Review of “We Could Be Beautiful” by Swan Huntley

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Catherine West is a wealthy trust fund (43 year old) kid living the good life in Manhattan. Like many wealthy people, she seems to have it all from the outside. Her days are spent bag shopping and lunching (though she doesn’t actually eat anything). Her nights are filled with gallery openings other society events. Somehow she manages to squeeze in massages on Sundays. She barely has time for involvement in the boutique stationary store she owns though she considers being a small business owner an important part of her identity. She is superficial and judgmental. Even her generosity (she loves to mention that she throws money at her staff, waiters, etc.) seems egocentric rather than being born of a need to actually help or reward people. Though she has been burned a few times when it comes to love, and she longs to have a husband and family, she’s such a you-know-what that it’s hard to find any sympathy for her.

She has a sister who adores her but she finds Caroline to be weak and needy. She judges her parenting skills. She’s happy to let Caroline take on the lion’s share of responsibility when it comes to caring for their mother who has recently been moved to an assisted living facility due to the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease.

When she meets William Stockton at a gallery opening, things begin to look up for Catherine. He’s handsome and cultured and his parents were friends of Catherine’s parents many years before. This move very quickly and they become engaged. However, it soon becomes apparent something may be a little off with William. Catherine struggles with her competing emotions. On one hand, she’s ecstatic that she’s found her Mr. Wonderful. On the other, she has some questions and William is not exactly open to talking about the past. And why is it that her mother shuts down at the mere mention of the name William Stockton? With her wedding growing nearer by the day, Catherine needs to find out.

The first half of We Could Be Beautiful was difficult for me to get through. It didn’t feel psychological or mystery-like. It felt like Chick-Lit. There’s nothing wrong with Chick-Lit if that’s your preferred genre but it’s generally not mine. Fortunately, the second half was much better. I won’t include much in the way of spoilers but I will say I think Catherine (finally!) grew up.

This was, overall, a solid debut. Though originally categorized as General Fiction on NetGalley, I see that it has now been recategorized as Women’s Fiction on the Penguin Random House  website which I think is more fitting and will draw a more appropriate and appreciative audience.

3.25/5 stars

Thanks to Doubleday via NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

“Whistling Women” by Kelly Romo

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Thanks to Lake Union Publishing via NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

Whistling Women is the story of sisters Wavey and Addie, and how their lives are torn apart and finally reconciled after too many years estranged. The majority of the story takes places during the 1935 World’s Fair in San Diego, CA. Wavey has, with limited success, moved on with her life and has been raising her two daughters in San Diego for many years since the sisters have separated. Addie has been living in at The Sleepy Valley Nudist Colony, north of San Francisco for 15 years when she learns she must travel to San Diego to become part of the nudist exhibition at the Fair. There their lives become entwined once again, largely due to the determination of Rumor, one of Wavey’s teenage daughters, to reunite them.

My thoughts:

While I was expecting this book to be more typical historical fiction, I found that it read more like chic-lit than historical or literary fiction. I was hoping to learn more about nudist colonies in the 1930’s, 1930’s San Diego, etc., but there was no real focus on those areas making me wonder how much research had been done in writing this book. The story itself was quite predicable. Very early in the book, Addie is outed as a murderer, and within about a page of a certain character being introduced, it is readily apparent who will come to be her “victim”. The characters were also difficult for me to like/relate to. Addie wasn’t as strong a woman as I’d hoped. Wavey was unlikable on a number of levels. Mary was too wishy-washy. Rumor, the most likable, was bratty and self-centered. That I could understand as being part of the “troubled teen” package, but I lost all respect for her when she had the opportunity to be a strong young lady and “do the right thing” but chose to protect an evil person.  Some parts of the story lacked resolution all together, and other resolutions left me feeling frustrated or unsatisfied.

My rating: 2 stars