Book Review: Lessons in Loving by Peter McAra
This book’s blurb (and pretty cover) caught my attention immediately. The heroine, Kate, takes up a position as a governess at a remote New South Wales sheep station, only to find her student is not a child, but the property’s male adult owner, Tom. It’s 1902 and Tom needs to get his reading, writing, and speech up to a higher level if his dream of wooing an aristocratic Englishwoman (Laetitia) is to be fulfilled. Yes, the premise has fantastic potential, only…
Let me start with the time setting. Other than the unlikelihood of a woman placing herself in such a compromising position (going to live, alone, in a remote location with a man she doesn’t know) in current times, the book could have been set in any decade of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, when McAra did add some historical details it read more like a textbook, with dates and facts, rather than flowing descriptions giving me some sense of the period. Neither does McAra use the characters’ speech patterns in such a way that indicates it’s 1902. (In fact, I don’t think I would have realised if it wasn’t on the blurb!)
The physical setting is also lacking in details. Remote Australian locations in the early 1900s should offer landscapes and wildlife enough to pluck some flowery descriptions out of one’s literary brain. Only… Okay, I’m not expecting everyone to be Evie Wyld, but I expect something more than this. There is no way I’d agree that I was ‘transported’ to the time or place of the book. It was simply a waste.
I’ll move onto the characters. They’re all rather bland. A couple of characters are so flimsily written (Prudence, Kate’s mum, Laetitia’s parents) that I wouldn’t even be able to describe them if asked. Kate is nice enough, harmless, but her inner thoughts do grate after a while. She claims to be a modern woman with feminist ideals, possessing supposedly a level of intelligence, given her profession, and yet she falls in love with Tom almost immediately because of his beefy muscular body. Er… What?
Yes, instead of a lovely build up of UST that I was imagining after reading the book’s blurb, all I got was Kate thinking about how attractive Tom is. I really hope, one day, writers and publishers will realise that women aren’t quite as shallow as they portray them in books or movies when presented with a handsome man. Funnily enough, personality does occasionally come into the equation with such things. (Grrrr.)
But wait! Kate also tells the reader how nice Tom is. And how much of a gentleman he is. And how intelligent he is under all that incorrect grammar. If only I would have read some evidence of this in Tom’s actions… Instead all I saw was a beefcake with serious mummy issues. (A couple of his actions in relation to Kate and his late mother, in fact, were downright creepy.)
I also have to mention the abrupt change of point of view in the book. It cruises along as Kate’s until around the 85% mark, where suddenly we get the switch to Tom. It was so late in the book that it felt completely wrong and weird. I mean, we all know that Tom will come around in the end, that’s how these things work. (Still, if feasible, I think of would have advised Kate to run as far away from stalker!Tom as possible.) We don’t need to suddenly get his thoughts on how it must be love because he can’t get her petite waist out of his mind.
Positives? It’s a quick read… Although it did drag out in the end. The last couple of chapters weren’t even needed.
I can’t really think of any others right now. I was deeply disappointed. 1 ½ stars? That’s being generous.