Saturday, November 8, 2014

Book Review: Surprised by Love

Surprised by Love. Julie Lessman. 2014. Revell. 416 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The Heart of San Francisco series consists of Love At Any Cost, Dare To Love Again and Surprised by Love. The latest in the series does not stand alone, so be warned. When you pick it up, you'll find yourself reading about the couples from the first two books. If you've read Lessman before, you probably know what to expect from Surprised by Love. The further along in the series you get, the more couples there are to keep up with, and Lessman seems to have a hard time letting go of her characters. That isn't a bad thing, by the way. And if you've connected with these characters in previous books, then you might find it only right to reconnect with them again, to catch up.

In previous books, readers have met Cassie and Jamie, Caitlyn (the mom) and Logan (Uncle Logan), and Alli and Nick. This book focuses on another McClare, Megan McClare, and the men in her life who are pursuing her.

Love Triangles. Some readers like love triangles, or, at the very least tolerate them well. Surprised by Love features two love triangles. One love triangle is between Caitlyn, Logan, and Andrew Turner. The second is between Megan and Bram Hughes and Devin Caldwell. Do I like love triangles? Not especially. I think there are times they can be done well. But usually the characterization is such that the reader knows from the earliest chapters which one will be the one, and which one is just wasting the reader's time. I hate wasting my time with characters that I know serve no actual purpose except to be an obstacle or complication of true love.

Compliments that aren't compliments. The biggest issue that I had with Surprised by Love, however, has to do with the oh-so-dramatic "transformation" of the main character, Megan. Readers are to believe that Megan was without a doubt an ugly duckling. A picked-on and bullied ugly duckling. She goes to Paris for one year. She returns amazingly, stunningly BEAUTIFUL. The transformation is so complete that her very own family, her very own friends that she's known for half her life cannot recognize her. We're to believe that. I can't believe that. It's one thing for a stranger--an acquaintance--that you barely ever see to not recognize you if you've lost a lot of weight or something. It's another for a friend or family member to not recognize you. Perhaps we're not supposed to take all the "I didn't recognize you" and "I barely recognize you" and "Is that you?!" and "I wouldn't have known you in a crowd" stuff seriously. Perhaps we're supposed to see it as well-intentioned exaggeration. Megan receives hundreds of compliments throughout the book, but, to me each one seemed to hide an insult. Wow! You're so beautiful now! I can't believe it's really you! and I never expected to find myself so attracted to you! You're so beautiful! and It's amazing! You've always been beautiful on the inside, but, now you're actually beautiful on the outside too! or Isn't it wonderful that you're pretty now! It wasn't quite as obvious as You've always been nice to spend time with, but now you're nice to look at too! But still part of me cringed whenever she received a compliment. Looking past the flattery, I heard the unintentional insult.  I don't believe the author intended any of her compliments to be veiled insults. I really don't. If it had just been the love interest, and it was more along the lines of "Wow, you're not a child anymore! You're a beautiful woman!" I don't think it would have bothered me.

The transformation happened before the novel opens. We're not part of it, for the most part, we just see the results. After having reread the first chapter, the transformation includes:

  • dyed hair
  • wearing mascara, rouge, and lipstick
  • wearing powder to cover freckles
  • wearing contacts instead of glasses
  • removal of braces
  • going from "thick to thin" in a year

Is this transformation being made too much of by all the characters in the book? Perhaps. I think so at least!

Megan is not vain. I want to stress that. Others may be making much of her sudden gorgeousness. But Megan herself is too busy thinking of others to think about herself all the time.

There were things I definitely liked about Surprised by Love. There were characters that I liked spending time with. There were a few scenes that I really liked. However, I didn't "like" ever little thing about this one. There was something slightly off about the resolution: how things came together for both couples. Things came out exactly as I thought they would. It was how it was accomplished. I can't mention the details, of course, for spoiler reasons.

Overall, I'd say I enjoyed the first two better than this one.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible


Jaina said...

I think I'll pass this one by. Do you recommend the other books in the series?

Becky said...

I do recommend the first two. I can't promise that every reader will love them or "really like" them. (I can't promise that about ANY book). But I certainly enjoyed them well enough. I really wish I felt the same about this last book!!!

Jaina said...

Hmm, thanks for your (rapid) response! I'll put them on my "investigate" list. :)