Title: Burning Embers
Author: Hannah Fielding
Genre: Romance, Historical (1970)
Rating: 2 Stars
Coral Sinclair is a beautiful but naive twenty-five-year-old photographer who has just lost her father. She’s leaving the life she’s known and traveling to Kenya to take ownership of her inheritance–the plantation that was her childhood home–Mpingo. On the voyage from England, Coral meets an enigmatic stranger to whom she has a mystifying attraction. She sees him again days later on the beach near Mpingo, but Coral’s childhood nanny tells her the man is not to be trusted. It is rumored that Rafe de Monfort, owner of a neighboring plantation and a nightclub, is a notorious womanizer having an affair with her stepmother, which may have contributed to her father’s death.
Circumstance confirms Coral’s worst suspicions, but when Rafe’s life is in danger she is driven to make peace. A tentative romance blossoms amidst a meddling ex-fiancé, a jealous stepmother, a car accident, and the dangerous wilderness of Africa. Is Rafe just toying with a young woman’s affections?
Is the notorious womanizer only after Coral’s inheritance? Or does Rafe’s troubled past color his every move, making him more vulnerable than Coral could ever imagine?
Set in 1970, this contemporary historical romance sends the seemingly doomed lovers down a destructive path wrought with greed, betrayal, revenge, passion, and love.
WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW
I debated for awhile on what rating to give this book, but in the end, I have to painfully admit that I just didn’t like it—and that’s not entirely the author’s fault. To be fair, technically speaking, the book is written quite well. There wasn’t an abundance of punctuation mistakes, misspellings, or grammatical errors. In fact, the narrative was quite clean. My biggest issue with the technical side of things was that the author’s style tended to be a bit more poetic and verbose than I can generally stand. Frequently I was forced to look up a myriad of words that I’d never even heard of before, making it quite clear that the author had a love of the thesaurus.
She gazed into the tenebrous light, feeling helpless, lonely, and utterly wretched. Not a star interrupted that dense unity, not the smallest star, the tiniest speck of hope.
Character descriptions, actions—and dialogue at times—seemed to drag on for pages at a time with colorful, verbose passages. If that’s your thing, then more power to you… but I tend to prefer concise, quick-paced narrative. This wasn’t. It didn’t take me more than the first page to realize that this wasn’t going to be an easy read for me. By 14% in, I’d decided to scrap it and do a partial review. I waited a day. I picked it back up. I pushed—and eventually got to the end of the book, but it was a struggle.
I had difficulty getting engrossed into the character’s lives. Both the dialogue and the narrative felt a bit stiff and flowery, and I ended up double checking at one point to make sure the book was set in the 1970’s instead of the 1920’s. The language was very formal, void of contractions, and the polite manner in which the characters spoke for most of the book felt like it came from a different age. (Have some dialogue: )
“An African proverb says that sorrow is like rice in the pantry: it diminishes day by day.”
“For give me,” Coral murmured, smiling through her tears. “I didn’t intend to make a spectacle of myself. It was rather childish, I suppose.”
‘Even big boys cry sometimes, you know.”
It was hard to take the characters seriously, and at times I outright laughed out loud – despite the solemn mood of the scene.
For the entirety of the book I felt a disconnect between myself and the characters in the story. As the story wore on, I found myself growing angry at the characters—Coral in particular. She had this annoying penchant for jumping into arguments and decisions with little practical thought, putting herself, and others in danger, as well as picking needless fights. There were a multitude of instances where Coral could have saved herself and others pain had she only closed her mouth for a minute and really considered the situation. She came across as naïve, immature, and reckless, and it was hard to like her.
Rafe on the other hand, came across as a bit bipolar and more than a bit of a man-whore. He was constantly hanging out with two other woman (other than Coral) and though he admittedly wasn’t currently (active word: currently) involved with one of them (Coral’s step mother no less), he frequently let these women hang all over him in front of Coral. To be honest, I’m not sure why Coral was interested in Rafe at all—or vice versa. He spent most of the story brooding, avoiding Coral, or openly trying to make her uncomfortable. The rest of the time, he was almost giddy. It was a strange dynamic.
The relationship between Rafe and Coral felt forced. 80% of the time the two characters were bickering over misunderstandings that could have easily been cleared up had either of them stopped to think – or even talked to each other rather than throwing verbal punches. 10% of the remaining time Rafe was being a bit of a womanizer and trying to seduce Coral (even though when it worked he ran away), and the remaining 10% the couple were spouting ridiculously sappy lines about their undying love (despite hardly knowing anything about each other). It didn’t feel realistic to me in the slightest.
“It’s just a physical attraction that draws you towards me. Don’t fool yourself. You know nothing of me, and what you already know can only push you away from my life.”
“That’s not so. I feel good when I’m with you. I don’t know what it is about you… your voice, your eyes… it’s as though I’ve always missed them,” Coral whispered.
“Coral, my love, you are to pure, too innocent, too alive for me.”
In the end, I just couldn’t seem to get into the book. It’s not that it was awful… it just wasn’t for me. I like my romances to feel real. I want to sink into the characters and the story and not emerge for breath until I’ve already drowned in the plot. I don’t doubt that there are some readers out there that will eat up the sappiness, seduction, and brooding with a spoon, but I wasn’t one of them. Would I read this story again? No. Would I recommend it? Perhaps… to the right person. I didn’t enjoy it.