Monday, December 20, 2010

Review: "Camille" by Tess Oliver

I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of this little indie book when I snapped it up for my Kindle. It's more romance than paranormal, and more historical than paranormal, but the writer certainly knows what she's doing. She knows her time period, and she knows how to write romance. I did get the sense the whole "werewolf hunter" thing was kind of tacked on to appeal to more paranormal markets. Not much werewolf hunting goes on at all, and almost all dealing swith the supernatural can be explained away scientifically. But as I said, Oliver's understanding of late Victorian England is rich and nuanced. The book itself is well written, the main character is an engaging, no-nonsense kind of girl who should appeal to modern readers, and the romance is convincing without being heavy-handed. 

The supporting characters are interesting in their own rights. The most ineteresting character is by far the main character's sister; through her, we get a tantalizing peek inside Victorian insane asylums.  Apparently, if you are a well-bred middle class young lady with well kept long blond hair, you do not get thrown in Seward's Asylum with Dracula's minion Renfield.  Perhaps Stoker's insane asylums were only for the poor.  Tess Oliver's asylum's are bright, airy, and altogether restful.  In fact, she's quick to assure us the sister isn't even truly insane.  Nope, she's normal, even though she spends all her time crafting intricate paper fairies with names, personalities, and whole backstories.  Oh, and she talks to them, too.  The faires, I mean.  Did I mention they were made of paper?  Oh, and the sister drinks laudanum and climbs dangerously precarious tree branches, endagering her life, but only by mistake, of course.  Good thing the narrator's werewolf boyfriend's there to save her!  The sister is only there because she needs a break from the real world, and to carry on a clandestine affair with a handsome orderly.  Now there's a fascinating story! I really like this sister character.  I wish Tess Oliver would do a whole spinoff series based only on her.  

I would definitely recommend this for middle teens and for adults who are looking for a light, sweet read.  In fact, Oliver has inspired me to start what I'm going to call my "Bon-bon List."  This book makes a great quickie sugary maybe guilty fix.  I say maybe guilty because that depends on whether you've cheated on your diet lately (done all your work/ homework? Read nothing heavier than OK magazine for a month?).  I have not cheated on my diet.  Ok, my book diet.  So this bon-bon was sweet indeed.  

Did that even make sense?3.5 stars, but higher on the bon-bon scale.  Looking forward to more from Ms. Oliver.

Incidentally, I did a little snooping because hey, I'm me and I can't resist literary snooping... er... research.  Tess Oliver is the pen name of an author of two Harlequin Silhouette romance books from the early '80s.  Two tiny little things.  Can't even remember the names.  As of this writing, I can't find much else out about her.  Most authors today are pretty up front about their identities- web pages, blogging, whatev.  Oliver's two newest offerings are so slick, and smack so much of an established romance writer, I have to wonder if we aren't dealing with someone old school writer testing the ebook waters.  Just a theory.  Or a conspiracy theory.  Or something.  I did go on about that asylum, didn't I?  And my last blog was about pre-launch insanity, wasn't it?  

But my two week's indulgence isn't up yet, so no men in white coats or butterfly nets yet.  I'll keep you posted on the book, which is going well.  Waiting on a cover and formatting.  And final edits, but that's kind of a writer's joke.  I don't think there is such a thing as a final edit.  I'll be editing until I upload.