Synopsis: Her life spanned ninety-five years and there were only two great loves in her life. The first is long gone. The second still stands as a testament to an extraordinary woman.
Venice Arial is a product of the elite social class in New Orleans and under the strict control of her cruel and hateful mother, Lorraine. At twenty, Venice must obey the rules of social duty her mother sets, including going through with an arranged marriage to a man she barely knows. The golden days of youth are being stripped away and her only escape is the family’s summer home on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain—her beloved Belle Haven.
When Venice visits Belle Haven in the last weeks of summer, her structured life is thrown off course by a poor local boy, Etienne Armand, who shows her a love she has never known. But to Lorraine, locals are low class, and a poor boy like Etienne is strictly forbidden. But how can Venice return to New Orleans with such strict rules and the isolation of her palatial prison? Venice has a major decision to make but will the raging war in Europe make it for her?
Seventy-five years ago, Venice Arial made a dramatic decision that altered her life and her future. After living through so much history, her cherished memories along with the painful ones are fading. The Lost Generation must be remembered, and her personal story recorded. That foregone era was the harsh reality of her life. She had known great love, a crippling world war, lost love, and new beginnings but should she include the cruelty, selfish greed, and hurtful deception inflicted on her all those years ago?
This story of great love, war, and remembrance will grab your emotions and hold them until the very end.
As a personal preference prevalent for most of my reading life, I have always made an effort to stay away from war time stories. So I really don’t know why, in all my years of reading, I was drawn to BELLE HAVEN by Jaye Burke. They say to never judge a book by its cover. And yet somehow I know that this book’s cover was a major draw for me. But I can’t spend go on about a cover when this post is about the book itself, so let’s carry on, shall we?
I know many reviewers like to prattle on with their own rewording of a story’s synopsis, but I personally feel that’s wasted time. You see it ALL the time in Amazon reviews. Why? I just don’t understand it. The only thing I can figure is that the reviewer copy-pasted the review from their own website, and – naturally – everyone reviews differently. As I was unable to finish reading this particular story, here are my thoughts on the First Fifty Pages of BELLE HAVEN. Potential spoilers ahead.
Told mainly from the perspectives of the two, both the hero and heroine felt very two dimensional, too easy to change and without a lot of real emotion. One of my biggest pet peeve tropes sets the stage for the rest of the story: insta love. These characters are older, in their 20s, but the story almost feels as though it wants to be a “coming of age” tale instead of a new adult one. Just as the h and H felt two dimensional, so too did Venice’s domineering mother. Having that much angst towards one’s own daughter felt a little too unrealistic, even for a novel.
BELLE HAVEN begins with a classic trope: the “let me tell you a story” trope that’s reminds me of the film Princess Bride or even the opening montage for Ella Enchanted. Some phrases used also didn’t seem very 1916 such as “hot tarts” or “one hundred percent.” Naturally, this sent me on several internet searches to do an etymology study only to realize later I was nitpicking way too much. There were a few places where I felt sentence structure could’ve had a bit more substance or different word choice, but I also know that “short” seems to be the name of the writing game these days.
Final Thoughts on the First Fifty Pages
Due to the fact that BELLE HAVEN felt as though the story had three beginnings, there was too much telling instead of showing, and too much of “mc did this, mc did that,” I regretfully could not finish this story. By Chapter 8 I knew this wasn’t the book for me, and based on what I did read, I give BELLE HAVEN 2.5 out of 5 stars.
I received BELLE HAVEN for free for review from NetGalley. This gift did not affect my thoughts. All opinions are my own.