Friday, August 5, 2011

Unbroken by Lynne Connolly

TITLE: Unbroken
AUTHOR: Lynne Connolly
PUBLISHER: Total-e-bound
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 20k)
GENRE: Contemporary erotic romance
COST: ₤2.49

Renowned model Vashti’s most recent job is unlike anything she’s done before. It’s also the first job she’s had since a car accident a year before killed her mother and left Vashti badly scarred. Artist Zoltan is more interested in her flaws than her beauty, however, and when he sees straight through her façade, in ways nobody ever has before, Vashti feels her defenses being stripped away, layer by layer…

Sometimes I pick shorter stories because I know I’m not going to have much time to read. This is one of those that I wish could’ve been much longer, because of the potential I could see glimmering within its words that didn’t quite come through for me.

The central premise behind this short novella isn’t really all that new. It’s a reverse Pygmalion, where the artist is attempting to manipulate the model’s flaws rather than beauty. Vashti has extensive scars from the car accident that killed her mother, the woman who guided Vashti’s modeling career ever since she was five years old. She’s taken this job modeling for Zoltan partially because it will help thrust her back into the limelight in time for her career to resume and partially because she’s curious about what he will do. He’s interested in moving from the abstract to life forms, and he’s chosen Vashti as his subject based on a candid paparazzi picture he saw that hinted at the honesty behind the public mask she wears. He sees through her almost from the start, a revelation so startling to Vashti that the physical attraction that had sparked at his appearance burns to proportions she can’t deny. The pair become lovers, but it inevitably has to end once the project is completed.

These are not caricatures or stereotypes. Both Vashti and Zoltan have depths that make them fascinating people, but they suffer from the story’s shortness. It always feels like there’s not enough given to me to get to truly engage with the emotions going on. It’s especially rough in the beginning when I’m thrust into Vashti’s perspective and very little is given on Zoltan to provide a basis for her first reactions. That ends up coming later in the first scene, and it’s very awkward. Gradually, I get to know more about the enigmatic Zoltan, but just when things start to get interesting, the scene ends and there’s a time jump. It’s not enough. It’s especially frustrating because these are people I want to really sink into.

The issues with the story’s brevity are mitigated by how lovely and lyrical some of the passages are regarding Zoltan’s art. These are exquisitely described and contribute a lot to the romanticism that permeates the entire piece. In fact, they go a long way in boosting my overall enjoyment, especially when it would’ve been easy to let my frustration and not getting what I needed from the characterizations take over. The sensuality that pervades the prose and their sex carries the emotional weight when the characters falter, making it easier to enjoy the ending when it comes.

If I learned anything from reading this, it was that perhaps I need to go back and check out the author’s backlist. I know she’s done a lot, but I can’t say that I was intrigued enough by any of the historical blurbs she has at Samhain or the contemporaries she has at Loose Id to buy one. I might have to re-evaluate that decision. I know those are longer. It could be exactly what I’m looking for.

Readability

8/10 – Some lovely passages combined with clean editing compensates for shortcomings elsewhere

Hero

6/10 – Took a while to get a feel for him, kept wishing for more

Heroine

7/10 – Marginally more well-rounded but could still have had more depth

Entertainment value

7/10 – Lovely and erotic, I only wished the characters were given the room to shine like it felt like they deserved

World building

8/10 – Their world was his art for the most part, and that’s where the bulk of the prose’s lyricism came to life

TOTAL:

36/50

1 comment:

Lynne Connolly said...

thank you for such a thoughtful review. I always find shorts difficult to write, something I'd like to remedy!
I have books at Ellora's Cave, too, btw.