When I was a teenager, my sister and I had a couple groups of friends who like dot write stories. We would labor over those stories when we got together or between seeing each other, and then we'd read them to each other and laugh and laugh.
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Behind The Scenes by Jen Turano reminded me of those stories, in the best possible way.
In this book, the main character, Permillia, is an official wallflower, relegated to the edges of all the exciting society events. However, that's just fine with her since she writes an anonymous society column for a local newspaper and is more interested in business than marrying well. However, on the night of a certain ball she not only makes better acquaintance with a gentlemen named Asher Rutherford, but she also learns of a murder plot with him as the target. She is determined to either figure out who is trying to murder Asher, or at the least make him take the threat seriously.
What I Liked
This is one of those books with over-the-top characters and situations, but done in a really fun and comical way - and I loved that! I love light-hearted historical fiction that avoids that "tragedy" formula and takes a comedy route instead. That was the part that reminded me of the stories I used to write with my friends, because I have always loved a story or book that can make me laugh, and this one delivered!
The ending of this book was nearly perfect too, with almost every loose end tied up in a nice bow. Some people don't appreciate that because they like their fiction to be more true to real life...I am not one of those people, and if you are, this is probably not your book! I loved everything that was slightly over-the-top, and I loved that everything came out alright in the end. It was just fun!
What I Didn't Like
Permillia's character was a little too ambitious for me at times, and it seemed she expected everyone else to recognize her value. She came off as lecturing other people when she really wasn't in a position to be lecturing. All this was framed within the context of the women's suffrage movement, since this story takes place during that time. However, Permillia did not come off as pursuing a good cause (like women's right to vote, etc.), but instead she just seemed arrogant, which is a character flaw not really addressed in this book. She seemed like a know-it-all in places. Despite that, I still liked her character overall.
The only other thing that I had a problem with was in the scene where Permillia learns her father and stepmother were really only married because they were using each other. Her stepmother used her father to escape financial ruin, and her father used her stepmother to help Permillia become more accepted in society. When this all officially comes out, there are tons of accusations and very hurtful words hurled between the parents, and between Permillia and her stepsister, with a couple of side characters even joining in with the verbal thrashing. It was probably meant to be amusing, but I did not find this scene funny. Even though this book wasn't meant to be realistic, even over-the-top fictional characters would have a hard time coming back from that.
In the end, this sad conflict with Permillia's family was the one loose end that wasn't tied up well. I wanted relationships to be repaired, especially in the marriage of Permillia's father and stepmother, because the careless words they flung at each other really seemed to bring down the whole view of marriage itself within this book. So I'm taking off a star for that.
Even though those last two books sound fairly bad when they're all typed out, just take my word for it that the book overall was fun and funny and lighthearted! Despite my couple of bones to pick, I really enjoyed reading it, and I'd still recommend it if you want some not-too-serious reading! It comes out in April if you want to check it out, or preorder here!
Note: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.