Famous Penultimate Words, Roberta Pearce’s fourth romance novel, shows again how far this author has progressed from her earlier works. While they were highly enjoyable by themselves, Pearce shows that she’s perfectly able to mix romance with suspense and mystery.
The mystery starts when protagonist Adelyn ‘Adie’ Wilding gets shot in a London street. At first she thinks she has been shot by mistake, but when other acquaintances die, fake policemen show up at the hospital, and a handsome mysterious protector called Nathan shows up, Adie starts to realise that the situation is much more precarious than she initially figured to be.
With a cast of eclectic characters, a solid plot and relentless suspense building up, Famous Penultimate Words rises above mere romance into the realms of romantic suspense.
Pearce has the ability to breathe life in characters with just a few well-chosen descriptive sentences. Punchy dialogue is interspersed with effective descriptions that make the setting an integral part of a story that manages to give new surprises at every twist.
Highly recommended for both romance as romantic suspense lovers.
I read this book recently, after reading Pearce’s other offerings, A Bird Without Wings and For Those Who Wait. And I’ve enjoyed The Value of Vulnerability more, not just because the prose has matured, but also the subject matter.
I’m not a regular Romance reader, so with A Bird Without Wings and For Those Who Wait, I regularly had problems suspending my disbelief. Not because Pearce is a bad writer, far from it, but because the romantic worldview permeating most Romance novels is distinctly alien to my own experiences in the matter.
The power in The Value of Vulnerability lies in the subtle shift towards more mature characters. Not the characters in the other books were immature or even adolescent, but there was a sense that the characters were at the cusp of adulthood, rather than jaded by their adult experiences.
In The Value of Vulnerability, the main characters are Ford Howard and Erin Russell. Ford is a sociopathic womanizer who abandons more women than a sniffler throws out tissues. Erin is a single IT specialist who presents a welcome challenge for Ford, who is used to dating vapid women who rarely warrant more than an evening’s attention.
The brief courtship that ensues, surprises them both in its intensity and as quick as they connected, they spiral apart, each confounded by their feelings for each other.
Then disaster strikes…
I’m not going to give away more of the plot, except that I was enthralled by the story and characters, and genuinely moved by the dramatic developments. An accomplishment worth five stars.
Since my noir novelist notoriety is already down the drain after reviewing For Those Who Wait, I might as well review Roberta Pearce’s A Bird Without Wings.
The author was concerned that I would be bored reading her books due to the lack of blood and violence. And disturbed people. However, knowing beforehand that Callie was unlikely to stab Lucius in the eyes or Lucius ending up a spree-killer actually made me focus on their interaction. And I found both Callie and Lucius a lot more engaging than the protagonists of FTWW, mainly because they seemed more ‘fleshed out’.
Callie is a frumpy genius with a crush on her boss, Lucius Ransome, who is called Luscious by the female staff for obvious reasons. Her best friend Rachel learns that Lucius is looking for a researcher into some family history to distract his family while he gets the family’s affairs in order.
Grumpy Lucius hires frumpy Callie, who surprises him by disagreeing with him about a painting, but he doesn’t start noticing her bodacious body after Rachel gives Callie a makeover.
Lucius is always called in to fix the problems of the Ransome family, as he seems to be the only one with some sense. The rest of the family seems obsessed by some ancestral treasure and Callie has to disprove the existence of the Hidden Ransome Treasure while Lucius can fix the problems without his family interfering.
I thought this was a pretty good plot for a romance novel. I admit I haven’t read many, but in comparison with FTWW, where the protagonists aim at preventing a wedding from happening, ABWW is definitely more engaging plot-wise.
Another interesting juxtaposition is that Callie is from a poor background, suffering from self-esteem issues, and focuses on money as important, as people who don’t have any are wont to do. Lucius, however, is born into a rich family and doesn’t think money is that important. Through studying the Ransome family for her research Callie learns the real value of money.
