My first ARC review!! That’s Advanced Reader Copy – so either I had access to the full story before official publication or, as in this case, I was sent a free copy by the author/publisher…either of which is usually done in exchange for a review. I saw on Instagram that M.C. Frank (@mcfrank_author) was looking for reviewers for this book and I was so excited that I messaged immediately! This is exactly what I want to be doing/using this blog for. Plus, in a most auspicious start, this is a retelling of my absolute favorite classic novel of all time. I’m definitely taking that as a positive omen.
So, after some messaging back and forth Frank sent me the full ARC…in .pdf form. Now, if you know me, you know I’m decidedly old school about books. I love to hold them, smell them, turn the pages, have them on my shelves, etc. But I realized that if I want to get more into this ARC/review stuff, like truly into it, I might have to do something I’d been loudly against for years: I’d have to buy an E-reader (and I think my mom is still laughing about my capitulation). So, this is not only my first ARC review, it’s also the first book I read on my new Kindle Paperwhite. BIG milestone all around. In any case, more thoughts to come on the Kindle front, but for now, here’s what I thought of Ruined.
I’ve read Jane Eyre so many times, watched all the movie reproductions, and devour any retelling or spinoff that I find (I highly recommend both Jane Eyre’s Husband and Jane Steele, and of course, The Eyre Affair). Bearing that bias in mind, I really enjoyed this retelling. In fact, after picking it up yesterday for the first time, I had trouble putting it down and ended up finishing it in less that 24 hours.
There were many things about this version of the story that I just adored. First, the pacing was perfect. Though it read much faster than the original, the slow growth of feelings and affections, the inhibitions on both sides that were the cause of that followed perfectly with the backgrounds presented for each character here. I loved the parts of the story that paralleled Jane Eyre, the pieces that popped out here and there with deja vu and harkened back so well to the original – the governess role, the fancy love interest/lover for Dominic/Rochester, the culminating fire. I found myself smiling each time I noticed one. And, in fact, I loved the places where the stories diverged too. The changed circumstances of Beatrice’s background, in some ways similar to Jane’s and in many ways much darker, put a more modern day spin on the story. There are things she faced that Bronte likely would never have dared writing about so openly, but represent such horribly common childhood trauma, and I respect that addition by the author. Dominic’s ghosts are also similar to Rochester’s, but changed enough to create new intrigue. Plus, the changes to the secret marriage and its role in the plot were a creative twist. Lady Augusta was a phenomenal new character and I loved her relationship with Beatrice (who, along with Jane, frankly needed a confidant badly and I’m glad she got one this time around). And the dialogue between B and D was a well done homage to Jane and Rochester – she was still a meek but honest speaker and he was still a bit of a verbal bully with an emerging soft side in consideration of her reactions. At points I think it got a little caught up/overdone to the point of being slightly stilted, but overall I enjoyed the sparring and felt that it honored the original nicely.
There were, of course, a few things that sort of rubbed the wrong way. Honestly, I just wasn’t a fan of the names: Beatrice and Dominic. For some reason, maybe the number of syllables?, I had a hard time adjusting to them and they didn’t seem to flow correctly in the story. I also felt that there were maybe a few too many times that either Beatrice or Dominic asked the other to go and then pulled them back – it’s a plot device that I think could have been used more sparingly. And the last thing was that each of the tender moments the characters had, until the end, were after a large tragedy. The number of close calls stretches the imagination some, as well as makes one question the depth of the connection, if something like that needs to happen for it to come out. I mean maybe the first time, to kickstart things, but after that it either needed to unfurl a bit more naturally or one/the other (or both) would have ended up giving up for good. Though I guess they did both try that…and their hearts overruled their minds. So who knows?
My overall thoughts: I definitely recommend this if you are looking for a timeless love story with odds overcome, the redemption we all crave, and that happy ending feeling, all packaged up in a nice, quick read. Though there are some small iffy spots, the overall feel, the pacing, the development of the love story, and the intrigue/secret revealing are all on point enough to create the right ambiance for the story. You won’t want to put it down until you get to the perfect ending that you know is coming.