The First Fifty Pages of a Book I Hate // aka This Doesn’t Happen Very Often!

It’s strange, reading a book from an author you’ve come to enjoy and expect certain things from, only to have many things fall short. I’ve read several novels by Fanny Finch and I quite enjoyed them, so I thought I’d give THE CURSE OF LADY CLARABELLE by Fanny Finch and Edith Byrd a try.

Imagine my surprise when, straight away, something about the writing style just wasn’t the same as HIS CINDERELLA GOVERNESS, A SEA ROSE FOR THE DUCHESS, A NIGHT FOR THE DUKE, or A WHITE ROSE FOR THE MARQUESS. Unless I just didn’t notice the same things? I’m almost tempted to go back and reread those aforementioned titles again just to be sure.

Ten pages it took me to discover what was wrong: not a single character used contractions in the dialogue. From servants to the aristocracy, I found less than five contractions used within the first fifty pages of the story. With such a rich setting like Regency London, the staff of that time would’ve most definitely used them. There were also several inconsistencies in language used, including some more modern phrases that just stuck out like sore thumbs.

Yinz have no idea just how badly I wanted to type “would have” instead of “would’ve” in that prior paragraph for some tongue and cheek.

For today’s blog post, I’d originally planned to read the entire thing and give my thoughts on all 752 pages (per the triple spaces between paragraphs, so I don’t rightly know how many pages I actually read via the ebook version had those spaces not been there). However, as this post’s title states, my analysis (and complaints) will only reflect what I managed to read.

Please note: this blog post contains spoilers, so if you’d like to eventually read this clean and sweet Regency romance, might I suggest another book from the On My Bookshelf page? That way, you’ll be able to form your own opinion and not let my distaste for this one ruin it for you.

This book was published on Nov 7, 2020

I took down a list of ten points I’d like to discuss as I read these pages. Let’s just say I’ve got many, many questions. I’d also like to say this now: while I’m no editor or expert in the publishing world, I have, indeed, read many many books the past few years. Of course there are those who absolutely loved this tale (reflected in the reviews on Amazon), and personal taste is highly subjective.

But now I’m just woolgathering, so let’s hop into my top five thoughts on THE CURSE OF LADY CLARABELLE by Fanny Finch and Edith Byrd. It was the synopsis that grabbed my attention, so here it is, taken directly from Amazon:

Clarabelle Fulton has lived most of her life isolated in her father’s dark, gloomy castle. She longs to see the world, tired of being smothered by her father’s overprotectiveness. But when the Fulton curse seems to awaken once more, everyone fears that it will claim Clara’s life this time…

Sebastian Compton has always wondered why his father hated the Fultons. When the painful history between the families comes to light, Sebastian will do his best to mend what once was broken. Except he never planned to fall for the beautiful lady trapped in that dreadful castle…

As Sebastian and Clara’s love is growing, so does the Fulton curse. Will they solve the riddle in time and stop history from repeating itself or will Sebastian lose his one true love, like his father did all those years ago…?

1. The Main Characters.

I’m not sure if this was a stylistic choice or not, but I thought I read somewhere that it was a “faux pas” for characters to describe themselves upon introduction. Perfect creamy, porcelain skin. Square jawline. Not a single outward blemish to be found. Lady Clarabelle (aged nineteen, almost twenty), or “Clara,” wants something more, but spends her days holed up with the family servants. Sebastian, a duke’s son, isn’t any better.

Yes, I know not every gentleman needs to be out in the ton, challenging other lords to duels and frequenting pubs and clubs. But how Sebastian’s described as “squirming in his seat” at one point makes him seem younger than he is. How old is he supposed to be? Twenty five. Because of the lack of character development, and “aging down” their mannerisms, I couldn’t connect with Clara, Sebastian, or their families.

2. The Points of Views.

Within the first twenty or so pages, we get at least three point of views. I don’t know how many are represented in this story, but I normally stop reading a novel at five POVs. That was one of the many reasons I couldn’t finish the TAPESTRY series by Cady Elizabeth Arnold, or THE DEVIL’S FIRE by Mike Tomerlin (don’t even get me started on that one…).

For many readers and genres, multiple points of views are a must. Especially in, say, science fiction or fantasy. I do suppose it makes sense for a book with 752 pages to have more than two POVs. Do all these POVs within the first fifty pages make sense for the rest of the story? If I ever come back to try and read this again I’ll know.

3. The Tropes.

A castle shrouded darkness darker than night itself.
A young woman who wants something more.
A main character who’s addicted to books.
An over-protective father who won’t let his daughter do anything.

Tropes can be fantastic plot devices. I don’t understand why a character who loves books is so prevalent a trope that it’s found in every genre. There’s not much more to say on the matter of tropes, except for the one on the book-loving protagonist.

4. The Formatting and Lack of Proofreading.

I’ve never published a book before, nor have I looked into ebook publishing. I have heard, however, that sometimes formatting can get messed up when a manuscript is uploaded to whatever platform will host it. So I’m really hoping that these three to four lines between paragraphs and dialogue are merely that.

During a normal day at work, I usually begin reading a new book on my first break and continue on reading it throughout the day on my three year old Samsung phone. The screen isn’t large by today’s standards, but I don’t think the average reader wants to tap through a book as much as I had to with this spacing.

Now to address the second part of this section: proofreading. The first line is fine. The second paragraph with the word “alright” is what needs help. And you’ll notice, in the fourth paragraph, there’s yet another “no contractions” example. Multiple, in fact. “That is all,” “I am,” and “do not.” Certainly makes for a chunky sentence.

At this point you may believe I’m nitpicking, and you’d be right. The thing is, I am rather grateful I chose this on a whim from Kindle Unlimited. If I’d purchased a physical copy of this book, I would’ve been more disappointed.

5. The Flow.

I’ve already touched upon this a little bit in the last section, but the spacing of paragraphs in an ebook really does affect the flow of a story. As does multiple points of views, how long or short chapters are, and dialogue between all characters.

For me, the flow was ruined when the same story was told three times within the first fifty pages. These additions alone resulted in choppy sequences and more “telling” rather than “showing.” The ever knowledgeable, super sweet cook from Clara’s household telling one part, and even more is revealed the next day in the exact same location. The third time is from Sebastian’s father, but at least it’s from his side of the story.

The multiple information dumps, dialogue with attempted accents/speech impediments, and spacing of the paragraphs were all the final nails in the coffin for me with THE CURSE OF LADY CLARABELLE.

When I first opened this book and began reading, I honestly wondered if it was one of Ms. Finch’s earlier works. Then I noticed it’s a collaboration between two authors, and I have to think if that’s a reason behind many of the technical issues.

The mystery was a great addition to a romance, and that’s what I oft look for in a Regency era book. Adventurous or mysterious Regencies are hard to find, and I’m sad this one fell short for me. I recognize that I’m missing a good ninety-eight percent of the story. I just couldn’t finish this one and had to banish it to the DNF pile.

None of the above means I’ll never read another Fanny Finch novel again. In fact, I’ll just search for one I can love as much as I do her Regency Roses series! Never give up on an author because you dislike one of their books.

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Budding #historian. Writer of #adventures and #sciencefantasy. Lover of mushrooms and libraries. Fan of #chocolate, #books and Pennsylvania history.

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