I should preface this review by saying that I am not the audience for this novel. I’ve never read an entire romance novel. I’ve picked books up to see what the writing was like and was fairly amazed at how pornographic the writing can be – so that’s what people are reading. The point of reviews on the Self-Publishing Review is not necessarily to judge how a book fits into the overall scheme of published books – but how successfully it achieves what it sets out to do. And To My Senses achieves what it intends to very well.
To My Senses is not the traditional Fabio-style romance novel. One could wonder if the book might not appeal to people who read romance novels. All you have to do is look at the cover – this book wants to appeal to a wider spectrum of readers. The writing doesn’t get very explicit and it takes its time setting up situations and characters. Even so, the book does have some traditional romance tropes: “He pulled up a chair beside me. He had removed his jacket and rolled up his sleeves to reveal thick, muscular arms.” (pg. 11). To me, this cheapens the experience – turns the character into a cardboard fantasy, rather than a breathing person.
But that’s not the purpose of a romance novel. It’s about fantasy fulfillment and the book has some of that as well.
“Nicci, I am bigger than you and I can drag you out that chair, but then you would make an awful scene, embarrass yourself forever and never be able to return here with me for coffee again.” He leaned over me, his wide shoulder blocking my view of the room behind him. “I, on the other hand, have no problem with picking you up, throwing you over my shoulder and carrying you out of here if I have to.” He was trying to stare me down.
“Where are we going?” I asked again, my teeth clenched.
“All right, if you insist.”
Before I could stop him he leaner over, picked me up our of the chair, and threw me over his shoulder like a slab of meat.
Apparently the fantasy man is a sensitive brute. Really, if this were real life, the dreamy character often comes off as a prick. But this is a romance novel, where the mysterious stranger is volatile, but never threatening. When you break it down, the characters in this novel are fairly straightforward – the woman wanting to break out from her bonds and the dashing, mysterious artist who rolls into town. It’s basically the same story as “Titanic” without the class differences – or the iceberg.
The book effectively skirts the line between romance and something more character-driven. It’s well-paced and a page-turner, while still diving deeper into characters’ lives – satisfying both to those looking for a romance novel and something weightier.
Tangential review: Speaking of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, my favorite novel of all time is Revolutionary Road. The movie has great performances – I was prepared to be disappointed, even insulted by the movie. The book’s value is so much in Richard Yates’ writing, not in the events that happen to people. But they did their jobs well, especially Kate Winslet as April Wheeler, who I had pictured as someone more wiry – thought Naomi Watts would be better. But she captured it, as did everyone else. Except the music: artless and sentimental, the antithesis to Richard Yates’ writing. Should have been a jazz soundtrack – the couple whose hearts are still in the cosmopolitan city while trapped in the suburbs. And Yates has written stories about jazz before: “A Really Good Jazz Piano” from Eleven Kinds of Loneliness.
Anyway, that doesn’t have a lot to do with To My Senses, except to show where I’m coming from as a reviewer. I look more towards Frank and April Wheeler in Revolutionary Road than Jack Dawson and Rose from “Titanic.” But I know there’s a lot to recommend To My Senses to a reader of romance novels, as well as anyone who wants a good, absorbing read. It keeps you turning pages to see where it takes these characters – which may be the best thing to recommend a book. This is professionally written, professionally edited, and a good read. Alexandrea Weis definitely has more good novels ahead of her.
Author Site: www.tomysenses.com