Book Review: The Chateau of Happily-Ever-Afters by Jaimie Admans
Chicklit is a genre that is difficult to get exactly right. And unfortunately Admans hasn’t got every element exactly right in this book.
Admans writing is not awful, but it is quite simplistic. There isn’t any gorgeous turns of phrase that make you want to read paragraphs again and again or capture you with their imagery. This type of writing isn’t a prerequisite for me to adore a book, but the plot is also a little too basic for my liking.
Perhaps my biggest issue is how Admans uses popular romance tropes in her plot. It’s like she wasn’t letting the plot flow (and the characters develop) organically as she wrote and instead had a schedule of cliches/tropes she just had to fit in at certain times.
We start out with the ‘shared inheritance’ one when a neighbour, Eulalie, leaves Wendy her chateau in France. It turns out, however, that Eulalie has a great nephew, Julian. According to French law, the property must pass equally to surviving relatives as well as those specified in the will. So, obviously, Wendy and Julian are not impressed when they learn about each other and this stipulation hindering either of them taking full possession of the chateau.
The next cliche is Eulalie leaving a letter saying there is a treasure within the walls. We all know the treasure will be Julian and Wendy finding love with each other. We do expect that. This one might have worked if there was a little more to it. Perhaps if Julian and Wendy joined forces to search? Or if there were more supernatural or unexplained happenings in the house. There is a part in the letter that mentions the house has a way of forcing couples together. I think I would have perhaps liked this explored further. (This is odd, because I’m not usually a fan of ‘magical happenings’ in chicklit but, in this case, I think it would have worked.)
The chateau in France itself is a cliche. I mean, it’s in France. It’s a chateau. The overseas romanticised setting is almost mandatory.
I thought the use of chestnuts as the main crop at the chateau was an original idea and a nice touch. I think I would have liked Wendy to have experimented more with the chestnut recipes than the cakes. A cake-making heroine is actually cliche number four. I don’t mind foodporn in books, but cakes etc have been done to death. Using chestnuts as the main ingredient could have given the baking a fresh spin. (Or maybe that’s just me as chestnuts aren’t exactly commonplace in Australia.)
Julian is a cliche. He’s a gorgeous male model. Funnily enough, I just realised Wendy is hardly described in the book, so I’m unsure about her appearance. The book is written in her first person point of view, but thinking about it now, there seems to be pages and pages dedicated to Julian’s looks and zero to Wendy. Odd.
The cliche of Julian showing off his pretty bod was downright uncomfortable. Would you really just accept a man you hardly knew walking around starkers? I know Brits have this habit of stripping off their shirts every time they get a tiny bit of sun, but Julian removes all his clothes. It’s a very strange part of the book. While I’m struggling with making sense of it, Wendy just looks away and carries on as if everyone gardens in the nude.
But it’s the misuse of my favourite trope that grated on my nerves the most. The old chestnut (see what I did there) of having to share a bed is one of my absolute favourites but in this novel is so forced and so ridiculous. The chateau has forty rooms. From what I can make out, there’s beds in more than one. And yet, Wendy and Julian must share a bed because… wait for it… only one room has a light bulb. Yep, light bulbs are essential when you’re sleeping. *sigh*
I did like Wendy’s backstory and her reasons for distrusting Julian, but every time she mentioned rushing back to England because of her job I must admit I got the giggles. Surely anything would pay more than offering samples in a grocery store, including selling cakes at a market in France.
I don’t want to be too harsh. The book isn’t completely bad. I did finish it. And I’m sure if you’re looking for a pleasant book to while away the hours, this book should suit. I was perhaps just hoping for more.
2 ½ out of 5