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2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 25 books toward her goal of 175 books.
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Book Review: Madam Tulip and the Knave of Hearts by David Ahern

mtatkohSo a little while ago, I shared a review of the first Madam Tulip book. Unbeknownst to me at the time, a sequel was progressing nicely through the works, and I was kindly contacted by the author and asked if I would be interested in reading her latest adventure – Madam Tulip and the Knave of Hearts. I was delighted – the first book was sweet and fun and I was looking forward to seeing what shenanigans (for surely that is the best word to describe the mad-cap antics that follow poor Derry wherever she goes!) she and her compatriots would find themselves up to this time around…

In this latest installment, Derry/Madam Tulip is relocated from the sham-glam world of Hollywood to the equally sham-glam world of landed British aristocracy – albeit sham in a very different fashion this time around. The cast of characters surrounding Derry/Madam T is fundamentally the same. Marlene is back – but the shift in location seems to have resulted in a bit of a seismic shift in her personality. Gone is the sweet ditz from the first book; in her place is a more sensible girl (“Marlene showed practical good sense. First she offered Derry her phone – for a model to part from her phone for longer than it took to make a circuit of the catwalk was beyond mere friendship.”) – one who still pulls Derry into a perilous Madam Tulip situation, but does so in a much less dramatic manner than in the first book. Perhaps her own share of Madam Tulip’s earlier adventure is responsible; regardless, I found the bit of personal growth refreshing if a bit disappointing, since I rather liked the sweet ditziness her character brought to the first book… The indomitable Jacko and formidable Vanessa (Derry’s parents) are as delightful as in the first book, as is Bruce the SEAL-turned-actor/waiter-turned-bodyguard. It was a pleasure to see them all again, and their portions of the story were populated by the witty repartee and save-the-day heroics (both intentional and accidental) that I so enjoyed in the original Madam T book.

It was the newer characters that fell somewhat flat for me, unfortunately.

The Brits were all a bit, well, staid and understated. While these may be traits often stereotypically ascribed to British aristocrats, they don’t exactly make for the most scintillating reading… Even when the drama was high they – with the notable exception of Countess Octavia, who was an absolute delight in all her in turn understated and overblown regality – seemed a little too stiff-upper-lip to be real. And the drama was HIGH at times, believe me… A bit too much so, I fear, as I occasionally found myself rolling my eyes in a “not AGAIN?!” manner when yet another intensely violent or disturbing or aggressive incident befell someone. If the first book felt like a lovely fun little afternoon tryst into the world of movie stars, this one felt like a headlong run into a blind alley. It felt like an altogether different genre at times – more dark crime novel than cozy mystery… It was a bit more than I anticipated – and not necessarily in a good way. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it, just that it felt to be a very different book than the earlier one and that difference was rather slap-in-the-face startling on more than one occasion – and this difference caught me off guard.

I must admit, I preferred the lighter fare of the first book. This one felt like it was working hard to be something different – as though adding more layers of mystery and intrigue would mean a more interesting overall story. I don’t think it did – it just felt different: darker, harsher, more aggressive. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I’m curious as to the purpose of the change and whether it is indicative of where the overarching story of Madam Tulip will go. I may not have preferred this installment, but I still find myself interested in knowing what happens next – although honestly at this point it’s because of the supporting characters… I just LOVE Jacko and Vanessa – the former’s flagrant self-interest and the latter’s undeniable self-absorption never fail to bring a joyful giggle. They are the Just Jack and Karen Walker (random – but I think exceedingly appropriate – Will & Grace reference) of this series for me – they are unflaggingly fabulous scene-stealers, and I love love love reading their pages… Here’s hoping we see much more of them in the coming books!

I received my review copy from the author, the always delightful David Ahern. For more information about David and his writing, visit his website here.

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