Sunday, May 14, 2017

Book Review: Behind the Scenes by Jen Turano

Behind the Scenes is I think the sixth Jen Turano book I've read. Her historical romances are always humorous and somewhat outlandish, her female heroines unique and strong-minded, and her plots much more like a comedy of errors than a staid historical novel. It's her trademark.

On Amazon, it seems you can always get a Jen Turano prequel for free--and then you're hooked! I think the novella At Your Request, introducing the reader to the world of wallflowers during the 1880s, was my first Jen Turano book. Behind the Scenes, the official Book #1 in the series, was not yet published, so I put its release date on my calendar and went in search of other Turano books. I read through the Ladies of Distinction series, one right after the other. Bad choice. Even though I really enjoyed the first couple books, by the time I reached the 4th and last of the series, I was completely burnt out on Turano's style. And I kinda still am.

So although this author's books are always guaranteed for a good laugh set in either the Regency Era or, like Behind the Scenes, in the Gilded Age, let me forewarn you about the aggravations of these novels, and you can decide if those would inhibit your own enjoyment.

Besides outlandish situations and quirky characters, another trademark of her flowery language. It reminds me of how I used to talk on instant messenger when it was late at night and I wanted to pretend to be British and talk witty and at length. At long length. It's fun to read, but there is no economy of words. None. Whatsoever. And some of the same phrases are used over and over.

Then when the male characters sound and think EXACTLY THE SAME as the female characters, and the side characters are the same, and characters between books in the same series all sound the same--it becomes painful. Very painful to this reader.

I can't help but wonder why the editor didn't notice the lack of characterization? If I were her editor (which I'm not qualified to be), my red pen and I would have a heyday with Asher Rutherford's parts in Behind the Scenes. He should not sound like a carbon copy of Permilia. He should not talk and think like a girl. His lines should be more succinct, his mental density more natural, his thoughts less ridiculously intuitive.

Confession. When the author started focusing on Asher Rutherford's mental processes, I read a whole other book (Lassoed by Marriage--soooo good!) before returning to finish this one.

It's not that I don't enjoy Turano's writing. I do. It's just sometimes very painful to read because of the lack of ruthless editing. But even though it's painful doesn't mean I won't read another of her books. Because, despite being historical fiction, Turano's novels are in a category of their own.

Try one of the free novellas on Amazon and know that every other book she writes is exactly the same, for better and for worse.

(Side note: If you want to read really well-written historical fiction--but less crazy--from the same general time period, try Kristi Ann Hunter. Yummmm.)

P.S. Amazingly enough, I didn't have to buy this on the release date after all! I got a complimentary copy from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for writing an honest review. Sweet deal!

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