One thing that irked me about Pearce’s prose is her tendency to use alternative speech tags or combining action with speech tags, instead of using beats or standardised speech tags like ‘said/whispered/yelled’. The reason it irked me is that speech tags like ‘she averred’ have tendency to break the spell as I’m reading. The first time I came across ‘averred’ I actually had to look it up, now it’s ‘God, she used that verb again’.
Apart from Pearce’s use of speech tags, the prose flowed well and I stayed up too late reading the last few chapters. Pearce’s has a few instances where her protagonist, who apparently has total mnemonic recall, explains historical facts in a way that skirts exposition but thankfully stays on the interesting side and doesn’t become the dreaded info dump.
The ending was predictable, but well played out.
As to the ending–I disliked the epilogue intensely to the point where I felt it was a blemish on an otherwise well-written and clever novel. Let me explain:
The novel ends with all the issued tied in a neat bow and the protagonist are all set to live happily ever after. Turn the page and there’s an epilogue in the form of a letter Callie sends to a Constance Simms, who turned out to be the second-grade teacher from the beginning of the book. Since I didn’t read the book in one sitting, I had no idea who Simms was again (thank God the ebook has a search function) and I thought the information in the epilogue was wholly unnecessary for the story, except to re-iterate and confirm what the ending already concluded.
My advice to Pearce: Trust you readers and lose the epilogue.
I heard that Pearce’s next novel will include a sociopath in love, so I’m eagerly awaiting an ARC…
At the risk of damaging my noir novelist notoriety, I’m going to say I liked FTWW, but not unequivocally. For one thing, the title was too long. And there was too much romance in it. All these people pining for each other, instead of the fjords, like any Norwegian Blue would…
However, I can’t complain about the romance, because the author herself pleaded with me not to read and review her work. She didn’t want me to risk my alpha male reputation (where do women come up with that tripe?) and she thought I’d be bored out of my skull without at least one dead body.
So there’s this girl Fiona, who pines after the bad boy big brother of her best friend. The BBBB spurns her and marries a girl he knocked up, so he’s doing the honourable thing.
When I complained about this incongruity, the author claimed that I was focused too much on verisimilitude. Apparently I’m not much of a bad boy (hey, I always carried condoms so I wouldn’t be forced into a shotgun wedding). Despite the lack of verisimilitude, I read on.
The book starts at the preparations for a wedding between Mara, Fiona’s middle sister (the protagonist is the eldest of three McKenna sisters) and Fiona’s best friend Will, the younger brother of Bad Boy Noah Wilding (sure, put Wild in his last name, why not?).
Meanwhile, Noah is divorced from the bitch he married, because he found out that he was not the child’s biological father, so the passion between Noah and Fiona is rekindled, although they’re both older and wiser (ha-hum).
Mara is an insecure bitch (or is she just bitchy from having saint-like Fiona for an elder sister?) and Noah and Fiona conspire to break up the wedding to prevent Will from Unhappiness Ever After.
Now, I readily admit my unfamiliarity with the romance genre, so I told the author I would just read the book to comment on the technical aspects. Still, despite my many reservations, I was sucked into the story (or was it because of the torrid sex scenes?). Usually I wouldn’t be interested in the happiness of entitled and affluent beautiful people like Fiona or Noah, but they were so relatable I had to read on and know whether the promised HEA would indeed happen or if the wedding ended up in a massive bloodfest with Fiona snapping and going on a spree killing.
I’m sad to say there was no blood spilled or people maimed. While that was disappointing to me, Roberta Pearce’s readers will probably enjoy the ending of FTWW.
I just segued straight into reading Pearce’s second novel, A Bird Without Wings (another bloody long title).
I got tagged by author/musician Jamie Schultz, who answered the same questions on his blog. So now it’s my turn to answer these four questions…
What am I working on?
Currently I’m working on three projects:
– the fourth KillFile, as yet untitled, that revolves around Katla fulfilling another contract. This time, she has to enter a secluded estate and get her targets to leave their fortress-like villa.
– the fourth novel, working title Ghosting, which happens during Katla’s sabbatical year. She finds out quickly that it’s harder than she expected to shelf her homicidal enterprises.
