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Once again, Karen has graciously offered to host a review from me. This time, I’ve chosen a book that I was planning on getting because of Karen’s review (how’s that for karma?), but that I got as a prize at the wonderful Shiloh Walker’s blog.

I have already read a couple of Ms Walker’s Hunters books (I really like Hunter’s Salvation, by the way), but this is a completely different animal for me.

Beautiful Girl, by Shiloh Walker.

This is an adult contemporary romance published in ebook format by Samhain Publishing, with the following warning: This title contains the following: explicit sex, graphic language and violence.

The blurb:

Sometimes getting to heaven requires a trip through hell.

Twelve years ago, it looked like Del Prescott had it all. The wealthy family, the car, the looks and charm, and the perfect boyfriend. Then, mysteriously, she disappeared to “study abroad.” Now she’s back, and it’s not merely to attend a high school reunion. She’s here to face her demons—and Blake, the man she has never stopped loving.

Blake Mitchell is a changed man, thanks to surviving twelve long years of difficulties that began after Del dropped out of his life. Now she’s back, and she’s nothing like the polished, stylish world traveler he imagined she’d be. There’s a darkness about her, and a grim expression in her eyes that says she’s prepared for fight or flight.

Blake’s concern for her breaks down the walls Del has built around her heart and she finally begins to heal from the abuse she suffered at the hands of her own family. But the betrayal goes deeper than either of them ever imagined—and it’s about to come back to haunt them.

Where to begin? With a caveat. For this reader, longer tends to be better in terms of character and plot development. At some 150 pages, this book is more a long novella than a full length single title novel, and that tends to weigh against the story in my eyes. So please keep that in mind as you read on.

The first couple of paragraphs set the story up beautifully:

Coming home was both heaven and hell. Delilah Prescott pulled her beat up Corolla off the two lane highway, right in front of the welcome sign. Welcome to Prescott, Tennessee—Small Town, Big Heart. Located in the mostly rural county of Pike near the Tennessee/Kentucky border, the town’s main claim to fame was that Daniel Boone had spent some time in the general area.

It was a nice little town, though. Just about everybody knew each other and even strangers were made to feel welcome. Lots of strangers, especially on weekends and in the summer. Just south of Lake Cumberland, Prescott was a stopping point, watering hole and overnight lodging for all the families that flocked to the lake that didn’t want to say at the campground but didn’t have the money for the rental cabins.

The lake was a popular vacation spot during the hot months of July and August. Over the past twenty years or so, Prescott had become something of an antique mecca. The result was tourism coming through the small town on a regular basis. Small shops lined Main Street and from what she could tell, some of the retail prosperity had spread out past the immediate area of downtown.

She saw what looked like a for real steakhouse. Not just the diner or Lula’s Café. A real restaurant, complete with neon sign. She wondered what else had changed in the past twelve years.

Besides her, of course.

The character development in this story is actually very, very good, and more so given the total length of the book. The two main characters are well drawn, with enough weaknesses to make them likable, and enough virtues to make them believable as hero and heroine in their own story.

Blake has survived an aggressive and advanced cancer, and in surviving has grown up enough to let go of his adolescent resentment over Delilah’s vanishing act. This alone separates this story from so many other romances where adolescent tantrums tend to stand as shorthand for “tortured hero dealing with emotional wounds from a past love.” As an adult, Blake is able to separate his memories of Delilah, and his expectations of her, from the person she is when they meet again.

Delilah (“I go by Del now”), on the other hand, is still working to overcome the chain of events that completely derailed her life (the abuse mentioned in the blurb). Her reactions to facing both her family (as antagonists), and Blake and her friends (as emotional support), read very real to me.

There are also two secondary characters that are deftly brought to life, even though each has barely two scenes and ten lines of dialogue throughout the story.

The problems in the story come from the villains—Del’s mother and stepfather—who come across rather two dimensional (the mother is sooooo evil she makes Cruella DeVil look cuddly) and from a final confrontation that feels too rushed, and more than a bit contrived. It feels to me as if the author had a longer book mapped out, and suddenly ran out of pages, therefore having to cram too many different plot twists in the last fourth of the book.

In most cases, a rushed or unbelievable ending will make me scratch my head and forget the book. In this case, I can’t. More, I don’t want to. I want to think that both Blake and Del will indeed succeed in forging a strong and long lasting relationship. I’m rooting for them. Further, I’m looking forward to more and better from this writer.

On a scale of one to ten, Beautiful Girl gets a 7.5 from me.

12 Comments »

  • The problems in the story come from the villains—Del’s mother and stepfather—who come across rather two dimensional (the mother is sooooo evil she makes Cruella DeVil look cuddly) and from a final confrontation that feels too rushed, and more than a bit contrived. It feels to me as if the author had a longer book mapped out, and suddenly ran out of pages, therefore having to cram too many different plot twists in the last fourth of the book.

