Today – or at least in this post – I am appealing to you as Jordan Jones, not The Anxious Princess (though I’m extremely grateful this blog has allowed me the opportunity to connect with all of you!)
Hockey is a huge part of my life — that doesn’t mean I particularly like the sport, but it does mean I got dragged from game to game every weekend. Whether my father was playing with his Chiefs, or my sister in her league, I was there at every game. (Granted, usually with a book or my Gameboy, but I was there!!!)
Now, my father is playing in a charity hockey tournament called Play for a Cure. This charity takes amateur hockey teams and drafts former pro NHL players to play alongside them. To name a few players, Adam Graves, Dennis Maruk, Marty McSorley, and Todd Warriner have signed on. The goal is to raise $100,000 — all of which will be donated to the Cancer Research Collaboration Fund.Like the other players, my father is raising money for donations. I thought I would contribute what I could of my own money, as well as present the opportunity to all my readers.
GoFundMe no longer allows “reward levels”, but I do have rewards based on donation amount listed below.
Any Donation: Personal thank-you email from The Anxious Princess.
Tier One: $5.00+: Personalized thank-you card mailed from The Anxious Princess.
(Note: for this reward, your mailing information is required. When you donate, please enter your email so I can get in touch with you!)
Tier Two: $15:00+: Personalized thank-you card mailed from The Anxious Princess plus a small, unique gift mailed along with it.
(Note: for this reward, your mailing information is required. When you donate, please enter your email so I can get in touch with you!)
Tier Three: $50.00+: Personalized thank-you card mailed from The Anxious Princess plus a small, unique gift mailed along with it along with a signed copy of one of my favourite books.
(Note: for this reward, your mailing information is required. When you donate, please enter your email so I can get in touch with you!)
I understand that donating is not a viable option for everyone. If you cannot donate, please consider sharing or asking your friends to donate! I will be posting updates in March about how the tournament went.
Thank you for supporting the Jones family and cancer research.
Date Like a Woman was written by Kai Nicole and published on 15 April 2017.
“This is the dating book Millennial women have been waiting for. It offers a fresh non-sexist perspective on dating and gives women the strategies they need for dating success. This book will revolutionize dating for women everywhere.”
I was provided a complementary copy of Date Like a Woman to review. It in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion/review of the book.
I am who this book is marketed towards.
Have tried (and failed) at dating? Check.
And on that topic of millennials, I have a great quote from Eliza Schlesinger’s Elder Millennial comedy special on Netflix:
“‘Tell us your ways! We wish to be betrothed as well! Secrets. Tell us. Be a girl’s girl.’ There’s no secret, just so we’re clear. Don’t buy the books, don’t buy the hype. Don’t listen…there’s no secret, okay? And if there was a secret, I would have fucking used it. There’s no secret. There’s no special magic to it. I’m never going to be like, ‘Gather round, ladies. Off the 405 lies a toad hole…you must go to it!”
And that pretty much sums up Date Like a Woman. I’ll admit, there are some good nuggets of wisdom here: the ‘feast or famine’ section made a lot of sense, and I did find myself nodding along with the explanation of how men are competitive.
I’ll also admit that I had (and am having) difficulties trying to cobble up a review. Unfortunately, this book is just lacking content. It’s like trying to judge a glass of water – only so much can be said. Date Like a Woman is only 170 pages, and most of that is repeated words and “this will be focused on more in section X”. And on the topic of repetition, the amount of times I read the same thing on the same page right after one another is tiresome. It’s even more tiresome when random things are bolded to make it seem like it’s brand new information. Consider the passage below:
“If you have low self-esteem, you really need to focus on yourself instead of dating. Having low self-esteem attracts abusive personality types. Bring in an abusive relationship will only make your self-esteem worse. You must first repair any self-esteem issues before you start dating. Low self-esteem is like a homing beacon to asshole and douchebag types of men. They also have low self-esteem and in turn will make you feel bad to make themselves feel better. I highly recommend that if you are dealing with low self-esteem that you seek help from a professional counsellor. Counselling is very helpful. Once you work through your self-esteem issues you will be much happier and in a much better position to date. The truth is you will never be happy dating if you are not already happy with yourself.” (p.43)
That, if you weren’t counting, used the word self-esteem EIGHT times in a paragraph with ten sentences. (Not to mention one of those sentences is “counselling is very helpful” — water is also wet, but you don’t need me to tell you that). It’s hard to read a book when it’s constantly chattering like a broken record for 170 pages. Then, when it goes on to say, “remember when I mentioned X?” you just have to set the book down. Do I remember the thing mentioned five pages ago ten different times? Yeah, I do.
