Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Jennifer Collin

Set Me Free


The cover was quaint and old-fashioned looking (1950s red dress). It was bright and assured me that I was getting chick lit. 

The title made me think the lead character was in a disastrous relationship and she wanted out.

The blurb told me about the main characters: Charlotte Evans and Craig Carmichael and I instantly think they are going to end up together, no bad thing, the fun part is reading how they manage it. I loved the line: It’s what they might lose that has Charlotte and Craig wondering what it is they really want. But I haven't a clue as to how that, and the title, connect.

Chapter one opens with dialogue and immediately had my attention: "Why are you sniffing me?"
"Just checking to see if you've washed that man out of your hair."

It's a brilliant opening where the reader is introduced to two sisters Emily and Charlotte. Charlotte is the main character and owns an art gallery, Emily is her married sister and the artist who supplies her with paintings to sell. 

Chapter two introduces us to the other lead: Craig Carmichael. He's stressed and over-worked and has the horrible job of telling the owners of an art gallery that their shop is going to be bulldozed--that shop is Charlotte's. She's jet-lagged and not thinking straight, and he's so smitten with her he fails to tell her why he's there, and instead ends up in her bed! 

This is where my sympathy of the characters slip: a young woman (in chick lit they can't be slappers!) takes a stranger back to her house and bed, and has condoms readily available in her bedside drawer (indicating she does this often). 

Her actions are blamed on her being jet-lagged and drunk but later, when she discovers the reason why Craig came into the gallery, has the nerve to call the guy all the names under the sun for sleeping with her. And no, before you think it's all one sided, I didn't like him either. He knew she was drunk, yet he still went back to her house and had sex with her. Eeeeeow.

I read on but the once-thought main story line has switched direction and now I'm not sure whose story this is: Emily, Charlotte's sister has discovered her husband's adultery, and we learn that Ben (Charlotte's best friend) has been holding a torch for Emily and is in love with her. The POV moves to these new characters, plus, Emily and Charlotte's mother, Diane, is on the scene and also has a POV. It's become confusing.

I wouldn't call this book a chick lit as the cover suggests, and it's clear that this story has a multi-story line. It's not as easy-reading as true chick lit with the many characters coming and going, but as I'm further in, it HAS become more interesting. 

Whereas before I HATED the main characters, Charlotte and Craig, I now like them. In fact, I think I'm a little bit in love with Craig. In the end, he came across as a true 'chick lit lovable-but-with-flaws' character. Vulnerable but strong. Charlotte strengthened too and I've forgiven her sluttiness in the beginning. 

Set Me Free also has a mystery element surrounding the gallery with Craig's business partner receiving backhanders, which implements Craig in its involvement. That is unfolded slowly, drip-feeding the reader until they HAVE to keep turning the pages to find out its conclusion.

Back to the title: It's clear that the title refers to the side dish of the book: Emily and her estranged husband. The blurb needs to clarify that this book isn't focused on Charlotte and Craig but rather two sisters and the men who are in love with them.

It has a few editorial and formatting problems such as typos and double spaces changing to single, and that being said I'm giving this book a very high three out of five (shame Amazon has no half marks). It's worth a read!

Disastrous love life aside, Charlotte Evans is rather content with her life. Her quaint little art gallery is plodding along nicely, and her sister Emily’s artistic career is about to take off, thanks to her tireless promotion. She even gets to see her best friend every day and drink his delicious coffee in the cafĂ© next door.

But when dastardly property developer Craig Carmichael comes along, threatening to demolish her gallery and take everything away, Charlotte has an unexpected fight on her hands. Not only is she battling to stop Craig’s development, she’s also struggling against the mysterious magnetic pull that has her on a collision course with Craig himself.

Craig Carmichael is fighting the Battle for Boundary Street on more than one front. The tenants of the building he wants to knock down are mounting a strong case against him and in a hot-headed moment he put his career on the line for a project that is threatening to fail. If the project doesn’t succeed he will lose everything, but for some reason he’s having trouble maintaining his focus.

As their worlds begin to unravel around them, anyone could win. It’s what they might lose that has Charlotte and Craig wondering what it is they really want.