Publisher: NAL

November 16, 2017

Review | The Widow by Fiona Barton

Review | The Widow by Fiona BartonThe Widow by Fiona Barton
Publisher: NAL, February 16th 2016
Pages: 324
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When the police started asking questions, Jean Taylor turned into a different woman. One who enabled her and her husband to carry on, when more bad things began to happen...
But that woman’s husband died last week. And Jean doesn’t have to be her anymore.
There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment.
Now there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage.
The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything…

Caught up in the tempest of her husband’s horrific crimes, Jean Taylor plays the dutiful wife. She stays stalwart in the face of harassment, stares, and outright disgust. She remains silent against the onslaught of hatred aimed at her for standing by her husband. But after his death, Jean is free to say anything she wants…and the whole world is waiting to hear.

It’s only fair to call The Widow a book of the unexpected. The most surprising of all was the viciousness of the crimes. Barton’s novel addresses a genuine threat to today’s society: the internet and those who use it to their own nefarious ends. Although it goes without saying, the crimes of pedophilia perpetrated in The Widow were terrifying. Seeing them printed in black and white was heartbreaking.

It is these crimes that caused such a drastic shift in my perception of the characters, especially Jean. In the beginning, she’s almost a victim, portrayed as another damaged soul, collateral to her husband’s sick, twisted mind. But the story unravels, revealing more of Jean and making me wonder how innocent she actually is.

That’s the rub of The Widow. Neither main character is one to cheer for, an unusual problem in today’s popular literature. Instead of the story of the heartbroken, lost wife rebuilding her life after her monstrous husband passes away, Jean’s unreliable narration casts her own character into doubt.

Jean’s unreliable narration is what made me fall in love with this book. It made me question the truth in her mind versus truth in reality. Her outward demeanor didn’t match what was below, and the minor characters surrounding her began to show the complexity of her perspective. It cast doubt on Jean herself, but also her entire story.

While The Widow is not an emotionally easy read, it is, without a doubt, a unique one. Jean’s perspective and character development put a new spin on the typical crime/police procedural novel. Instead of looking at facts, examining clues, the story is told by a somewhat unreliable witness…if that is what you choose to call her.

Posted November 16, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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December 10, 2015

Review | The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig

Review | The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren WilligThe Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig
Series: Pink Carnation #12
Publisher: NAL, August 2015
Pages: 528
Format: Paperback
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In the final Pink Carnation novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla, Napoleon has occupied Lisbon, and Jane Wooliston, aka the Pink Carnation, teams up with a rogue agent to protect the escaped Queen of Portugal.  

Portugal, December 1807. Jack Reid, the British agent known as the Moonflower (formerly the French agent known as the Moonflower), has been stationed in Portugal and is awaiting his new contact. He does not expect to be paired with a woman—especially not the legendary Pink Carnation.  

All of Portugal believes that the royal family departed for Brazil just before the French troops marched into Lisbon. Only the English government knows that mad seventy-three-year-old Queen Maria was spirited away by a group of loyalists determined to rally a resistance. But as the French garrison scours the countryside, it’s only a matter of time before she’s found and taken.   It’s up to Jane to find her first and ensure her safety. But she has no knowledge of Portugal or the language. Though she is loath to admit it, she needs the Moonflower. Operating alone has taught her to respect her own limitations. But she knows better than to show weakness around the Moonflower—an agent with a reputation for brilliance, a tendency toward insubordination, and a history of going rogue.


After a few bumpy books, I was really excited to finally read the final conclusion to Willig’s Pink Carnation series. I read The Secret History of the Pink Carnation when it was first published and fell in love. After the first four books, however, we had a bit of a rocky relationship. I hoped The Lure of the Moonflower would bring back all of the light-hearted, fun romance that I fell for in the beginning.
There were definitely traces of the original in Moonflower, but there was one outstanding element that held the finale back from being stunning: the characters. 
Jane felt stilted and awkward. She was never really able to develop throughout the series (being the steadfast Pink Carnation and all), but I hoped Willig would bring her to life in Moonflower. Instead, she moved through the pages as pale and unfamiliar as ever. The only real sign of life was when she slipped into the role of the spy. Despite the efforts to deepen Jane’s character, she just didn’t come to life from the page. 
I had the same feeling about Jack. Since he hasn’t been a static character throughout the series, he had a little more leeway than Jane did to flex his character’s muscles, so to speak. However, he too fell flat and lifeless. 
Since Jane and Jack were so lifeless to me, their romance felt equally so. It didn’t have any memorable, heart-pounding moments I had expected from Willig: instead, it just felt forced.
There were two saving graces for Moonflower: Eloise’s chapters and elements of Jane’s storyline’s plot. I wish there was more Eloise – she has a charm and verve about her that I always loved, and the details about her happy ending with Colin brought the story to life. 
Jane and Jack’s journey through Portugal was fun to read: I don’t know much about Portugal’s history, so to see glimpses of it in that time was fascinating. 
If you want to give Willig’s Pink Carnation series a try, the first four/five books are her at her best. The story’s still alive and thriving. The Lure of the Moonflower, however, had no lure for me. 
2 Stars

Posted December 10, 2015 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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