Author: Julianne Donaldson
Summary: Marianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she’ll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that even the best laid plans can go awry.
From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will she be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke.
Review: I had the highest of high expectations for this book. From the 4.47 average rating on GoodReads to the fact that nearly every clean blog/reviewer I follow that has read this book has loved it, nothing would have led me to believe that this book would be anything less than perfect–near perfect, at the least. So, needless to say, when I won an ARC of it after its release, I was majorly excited. However, this was hugely disappointing–if you followed my status updates on GoodReads, you could see how obviously I ended up disliking this. From page one, I knew it would be work to get through, because the writing was just poor. It was very tell-don’t-show, and the main character, Marianne, would state the most obvious things, and never implied anything. You always knew exactly what was going on, and took all the fun out of getting to know the characters and the story. Maybe I was so disappointed because I had such high expectations, but honestly, nothing can explain to me how something like this got such perfect ratings, especially from reviewers whose opinions I tend to agree with wholeheartedly.
What I Liked: Spoilers!
· I enjoyed the climax of the novel fairly well. I believe the romantic in me was screaming at me to just enjoy the book despite all its flaws, so I tried to ignore the writing and focus on the characters and act as if I were watching a really good movie. When I put that mindset to work at the climax, I really enjoyed the chemistry between Phillip and Marianne, and my heart did clench a little bit at how much he must have cared about her. It was a good climax, if not dragged out enough, and it was the only good point of the book.
What I Didn’t Like:
· The writing just wasn’t good. I always hate saying things like that, because I know the writing process is hard and it’s hard to get published and all that, and in all honesty, I just don’t like saying things that might make someone feel bad. With plot points and characters and stuff like that, there are always other interpretations, and not liking those aspects is much different than just flat out saying it was bad writing. But that was the case in Edenbrooke, and it’s unfortunate that was the case. However, I was just so…irritated with it by the time I got to the end. In those two hundred and fifty five pages, Phillip was amused in some way thirty three times (although maybe it would have been better to keep a tally of how many times Phillip’s eyes glinted with any sort of emotion), and Marianne blushed a whopping total of seventy four times. Seventy four blushes in one novel from one character! It was all just so repetitive. Not to mention the very tell-don’t-show aspect. There’s one instance after first meeting Phillip where he refuses to tell Marianne his full name. The sentence proceeds as follows:
I was taken aback. “Oh. Well…” I did not know how to respond.
I could have guessed she didn’t know how to respond. It was pretty obvious. The dialogue always was like this, and it drove me crazy how much Donaldson felt the need to tell exactly what everyone was doing and what they looked like, as if I wouldn’t be able to tell from the dialogue. Not to mention Marianne’s narrative was more like the stream of consciousness of a thirteen-year-old girl. It was just poor on every level. And immature. There’s even a part where Marianne narrates:
Phillip–if that was even his real name–…
If that was even his real name? Again, I mean no offense, but that’s the sort of phrase that seventh graders use in their writing when they want to sound mysterious. It was just all very bad, and this was the biggest downfall of the book.
· The plot and characters were all too predictable. It was obvious from the very first introduction that Phillip lived at Edenbrooke (how else would there be a plot?), it was obvious when Phillip talks about his older brother and Marianne comments that he looks like he’d lost something very dear that Charles was dead, and Cecily wanted to marry Phillip. It was obvious Cecily would not actually react the way Marianne thought she would to her feelings for Phillip, and it was obvious that once Marianne wrote her own love letter to him, that he would eventually read it. Not to mention how much the characters themselves bothered me, mostly Marianne. Phillip would do something honorable and nice for her, and she would get all hot headed about it, like somehow it was totally offensive that he was being a gentleman. What kind of ungrateful brat responds in anger and resentment to a man who’s paid for her lodging, a carriage to bring her to her destination, and a full-time nurse for her injured coachman? She’s was just a brat, and I don’t have any tolerance for heroines who are bratty and rude to people who totally don’t deserve it. Donaldson struck a chord with me there, and while it probably wouldn’t have been interesting if Marianne just liked him all the time, it was poorly handled.
· The resolution was too easy. Cecily and Louisa’s reactions to Marianne’s feelings were too anticipated and a cop out for any sort of reaction or conflict between Cecily’s feelings and Marianne’s–heaven forbid we have a realistic reaction. Louisa seemed to hate Marianne from day one, so why would she be totally okay with her probably being her new sister-in-law? Cecily was infatuated with Phillip and determined to marry him, no matter what, but she is surprisingly gracious about giving up her claims on him, when the rest of the book was spent building up how selfish and self-centered Cecily was about things between the girls. It was unrealistic and too convenient.
Overall: I probably would not recommend this book to anybody, least of all Jane Austen fans. If you’re desperate for a clean romance, you should give it a shot–it has a couple of redeeming spots, though they are few. All in all, the writing was too poor for this to ever be a good book, even if the characters and plot were more bearable than they ended up being. If this is the standard for clean romances, then we have a long way to go–it would be nice to have a clean romance that actually worked in terms of writing and was decent. This book does not prove the point that you don’t need all that extra uncomfortable stuff in it to have a good book. Anyone of any age could read this if they wanted to, as there was no objectionable material, but I’d caution you to possibly set low expectations, so you aren’t as disappointed as I was.