Today’s self-published novel review comes from author Cathy Bramley. Conditional Love is her first novel, which makes her the perfect author with whom to share some love.
Conditional Love tells the story of Sophie Stone, a girl in her early thirties, living with two flatmates, and working in a job she could have loved, but doesn’t. She was raised by her mother, who by all accounts is self-absorbed, and has never met her father. Shortly after being dumped on Valentine’s Day, Sophie receives a letter telling her she will receive an inheritance from a great-aunt she never knew she had, as long as she is willing to meet her estranged father. Believing he ran out on them before she was born, she is naturally a bit hesitant. Falling in love with the house she will inherit and the potential she and her architect see for improving it, is definitely an incentive to at least meet the man. After all, she only needs to meet him once.
I was slightly disappointed when I first started reading. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the book, but the description online did not prepare me properly for the actual product. It sounded like a classic situational romance, with a couple of potential suitors and some sexy mix ups. What I hadn’t counted on from the description was learning this was a British romance novel. The difference may not seem like a big deal, but there is a structural difference that can be found more often in British romance novels that is rarely seen in their American counterparts. British romance novels tend not to focus on the relationship between the main female and their eventual love, but more on the main female and her personal growth which prepares her to meet her true love. Of course she will meet him early enough on that you can tell who she will end up with, but there is usually someone else and a life lesson in between their first meeting and their happily ever after. Think Bridget Jones’ Diary; Bridget first has her relationship with Daniel Cleaver, changes several things about herself, and then meets Marc Darcy again. (Sorry if that was a spoiler, but the book is eighteen years old now, has two sequels and two movies. If you didn’t know by now, I would imagine you would never care anyway.) Once my brain switched over its expectations, I was able to enjoy the book more. I personally love reading stories where the romance is not simply, ‘I fell in love because he was so sexy.’ I like to see my characters fall in love, not lust. For me that is how I know they are still together when the story is over, instead of fizzling out to nothing.
There were a few areas where this could have been improved from a traditional publishing method, but I found them to be minor. There was a bit too much hemming and hawing over meeting her father for my taste, however that time was used to further other plot points and encourage character development. There were also a couple of areas where a little more transition would have been good; at one point the page ended with her considering speaking with someone, and the next page had them towards the end of a conversation. I had to turn the page back and forth a few times to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. It was slightly distracting at the time, but as far as mistakes made without the professional publishing team, it was livable.
Overall, I would call it a good read. The characters were relatable. While they made mistakes, and at times you wanted to scream at them, wondering how they could possibly miss the obvious blunder they were making, it served to create more realistic characters. They were not paper dolls, acting as their creator demanded for convenience, they were people who lived, loved, and occasionally screwed up. There is little that I love more in my reading than feeling as though the characters could step off the page and live their life in the real world.
As I still do not have a decent standard rating system, I will give this novel four late nights, reading in bed, as it is the perfect novel to read as you drift off to sleep, dreaming of happily ever after with the person you never expected to fall in love with.
I love bringing attention to new authors, whether self-published or simply publishing their first novel. If you have a self-published or first novel out, please feel free to share that with me! I am always on the lookout for new books to read, and I would love to continue to show some love to those who are following their dreams.
My opinions of Conditional Love, as always, are my own. I have no official expertise in book reviewing, outside my extensive love of reading, my ability to form an opinion of my own, and my desire to make criticism as constructive as possible. You are of course entitles to your own opinions, and I encourage you to share them with me as well.
As a final note, my observations of British romance novels as compared to American romance novels are based on my personal experiences with reading both. If you disagree with my assessment, I would enjoy hearing which books you have found that are very different from my assessment. However, I am not stating the difference as a hard and fast rule, simply as a generalization that can be found over several novels.