108. LADY OF THE BUTTERFLIES, BY FIONA MOUNTAIN
Couldn’t finish it. And I tried, by God, did I try. Had to give up about 50% in; by then I was already mourning the time I had wasted on it. It’s not a horrible book: there are many problems, but, mostly, it just wasn’t my thing. My review will be based solely on what I did read (obviously).
First, the good part: it is very well researched. She paints a beautiful picture of the time and place. Her style of writing is very poetic and the language is beautiful. Romance isn’t really my thing (actually, that’s not true, I love romance; but I’ve come to learn that I like, specifically, adult literary romance, and every other kind falls pitifully short in my eyes) and I absolutely abhor love triangles -- they’re boring, childish, unnecessary, objectifying, and one of the laziest plot devices an author can use. That having been said, the setting and the limitations imposed on the characters justify the love triangle’s existence, and I have to give her some points for that. (Still didn’t enjoy reading it, though.)
Now, the bad part. I thought this was going to be Historical Fiction... I knew there was romance, but I didn’t know it was the main part. I thought the book would focus on Eleanor’s life and achievements, I wasn’t prepared for the amount of pining and swooning. Plus, I said it in the last paragraph, but it bears repeating: I HATE LOVE TRIANGLES. This, however, can be filed under “my own personal preferences”, and it isn’t really a problem of the book.
This is, though: the book is boring. There is no suspense at all, nothing that makes you want to keep on reading. After the first three chapters, I actually had to read the best and most positive reviews this book had, just as an incentive to try and finish it. As far as I read, the only source of conflict is the romance, and it takes Eleanor more than 100 pages to start romancing her first beau. Another 150 until she meets the other one. And even when it does start, it’s stilted and awkward, completely disconnected from the rest of the chapters -- even the sex scenes are awkward and off-putting (and a bit confusing, too, it felt like she wasn’t sure if she was writing historical fiction or a Harlequin romance).
There is way too much exposition. Endless descriptions of everything. A lot of “telling instead of showing” and “as you know, Bob”. I had to fight to keep my eyes open; after a while, even looking at the cover was enough to make me sleepy.
Even the romance itself was badly done. The characters have no chemistry at all and the attraction between them is simply unbelievable. Eleanor falls madly in love with the first man of her own age and social class she meets; she starts having doubts as soon as she meets another. Richard and Edmund are two-dimensional polar opposites that only exist for Eleanor to pine over. (Eleanor herself is a much more developed character, even if, at the beginning, I had to use a lot of my will power not to throw the book out of the window every time I read “she was not like other girls” *groans* and “she didn’t think she was beautiful, she was petite instead of voluptuous and tan instead of pasty” *gags*.)
In the end, I was very disappointed. The story I wanted to read was the one in the blurb: an entomologist, a scientist, trapped by the constrictions of her time. That was not what I was given. Not even the expectation of the protagonist being accused of witchcraft could keep me going.
Up next: Being Light, by Helen Smith