Another thing I struggled with is the constant message of standards and having “no expectations” (a fact that is, of course, bolded). Nicole suggests that no matter the date, being open is important. It’s not about the monetary value. And sure, there’s truth to that. Dates don’t have to be expensive to be fun. But then she goes on to say, “Do you really feel that you are too good to eat at a certain place? Do you feel that you are so special…? You need to assess what insecurities are deep down inside of you.” (61). But honestly? There is no shame in standards. There is no shame in going “no, I don’t want to eat there”. Because honestly? If you want to date me and try to take me to McDonald’s our first time out so we can split a cheeseburger off the value meal, we’re parting ways. No insecurities here, just plain, old-fashioned snobbery.
Also, this book doesn’t want you to read it. Seriously – let me list the people who are told to put the book down:
People looking for marriage
Pretty much everyone who doesn’t have any interest in just casually dating
That’s a huge chunk of the population. No one likes being told to go away (“seriously, put [this book] down” one line says. “Save your money” another one suggests). Somehow the exclusion presented makes the premise of the book just seem mean. I can only imagine the number of people who were willing to give this book a chance only to read “this book is not for you” and put it down. Dating and romance self-help books are not rare. If you tell someone not to read your book, they won’t.
There are also a few spelling issues here and there along with formatting problems.
So overall, while Date Like a Woman isn’t necessarily filled with bad advice, it’s just not filled with anything I haven’t read before. You’re probably better off reading a Cosmo magazine and letting Elder Millennial play in the background.
Redway Acres is a series of novels set in early 1800s England with an ensemble of characters carefully crafted by Trish Butler. With the release of Amelia, the fifth book in the series, the previous four books are now on sale! The sale of book one, Helena, ends November 19th, so be sure to get it in your basket while you still can! Then, the next three books will be on sale in consecutive weeks until Amelia is released on December 7th! Check them out by the links below, and also check out my reviews on the first three!
November 18th Redway Acres: Book One – Helena (ebook version) Discounted from $4.99 to 0.99c here My review.
November 18th Redway Acres: Book Two – Maria (ebook version) Discounted from $4.99 to 0.99c for a week here My review.
November 24th Redway Acres: Book Three – Martha (ebook version) Discounted from $4.99 to $1.99 for a week here My review.
November 30th Redway Acres: Book Four – Harriet (ebook version) Discounted from $4.99 to $2.99 for a week here
Trigger Warning: This review contains references to sexual assault and may be disturbing to some readers.
She Was Born a Good Girl was written by Garfield “Garry” Whyte and published on 23 September 2017.
“Raunchy Zoe, prude Nola, follow-fashion Myra, indecisive Jody and man-hunter Anona. It’s final year at the Rosemount School, a prestigious all-girls boarding school in Jamaica where parents send their daughters to become ladies; but some girls allow their raging hormones to turn them into renegades. No-nonsense, principal, Lenora Mustafa has her hands full with these girls as she strives to maintain the school’s enviable reputation. Everyone is different in this sisterhood, but they all share a common goal to graduate at the end of this school year. How will final year go?”*
I am, admittedly, not that much older than the girls in this book. And like them, I have had the unfortunate experience of high school. I have dealt with vindictive girls, ones who talk behind your back – or, if they’re confident enough, to your face – who have glares that could freeze hell and wear such expensive accessories that they’re worth more than a small country. Regardless, I have a certain kind of respect for those girls. Not once did they display the sheer vapidity of the girls in this novel. There is no nuance here. No redeeming qualities. And that’s not the fault of the girls. In fact, it might be the fault that these characters are not girls. They are a stereotypical idea of what a person (or more specifically a man) imagines high school girls to be.
I have no problem with promiscuity (or “raunchiness”, as this book is marketed). Young women can engage in whatever opinions or activities they are comfortable with (within legal and moral reason). However, there is definitely an element of statutory rape in this book. These girls are all sixteen and seventeen (page 22), and no matter what the characters say to justify what happened, at least two girls are taken advantage of by men much older than them. It’s really tough to read, especially when the sex scenes are explicit. I have no desire to read detailed information about a seventeen-year old girl and a man in his thirties. It’s not raunchy, it’s slimy, and I don’t like it.
