Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Book Review: The Real Katie Lavender

By Becky Gulc

The Real Katie Lavender is the latest release from Erica James. The paperback cover is very aesthetically pleasing with its contemporary styling and colours and fits well with the story and the audience I think it will appeal to – a considerable improvement on the dated hardback cover in my opinion. Anyway, we now know I liked the cover, but what’s the book actually about?!?

Katie Lavender has always thought she was pretty unshockable, until a year after her mother's death she receives a letter from a solicitor telling her that the man she thought was her father, in fact wasn't. Her real father, a man named Stirling Nightingale, has for years been building a trust fund for her. And now she's of an age to collect it.

But Katie's not interested in the money. She wants to know about the man instead. So decides to do some snooping. She tracks him down to a beautiful riverside home on the night he's hosting a birthday party for his 90-year-old mother. And as she's hovering outside, Katie is mistaken for a replacement waitress - an opportunity just too good to miss. And so Katie discovers that the Nightingales are far from your normal family ... But what makes a normal family anyway? (Synopsis courtesy of

I warmed to the character of Katie straight away, she’s such a lovely young woman who has been through so much, when we meet her you can’t help but love her. Thankfully that bond with the central character is maintained throughout what is a long book and this is a key strength for me. I was rooting for her happiness all the way.

We’re introduced to many characters in Stirling’s family and the viewpoint switches between them throughout the novel so it’s not all about Katie Lavender. I found it fine to keep on top of the characters. Each of their individual story lines was interesting and the stories weaved together nicely. Whilst some of the characters do silly things in the novel (and are far from nice), because we’ve tapped into most of the character’s viewpoints, I felt I understood the motivations behind certain actions and felt less sorry for characters that in other circumstances would have been considered hard done by. It was, at times, a little frustrating though to be given a fraction of a character’s viewpoint before going back to someone else’s. In that respect, I didn’t feel there was as much depth to some of the characters as there could have been, but then I think Erica would have been trying to cram too much in if she’d gone further with this. Overall though, there was a good mix of characters – ones you really warm to (at least four of them); ones you keep changing your mind about (one) and a couple you’re just never going to like (two!), each one contributing to making the book interesting.

This is a great book for exploring complicated family dynamics; it covers issues such as grief, adoption and infidelity. I was surprised by some of the things which happened, but it all felt realistic. The plot was very strong with enough twists and turns to maintain my interest. However, a fundamental drawback for me was the dialogue, spoken and internal, I often just didn’t believe in it, particularly for the supporting characters. I hate to be harsh, but when I was reading it I kept getting images of the scenes being acted out poorly on a bad soap opera or something and that stopped me from enjoying what was otherwise an enjoyable book in terms of story lines, etc. It also felt a little repetitive. This made the book, which is just short of 500 pages, appear extremely long and whilst I looked forward to finding out the outcomes, I also found myself looking forward to finishing it, unfortunately.

I wonder whether if the book had been shorter, and the dialogue stripped back, whether I would have warmed to this novel more. I hate to give criticism, so I hope the fact that overall I thought this was a good book will be remembered, it could just, in my opinion, have been a little more realistic in its delivery of dialogue and a bit shorter.

Thanks to Orion for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Erica James:

No comments: