How did I end up with three copies of this book? Well, I bought two copies as I always do when I’m being supportive, one to keep and one for the local library, and then to my surprise and delight one showed up in the mail. So it seems appropriate that I reacted to this book on three different levels — as a reader, a writer and a sister — and that this post consists of three parts. I guess you could say my review is an anthology of sorts: three separate stand-alone opinions written by one person, of a single novel written by three people.
My opinion as a sister (and I have three of those, as well; none of whom arrived by mail):
Let’s just get this out of the way right up front, as it is my only complaint about this book. When I heard Jenny Crusie was writing the character Mare, the youngest sister, I was dubious. Crusie’s style is more in line with a bossy, know-it-all, pain in the ass oldest sister. Did I mention I have an older sister? I know of what I speak. There have been times when I would have sworn the woman IS my older sister, except that I’ve met her. She isn’t. Nevertheless, and I don’t care how talented a writer she is, I figured writing a character who was anything other than the oldest sibling would be a huge stretch of her abilities.
I was right and I was wrong. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Eileen Dreyer out-bossed the hell out of Crusie and that Dreyer’s character, Dee, is the perfect oldest sister. Gave me shivers how well she pulled that off. But I maintain that Crusie’s Mare is mis-cast as the youngest. Anne Stuart’s character Lizzie is such a perfect youngest sister — the non-confrontational peacemaker, with teeth — while Mare is clearly the rebellious second child, with her need to be different from her older sister. Ahem. Did I mention that I am a second child?
However, the mixed-up birth order of these siblings is a minor quibble and does nothing to detract from the story. All three writers did a wonderful job of conveying the true nature of sisterhood, from the squabbling amongst themselves, to the united do-not-fuck-with-us front when challenged, to the unhesitating selfless combining of powers to defeat a common enemy.
My opinion as a writer:
When I heard these three writers were collaborating on a novel, I was highly skeptical about how they were going to make that work. But I was also curious. So I attended the workshop the three of them presented last July at the RWA conference where they talked about their collaboration. I learned more than I’ll ever need to know about collaborating — hey, I don’t play well with others, I doubt collaboration will ever be an issue for me — but I also learned a great deal about the craft of writing. And I came away with a huge amount of respect for the talent and experience and wisdom of these three writers.
But I was still skeptical. Why? Well, let me tell you, they acted just like sisters at that workshop. They disagreed and they argued, they sniped and pouted — they stopped short of hair-pulling, but it was a near thing. Probably too many witnesses. They were entertaining as hell, but I was convinced this book would never make it to publication because they were going to kill each other first.
And how nice it is to be wrong about that. This book is an awesome display of talent and coordination. The three voices are distinct, yet complement each other beautifully. The three unique styles are woven together seamlessly to form a coherent whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. I have a feeling these women could discuss the contents of their refrigerators or their lawn watering schedules and it would be fascinating. Luckily for us, they chose instead to tell a story of magic and transformation and love. With really hot guys. Really.
I have to say, I absolutely love the use of the stylized butterflies as harbingers of impending head-hoppin– um, I mean, to cleverly signal a change in point of view. How Stuart and Dreyer got that past Ms. One Chapter/One POV Crusie, I’ll never know, but it works beautifully.
From a craft standpoint, reading this book is like watching a brilliantly choreographed ballet or listening to a richly complex symphony. They make it look easy when I know for a fact it was anything but. This collaboration shines. It is a triumph of three incredibly strong writers who are all obviously at the height of their careers.
Now for part three. If I had posting privileges on three blogs instead of just two, I’d split this up accordingly. But I don’t. So if you want to read part three (my opinion as a reader), go to the CB Bar & Grill, which is HERE. Or better yet, just go buy this book.