February 9, 2016

I don't like romance novels

At the end of December (I think) I mentioned that this year would see more reviews which were requested by authors, publishers, publicists, and/or public relations professionals. The books in today's post were generously sent to me by Get Red PR. Now that I've gotten that out of the way, here we go!

The cover art truly is beautiful
I pride myself on giving honest reviews while trying to at least find one positive point in books that I otherwise didn't like. Sometimes this can be quite difficult. With that being said, Cavendon Hall by Barbara Taylor Bradford felt more like a chore than a fun exercise to me. This isn't because Bradford is a terrible writer. Some of her descriptive prose was absolutely beautiful. She's especially eloquent when it comes to scenery and clothes. For me, she didn't deliver when it came to the characters and the plot. This is the first book I've ever read by this author but I understand from her bio that she's quite prolific and is in fact a #1 New York Times bestselling author (if that means anything to you). She's even been awarded an OBE by Queen Elizabeth for her contributions to literature. Perhaps that is why I was doubly disappointed by this book. She's been lauded as being so fantastic but I found her characterization to be unbelievable and fake while the storyline was utterly predictable and boring. From the first few pages, I knew that the book would be a struggle for me. A few years back, I reviewed Below Stairs by Margaret Powell which was the inspiration for Downton Abbey. Cavendon Hall felt like a sub par ripoff of the show. That rankled. The story revolves around an aristocratic family called the Inghams and the family they've employed on the Cavendon estate for 170+ years, the Swanns. It's set during the Great War in the county of Yorkshire in Northern England. Something terrible happens at the start of the novel and the remainder is dealing with the aftermath.

The costuming is exactly as described
And then I read the sequel, The Cavendon Women, and I found it to be more enjoyable than the first book (it's a series and I have no idea how many are going to be in it as this book just came out). I think that this was because rather than dwelling on one dramatic event as she did with Cavendon Hall, Bradford touched more on each member of the family (of which there are many). The characters were somewhat more fleshed out and (GASP!!) their flaws were brought to light. I was starting to believe these two families were pod people to be honest. Everyone is gorgeous, talented, and morally upright. I prefer my characters to be multi-dimensional. I would like to applaud Bradford for imbuing the women with extraordinary strength and independence especially for the time period in which it was set (the roaring 20's). It's hard to give a definitive review for either of these books. I didn't hate them but I certainly didn't love them. I doubt I'll ever reread them and I'm uncertain if I'll even retain the memory of the characters beyond the writing of this review. :-/

Also, I'm really just not a fan of romance novels and the way these had been presented I thought for sure they were historical fiction. It was more like tiny snippets from history were glimpsed through a peephole of a multi-layered romance. And why do there need to be so many gratuitous sex scenes??

**If you're interested in buying these books or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

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