These girls are not only victims, though. They are also predators. When a boy from another school is exposed, one girl takes a picture and sells it to the other girls. Yes, a boy’s nude pictures are distributed like some kind of service, which is appalling and illegal. I will not overlook the double standard. If I mention these girls are taken advantage of by older men, I will also say they also commit disgusting and degrading acts on an innocent victim. It is illegal, and yet they face no punishment or repercussions. It is absolutely vile.
These girls are not developed the way people are. They have no other interests aside from men and marrying rich. No one plays a sport, no one enjoys painting, or drawing, or robotics, or science, or reading, or carpentry. No one has any interests to make them human. They sit around and discuss what man they want to marry and how big they want their house to be. Trust me – I’m a girl. I’ve had those discussions with my friends, but we also have ten billion other interests and things in our lives that we place much more emphasis on. What’s worse is that there is potential. The first twenty pages are dedicated to establishing each girl’s home life, but nothing truly comes out of it. What’s worse is they’re so underdeveloped that half the time the girls are interchanged for one another:
“Stop being a bitch, that shit is funny”, Cora said.
“Whatever.” Cora spun around and gave her back to Jody.**
(**This is not two quotes spliced together – they occur right after one another on page 141. The mistake in the first quotation is also pulled directly from the novel).
There is also a moment where Cora (poor Cora!) and Anya get switched in the car ride on page 175. It is my understanding that Cora, Myra, and Zoe go visit Anona. Then, on page 183, Anya is suddenly there in place of Cora. When the author can’t keep his own characters straight, you know there’s something amiss. Regardless of where each girl comes from (be it a trailer, a mansion, an alleyway – whatever) they each deserve their own distinct personality. Just when you’re able to wrap your head around the five main girls, a bunch of others (who again all blend into one another) come into play.
Aside from the raging moral issues, there is a host of technical problems:
Hell, No! (31)
Zoe was steep in jealousy. (37)
Some skinny model was on the front page, showcasing her tight bodies. (45)
Anona smile faded into a vindictive grin. (46)
Nola, Jody, Zoe, Myra were able to secure front seats next to each other. (68)
I bet its firm as a board. (68)
The book also flips randomly to sound like a script on page 186 onwards:
MYRA (Holding back tears) I enjoyed every moment here…
LAURA I’m confident that I will make my life a success…
So no, I don’t suggest picking up this book. It’s harsh to say, that’s my personal opinion. I have no star rating for it.
I know it may be hard to believe, but I really love books.
I love books so much, in fact, that oftentimes family and friends will give me more books as gifts. It’s a lovely thought, and I’ve been given some amazing novels that are now a staple on my shelf, but there are so many other options out there for bibliophiles.
Of course, I wouldn’t be endorsing Literary Book Gifts without making sure the quality was up to my own personal standards. The options available on the site seem to fluctuate, but I eventually decided on purchasing The Garden Party tote bag. At the time, there were no sizing options (now there is a choice of small, medium, and large), but I would imagine what I received was the large size. For the sake of scaling, you can see my tote with an average sized book to compare.
So clearly it can store a LOT! I can’t wait to get as much use as I can out of this tote. The colour itself is a vibrant Tiffany-esque blue (the picture definitely doesn’t do it justice!) and it really does feel sturdy and well-made. There isn’t much elasticity, but there is definitely enough room that I don’t have any issue with it. Also, something else to consider is shipping time. For my country, the shipping was said to take around ten days, but for me it took closer to two weeks. Not a big deal, but I would say if you’re going to be ordering something as a gift for someone, it’s best to stay on the safe side and order as early as you can!
Overall, I speak genuinely when I say that I’m very impressed with my purchase. I can’t wait to show it off! I’m already dreaming about how many books I can carry around with me now that I have this tote!
But you know what would make things even better?
A discount code for 20% off!
Yes, the lovely creator of Literary Book Gifts has been kind enough to provide me with a 20% off code to share with all of you. When you go to check out, simply enter THEANXIOUSPRINCESS20 to get the discount! It can be used an unlimited amount of times, and there is no limit on what you can buy!
