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...