I received this novel from Booksprout in exchange for an honest review.
I have looked at a lot of reviews written by others regarding A Hurt So Sweet, I am clearly not part of the majority. I firmly believe that a reviewer does an author no service in gaslighting stories that are half way to maturation. I will be critiquing A Hurt So Sweet in favor of Betti Rosewood and not in an attempt to flat out slam this novel.
I have no issue regarding the subject matter, subgenre and tropes in relation to this story. I have no prejudice regarding dark romance. I love bully books. I thoroughly enjoy broken heroes. I love despicable antiheroes who cross lines of humanity. I need push and pull between characters and conflict. But I want the complete package. I want to unwrap a book and I want to hate to love the feral madness in with I’m gifted.
The backstory in regards to the plot is that Eden Falls is a particular place with a strict patriarchal hierarchy; the First Born of the founders having ultimate and complete power. It is within the same world as Betti Rosewood’s Lords of Wildwood but outside the common society that we know from those books. I am saying that characters mentioned in both novels know one another but you would be wrong to assume that these two series share the same level of dark romance or bullying. The plot itself–while somewhat a stretch–could easily be rumors regarding a salacious ‘secret society’.
This novel has catastrophic shortcomings from the start in characterization; the characters simply do not equal the potential of the plot. Pandora is a conscripted imposter to fulfill a purpose within the Eden Falls aristocracy. She has the blood of an Eden Falls family but she did not grow up amongst the rules and strictures. Her backstory is not well established by the exposition despite clunky suggestions. Considering the scene that the author is setting for Pandora her characterization and behavior make little sense.
There is no depth to who Pandora is, what her motivations are, and why it is she both assumes entitlement and claims captivity. It is a disrespect to a protagonist for the author to handle her so lightly. It felt to me that Rosewood portrayed Pandora as someone to whom she might have heard of and not someone she was creating. There is no breath of life breathed into her. She was difficult to understand or relate to in any sort, and her actions felt like role play rather than psychology.
When Pandora comes to this Eden Falls Estate she enters a home to which she has no personal history. She is being introduced to this new and baffling family for the first time with all of them virtual strangers. The backstory given is that she, nor the family, realized that the Oakes Heiress had been mistaken with that of another child at birth? We as readers don’t know how this was discovered or why it matters. So the first pages of this book Pandora is as new to the Oakes story as we are. She is dropped into the unknown just as we are. And she is given the handbook for Eden Falls (that is a real thing) and told to begin educating herself on the families and the exceptions of the founders. The first interaction with these strangers she behaves like a two year old without a sense of boundaries. Further into the stories you find that she doesn’t even attempt to understand how to manage or maneuver as an Eden Falls citizen. Her character lays on top of the story rather than being anchored to a purpose. Without having a foundation for her personality or complexity to her persona every time she interacts with another character it reads as if she is made of paper and not written upon it.
Because of the lack of conviction in the writing it reads like the heroine has no backbone. The secondary characters become nothing more word count padding. And it feels like I just wasted my time getting less than I was promised from a really strong narrative platform.
The antagonists–to which there are many–are all of the same shade of gray. With there being no gradient between the denizens of Eden Falls there is nothing to sink into and everyone feels one dimensional. One of the worst sins a writer can commit against their own works is to undervalue the reader. If you won’t give your reader the same reason to invest in your characters as you yourself took to write your novel you fail yourself and your readership. I couldn’t find any reason to care about the narration or plot because there was no one for whom I could rally to succeed and no one to whom I would want to save in a book burning.
Dexter, Lai, Caspian, Julian and Brazen are part of the patriarchy with Dexter holding some higher position than the others. Why? Well that isn’t well established other than that the others in Eden Falls appear to defer to him. Beyond that there is no differentiating aspect other than their names. They need a pathology outside of a corrupt system. They yearn to be molded into characters that will feed a reader enough to make them hunger for more of why the hero or heroes are rotten inside. Dexter needs to be someone that looks delectable but tastes like depravity.
The male First Born are more or less celebrities. They have favor, fortune and power and countless sycophants. Because the fraternal nature of the founders men maintain a higher level of influence. Any rules regarding polite society are brushed aside in favor of the unspoken norm of hedonism. Dexter and his close friends who are all First Born take whatever they fancy and lack of consent isn’t a deterrent. You can’t mistreat something without substance. You can’t defile something that has no profile. But the story is a series of D/s sexual encounters connected by bad script; sadly it’s terrible porn.
The absence of conscience in A Hurt So Sweet needs to be a character just as much as the main and secondary actors. I want to be able to find something inside each individual that is substantive. The story should infuse the reader with the same lunacy of the heroine to want the abuse, shame and humiliation that is taking place in the narrative. I want to experience the same helplessness the heroine does to need the debasement and I want to know that the author wants me to experience it too. If it is being phoned in it reads like nothing more than fan fic and roleplay.
I won’t even get into an analysis of the timeline and suggested sequence of past events because this critique is already longer than anyone will read.
There are so many incredible parts of this story that could be something more.
When I was reading Boys that Tease many of the same issues existed in that novel. Tinsley is a delicate and precious with a genuine psychopathy for which the reader can relate but Rosewood’s writing left her flat for most of the book. And Estella was the paper doll version of a mean girl. The formula and outline are here but the development is missing.
Betti Rosewood has incredible first drafts of stories but she is publishing them when they need to be given a second draft. She needs honest beta readers. The books need thorough editing. And the stories and characters need to be better loved before these books see the light of day.
And I am guessing this review will be disliked by many.
Title: A Hurt So Sweet (Elite of Eden Falls Prep Vol. 1)
Author: Betti Rosewood
Genre: Dark High School Bully Romance
Release Date: September 15, 2019
If you can’t beat the rich boys…
Lily Anna Oakes and I share everything.
We have the same billion-dollar name, the same designer clothes, and the same messed up problems.
But Lily Anna and I will never meet. She died years ago.
This town broke her. I’ll burn it to the ground before I let that happen to me.
In Eden Falls, I’m forced to attend a school for the elite. The Firstborns own this place and they think they own me, too. It’s not long before Dexter, Caspian, Lai, and Julian become the bane of my existence.
There are only two people I’m afraid of – my strict father, and my malevolent fiancé. Unfortunately for me, my husband-to-be is one of the Firstborns ruining my life.
Dexter Booth and I will marry on my birthday to secure our families’ bond.
Every woman in this damn town wants to be Dexter’s toy. Except me.
Dex and his Eden Falls Prep cronies have forced me to give up my body. I know my betrothed wants my mind next.
I play along… But soon, I’ll leave the beautiful jerk behind without the thing he wants most from me.
About Betti Rosewood:
Betti Rosewood is an author of new adult romance. She writes angsty, sexy novels about men who like to taunt the women they love.
When she’s not working on her next book, Betti is probably shopping for makeup or candles (it’s an addiction).
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