This is what the promo code looks like!
I used the discount to buy my tote, and the money that came off really did solidify my decision to purchase. For those outside of the USA, the 20% off will pretty much take care of your shipping costs, and if you live within the USA, you get a pretty little penny to save that you can spend on more Literary Gift Books goodies!
Redway Acres: Book Three – Martha was written by Trish Butler and published 27 February 2017.
“Set in early 1800s, England…
Martha Hopwood, who lives with her sisters and parents in Cambridgeshire, meets a gentleman named Mr. Samuel Woodhead, a friend of Alexander Harker of Eastease in Lincolnshire.
Mr. Woodhead takes up residence at the nearby estate of Copperbeeches and pursues Martha both in Cambridgeshire and at Eastease, when her family is invited to visit there.
His sudden departure from Eastease, when all were still asleep, prompts Martha to consider an alternative future. Martha pursues her independence, until the return of the gentleman who stole her heart, and upon whom her family’s financial future may depend.
In a time when a woman could not be married and independent, Martha Hopwood has to consider where her true future lies.
This is the third book in the Redway Acres series. The others are Book 1 – Helena and Book 2 – Maria.”
I was provided a complementary copy of Martha to review. It in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion/review of the book.
There is something comforting about Redway Acres. Truthfully, it seems like a strange thing to say, if only because many parts of the books themselves are not in any way comforting. There is death, assault, amputation, body shame, heartbreak; the list goes on. In the 1800s, where women are objects and the horses are treated with more respect, it is very easy to lose any sort of hope for these women.
Especially after book two.
Martha is the first book of the Redway Acres series to move beyond romantic relationships and touch on something deeper. In my eyes, Martha is the first character of the series that really carries the book with no other outside help. Helena had Nathaniel as well as Gennie while Maria had Harriet and Mr Brooks. On the other hand, Martha spends almost the entire book alone, and the novel is better off because of it. Without another person to lean on, Martha becomes perhaps the most dynamic and well-rounded character of the entire Redway Acres cast. She is ambitious, tough, logical, and demanding. No other female character in this series has been so evenly matched with the men. Martha neither views herself as being above nor below the various male characters. While Helena’s approach towards men can at times come across as haughty, Martha is able to deliver opinions and suggestions with tact and class.
This equality brings about my favourite aspect of the entire novel: friendship, pure and simple. No other Redway Acres book came close to touching upon a platonic friendship between a male and female character the way Martha did. Though frowned upon, Martha and Nathaniel strike up the most unlikely of correspondences. Over the span of years they write to each other and divulge information no one else – not even family, friends, or lovers – knows. It was the source of my tears not once, but twice. There is something so powerful and raw about watching two characters that offer nothing to each other but ingenuous companionship thrive under the circumstances that plague the 1800s aristocracy.
One other thing about Martha that stands out is the pure deviation it has from its predecessors. Instead of balls and horses and the general stagnation of staying on location in Redway and Eastease, Martha takes the reader outside the normal stables and beyond. Martha’s shop is a sight to behold that offers readers a chance to let their imaginations run with colours, fabrics, and cuts. Such a great change is needed in the Redway series to keep it fresh and lively.
While continuity is important, the continuity of mistakes from one Redway book to the next is less satisfying. Ranging from simple to head-scratching, a reader will run into issues such as…
The music ended and all the attention of the dancers and other guests was captured the lavish meal available. (84)
He says she loves him, but she says will not marry anyone. (229)
Sooth his heart. (229)
“I have too say, that I did not hold the love I see between the two of you, “for Mr Woodhead…” (233)
Let me tell you a of something. (344)
There is something deeply unsatisfying when these mistakes (and many more) are present in a published novel. This is also the second copy – a copy that has been further edited – that I’ve received. How many times must Martha be published before these issues are rectified?
On a less technical note, I also have qualms with the way certain scenes are portrayed. Specifically, the seating arrangements for meals. This is something I’ve had in my notes for every Redway book so far. Quite honestly, I just don’t care who sits in what specific seat. It might not have been a big deal had it been subtly added in between dialogue and other descriptions, but the seating arrangement essentially has its own paragraph at the start of each dinner scene. This grinds the story to a halt while my mind tries – and usually fails – to put over a dozen people into specific seats.