– a stand-alone novel, In Pocket, about a nomadic heroin-addicted pickpocket who gets drawn into a potentially fatal situation by a scheming woman.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I think the suspense fiction genre is replete with unfailing heroes and unrepentent antagonists. My Amsterdam Assassin Series differs in the sense that the protagonist, freelance assassin and corporate troubleshooter Katla, would be the antagonist in most suspense fiction books, just because–although she had her own ethics–she’s a morally ambiguous remorseless killer for profit. Another thing is that I strive for verisimilitude. Everything that happens in the books could happen realistically. So Katla is no ‘superwoman’. She’s smart and resourceful, but she has severe flaws and she makes minor mistakes with huge consequences.
Why do I write what I do?
In short, I write what I wanted to read but couldn’t find.
Longer version: What I couldn’t find is Katla. A resourceful remorseless protagonist who, unencumbered by her virtually non-existent conscience, works her way through conflicts in a way that most heroes wouldn’t be able to. And her ruthlessness is balanced by her blind boyfriend Bram, who is also unique in the sense that his blindness is not a mere plot device, but something that shapes him into Katla’s ideal companion.
How does my writing process work?
I start out with story ideas–I need several different stories that I can weave together into a cohesive novel, so the ideas need to have the potential to become linked.
While I’m researching story ideas I write scenes that I hope will fit within the story ideas. If they don’t fit, I shelf them. I rarely throw anything away. Chapters that couldn’t be used Reprobate were modified to appear in Peccadillo, and scenes removed from Peccadillo appeared in Rogue. So I have a whole file with ‘deleted scenes’ that might turn up in new books or become a KillFile.
When I finish the first draft, I turn the manuscript into an ebook that I can read on my iPad. This is in essence a modern variant on the ‘print out your manuscript and read it through’-method often cited by authors. Both a printed manuscript or an epub cannot be edited, but with both you can highlight sections that need to be corrected and you can sprinkle the text with footnotes on what you want to do, like ‘move this scene up’ or ‘this section contains too many crutch words’. In fact, the epub version works better than the printed version for several reasons:
– you can insert longer notes than what you’d be able to write into a margin of a printed version
– you don’t have to carry around 500 double-spaced A4 pages and a highlighter and a red pencil.
– epubs have a feature where you can make a list of all the ‘Notes & Marks’ you made while editing the draft, which makes it easier to go through your manuscript and make changes. If you use a print version, you have to leave through the whole print-out again and hope you don’t miss a note or highlighted section.
– It’s easier to track the corrections you have to make, because you can delete the notes you corrected in the manuscript.
– the disadvantage is the same as with any e-reader versus print book–if the battery quits, you can’t continue. On the other hand, it’s much easier to take your manuscript anywhere you want. And nobody wonders why you’re marking up a sheaf of paper…
I hope my answers were illuminating and entertaining. I’d like to pass on the tag to three writers I greatly admire:
First off, I tag Henry Martin. When he’s not buried elbow-deep in some greasy motorcycle project, Henry Martin enjoys reading quality literature and writing prose and poetry of varying coherency. He finds inspiration in conquering the open road while trying to outrun some of the characters he created in the past. He lives with his family in the Northeast, surrounded by coyotes, foxes, and bears. Click on his name to check out his blog. Click on the cover to check out Escaping Barcelona on Amazon.
Second author I tag is Roberta Pearce. Roberta likes to have fun breaking some (but not all!) clichés in her contemporary romances – her latest novel, A Bird Without Wings, features a heroine who is smarter than the hero. And her soon-to-be-released The Value of Vulnerability has a hero who is a sociopath (that’s sociopath, not psychopath!). If you click on her name you’re taken to her blog, if you click on A Bird Without Wings, you can check out her book on Amazon.
The third author I tag (all good things come in threes) is Gregor Xane. Gregor is the author of the horror novellas Six Dead Spots (one of the weirdest books I read) and The Hanover Block (forthcoming). He resides in the U.S., in a small town in southwestern Ohio. He’s currently preparing a rather large and ridiculous work of science-fiction for publication. Click on his name to check out his blog and/or click on Six Dead Spots to read a sample of his work on Amazon…