Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Unscripted by Davis Bunn

Unscripted by Davis Bunn

Let’s begin with the summary:

Young line producer Danny Byrd is well-known in Hollywood for being someone who gets things done on time and under budget. But when his reputation takes a beating after his partner—and former best friend—makes off with their investors' money, Danny has but one chance to redeem himself and restore his ruined career.

LA lawyer Megan Pierce has sacrificed years of her life proving herself to her impossible bosses only to find herself disgusted at their snobbery and their specious business practices. When an opportunity to actually make a difference comes her way, she knows she has to grab it—even though she's not entirely clear what "it" is.

Danny and Megan are each other's best hope for redemption. What they never could have imagined was that they might also be each other's best hope for love.

And now, my review:

I’ve read several of Davis’s books. He has a simplistic writing voice, but his insights aren’t simplistic. Several times his prose caused me to hit “highlight” in my Kindle.

One such relatable and poignant moment is when he describes the experience of his characters as younger boys going to the movies. There, they escape into story and “let their wretched pasts belong to other people.” Throughout the novel, Davis goes behind the scenes into filmmaking. Here—he goes even deeper behind the scenes and gives us the power of storytelling to transport viewers.

I enjoyed the filmmaking backdrop.

Overall, the story slowly unfolds as we learn who the characters are and what has happened to them. Once I had enough facts, I had to research the characters by searching and rereading. When I did, the betrayal by the MC’s best friend (see summary) didn’t feel developed enough. I couldn’t feel the main character’s loss or hurt. We were told about it, at a surface level, but it didn’t resonate. Perhaps that was due to the way the story unfolded and the fact we’re kept at a bit of a distance in the narrative. Deeper POV would have helped.

That said, I’d hesitate to add more words to this 368-page story. Unfortunately, the middle bogged down with a lot of secret-keeping from the reader. It was hard to follow and lost my interest.

There is a hint of romance in the summary, which is fitting since the love story doesn’t develop very far within the first 50 percent of the story.

I was surprised to read in the summary (which I did not review before reading the book) that the MC is young. He doesn’t strike me as a young man, but rather someone in his 40s or older. Unsure why that is. Maybe deeper POV would have helped?

Readers looking for a deeper understanding of  Hollywood productions may enjoy this novel. That was one of the elements that most drew me, and one that kept me reading. I also enjoyed revisiting characters from his earlier novels as they made appearances here.

Disclaimer: I received an ebook copy in exchange for my honest opinions.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

The Heart of a Vicar by Sarah M. Eden


The Heart of a Vicar by Sarah M. Eden

This author is one of my favorites. She’s a gifted storyteller with a strong voice.

Let’s begin with the summary:

Young love is all too fleeting, as Harold Jonquil painfully discovered years ago when Sarah Sarvol, the niece of a neighboring landowner, captured his heart. After an idyllic few weeks in the throes of blossoming love, reality intervened. They could have no future. Following their disastrous parting, Harold attempted to push aside thoughts of love and regret, but Sarah has never left his heart. Now, years later, he has achieved his lifelong aspiration of becoming the local vicar. However, the role proves more difficult than he imagined. He feels hollow and uninspired—until the most important person in his past returns, challenging him as no one ever has.

When Sarah’s ailing uncle summons her back to the family estate in England, there is only one person from her past she is reluctant to see again: Harold Jonquil, the only man who has ever claimed her heart. But when she comes face-to-face with her former beau, she hardly recognizes the aloof and dull man before her. She is determined to help Harold rediscover the passion he once felt toward his chosen profession. Soon, despite their exasperation with each other, they cannot deny the stirring of feelings long buried—but is it too late for second chances?

And now, my review:

I love revisiting these characters and have enjoyed the other books in this series that I’ve had a chance to read. One element I don’t see in Sarah’s work is melodrama or an overly sentimental writing voice. She writes historicals (genre), but without elements that keep readers at a distance from her characters’ true emotions. You feel along with them, and you aren’t bombarded with clich├ęs and overly dramatic emotional descriptions. I believe there can be deep emotions in fiction, but as a reader, I value when the author presents them in a way that allows readers to feel them. Sarah’s work does that.

Her vicar character is such an interesting hero. He doesn’t see his value. He isn’t even sure about who he is. While’s he’s trying to be what he thinks he’s supposed to be, he’s failing and suffering. His coping mechanism for all the rejection and searching in his life is climbing. Loved this trait. He’s also an introvert who becomes overwhelmed by people. So many of his traits were relatable.

He’s noble, but like an eagle, he can’t see his own strength.

One element I thought was conspicuously absent, especially for a vicar, was a God aspect. It would have been very satisfying to see God brought into this vicar’s character arc and have him find his way via a true relationship with God. Instead, he is told to have faith in himself. That was unfortunate. There was a passage about peace in the church building and about helping people, but nothing about Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Perhaps this was a publisher’s choice or perhaps this was in keeping with Anglican vicars during that era—a distance from the God they seemed to serve.

The heroine only wants to belong. She is an outcast in her own home. But the Jonquils make her feel welcome. I loved their involvement in this story, how they brought warmth and hope to a despairing situation.

People around the hero, including himself, condemned things about him that weren’t condemnable. How often do we do that? Play the part we think we should, condemn the things/people God does not? Harold’s growth arc was interesting to watch, including how people around him treated him differently when he began to see himself differently.

Highly recommended!