Also, while it is important to the overall storyline, the pity party for Martha seems to run a bit rampant in the first quarter of the novel. She is constantly berated for her weight, size, single-ness, and when not single, her taste in men. It wouldn’t be a terrible issue if Martha didn’t spend a good chunk of the book ruminating on it and rehashing scenes the reader had just witnessed themselves. Martha’s isolation was written well, but having the same issues presented constantly makes it harder to sympathize.
Finally, on a very spoiler-ish – and vain – note, Martha marries Tommy Smithson. Her name then becomes Martha Smithson. Or, as I began to call her, Marge Simpson.
The Most Bold and Daring Act of the Age was written by E. Thomas Behr and published 10 May 2017.
“At 55, Henry Doyle has it all: wealth, happiness, a loving wife, a young son, and most important, his life − after a violently successful, 35-year career as a spy, soldier of fortune, and as needed, paid assassin. To the men he’s led in battle against Napoleon, he is El Habibka, the legendary Bedouin cavalry general. To the French who hate and fear him, he is more ominous: a shadow − a Sufi ghost – le wraith qui disparaît.
When Napoleon escapes captivity on Elba in 1815 to return as Emperor, Henry comes out of retirement, risking all to stop him – and fails, winding up in an Algerian torture dungeon. His half-brother Peter Kirkpatrick, a dashing American privateer captain, sails for Algiers in a daring, but utterly fool-hardy rescue attempt.
Henry’s wife Dihya, knowing nothing of Peter’s plan, determines to free her husband the only way she can think of: by becoming an odalisque in his captor’s harem. Her weapons are sex, her courage, and her razor-sharp shreu dagger.
The Most Bold and Daring Act of the Age weaves together three journeys: Peter Kirkpatrick’s attempt to fight his way into Algiers to rescue Henry; Dihya’s infiltration of Hashin’s Harem to accomplish the same goal; and Henry’s spiritual journey as he confronts what he believes is the loss of everything he has loved in the world.”*
This book was a DNF** at page 230 of 310.
Apathy is perhaps the one thing that can be most detrimental to a novel. After all, an apathetic reader is an unenthusiastic one. This is the boat I fall into with Behr’s The Most Bold and Daring Act of the Age.
On the topic of boats, a high point of this novel is the intense detail of Peter Kirkpatrick’s exploits on the high seas. He is strong, capable, and always quick to stand in the line of fire. A true captain through and through, Kirkpatrick begins approaching enemies with placating words, and if – or more usually in this book, when – those efforts fail, Kirkpatrick is ready to fight with every fibre of his being. He possesses verbal wit that is as strong as his physical form. Kirkpatrick is a man who not only persists on a wild goose chase to save his brother, but is willing to protect his entire crew during the process. Kirkpatrick takes care of people, and it makes you wish he had more of an emphasis all along.
In fact, perhaps the saving grace of The Most Bold and Daring Act of the Age is the characters. Along with Kirkpatrick, Henry’s wife Dihya is another person ready to go to hell and back for the one she loves. In a time where men were people and women were objects, Dihya is a woman who demands to be heard amidst the cacophony of sexism. She has not broken the mold – she was never in it to begin with. I would find myself turning the pages in hopes of finding a chapter where Dihya was present. She commands every scene she is in, whether in passing or in full. Dihya was, without a doubt, the saving grace of the story.
Unfortunately, Dihya alone couldn’t save this novel. Despite being a strong, confident woman, she wasn’t treated with the respect she deserved. In fact, none of the women were. Of the many, many routes Dihya could have taken to save her husband, she joins a brothel. It is the obvious choice, and a frustrating one. There are barely any women in this novel, and those that are have fleeting purposes. As soon as Dihya joined the brothel, she went from a woman to yet another object to be passed around. Her integrity and strength seem to dissipate in the blink of an eye. (At one point, Dihya is supposedly aroused by another woman shaving and oiling her belle chose, as if she is not completely consumed with fury and trepidation about her mission. It seemed like a cheap way to inject some kind of sexual tension into the novel.) I cannot condone a novel that treats women so blatantly poorly with little concern of the realism that is given to the male characters without a second thought.
Another issue for me, not from a moral standpoint, is the use of drawings to try and explain how certain areas look or the trajectory that a fight follows. I’m not opposed to the notion of including a drawing or two, but in this case they seemed to stand in for proper descriptions of said events. The fight scenes between Kirkpatrick’s boat and other vessels confused me every single time. Sure, I could flip to the end of the chapter to see the actual footprint, but I’m reading a novel, not a picture book. It didn’t sit well with me.
