as their road-trip continues. Leannah, a widow of one year, never experienced a satisfying sexual relationship with her much older husband, and she finds herself attracted to Harry from the outset. I really appreciated this frank look at the heroine’s sexual desires that often are overlooked or coated with confusion as to what those feelings entail, when there is rarely such confusion in a hero’s sexual attraction to the heroine. Leannah knows she’s attracted to Harry and imagines having sex with him—a rather subversive touch to this romance that I really liked.

Harry, for his part, has recently been turned down by the woman he thought he would marry, and when he meets Leannah, he is similarly smitten and quickly forgets his almost-fiancée’s rejection. Harry comes from merchant stock, with gobs of money but not much in the way of blue blood. He is handsome—called an Adonis more than once—but also rendered human, too, with his overlong sideburns that he doesn’t realize aren’t particularly flattering.

It is this sexual attraction coupled with Leannah’s desire to avoid another unwanted marriage on the behest of her ill father that results in Harry and Leannah marrying only days after meeting. Their first sexual encounter is electric and yet both are full of doubts as to their hasty marriage. Combined with Leannah’s secrets regarding her family history and Harry’s family’s disapproval over his union, the two struggle to find their footing in a marriage that seems to be falling apart from the outset.

The first half of this book worked well for me, and I loved how Harry and Leannah fell for each other so quickly. Once the two are married, however, the book falls into frustrating Big Misunderstanding territory, that’s mostly caused by the lack of communication between Harry and Leannah. So many of their issues could have been solved by simply asking the other about the question or issue at hand. Instead, Harry—in particular—allows himself to believe what others tell him about Leannah without confronting her.

I also couldn’t figure out what, precisely, was the Big Secret of Leannah’s that causes Harry such alarm. Although it is revealed that Leannah’s father has had some shady dealings, there is nothing that Leannah herself has done. We also have a secret of Harry’s that is mentioned a few times in the first half but never discussed again in the second, which seemed a major oversight in the development of both his character and his relationship with Leannah.

The clunky-ness of the second half didn’t stop once we reached the very random ending that seemed thrown in there because you weren’t sure how to solve the problems of the characters. Instead, Leannah suffers a brutal accident that forces Harry to stop being angry with her, and this is coupled with the offstage defeat of the villains. Once we reach the very last chapter, I was not the least bit convinced that Harry and Leannah had solved their difficulties: instead, a near-death experience just put it on hold.

Overall, I really did enjoy your writing style and I’ll be on the lookout for more of your work. I wanted to like The Accidental Abduction more than I did, but it had some lovely moments to it despite the disintegrating second half.

Grade: C+

Elaina

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