Monday, January 18, 2021

Review - Love at Any Cost

Original Title: Love at Any Cost
Series: The Heart of San Francisco, #1
Author: Julie Lessman
Published: April 1st, 2013

Publisher: Revell


This is my very first book by Julie Lessman, and I have to say, I’m a little disappointed. I have this habit of not putting down books I don’t like as I read, in despite that I wanted to do that with this one every few chapters, so I just had to finish it. But the truth is that I found myself wanting to be over with it, when I hadn’t even reached the middle of it. I was honestly expecting more from a book that had such high ratings, and so many positive reviews.

Overall, I liked Julie Lessman’s writing style. However, the book itself, with that overly complex plot, just didn’t do it for me. Some things just felt out of place, like the language; it’s supposed to be 1902 San Francisco, but the words that were frequently used, sounded too modern for the time period. On the other hand, I got a little tired of Cass’ use of the Texan slang. As I’m not American myself, I can’t tell if that is well done, but yes, it gets a little repetitive (she uses the word “polecat” a lot).

Also, the names the author chose! A little variety wouldn’t hurt. This is highly personal, but honestly, having a main couple whose last names are McClare and Mackenzie, got me tripping over who was in the scene, or being mentioned, most of the time (which also happened with the two main female characters, nicknamed Cass and Cait). Again, this is just me, it may not happen to other readers. But the plot wasn’t very entertaining, so finding myself reading absently-minded most of the time, may have contributed to this.

Let’s talk about the heroine for a minute. The book opens with Cassidy McClare, stepping out from the train in San Francisco, fresh from a broken engagement to a man named Mark, who left her when he found out she didn’t have any money. In the first couple of chapters, this guy gets mentioned over and over again –albeit vaguely, and even though Cass doesn’t want to talk about him–, and at certain point I found myself thinking, either you give me more details, or you stop talking about him! The lack of information and insight in this, oh, so painful breakup, led me not to care about it, even though it is, precisely, the origin of the plot. There wasn’t enough about it as to connect with this woman whose journey I’m bound to follow through the pages. And moreover, she says over and over again that she’s done with pretty boys and their sweetened lies, which, as we find out, doesn’t stop her from falling in love for, literally, the first man she encounters.

I wish I was joking. *face-palm*

On the other hand, Cass is supposed to be this badass Texan cowgirl, who wouldn’t hesitate to hog-tie the first guy who crosses the line with her, but all that attitude was left in words. I wanted to see her doing what it was hinted she was capable of, if pissed. But other than making her good at card games and billiard, it’s like the author forgot to back up her “badassery” with actual actions.

As for the love interest, Jamie Mackenzie, he was a sounding NO for me. It’s ok that he has a temper, doubts about his faith, and at the same time, he’s willing to do anything in his power to help his family. It’s totally human, and relatable. However, I don’t like men who kiss women without their consent, and I’ll never be able to find it romantic. Their first kiss is not sweet at all, because he doesn’t listen when she says no (not once, but many times), and even struggles to get away. He takes it as she’s playing hard to get, and keeps going after her, forcing himself to make her realize that she’s in love with him, too. And this is just wrong, it sends a horrible message. Moreover, at one point, Cass’ cousin brings up the old “he bullies you because he likes you” garbage, and that is, precisely, something that even today is being fought by feminism and equality. The time period is not a justification enough for it. I honestly despise that concept.

I mean, I get that you don’t choose who you fall in love with, but Jamie is a selfish person with a too high opinion of himself, which doesn’t make him swoon-worthy at all. Moreover, he tends to contradict himself, because at certain points, he punches a man who was beating a prostitute friend of his, and later, he asks a dance from this random girl who was crying, after she was rejected, letting on that he doesn’t tolerate bullies. But he’s a bully himself, in the way he treats Cass! And her, I mean… why would you feel attracted to a man who doesn’t respect you, doesn’t listen to you, nor cares about what you care about? It’s nothing short of an unhealthy relationship. I honestly would have preferred if she had ended up with Zane, he definitely was the kind of respectful person she needed.

Plus, we are not too many chapters into the book, that it says:

She was absolutely, unequivocally, everything he’d ever wanted in a woman”.

Really? Already? Don’t you think it is too soon? You don’t even know the woman, who, by the way, said over and over again that she didn’t want to be involved with you! And when she agrees on their courtship, she comes up with some terms he has to respect in order to go further with it, one of them being that he gets closer to God, because she won’t take a husband who doesn’t share her faith. And I think, wonderful. Nothing makes a romance sweeter than a solid, well-thought set of rules.

Great. *sarcastic applause*

Also, that horrible attitude of pressing the woman to convince her that she loves him back, gets repetitive, because it is a part of the other main relationship in the book, Caitlyn and Logan. He is her late husband’s brother, and, just like Jamie, he pushes too hard, forcing himself on the woman he supposedly loves, not respecting her when she, loud and clear, says no. What’s with the author and the lack of consent?

Plus, I thought this book had a little too much lust for a Christian novel, because one thing is admiring a woman’s eyes, and another one, drooling over the shape of her legs, over and over again. I understand that Jamie’s journey is supposed to be a redeeming arc, turning him to God, and letting go of his anger and his womanizing habits, but it didn’t work for me. The conversion scene lacked the most essential element of all, that is Jesus, and His sacrifice in the cross, turning Him into the bridge between humankind and the Lord. And because of that, it is incomplete, and not fully believable.

As for the plot twists, I think most of them were okay, but we could have definitely been saved the whole “we are cousins, but we are not cousins” thing, by the end. It’s too far-fetched, like taking an extra, unnecessary turn when you are almost at your destination, for no valid reason.

Thanks, but no thanks.

On a positive note, I liked that both Cass and Caitlyn have interests that go beyond the men they love. They believe in women, and their potential beyond marriage, both willing to dedicate themselves to teaching, and Caitlyn, doing everything in her power to help women in the Barbary Coast, especially those forced to work on brothels. Some things about both things were left unsaid, but I guess we will know more in the next books in The Heart of San Francisco series, which I’ll continue reading. I just hope they get better than this one.

That’s it for this review! Thank you so much for reading!
See you soon!