As a young girl, Neave was often stuck in a world that didn’t know what to do with her. As her mother not unkindly told her, she was never going to grow up to be a great beauty. Her glamorous sister, Lilly, moved easily through the world, a parade of handsome men in pursuit. Her brother didn’t want a girl joining his group of friends. And their small town of Lynn, Massachusetts, didn’t have a place for a girl whose feelings often put her at war with the world -- often this meant her mother, her brother, and the town librarian who wanted to keep her away from the Dangerous Books she really wanted to read.
But through an unexpected friendship, Neave finds herself with a forbidden copy of The Pirate Lover, a steamy romance, and Neave discovers a world of passion, love, and betrayal. And it is to this world that as a grown up she retreats to again and again when real life becomes too much.
Neave finds herself rereading The Pirate Lover more than she ever would have expected because as she gets older, life does not follow the romances she gobbled up as a child. When Neave and Lilly are about to realize their professional dream, Lilly suddenly disappears. Neave must put her beloved books down and take center stage, something she has been running from her entire life. And she must figure out what happened to Lilly – and if she’s next.
Who Neave turns to help her makes Sharon Pywell's The Romance Reader's Guide to Life one of the most original, entertaining, exciting, and chilling novels you will read this year.
First, major kudos on the cover.
Second, the back description and the cover may lead to an impression that this is a fun and potentially light/fluffy book, but that's not the case. It's half coming-of-age for a young woman who finds the world of books to be appealing when she gets to read for an elderly woman who has a romantic spirit. Naeve becomes particularly obsessed with a romantic tomb called 'A Pirate Lover', and throughout the book - until the very last chapters - bits of the book are mixed into the storyline. She also speaks of her brothers addiction to comics, so kudos there too.
Above all though it's about a bond of two sisters and how they grow together, go into business together, flourish together, and then must part through a tragedy that is hinted at from the start. There is a weird mixing of life and death that is hard to explain without giving some details away.
The writing style is well-done and colorful; Pywell has a beautiful way with words that makes a reader stand up and take notice. The story-line holds great potential to be fascinating with how adventurous some of it is, yet my interest only stayed afloat at a 3 star line. Sometimes things were a little confusing with the POV shifts, but the story-line also wasn't in order since we had some flashbacks, future tense warning of what's to come, and present tense. There's not a huge amount of difference between the sisters - in other words, the writing style is the same no matter the viewpoint - so I would have to pause depending on which viewpoint I was reading sometimes to check the chapter heading and make sure.
I dug the style of writing, the coming of age feel, but like many books out there the beginning is where the strongest part lies. Her childhood and teenage years was the most fascinating and where I was glued the most. She was fine as an adult but this the story got..strange and I wasn't sure where it was aiming to go. It comes together at the end in a satisfying conclusion.
Honest review given after receiving from Netgalley