I wasn’t expecting to discover I was a prince or to be given a million pounds. I know what makes me so furious all of a sudden. Because I think she’s lying.

– The Invisible Ones, Stef Penney

I read The Tenderness of Wolves and was totally overwhelmed by it: I loved it so, so much. I was thus keen to dive into Stef Penney’s other works. Which was just this. Alas. I was majorly let down by this book. To be fair, the blurb does warn that it’s very different compared to The Tenderness of Wolves, and maybe I should have taken heed. Reasons this book didn’t work for me:

a) Ray was a horrible, creepy man. Being self-aware didn’t change that.

b) Most of the characters were a bit…off. I loved JJ but that was about it. Probably Ray’s creepiness tainting things, granted, as the book was largely from his perspective.

c) Any and all romance was awkward as hell. How could an author who made me cry with barely-a-hug in The Tenderness of Wolves write such awkward romance here?

d) I could see why the author chose to have such a big twist at the end, obviously lots of books have big twists, but this one felt straight out of Days of Our Lives. It was surprising, sure, but I felt let down. The story tried so hard to be clever and twisty that it lost touch with reality. A simpler ending, and resolution to the Rose Janko Mystery, may have been more obvious, but I think the author certainly has the writing talent to have made it quite powerful anyway. See: Tana French’s Faithful Place for a story where the crime is quite straightforward, but is explored in such a way that it is no less shocking as something more complex or devious.

The end left a bitter aftertaste, and made me feel like I’d wasted my time. I had to think it through quite a lot for it to make sense and again, it only does in a very soap opera-ish way. This was a long book and I really was interested, I could even handle the off characters, if only it came together better.

I was so ready to love this author. And now The Tenderness of Wolves is tainted for me too. I find myself questioning my love for it- was it also this over the top? Were the characters also this hateful? (Except JJ of course. What a sweetheart). Just as like in The Tenderness of Wolves though, here the writing was beautiful. And it was as fascinating reading about Gypsy culture just as about life in the colonies. But this story didn’t work for me at all. And Ray needs a restraining order. Disappointed.

Audio book notes: The audiobook was fantastic. In fact, I think it made the book more interesting than it actually was.