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Brunch Book Club Review & Recap: Fateful by Claudia Gray

10429017Eighteen-year-old maid Tess Davies is determined to escape the wealthy, troubled family she serves. It’s 1912, and Tess has been trapped in the employ of the Lisles for years, amid painful memories and twisted secrets. But now the Lisle family is headed to America, with Tess in tow.

Once the ship they’re sailing on–the RMS Titanic–reaches its destination, Tess plans to strike out and create a new lifefor herself.Her single-minded focus shatters when she meets Alec, a handsome first-class passenger who captivates her instantly. But Alec has secrets of his own. He’s in a hurry to leave Europe, and whispers aboard the ship say it’s because of the tragic end of his last affair with the French actress who died so gruesomely and so mysteriously. . . .

Soon Tess will learn just how dark Alec’s past truly is. The danger they face is no ordinary enemy: werewolves exist and are stalking him–and now her, too. Her growing love for Alec will put Tess in mortal peril, and fate will do the same before their journey on the Titanic is over.In Fateful, New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray delivers paranormal adventure, dark suspense, and alluring romance set against the opulent backdrop of the Titanic’s first–and last–voyage.

Please note: As with all Brunch Book Club Reviews and Recaps, there is a spoiler alert in effect. Keep in mind as you read this review that there may be plot points discussed that might change your view of the book if you have not yet read it – be warned!

Okay, I’ll confess – this is a seriously late review. There’s no excuse for it, except to say … well, it really wasn’t an easy review to write. I started out with really positive feelings for this book on many levels. It’s about the Titanic (always of interest to me), it’s historical fiction in the perspective of a lower-class observer and – just to keep things interesting – it has Russian werewolves! A twist, people!

Sadly the book didn’t live up to my high expectations. I’ve read a lot of historical fiction about the Titanic, and there’s a lot that’s great out there on the shelves. Hugh Brewster’s “I am Canada: Deadly Voyage” and Irene N. Watt’s “No Moon” both portrayed the familiar scenario in fresh and exciting ways. With Fateful, I felt that I was reading a re-telling of the James Cameron movie version, and since I’m one of the rare few who regrets every minute spent in the theatre for that film, it wasn’t a pleasant realization.

For me, the characters – especially Tess an Alec – seem to accept new situations with startling speed. Finding out the guy you like a werewolf? No problem! Realizing that the wealthy Mikhail wants to kill you? Just stick with Alec and pretend to be a fancy lady for a day. Sigh. While accept that their romance needed to accelerate quickly due to the inherent nature of the incoming disaster, it felt very rushed to me.

Where Gray shows her true strength lies in the secondary characters and the (almost) moustache-twirling villain. Mikhail is deliciously evil, and him interactions with Tess are truly creepy. I love that she made him into a Bad Gu y – all caps mine. There are so few evil characters who are simply bad because they like being horrible to people, and he was a refreshing change from a lot of the books I’ve been reading lately.

I had similar feelings for Myriam, Tess’ roommate and for Irene and Ned, the society-crossed lovers who could not be together. While their part was to move the story along for Tess and Alec, they were lovely to read about and I found myself wondering how Myriam made out in America, and about Irene and Ned’s star-crossed love affair. Even Alec’s Dad was a beautifully written character, filled with affection for his son, but also enabled with enough brains to justify being the head of a major financial empire.

In the end, tough, it comes down to the fact that I preferred reading about the secondary characters and the bad guy more than I did the hero and heroine, and that’s never a good sign. Too many references to the Titanic movie also distracted me from the storyline, and pulled me out of the narrative all together at times.

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bbc_apr13headerNow …. about our recap … Turns out I was not alone. We agreed that we couldn’t decide if it was the book itself, or if it was suffering by comparison to our April read (The Abundance of Katherines by John Green), but none of us were particularly enthused about this book.

Kate had to force herself to finish the book for book club (never a good sign) and Chandra had read the book but couldn’t remember specific details, telling her that it really hadn’t made much of an impression on her.

We all agreed that it’s really not a bad book per se; however, we also don’t thing it’s a great book either. Michele and I found ourselves counting Titanic the movie references as were reading (here’s a hint: don’t do that. It’s distracting) and we kept waiting for Kate and Leo to make an appearance. Even the two old-lady sisters who chose to stay on board the ship as it sinks were direct from the movie version of the older couple who chose to stay and die together.

We commented as a group about how the actual sinking of the ship was almost an after-thought. In a way, I would have liked it if Gray had taken some paranormal creative licence and saved the ship from sinking somehow; alas, that was not to be the case. Kate made a great point that she liked these story, but wished that it had been delivered by a different author. By doing so, the story might have had more punch in either the historical or the paranormal elements, leaving it a little less wishy-washy. As well, there are good portions of the story where things are described in great detail, rather than having them acted out for the reader to imagine him/herself.

Finally, the VERY heavy point about not having sex with someone unless you were (a) married and (b) of the same social rank was drilled into each of us – every character who did was considered ‘ruined’ or ended up dying! Talk about a program for safe sex!

While it wasn’t necessarily everyone’s cup of tea this month, we’re glad we read it. After all, who knows what might have happened if the werewolves WERE on the Titanic?

I purchased my copy of Fateful by Claudia Gray for the Read-along Challenge, and received no compensation for my review. 

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Categorised in: Readalong, Reviews

3 Responses »

  1. Ugh I noticed the heavy handed messages about sex when I read this too. I hate when books try and hit you over the head with stuff like that. And I kind like the idea of her taking some license and saving the ship – that definitely would have made this book stand out more. And probably would have made the ending better. As it was everything just felt so convenient.

    Like

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