RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: At Hidden Falls by Barbara Freethy


Title: At Hidden Falls
Author: Barbara Freethy
Publication Info: Pocket Star 2011
ISBN: 978-1439176498
Genre: Contemporary Romance

At Hidden Falls This review was written by Andrea. This story was nominated in the Best Contemporary Single Title category.

The summary:     

Isabella’s drive to Angel’s Bay would have ended in tragedy when her car slid off a cliff if she hadn’t been rescued by Nick Hartley. As he helps her to safety, she realizes he is the man who has haunted her dreams. Nick, however, is committed to reconnecting with his estranged teenage daughter, refusing to respond to his powerful attraction to Isabella.

And Isabella’s police chief brother has his hands full with a missing mother, an abandoned baby, and an unknown father. What is Isabella’s role in the mysteries—both past and present— that swirl around the town?When she starts helping at the Hartley family theater, all the pieces begin to link together. Loves found and lost, heartbreak and happiness, courage and betrayal are all part of the patchwork quilt of the community—and of life. Isabella’s gift is seeing the patterns. . . .

And here is Andrea's review:

Before starting this book, I was optimistic that I would like it.  The premise sounded fairly interesting, and there were positive reviews on Amazon.  However, my enthusiasm started dimming right from Chapter One, and by the time I had read a few chapters, my attitude toward it could best be described as polite disinterest.

The beginning of the book throws you right into the middle of the action.  Isabella, the main character, has the car accident described in the book synopsis, and is rescued by her love interest, Nick.  On one hand, starting off with a bang might really grab a reader, but it felt instead like the story was rushed.

Adding to the impression was the excessive amount of exposition in the first chapter.  We learn that Isabella has a “special gift” of insight, which she inherited along with her blue eyes from Mayan ancestors (blue-eyed Mayans… hmmm).  She also has a magic pendant that has been giving her visions and she has problems with relationships because of her “gift.”  Nick is divorced and has recently been reunited with his teenage daughter, Megan.  Megan was born when he was eighteen or nineteen, and he hasn’t seen her since his ex-wife took her to Europe when Megan was three.  There are some details about his past with the ex-wife, a stereotypical evil ex who has dumped Megan on him, and his family, who run a theater.  I wish that the characters’ backgrounds had been worked into the story in a more organic manner than a straight info dump, which is what the first chapter felt like.

I think that a lot of the problems I have with the book stem from the fact that there are just too many storylines crammed into the book.  We have Nick’s relationship with his estranged daughter, Nick’s relationship with the rest of his family (they’re theater people and he’s an architect), Isabella’s visions and the magic pendant (at one point the pendant latches around her neck and cannot be removed), a past relationship between Nick’s grandfather and a woman who resembled Isabella, the current relationship between Nick and Isabella and their various commitment issues, a mystery of a missing teen mother, a mystery about the identity of the father of her baby, the woman who is taking care the baby (an ob/gyn named Charlotte), her conflict with her mother, her past romantic history, and her current romantic triangle with her former high school boyfriend and Isabella’s brother Joe.

The book would have been better served by dropping half of those storylines and giving more room to the remainder.  I really could have done without the magic pendant/Isabella’s visions/connection to the past part of the book, and the romantic triangle with Charlotte, her old boyfriend, and Joe, is apparently a set up for the sequel to this book and seems extraneous to this book.  As it was, I never felt engaged in any of the storylines.  Despite the way the beginning of the book rushed into the action, it subsequently stalled out.  The characters didn’t have distinct personalities, and I didn’t feel the chemistry between the romantic pairings at all, to the point where the passionate moments seemed to me like they came out of nowhere.  Another detraction for me was the dialogue, which often sounded stilted and awkward.  (e.g. “‘Your brother is a man of mystery,’ Kara said.  ‘He’s friendly, but no one gets too close.’”)

On the positive side, I did like some of the description of Isabella’s work as a costume designer and description of the theater that Nick’s family runs.  I would have preferred more along those lines and less of the extensive exposition and clunky dialogue.

I would give the book a C-.  There were times when I rolled my eyes or giggled inappropriately, but it could have been worse.  At least I didn't hate the characters; I was merely indifferent to them.

This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo | All Romance eBooks.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Emily says:

    Great review! Half way through the list of plot points I got lost and started again. It sounds like the author was going for over-the-top, what-the moments and got more huhs?

  2. 2
    CarrieS says:

    Re:  “At least I didn’t hate the characters, at most I was indifferent to them”:  Well put!  They seemed like perfectly nice people but I totally did not care about their story.

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