Book Review – The Decembrists by Kimberly Richardson

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Arranged in a chapter-a-month first person format that goes between the two main characters, The Decembrists tells the story of Sophie Joyce, a “young writer” (although she’s 37 and just now finishing her first novel), and Hilliard Ravensdale, a many times published author, who meet in a coffee shop following Sophie’s grandfather’s funeral and fall in love.

I’m going to stop you right there.  Because Sophie claimed she loved her grandfather and she was sorry that he was dead and all, but after the funeral, she went home, cried in her apartment for an hour – because it was cold?! – and then went to a coffee shop to sit in the land of the living.  Then she comments about shallow it must be of her to have to stay in the land of the living, even though she’s off for two days for bereavement.  And this is like, page four of the book.

I already hate Sophie.

I don’t care that she wants to be in the land of the living, but she’s so unaffected by her grandfather dying that she cries because she’s cold and then meets Hilliard in the coffee shop and goes on a date with him.  Let me tell you what I did when my grandmother died – I cried.  For three years.  I’m still crying.  Yeah, you put one foot in front of the other and life has to happen, but you don’t meet somebody and go on a date the next night.  You just don’t.

And Hilliard, well, he’s pompous and arrogant, and not unlike my last boyfriend.  And since these are all the qualities I hated in him, I’m not too pleased with Hilly, either.  (And what the hell kind of a name is Hilliard, anyway?!)  Oh, and in the beginning of the book, he establishes that Sophie’s black because, well, “I’ve never asked out a black woman before,” and “I never saw a black woman blush before,” and… gah!  Has he not seen black people?  And why was Sophie’s race so damn important when we don’t get any description of him at the same time?

So the story is a love story between the two of them [wtf], and it progresses a month/chapter at a time with the POV switching between the two of them.  Except that there’s not really any difference in the voice of Sophie or Hilliard, so if the chapter heading didn’t say a month and a name, you’d have to wait for them to say something like “Sophie’s birthday is coming up…” because there’s no other way you can tell.  Have I mentioned that reasons like this are why I’ve shied away from first person in the last few years?

I found some other issues with the book too.  In the exposition parts, the chapters are long and poorly organized.  Many of them could have – and should have – been broken up into a couple chapters.  They jump from one thing to another like crazy and just don’t flow well a lot of the time.  Also, Kim clearly is not a fan of dialogue tags – which is fine, I’m not either – but when you’re butting up what Hilliard said against what Sophie thought of the comment, you’re too busy keeping track of who’s talking to lose yourself in the story, which is what all of us want to do when we read something.

And there are some things that happen that just drive me nuts.  I know this is nit-pickey, but I don’t want to know who buys somebody’s tampons.  Ever.  (Unless I’m reading a coming of age book, I don’t want to read about periods, well, period.)  And not so nit-picky, Hil calls Sophie “Goddess” through most of the book.  I really dislike saccharine-sweet over-the-top pet names for couples in relationships.  And they’re writers.  I’m tired of reading books about writers when nothing extraordinary happens because of it (Stranger than Fiction is a great book about writers – something happens because she’s writing, as opposed to writing being all that happens.)

Anyway, as the book progresses, we eventually find ourselves reading things that they’re reading (ahem), and whatever they’re reading *should* be slightly indented as a block quote, but Kim et al have decided to change the font instead.  And it’s big and it’s ugly and it’s annoying to read for more than a sentence at a time.  (I would not ever, ever, ever read Hilliard’s stuff, btw.  Or his sister’s poetry.  Or…)

At chapter 12, the author messes with the book’s format a bit, and gives us a specific date instead of a month, and writes in third person.  We learn Hilliard’s secret… in a manner that I wish I hadn’t learned it in… and [removed because of spoilers].  Then there’s an epilogue in Sophie’s point of view, although it doesn’t say that, the worst name I’ve ever read in a book of fiction, and a nicely wrapped up twenty years following the story.  Just picture the bow in your mind, since Kimberly made sure that we had one.

Honestly, this book isn’t even a little bit my cup of tea.  According to the back of the book, “Award winning author Kimberly Richardson turns her literary eye to the world of sex, control, uprisings, secrets, and lies, all wrapped within a story worthy to be called modern Gothic.”  Yeah, all that stuff’s there, but it’s a friggin’ romance.  One more in the string of “hurtful man with woman who can’t seem to land anyone better.”  And I’m tired of this crap.

I’m giving the book a three out of five pages rating.  If you like that sort of crap romance, give it a read.  There’s a full story line here, although it needs a bit of polishing, and I’m sure there’s a niche for it that’s just not me.

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I don’t know why this is required, but here it is:

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book from Kimberly Richardson (independently of this)  and used in in conjunction with  First Rule Publicity and the author as part of a virtual book tour. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Katherine Coble
    Dec 17, 2012 @ 21:09:57

    It sounds DREADFUL. And that business of him calling her a Goddess sounds like he’s pulling some of that “I will fetishize a black woman because she’s a novelty for me” crap.

    I know everyone doesn’t react to death in the same way. But if you’re going to make your character so callous to the death of someone close to her it’s a good idea to show that character grow over the course of the novel.

    It’s also stupid to use bereavement leave as your Romance Hothouse Excuse.
    (nearly all romance novels lately have the two leads in some kind of circumstance where they get to spend all their time together without jobs and life getting in the way. Theyre recently fired or taking a long overdue 6-week vacation or on a cruise or an independently wealthy vampire.)

    My grandmother died three months ago. I’m still crying about it on a regular basis. And the day she died I cried and wrote and cried and hugged my dogs and cried. I did not go to coffee shops in search of some random penis.

    Reply

  2. Paul Hodge
    Dec 17, 2012 @ 23:51:39

    Wow, I just don’t know how you have the stamina to read such drivel; you deserve a medal. Plus, that three out of five stars feels a little too generous. As per usual, good critique!

    Reply

    • Mandi M. Lynch, author
      Dec 18, 2012 @ 06:51:14

      IMO, Three stars is a book that has a story line and character development. This one does. It’s definitely not a genre that I would read, and if the book had said “romance” and not “gothic” I wouldn’t have expected what I did.
      Was it bad? Well, yeah. But the Characterization and story line were good enough to earn it three out of five. Thanks for the comment.

      Reply

  3. Freaky Folk Tales
    Dec 18, 2012 @ 00:25:23

    Wow, I just don’t know how you have the stamina to read such drivel; you deserve a medal. Plus, that three out of five stars feels a little too generous. As per usual, good critique!

    Reply

  4. Mandi M. Lynch, author
    Dec 18, 2012 @ 06:47:32

    Katherine, my grandmother died three *YEARS* ago, and I still want to kick this FMC in the head. I think that’s what turned me off to the book so much. If you are greiving enough to take bereavement from work, I don’t buy that you would then meet a guy in a coffee shop and be all “whoo hoo” about it. Now if Sophie had said “hey, my grandfather just died, this is a bad time” and they got together a month later or something, it would have been better.

    Reply

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