Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Review: Stirred by Tracy Ewens

3 stars
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. My opinion is my own. 

I quite enjoyed the middle third of Stirred by Tracy Ewens, but it took me a while to get into, and my engagement dropped off again towards the end. I've only read one other in the series (Candidate, #2), but I definitely didn't enjoy Stirred as much as that one, which was at least a 4 star read.

The heroine of Stirred is bartender/mixologist and former mechanical engineer, Sage Jefferies. She's been loving her friend's brother Garrett from afar, and one night, after she accidently drunk texts him to pick her up from a date gone wrong, she tells him that. The two agree to put Sage's confession aside, but Garrett can't deny that it has changed the way he sees Sage. He wants her, but he's used to being on his own, running the family farm, and Sage can't bear to be involved with Garrett only for something superficial. 

The characters were well fleshed out, and the part of the novel I enjoyed was where the author spent time drilling down into their hang-ups. Unfortunately, the drill then got stuck to 'on' and started going sideways into the bedrock. All character development and forward movement of the romance arc ceased, and we were left with this awful broken record of "this isn't going to work", "I'm meant to be on my own" et cetera et cetera. Then - SPOILER - they break up, get back together, break up again, and then Garrett makes a big gesture and proposes. That really didn't do it for me, because Garrett's issues were never resolved (hence the second break up), nor did he explain to Sage how he was going to address them or how things were going to be different. I guess the fact that he was offering commitment was meant to be enough, but commitment does not prevent dysfunction, and I could easily imagine them in exactly the same position six months down the track. 

I was really backing Sage for a while there, particularly liking the way she cherished her autonomy. Then this strong character who believed that no Garrett would be better than emotionally-unavailable or casual-sex Garrett turned anaemic and gave me this unsatisfying HEA, which totally was not what I signed up for. However, I also respect that different readers react to these things differently, and I will be the first to admit that I have a low tolerance for endings that are - for me - unfulfilling. 

Perhaps because I wasn't feeling the plot and had lost my connection to the characters, aspects of the writing also started to annoy me, something I don't recall from reading Candidate. Anecdotes are fine, but it seemed that every second page was "so-and-so remembered one time when this happened" as a metaphor to make a point. Similarly, I felt that characters using their parents' or siblings' favoured phrases with the addendum "as her mother would say" or similar was much overused. I could handle the fact that the characters' egos and bodies shared their individual thoughts with the rest of the character - that's not that unusual - but I was bugged by the formatting that made this look exactly as if an actual person was talking out loud: 
"What the hell is wrong with wanting his body?" her own body screamed. 
I just couldn't get used to it. Every single time, I'd go, "wait, what, who is this talking?", only to reach the end of the speech marks and realise that nobody was actually speaking, it was just weird anthropomorphism again. 

I don't think Stirred was necessarily a bad book, despite all my griping, but rather that it and I were just a bad fit. It pushed some of my buttons, and then, because of that, I started nit-picking. Overall, trying to separate myself as much as possible from my dissatisfaction, I'd classify it as reasonably lightweight read, maybe good for holidays, but I'd definitely recommend trying others in the series first. 

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