Friday, August 8, 2008

Circle Star by Tatiana March

TITLE: Circle Star
AUTHOR: Tatiana March
PUBLISHER: Resplendence Publishing
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 75k)
GENRE: Historical western romance
COST: $6.50

When Susanna Talbot discovers her father has died, she returns to the ranch upon which she was raised – to discover the only way she can inherit is if she marries Connor McGregor, the boy who disappeared from their lives thirteen years earlier. The boy who professed to want to marry her until she threatened to have him kicked off the ranch he’d come to love. Nobody has seen him in all that time. Now she has three months to find him, or risk losing everything…

It’s not an original plot. The have to get married to satisfy the condition of a will device has been overused to the extreme. But the blurb didn’t make me cringe, and there was a lovely calm glow about the cover that sucked me in, so I read the excerpt. It’s actually the prologue of the book and captures time when the hero and heroine are teenagers, when he is becoming aware of her as a girl and not just the boss’ daughter. It held a distinct charm and nostalgia that appealed to the warm fuzzies in me, so I bought this in spite of the unoriginality of the idea. In retrospect, I’m glad I took the chance.

It’s not perfect. But for as long as the story remains focused on Susanna and Connor, it’s certainly engaging. Susanna isn’t a wilting flower, in spite of being sent to Philadelphia at thirteen to “become a lady,” and Connor is appropriately damaged and alpha. Both have been pining for the other for most of the time they’ve been apart, though neither is keen to admit it. Susanna is willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure she doesn’t lose her home and livelihood, and I have to admit that her plan to get Connor back to the Circle Star – while extreme and maybe not in Connor’s best interest – made me appreciate both her determination and spirit. The frustrations of keeping these two apart worked double time for me; more than once, I just wanted to grab both of them and shake them out of their obstinacy. Not in a bad way. In a heavily invested in seeing these two happy way. When it finally happened, I had a huge smile on my face.

But then things start shifting. Halfway through the story, Susanna’s best friend from Philadelphia arrives for a visit. Claire is spunky and entertaining in her own right, but as the resolution comes in sight for Susanna and Connor’s misunderstandings, Claire takes more and more of the stage. Her scenes are what drive the last third of the story, and while I liked her – and more importantly, liked the romance she was given – it ultimately meant losing time with the two characters I’d spent the first 2/3’s of the story falling in love with. It was towards the end, too, that the story starts taking more saccharine turns. Even scenes between Susanna and Connor don’t hold the same bittersweet edge they’d carried earlier. I think it’s probably to counter the drama inflicted upon mostly Claire, but it felt out of character for me and wasn’t what had invested me in the story in the first place.

Though there are very minor editing issues throughout the story that niggled slightly, and the author’s propensity for confusing loose with lose is something that should have been caught, it didn’t end up detracting from my enjoyment of the story. I just wish there might have been a different way of sustaining the conflict, rather than introducing a new character halfway through and creating drama for her rather than the ones I started out with.

Readability

8/10 – In spite of minor editing errors and a jump of story focus 2/3’s of the way through, I devoured this.

Hero

7/10 – As damaged and alpha as they come

Heroine

7/10 – Smart and spunky

Entertainment value

7/10 – This would have been higher, as many of the scores, if the story hadn’t shifted focus away from the characters I wanted to care about most.

World building

8/10 – Though there’s nothing extraordinary in the prose, upon reflection afterward I realized just how immersed I’d been in its reality

TOTAL:

37/50

1 comment:

Tatiana March said...

Hi Book Utopia Mom, thanks for the review. I found your comments very interesting, and will remember them when I work on other projects. I knew I should have tried to kick Claire aside when she took over the story, but she was one tough lady to get off the page, and I really wanted to know about the romance between her and Rafael. A few other people have suggested I should have given Claire her own book. Live and learn...
All the best,
Tatiana