28 December 2016

Review: Finding Margo by Jen Turano

Shows Promise but Needs Polishing.

I’m a big fan of Jen Turano’s Christian historical romance novels published by Bethany House Publishers. I’m also a huge fan of contemporary Christian romance. So when I saw Jen Turano had published a contemporary Christian romance novel, I was keen to read it, and thrilled when Gilead Publishing offered me the chance of a free copy to review.

I was soon to be disappointed.

On the writing side, while Finding Margo has a solid plot, it doesn’t have enough romance to make it a great romance, and it doesn’t have enough suspense to make it a great romantic suspense (I’m not even sure if it was trying for suspense—if it was, the first paragraph killed what suspense there might have been). Finding Margo lacked the wit I’ve enjoyed in so many of Jen Turano’s other novels.

But it wasn’t just the lack of wit which disappointed me. It was the overall lack of polish in the writing—which I now suspect had a lot to do with the skill of Turano’s previous editors. It was also the mistakes, like calling one character the patriarch of his family twice in three pages (as though I’d forgotten), or implying there are 356 days in the year. Sure, that one is an obvious typo, but it’s the kind of typo I expect to see in books from some vanity press notorious for their lack of editing, or the first book from some small press with no background in fiction. It's also a typo based on something which it appears isn't true: the number of times the phrase 'fear not' (or similar) appears in the Bible.

And there were other writing issues I won’t bore you with. Suffice to say I checked Amazon’s Look Inside, and I’m afraid the underpolished version I read appears to be the final published version. This isn’t always the case with NetGalley books, although most publishers take pains to point out it’s the unproofed version and may still contain mistakes—although few do. Once I realised the writing/editing wasn't up to par, I decided I should ignore the obvious issues and focus on the characters and the story.

First, Margo. 

I didn’t like her at first, because she seemed as shallow as her pop star life. I warmed to her more and more in Ohio, especially once she ended up in hospital and I could contrast her with her overbearing mother. Caroline is, to put it politely, a piece of work who brings new meaning to the term ‘shallow’. Margo said she was a Christian although she hinted at having fallen away … something which was never properly explored.

Brock was a strong hero, although perhaps a little too good to be true. But I didn’t feel I got to know him, or where he stood on faith, and I did feel his character could have been developed beyond being the too-perfect foil for Margo. Nor did I ever really feel his attraction for Margo … or any second-guessing of that attraction (which would have seemed natural, given their different backgrounds).

And that leads me to the suspense plot, because this is apparently a suspense novel (at least, according to the Amazon categories).

Well, there was no suspense.

Except, perhaps, who was after Margo and why (and I don’t even know if I’m convinced by that, because it seemed a little chicken-and-egg).

The first paragraph made it pretty obvious who Margo “really” was, and the lines in the novel that hinted at the suspense would have been more powerful and suspenseful if I hadn’t already been handed the big secret. The big reveal of the evildoer was underwhelming—I thought it could have been revealed and written a lot more powerfully. Or perhaps I’d reached the point where I wasn’t paying enough attention.

Overall, Finding Margo is a story which shows promise but needs polishing.

Thanks to Gilead Publishing and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Jen Turano at her website, and read the introduction to Finding Margo below:

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