    See I thought the exact opposite. The book was filled with suspense throughout-with her mother getting more and more crazed. So I felt that Shiloh built it slowly, and in fact for me the confrontation made senses. As a reader, it kept me reading and I find that few books these days can hold my attention so thoroughly. I think Beautiful Girl was well written and Shiloh paced the villainous scenes well.

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  • Azteclady, I have this one to read also. 🙂
    Your reviews are great! You should get your own blog.

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  • :OP Karen, thanks for hosting Aztec.

    Aztec, I’m glad you mostly enjoyed it. 🙂

    Generally, I don’t try to explain things about a book once it’s been done unless I’m asked, but I sort of feel the need to mention that contractual obligations limit the length of the books I write for my epublishers.

    Anything over a certain page length/word count, my publisher in NY has first dibs on and that’s a waiting game, plus, as fast as I write, I need other outlets.

    Writing stories under a certain length allows me to write as much as I want for my epublishers, saving stories with a longer length for Berkley.

    I don’t try to buiild the story around those guidelines, but when I’m working on one, I generally get a feel for how long it’s going to be early one so I make the decision who it will go to, a lot of the time when I’m still just in the thinking-about-writing-a-certain-story phase.

    ;)Cross my heart, I wasn’t thinking that I had to get everything written in under X amount of pages. That was just the story~this book just didn’t want to be any longer.

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  • azteclady
    February 20
    3:14 pm

    Shiloh, I love love love Del and Blake–I honestly and truly do!! I’m sad it doesn’t come across that way.

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  • Aztec, it did come across and I’m glad you enjoyed the book. I just wanted to address the book’s length.

    I often do rush endings and it’s something I work on after I finish it. A lot of the time, I can smooth things out, but in this case, the book just wanted to be done. 😉 I wasn’t going to argue.

    Don’t feel like you have to apologize over anything.

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  • GrowlyCub
    February 20
    7:02 pm

    I bought this book after reading Karen’s review and I liked it, but I didn’t love it.

    I’m not very good at explaining why, but AL has pointed out the ending issue. I did not care much for the rushed/let’s-tie-this-all-up-real-fast feeling.

    I rated it a ‘good’ on my scale that includes fabulous, excellent, very good, good, fair, poor, which makes it look worse than it felt. Most books end up ‘good’ in my database. However, I put ‘had potential’ with my rating, which means I felt there was something there that somehow wasn’t delivered on. I loved the setup and the idea behind the story, I was ready to break out the hankies, but I was left feeling like there should have been something more.

    It probably also had to do with the fact that I find suspense plots superfluous and am much more interested in the inner life and growth of the characters than their reaction to outside forces beyond the hero/heroine.

    After I finished I felt it could have made me feel more, been more.

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  • Well, I loved this book. It’s on my keeper shelf. 🙂

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  • Growlycub, I’m sorry it didn’t work as well as you would have hoped, but regardless, I appreciate you reading it.

    :OP Anne, I think you’ve mentioned that once or twice.

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  • Jackie L.
    February 21
    3:43 pm

    I lurved Beautiful Girl. In fact, I didn’t know whodunnit until the end, which is unusual. With other suspense writers cough*JAK*cough, I know whodunnit on like page 3. So I found that excellent. (Not that I don’t love me some JAK, just don’t ever get surprised by the ending.) Also on my keeper shelf.

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  • Jackie L.
    February 21
    3:43 pm

    The only weird thing for me about the book is that my husband’s name is Del.

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  • Shelby
    February 21
    11:29 pm

    I just finished reading Beautiful Girl at some ungodly hour last night. Short andf simple, I found it to be a most exquisite love story. Since I automatically zero in on the emotional weight of a story, this one had me hooked immediately. The romance was utterly intense, more intense even than the sex, and for this feat, Mizz Shiloh, I bow to you. I’m always looking for those books with that fine balance of emotion and eroticism, and you nailed it on the head.

    I’ve tucked Beautiful Girl into my computer file of fave romances, and I’m high-fiving you from under the rock where I have crawled to glut myself on new novels–this one being the most raw, honest emotional experience of the dozen or so I’ve devoured in the New Year. From a writer’s standpoint, Beautiful Girl reminded me of what I love about the kinds of stories we write: their potential to squeeze the heart and shiver down to the toes, and to leave the reader feeling like true love really does exist, and that it can save us all.

    Ahhh…I am a happy camper! 🙂

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  • From a writer’s standpoint, Beautiful Girl reminded me of what I love about the kinds of stories we write: their potential to squeeze the heart and shiver down to the toes, and to leave the reader feeling like true love really does exist, and that it can save us all.

    Miz Shelby, considering I’ve read what kind of stuff you write while hiding under your rock, then I’ll take that as seriously high praise. :O) Gee, where’s another Seraphim book? 😉

    Hey Jackie, I’ve got a brother named Dane and any fricking time I see that name in a book, it gives me a jolt. So I imagine a girl being the same name as the DH… heh, yeah, I can see that.

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