Finally, technically speaking, there are many mistakes that hold the book back from flowing smoothly, such as:
A lack of quotations for dialogue on pages 6, 11, 22, and more.
‘Wisitors’ instead of ‘visitors’ on page 159.
No period on page 52.
Such small details are often overlooked, but contribute greatly to whether a book succeeds or not.
Overall, while The Most Bold and Daring Act of the Age is certainly an adventure, it is one that I do not wish to partake in.
“The twists (yes, there are multiple) in this novel were sublime.”
“I’m not someone who typically finds the second book of a series better than the first, but Maria proved me wrong on many different accounts.”
‘Redway Acres – Maria’ is turning two years old today, and to celebrate, author Trish Butler is offering the ebook for FREE! Today only, visit the Amazon page here to get Maria for exactly $0.00! It really doesn’t get much better than that. And, if you’d like a sneak peak before you pick it up, click here (or click the ‘free preview’ above!)
Maria is filled with twists and turns that will guide you on a dramatic tour of Redway Acres and the people that inhabit it. What’s more, ‘Maria’ can be read as a standalone book. The first five chapters occur before the events of the first novel (pick up ‘Redway Acres – Helena’ here), so you can get a taste of the drama before the entire series officially starts.
Read my spoiler free review of ‘Maria’ here, and read my review of ‘Helena’ here.
If you would like to read the review without spoilers, please go to Goodreads, where I have tagged major plot points under spoiler tags.
Trigger Warning: This review contains references to sexual assault and may be disturbing to readers,
Redway Acres: Book Two – Maria was written by Trish Butler and published 16 July 2016.
“Set in 1800s England, Maria Wyndham is the younger and more vivacious, twin stepdaughter of the late Lieutenant Mark Wyndham.
After their mother’s death, she and her sister, Harriet, move to Eastease in Lincolnshire, and become wards of the lieutenant’s friend, Alexander Harker, and his cousin, Nathaniel Ackley.
Just in time for ball for the twins’ sixteenth Birthday, a friend of their stepfather and guardians, Robert Davenport, arrives to lavish them with gifts and to dance.
Family and friendship bonds are pushed to the limit, as Maria’s story plays out. She finds her strength of will to survive and pursue the happiness of true love.
Maria’s silliness and love of life, often hide her intelligence and loyalty, in this story of sisters, and a girl, too soon pushed into the world of a woman.”*
I was provided a complementary copy of Maria to review. It in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion/review of the book.
It was both a pleasure and an honour to dive back into the world of Redway Acres. The entire crew is back and kind of better. Of course, because this is a novel (and series) filled to the brim with drama, the smooth sailing doesn’t last very long.
In all honesty, I underestimated Butler.
The twists (yes, there are multiple) in this novel were sublime. There’s no way to convey my thoughts without actually saying the twist:
Or, specifically, Harriet-as-Maria dies.
Yes, there is a The Parent Trap twist here, which made for a very confusing scene. Maria has a tryst with Robert Davenport, who then runs off to whisk away her twin Harriet. When Davenport turns out to be abusive in more ways than one, a desolate Harriet runs back home to Eastease. It is then revealed that Harriet and Maria were actually…well…not Harriet and Maria. While Harriet ran, Maria assumed Harriet’s identity, leaving Eastease to believe Maria ran off while Harriet stayed home.
Harriet leaves Eastease with Davenport.
Maria, back at Eastease, assumes Harriet’s identity.
Harriet (now Mrs Davenport) returns to Eastease.
Harriet and Maria officially switch identities to make Davenport think he actually ran off with Maria, not Harriet, prompting an annulment.
So now Maria is Harriet and Harriet is Maria.
So, Harriet-now-Maria is viciously murdered by her husband, while pregnant. Helena then performs an impromptu C-section and cuts the unborn baby out of Harriet-now-Maria. This leaves Maria-as-Harriet as the sole surviving twin. Thus, only Harriet is alive.
If you were wondering what prompted me to explain the entire situation to you, it’s because of my above statement: I underestimated Butler.
