Friday, January 2, 2015

Book Review: The Bracelet

The Bracelet. Dorothy Love. 2014. Thomas Nelson. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The Bracelet is historical suspense set in Savannah, Georgia, circa 1858-1859. Celia Browning is the heroine. She lives with her father, whom she loves very, very much. She also lives with her cousin, Ivy, whom she struggles to love. Both Celia and Ivy have practically grown up without a mother. (Ivy's father has long since vanished from the picture.) The two have grown up side-by-side, for the most part, but, not grown closer. If anything, the two have grown further and further apart.

Several potential conflicts greet readers at the beginning of the novel:

1) Celia's best friend, Sutton Mackay, is due to arrive very soon. Celia is completely absorbed in him, and, her not-so-secret plans to become his wife. Where's the conflict? She's unsure if Sutton loves her in that way, or, if he loves her in that way still. She's unsure if he will actually propose to her while he's back in town. She's unsure if he's ready to get married now. What if he wants to marry her, but, wants to postpone the wedding for a few more years? Those aren't the only conflicts, of course, but the remaining would be spoiler-ish.
2) There is a newspaper reporter who plans on writing a series of articles, and, perhaps even a book about two mysterious deaths that happened in the house where the Brownings live. (One of the mystery-deaths is of Celia's aunt--Ivy's mother--who plummeted from the balcony to her death. The second death occurred in the carriage house on the estate. The reporter doesn't have a name for the mystery-woman, at least not when the novel opens.) The conflict? Well, the Browning family looks down on the reporter, of course, and wants to prevent him from publishing anything at all.
3) Celia receives a bracelet that she perceives as a threat against her very life, since, the gems in the bracelet are a diamond, an emerald, an amethyst, and a diamond. Of course, the person who sent it was communicating in the secret language of jewels, right?! So Celia begins investigating, and, she wonders if there is a connection between the past-scandal that the reporter is trying to uncover and whomever sent her the bracelet. She doesn't know how they're connected, or even if they're connected.
4) Her father's health. Technically, I'm not sure if his failing health is a proper conflict, more, of a complication. Since Celia--and most others--are afraid of talking about anything of actual significance of an upsetting or potentially upsetting nature.

If the novel has a weakness, I fear it is that it is so slowly paced in the first half. After a hundred or so pages where nothing happened, or nothing new happened, I realized the book was lacking in something: either development of plot or development of characters. The second half has plenty of plot.  That's good. But. For me, it still lacked character development. To me, all the characters felt flat and shallow, lacking depth and substance. I am not saying that Celia's character was "shallow" in nature--meaning she was self-absorbed and vain. No, I just struggled with them as characters. I have come to expect at least one or two characters to be developed in the books I read. I would have loved to see Celia, Ivy, and Sutton all be developed fully as characters and be engaging and interesting and believable. Since I felt Sutton and Celia lacked substance, weren't fully developed, their relationship--their romance--felt flat to me.

The novel's strength is in the second half of the novel when the mystery and suspense are given the spotlight.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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