Title: The Proviso (Book 1, Tales of Dunham)
Author: Moriah Jovan
Enjoyment Rating: 5/10
Source: Kindle for iPad (only $3.99!)
Referral: I read the third book in the series, now I'm backtracking
Books I've read in 2011: 111
Moriah Jovan's Magdalene blew my mind. I'd never read anything like it before-- I'd read clean Mormon romances, and seen a lot of sexy romances at Barnes and Noble (but hadn't read very many), and to read a sexy Mormon romance felt liberating and earth-shattering. But it became evident pretty early on in Magdalene that there was a bunch of backstory that I was missing. So after finishing that book, I went and downloaded the first two to my iPad.
The Proviso is the first book in the Tales of Dunham, and while Magdalene focuses only on a single couple, Mitch and Cassie, The Proviso tackles not just one love story but three: Bryce and Giselle, Sebastian and Eilis (I want to know how to say her name so badly!), and Knox and Justice, all of whom reappear in Magdalene. And while the book is definitely engrossing, there is a lot going on with three love stories in one book. In fact, that's my major criticism of the book and the reason why my personal enjoyment rating was a little lower-- because it's so dang long. At 736 paper pages and over 18000 iPad units, I felt like I was reading this book forever. In fact, my son was walking around the house with a D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths while I was trying to conquer The Proviso, and I had a distinct sense that Mount Olympus had sprung up right down the road from Adam-Ondi-Ahman in Western Missouri and sired the Dunham/Hilliard clan. They're all bigger, badder, meaner, more loving and much, much sexier than the normal humans I know. Jovan even refers to Bryce as Ares and Sebastian as Dionysus in the course of the novel.
I can see that there's an overall arc to the story of Knox and his evil uncle and how all of the romances are tied to that main story, and I appreciate how Jovan weaves together a literary theme (in this case an homage to Ayn Rand) along with her main story. I feel like I should go read The Fountainhead now, but I might need to stick to shorter books for a while in the interim. But as I was reading I kept wondering if it might be better to write three 250 page novels, each focusing on one of the couples.
My last criticism is one that is hard to put into words, but I'll try. When I read most books, I feel like the author sort of disappears for me and I'm immersed in the story. But as I read The Proviso (and to a certain extent, with Magdalene too, although I noticed it less), I felt like Jovan never became invisible. She seemed very present in the story, making decisions about what her characters were going to say, what they'd be doing in bed, and what they'd be saying about Libertarian politics. I wish I could put my finger on exactly what I mean here, maybe the playlists of the kinds of music Sebastian and Eilis might listen to is an example. And come to think of it, I feel the same way when I read a Stephenie Meyer book, but it's hard for me to say exactly why I feel this way.
Overall, Magdalene and The Proviso have convinced me that every once in a while, a good old romance novel isn't such a bad thing to add to my reading list. And if it's a little wild, even better. And if there are Mormon characters getting wild, maybe I'll feel a little more willing to experiment myself.