Thursday, 25 February 2016

Review: Undertaking Love by Kat French

Publication Date: May 22nd 2014
Publisher: Avon
Length: 400 pages

When Marla Jacobs discovers that the shop next to her Little White Wedding Chapel is to become a funeral parlour, she declares all-out war.
Marla’s chapel in the sleepy Shropshire countryside has become a nation-wide sensation, but the arrival of Funeral Director Gabriel Ryan threatens everything Marla has worked for. She can picture the scene: wedding limos fighting for space in the street with hearses; brides bumping into widows; bouquets being swapped for wreaths.
Marla’s not going down without a fight. She enlists a motley crew of weird and wonderful local supporters, and battle lines are drawn. But, as soon as Marla meets her nemesis, she realises just how much trouble she’s really in. His rugged good looks and Irish lilt make her stomach fizz – how is she supposed to concentrate on destroying him, when half the time she’s struggling not to rip the shirt off his back?

So often debut novels set the standard so high that a second novel fails to reach the bar and ends up being a slight disappointment instead. I find it’s rare to for the debut to be a disappointment and the second novel to blow me away. With this in mind, given how much I loved Kat French’s second novel ‘The Piano Man Project’ when I read it last summer, I was expecting to love her debut novel ‘Undertaking Love’ just as much.

Not so.

Where ‘Piano Man’ was smart, funny, full of banter and brimming with emotion, I found French’s debut to be filled with over blown caricatures that I never connected with, crass humour and a whole host of plot threads that left me feeling anywhere from vaguely amused to downright horrified.

Where was the romance? The banter? The brilliantly conceived plot? All the things I loved so much from the second book were missing in this first. I didn’t care about the characters, their choices and motivations were a bizarre mixture, and so many of them were downright awful stereotypes and caricatures.

It was a slog to get through this one when I was expecting a fun and enjoyable read. Some people will connect with these characters and love this romance, and I could see glimmers of what I’d hoped for at odd moments throughout the book. However for me it just wasn’t enough. I wanted to be swept up in the romance, I wanted to fall in love and care for these characters. I didn’t want to be shaking my head at their terrible life choices and crass dialogue and humour.

Since I loved ‘The Piano Man Project’ so much though, I’m curious to see how French’s third novel (due out this summer) holds up in comparison. Will it echo the brilliance of her second novel? Or plunge back down to the disaster I found her debut to be? Fingers crossed it’s the former.

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