After Nathanial merely losing his leg in the first novel when it seemed like he was close to losing his life, I formed a (very wrong) assumption that Butler was not an author willing to kill off the characters she had crafted. Each character was painstakingly built up in the first two novels, and it would be a pretty terrible thing if one of them were to die.
And they did.
I’m amazed, really. the twist was so unexpected that I put the book down and walked away. The tragedy of real-Harriet’s death was simply shocking. There are some people in this world who rarely see a stroke of good luck in their lives, and real-Harriet is a perfect representation of that. To see a character so nuanced and so completely forlorn is disheartening. Books are not reality, but Redway Acres as a series mirrors life in such a way that you can’t help but hurt for the characters as if they were human. The Wyndham women die young. There is no other way to put it.
Keeping on that dark track, Maria faces darker demons than it’s predecessor. Redway Acres is no stranger to sexual assault and rape. Keeping on that theme, statutory rape is a prominent issue featured in Maria. At first, I was unsure of the portrayal. It seemed glamorized, with fine food, freshly picked wildflowers, and promises of the future. So I was skeptical. But, ever the voice of reason, Helena steps in to tell Harriet that she was taken advantage of, all while relaying her own past. It was a bright spot in the novel, and the attention brought to such a serious issue was handled with grace and the utmost seriousness. I’m so, so grateful for the portrayal. The book was elevated because of it.
Sexuality is also addressed in Maria. As the novel is set in the 1800s, anything or anyone that deviated from the straight and narrow (with an emphasis on the ‘straight’), it could be very easy to allow homophobia to run rampant. (S): The main antagonist in Maria happens to be a gay man. Thankfully, since correlation does not always equal causation, Davenport’s sexuality is merely another addition to his character, the same way Helena has red hair and Nathanial is missing a leg. Butler has taken the best of the 1800s and injected modern opinions into it without them ever feeling out of place or preachy.
Also, Butler knows how to write a sex scene. That’s all.
Unfortunately, there are minor technical issues in Maria that need to be addressed, such as:
His staff had, done a superb job. (47)
“I need that one two, please.” (185)
She had collapse upon arrival. (263)
Or even and early death. (268)
At one point, the Harriet and Maria names do get switched up incorrectly. It makes sense, considering the whole situation is twister for the mind, but it does need to be addressed. (227, 259)
Also, at one point the Colonel was referred to as a “colonial” which had me laughing much harder than I care to admit. Even thinking about it now has me giggling.
And while I’m on the topic of the colonial Colonel, I never thought I’d be able to get enough of him and Helena. However, I was wrong. The couple is incredible, and I’ll always have a soft spot for them, but the book is called Maria for a reason. At times, the Helena and Nathanial show seemed to overshadow the simple beauty of the rest of the story.
In fact, while I was a total champion of the romance in Helena, the main relationship in Maria didn’t have me convinced. Mr Brooks, the local preacher, is too stuffy to enjoy. He is completely uncomfortable with any part of the female body, and his juvenile reactions to certain situations was just generally strange. Nathanial goes so far as to give Brooks “the talk”, which caused secondhand embarrassment all around. While I suppose it could have been construed by some as cute and endearing, I just found it to be mortifyingly awkward. Going from a more-than-competent Nathanial (who’s talent is shown multiple times in this book) to a bumbling Brooks was a tough transition.
There was also a little romance between two of the older patrons of the Redway Acres/Eastease family. I’m not opposed to more romance, but this one was rushed and felt totally out of place. I never had any interest in Dom and Mrs Hubbard as characters, so seeing them together and falling in love (extremely quickly, I’ll add) just never felt genuine. (S): I suppose it worked out in the end, as Mrs Hubbard acted as a wet nurse for the late Harriet, but that was the only valuable part of the relationship. Also, Dom’s colloquialisms made his dialogue a bit of a chore to read. I found myself waiting for the scenes to end. It’s kind of like getting an ad in the middle of your Youtube video. You understand why it’s there, but you really hope the ‘skip’ button pops up.
Finally, to wrap up my “cons” on a more trivial note, Hopwood and Woodhead are two last names used frequently in the story, and it’s very confusing to differentiate.
I’m not someone who typically finds the second book of a series better than the first, but Maria proved me wrong on many different accounts. I can’t wait to crack open the third book, and I also never want to open it so I’ll always have more of Redway Acres to read. This is a series that always has me coming back for more.