13 November 2014

Review: Buttermilk Sky by Jan Watson

Lovely Cover ...

I was attracted to Buttermilk Sky by the beautiful cover, and the interesting blurb:
Weary of the expectations imposed on her by her strict upbringing, eighteen-year-old Mazy Pelfrey prepares to leave her home in the Kentucky mountains for the genteel city of Lexington, where she’ll attend secretarial school. She knows her life is about to change—and only for the better. Everything will be blue skies from now on.
But business school is harder than she thought it would be and the big city not as friendly, until she meets a charming young man from a wealthy family, Loyal Chambers. When Loyal sets his sights on her, Mazy begins to see that everything she’d ever wished to have is right before her eyes. The only hindrance to her budding romance is a former beau, Chanis Clay, the young sheriff she thought she’d left firmly behind. 
Danger rumbles like thunder on a high mountain ridge when Mazy’s cosseted past collides with her clouded future and forces her to come to terms with what she really wants.

Unfortunately, this is one of those books where the person who wrote the blurb can’t have read the book. Mazy isn’t about to start secretarial college. She’s almost finished. Mazy is never in any danger. And she doesn’t even seem to be the main character: I first thought the novel was going to be about Cinnamon, who makes a living picking out rubbish at the dump. Then I thought it was Sheriff Chanis Clay, who was pining for a character who hadn’t yet been introduced, Mazy. Then the story introduced Mazy, and it became apparent she was the main character (which begs the question: why wasn’t she the first character we met?).

There were good things about the book. The writing was solid with flashes of brilliance (although there were also passages best described as pedestrian). The minor characters like Cinnamon, Clare and Eva, were interesting. And, as I’ve said, the cover is lovely, and it was obvious the author knew a lot about the time period she was writing in.

But that’s not enough to make up for the deficiencies. Mazy was an annoying character, in that I never understood why it was so important to her that she finish secretarial school, and she didn’t seem to have any plan for what she would do after. I also had no idea how old she was—while that was in the cover blurb, it wasn’t at all apparent from the text (her tender age may partially explain her lack of depth). Chanis was almost a comic figure, and it made for a confusing ‘romance’ when he didn’t have any day-to-day relationship with Mazy.

But the main problem for me was simply a lack of a coherent plot. There were plenty of things that happened, but there was no overall pattern, no story, to engage me. It read more like a series of scenes about some characters who may or may not be related. Perhaps the plot was supposed to be the love triangle between Mazy, Chanis and Loyal, but it was pretty obvious who she was going to choose (well, I thought so, after one of the pursuers showed himself to be charming yet ruthless). But all the interesting character change happened between the end of the final chapter and the epilogue. It felt like I'd read the entire book waiting for something to happen, then that bit got cut.

This is the first novel I’ve read by Jan Watson, and I suspect it will be the last. I think some of the characters (e.g. Mazy’s older sister) have featured in her previous novels, but I don’t think I would have enjoyed Buttermilk Sky even if I had read the earlier books.

Thanks to Tyndale House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Jan Watson at her website.

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