Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.
I’m going to be the bitch today. Excuse me for a minute while I pour my Rosé wine and gather my thoughts for a minute…
What I mean is that I feel terrible that I didn’t like this book. I should have liked this book and I didn’t. I really enjoyed it at the start. Because I loved it so much in the beginning, I just didn’t think it would end so badly. So today, in this review, I’m just going have to admit: I’m a total bitch.
I’d seen many reviews of bloggers that I greatly admire, give this book a high rating. I still love you, I just didn’t like this book.
So, naturally I thought it would be right up my alley. It’s got suffragists, gender rights, history, and a little romance. What could go wrong?
Bad decision. This was a terrible mistake. I screamed into a bucket when I finished this book.
As a woman who is extraordinarily proud to be a woman and a feminist, I wanted this book to be my sweet treat. Even though feminism did not exactly exist back in 1900, I would have thought the inclusion of gender rights would interest me. Usually it does. But here’s my issue with this book: the majority of the characters in this book are flat. They’re like if you forget to add flower to the list of ingredients in a pie. One-dimensional. No color. No depth. No layers. Should I continue?
See if you take away the main character, Olivia, and just look at the characterization of the side characters like her father or Sadie it’s like the MC made who those character’s are. Or it’s as if the subject of the suffragists and women’s rights created those characters. While I love gender rights, the issue presented in the novel should not create character development or character depth for that character. Maybe it’s been part of who they are, but not their entire being. This was the case with Sadie, with Genevieve, with Olivia’s father, and even with some of the suffragists. Never ever a good thing by the way when another character give’s a side character their depth.
Then there’s the portrayal of certain characters. Men. Sigh…why is it always men that have to be the bad guys. They’re just so fucking awful aren’t they? Spoiler alert: I’m being sarcastic here.
Men in particular were portrayed as stereotypical ideals of anti-suffragists. Their chests puff with glory and gleam so everyone can see! Looksie: the men in this book are painted as shitheads. Complete and utter idiots. They’re brainless football players in a historical setting.
Have you ever read of the antagonist who starts to babble on what they’re going to do, thus giving away their entire evil plan? Olivia’s father is like that. The one who laughs twirling his Salvador Dali mustache and plotting schemes. That is her father, my dearies. Mr. Male Stereotype. Historical accuracy or not, he was a stereotype.
“But, despite feminine wiles,” said Father, “we gentlemen must be strong. We must protect the women from their own foolishness. They’re fragile and ignorant and need our constant care…”
See what I mean? He’s the evil father who thinks women shouldn’t vote.
Now men during this time greatly disliked the suffragists and thought they belonged in the kitchen. They saw suffragists as this:
Not flattering. Look at the teeth. This is ridiculous. It’s weird because a lot of men, even today, think of feminists as ugly hairy broads who hate men because they’re ugly and want gender equality. I for one am not ugly. I think this notion is butt-ugly. I’m glad the author gave the suffragists in her books normal descriptions, instead of what this picture above includes. We’re just too opinionated I guess. It’s stupid, these thoughts of having equal rights for both men and women. Sigh…. what have we been thinking? Stupid stupid stupid.
They thought other men didn’t support suffragists. Wrong. They did. And the author recognizes that. So this is correct, but they were tropes and didn’t really act like real people would. The negativity put on the suffragists was over-done. It’s not as if the real men and women who were anti-suffragist didn’t do incredibly awful things, but in this book, it was crap. Crap. That’s right. I said it: crap. I don’t even care anymore. I’m this far into my review. I’m just going to fucking let the swear words fly.
The dialogue, as you’ve already seen it’s so fucking FAKE! It’s like the dialogue had been created solely to assure the reader how evil and conniving thse anti-suffragists are. No. I already know how fucking bad they are. Show me. Don’t tell me through dialogue.
“Are you really forcing him into that chair? Am I really seeing this?”
“I’ve offered you a large sum of money, Mr. Reverie.” With one hand planted on Henry’s chest, not far from his throat, the horrific version of the man with whom I lived squeaked open a cabinet door.
Again, it just doesn’t feel real to me. I don’t know. I can’t really put my finger on it. But I believe it’s because the main character is repeating what we already know. That and this ridiculous guy forcing the love interest into a chair for “evil purposes” just doesn’t bode well either. I’ve read it before. Yawn. Move along.
For those who loved the book: please respect my opinion. My review may be snarky, but it’s my honest opinion. Some things I loved: the independent heroine, the focus on the MC instead of the love interest, the author’s voice and writing style, the eerie descriptions, the genuine female friendships, and the ARC is beautiful. My jaw dropped when I saw the pictures and style inside the book. But I just couldn’t get past the faults. I can’t raise the grade any higher. One dimensional characters are just something I can’t see past.
You know what? I’m going to leave my review here because there’s only so much time I can spend talking about fake dialogue, men who think with their dicks, and one dimensional characters.
Received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.