Monday, August 25, 2014

Not Quite a Wife by Mary Jo Putney

Image linked from Goodreads
Oh, man. I love Mary Jo Putney. I love the Lost Lords series. And this book... was just not up to the standard set by the previous five. It was really, really not at the same level. This was an ARC, and while the technical (proofreading) editing was fine, the story-line (line and substantive editing) really needed some work. Maybe some of this will be cleaned up before the book is put into print.
A lot of Putney's books start with some action, but this one starts with our hero falling ill, getting mugged and beaten, ending up on the heroine's door, and then a passionate encounter after eleven years of separation. What the what? The story then slows considerably before continuing in odd fits and starts, culminating in a realization that would be fine in a Christian/Inspirational romance novel but seemed odd in a more mainstream book that had heretofore only infrequently (though with heavy, heavy hand) referred to the heroine's religion.
Anyway, the story - Lauren and James married young and then separated when James did something So Horrible that Lauren just couldn't stand to be with him anymore. So she left and went to Bristol with her brother (a doctor) to help him with his work. They also opened a home for abused women. When Lauren... encounters... James, she comes up pregnant. Which can happen. And they decide to reconcile. Okay. But it all seems so... forced. And somewhat boring. The middle of the book reads more like a regular Putney novel. More exploring the characters than a ton of action which is good. But...
There is exposition. Dear God. The exposition. It's like some newbie editor said, "We need to know everything about the other couples in this series, can you do a mini-recap for each and every one of them? Yeah, that's what readers want." This is not the way to entice people to read other books in the series at it cuts each character down to two dimensions from the wonderful pictures that were painted in their own stories.
And while we do get to learn more about Laurel in this middle part of the book, none of it seems to fit very well. It's like her personality traits were plucked at random from some jar and had to be wedged into the story. At least for Laurel. She's supposedly this rigid, almost Methodist, person but she is also incredibly wild in the bedroom for someone who left her husband eleven years earlier and only after their honeymoon (deciding to fall into bed with him after their absence.) She left her husband but is ready to forgive. Even when he repeats his actions, which she finds out were justified, but she still can't get over it.
And what was the point of meeting Laurel's parents? We're already hammered over the head with the fact that she wants their approval. Again, it seems that someone decided that every... single... thing... had to be explained.
If the book had started out with the scene that caused Laurel to leave her husband, then jumped to the start and proceeded chronologically from there, had excluded the rather tedious exposition, this could have been a very good book. This is still a very high 2 for me, but I just couldn't give it a three miler, especially since the rest of the books in the series were so good.
Previous book: Sometimes a Rogue

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