Friday, January 06, 2012

Bella Notte – review

Author: Jesse Kimmel-Freeman

First published: 2011

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Vampires? Check. Werewolves? Check. Death prophecy to hang over your head? Double check.

Seventeen year old Emma Hutchinson struggles to find her place in the world she has been born to as she tries to decide whether she should be with Michael, the boy she has been dreaming about since she was three or if she belongs with Dominic, her betrothed.

The review: Some books are just more difficult to review than others. Take Bella Notte; my difficulty reviewing it wasn't because it was a review copy (which it was) but because it isn’t the type of book I would naturally read.

Bella Notte is a teen romance and at 41 I am a little past teen and have never been much of a fan of romance, but (like it or not) romance (teen and otherwise) do have a legitimate place in the genre. With that in mind I find myself having to place myself into the mind of the target audience and judging the subject of the review (as much as I can) with their eyes as well as looking at it from a more genre standard perspective.

The book itself follows Emma. From a rich family, she herself is an outcast from the popular kids at school – much too goth for their tastes. A new boy, Mike, starts at the school and she recognises him from a recurring dream that she has had since she was three years old. He too recognises her too, and shares the same dream. They start a relationship, though both sets of parents seem a little less than supportive, though neither seem to actively damn the relationship.

Things become more complicated when Dominic, brother of her childhood friend Issy, comes over from Italy and she discovers that she is betrothed to him. Issy is not there due to a family scandal and her running off with someone they disapprove of. Despite being, initially, boorish Dominic soon shows her his soft side, especially when she has to take a trip to Italy with him. In the meantime Mike discovers that he has a betrothed too.

Jesse Kimmel-Freeman has developed a living vampire lore that sees the vampire as a blood-drinking, long living race. They can breed – in a bonded relationship – but a female will only ever have one pregnancy (though multiple births are not unheard of). Vampires can communicate telepathically.

As children they are just like human children and age at about the same rate, when their change comes on they become faster, stronger and colder to touch. The same is similar for werewolves (though they develop a higher than human body temperature) and vampire and werewolves traditionally are at war with each other – or live at arm’s length as the two families do. Later we do hear of more liberal set ups, but Mike and Emma’s families are traditionalist.

So far so Romeo and Juliet, with a third spoke added to create a love triangle – specifically around Dominic and the fact that Emma falls for him too. Unlike other, more famous, vampire/wolf-teen-love-stories, Emma actually has the capacity to love two beaus, for different reasons, and does not become hysterically dependant on any one. There is also the matter of a little prophecy, but the book only touches upon that and doesn’t explore it in depth. Perhaps Emma was a little too slow in becoming aware of exactly was going on around her.

When it comes to the writing I found the author’s style easy enough to read, indeed I tore through the initial part of the book, but I had a couple of niggles. Occasionally the dialogue seemed a little too formal and at others not so, and the differences didn’t quite gel – but this was a minor thing. I also found the last section of the book dragged a little – in comparison to the earlier sections. The author took the heroine to a stable place and things became too mundane (with the final days of school) or plot-light (a friend’s first modelling shoot). It was only at the very last moment that a stick was pushed through the spokes of the wheel of romance. During this final section one feels a little bit of judicial editing could have been entered into. Point in case, we see the composition of a valedictory speech – and so read the speech as well as those bits that would be edited out. A few pages later we get the actual speech, an almost identical block of prose. One feels an editor’s pen might have removed the second block of prose.

However, it must be remembered that this is a first time author, whose skills will grow and develop, and, as I say, the book was, overall, a nice read and I would guess ideal for its chosen market. I don’t think it carries a wider appeal, but then again it doesn’t need to. Taking that into account, however, 5 out of 10 – average in the wider genre, remembering that the book is rather readable generally, but will be very appealing to its target niche.



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