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REVIEW:  The Awakening of Poppy Edwards by Marguerite Kaye

REVIEW: The Awakening of Poppy Edwards by Marguerite Kaye

Awakening-of-Poppy-Edwards

Los Angeles, 1924

Broadway producer Lewis Cartsdyke has come to Hollywood with a business proposition for starlet Poppy Edwards. But as he’s watching her sing in a downtown club, dressed in a man’s suit that skims her lush curves, a much more wicked proposal comes to mind.

Poppy has fame, wealth and an aversion to love. Lewis offers the kind of passion she craves—delicious, sensual heat without complications. Night after night she abandons herself to sensation, promising she won’t lose her heart the way her sister did. But for Lewis, uncomplicated is no longer enough—and soon he won’t be satisfied until he’s claimed all of Poppy in blissful surrender.

Dear Ms. Kaye,

After finishing reading the companion novella to this one,“The Undoing of Daisy Edwards,” I dove straight into this one. Since they’re from the Undone line that wasn’t hard nor did it take long to finish them. Two sisters who’ve sworn not to fall in love – hmmm, what is she going to do differently?

Poppy’s book isn’t initially quite as dark as Daisy’s. Poppy didn’t lose a husband in the killing fields of France nor did Lewis fight there as Dominic had. But in their own ways, they’ve suffered too because of what happened during the Great War. Poppy and Daisy grew up to be so close that when Daisy almost collapsed from grief, Poppy felt it and watched in dismay as her sister shriveled into a shell of who she’d been. When Daisy was no longer able to work in their act, Poppy had to make her own way and chose to leave for Hollywood. Lewis was an ambulance driver and saw things that haunt him still. But he also wrestles with decisions he had to make, things he thinks he might have done wrong and the awful randomness of death.

Both Poppy and Lewis think they’ve found ways to cope with the fallout of the war – for Poppy she’s sworn not to risk the same kind of heartache that wrecked Daisy while Lewis has sworn to make something of the luck of his survival but still hasn’t actually allowed himself to remember and deal with what he lived through. But like Daisy and Dominic, it’s falling for someone and the peace they find from that which will bring them safely home.

I enjoyed the compact, direct, conversational style of the writing. It gives the novella a very immediate “feel.” As Willaful pointed out in Daisy’s novella review, the time and place are delicately hinted at rather being ladled on with a heavy hand. Poppy says how much she enjoys being able to squeeze fresh orange juice then go sit by her pool while she likens something to being lit up with an arc light – very southern Californina/Hollywood premiere-esque. Meanwhile Lewis just knows the bourbon he gets near the night club stage will be awful – due to Prohibition, while if he goes to the bar he’ll quietly get the real stuff.

The sex is hot from the start. Well actually it’s sizzling without having to be described in detail. I have no problems with Poppy being sexually aggressive in a historical as not only is the setting in the flapper 1920s but it’s also in pre-code Hollywood when things were normally wild. But what makes me think these two are truly compatible is that along with the smoking sex, they bond and fall in love in other ways. Both are interested in the technical aspect of making films and the promise on the horizon of talking pictures and Poppy starts to lower her guard when she lets Lewis into the intimate areas of her house – first the kitchen and then only after they’ve admitted their love – into her bedroom. At the point where sex turns into making love.

I was impressed by the fact that both novellas feel complete without seeming rushed. That the emotions are strong and well described and that I finished both feeling good about where the couples are. They make me look forward to the full length book to come. B

~Jayne

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REVIEW:  The Undoing of Daisy Edwards by Marguerite Kaye

REVIEW: The Undoing of Daisy Edwards by Marguerite Kaye

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Dear Ms. Kaye:

I might not have started this if I’d realized it was part of the Harlequin Historical Undone line, and that would have been my loss. I think of Undones as short, sexy, frivolous stories; this is short and sexy, but far from frivolous.

Five years after the end of World War I, Dominick Harrington is living a half life. His older brother is dead, his mother remarried and moved to America, his younger sister Grace is running wild, and he just struggles to get through each day. When Grace puts him in charge of a beautiful woman who’s stoned out of her mind, Dominick is moved for the first time in years. “There was something — broken, fragile, lost? — in the woman’s face that I recognized.”

Actress Daisy Edwards hoped that a shot of cocaine would make the world brighter on her 30th birthday — a birth date she had shared with her dead husband. Instead she just blacked out, to wake up in a strange bed with a strange man. Her first dreamy sensation of safety turns to terror about what might have happened, until she realizes she’s still fully dressed.

So he hadn’t even tried. I felt curiously insulted, which was strange, because that was the last thing I wanted. Though as I leaned over just the tiniest fraction to take a look at him, I was taken aback to discover my body and my mind didn’t quite agree.

It doesn’t take long for them to act on their newly awakened feelings:

There was a split-second, as her lips touched mine, when I thought This is a mistake, and I almost drew back. And then I didn’t. Her lips were soft, her skin cold. Her hands were icy through my shirt-sleeves, I remember. She kissed as if she wasn’t used to kissing, and I probably did the same, because I wasn’t.

Then something shifted. I don’t know if it was just me. It felt like both of us. We–we found it. Our mouths matched.

There’s very little plot to this short story. It’s all about the setting and the voice — or perhaps I should say voices, since both Dominick and Daisy narrate. Despite how depressed they are, their voices are vivid and alive: both are interesting, mature narrators, who are introspective without seeming like naval gazers. (The short length probably helps.) There are descriptions of clothes and objects that put us in the 1920s, but the setting mostly comes to life though their feelings and conversations, rather than via mention of fads or incongruous jolts of slang; the upheaval and trauma of the war has affected every part of their world and ever fiber of their being, in an almost tangible way. (I was reminded of visiting New York, and seeing the emotional impact of 9/11 everywhere.)

In this atmosphere of loss and upheaval and guilt, it’s hard for Dominick and Daisy to accept feeling emotions around anything else; as if to deny them, both compare their intense longings to addiction:

Dominick:

She was too much, but I hadn’t had enough. In the trenches, there were boys who were addicted to the morphine we were supposed to save for emergencies. In the trenches, it got to be impossible to tell to the difference between what was normal and what was an emergency.

Daisy:

He was my drug, that was all. I’d found my drug, and I was going to keep taking it until I didn’t need it any longer… Dominic was my drug, and I was Dominick’s drug, and we’d use each other, and then when we’d had enough of each other, we’d be–better? I didn’t think that far ahead. Looking back, my capacity for self-delusion astonishes me.

Nonetheless, their passion evolves into an actual relationship, and Dominick begins to realize that life is too short to wish away.

I’m sick and tired of not raising my eyes beyond the horizon of the next twenty-four hours, of not expecting or planing or anticipating. Of not hoping. Of never taking more than a tiny piece of life at a time. Of not allowing myself to want more. I want more, Daisy. I want you.

The book ends with a tentative Happy-For-Now, which seems absolutely right for the characters and the type of story. B

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