Rant, Review

Review: The Alchemy of Night by Judy Hall (2019)

Heat Factor: I have never actively rooted against a couple, but there’s a first time for everything

Character Chemistry: I’ve had indigestion with more fire than these characters.

Plot: Pippa and Sebastian were ill-fated lovers in a past life in Egypt and have a chance to create a different ending for themselves while Pippa runs around obsessing over vocabulary words and shooing smelly ghosts away.

Overall: This book had a great premise but–

Okay guys, I don’t like snarky reviews because they’re not nice and I tend to be a people-pleaser but this one…ooooo, this one got me. First off, I’m pretty inclusive about what constitutes a romance novel, but this simply wasn’t one. My very lax rules about romance novels are that the plot has to revolve around a relationship between people who want to be together and their journey to get there, and the end has to satisfy the needs of those characters, thus simultaneously satisfying the reader. Right? So many possibilities! In this particular book, the author made the interesting choice to have the lead characters not interact in any way for ⅓ of the book and then spend the majority of the rest of the book having dream sex with dead people (or ALMOST having dream sex with dead people). That’s right. Not even each other. Other people. Other people who are dead. I had to check multiple times that this was listed as a romance because the relationship between Pippa and Sebastian was so bland. Honestly, for a decent chunk of the book Pippa just wanders around between the library where she works, the thrift store where she volunteers, and her house occasionally thinking to herself “I wonder what Sebastian is doing?” or “I hope Sebastian comes back soon” without really sounding like she means it. Their connection really is the emotional equivalent of how I feel about my Nissan Versa. Perhaps I’d feel differently if this book had been listed under a different genre, but it wasn’t. The author and publisher clearly meant for this to be marketed as a romance novel so that’s how I’m reviewing it.

Quite frankly, I was put off by Pippa’s propensity for off-topic inner monologue. I will admit, there have been a handful (bushel) of occasions where I personally have been nervous and couldn’t stop talking. And I knew full well I should just stop, because when the person you’re talking to kind of bends away from you and laughs politely and then looks around discreetly, clearly hoping for a rescue–you need to stop. Mid-sentence, if need be. Do not hold people verbally hostage, because it’s not nice. Pippa clearly hasn’t learned this. Pippa tends to say things like, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to be able to use the word ‘[insert SAT vocabulary word here]’, and now I have” which I’m sure is meant to be charming, but actually makes me feel quite used, like I’ve been forced to sit there as some kind of verbal test subject. I did laugh out loud once, and that was when Pippa dryly noticed that one of the secondary characters was a bit “verbose”. Pot…kettle? There’s nothing better than pulling some dusty word gems off the shelf and putting them to use, but please don’t do it at the reader’s expense, and use some finesse. Inner monologues should move the plot forward, not showcase one’s thesaurus. Also–case and point? If the main character is about to undergo a dangerous, life-threatening ritual with the hope of finally uniting her and her love after centuries of suffering, maybe don’t have her casually admire someone else’s haircut and then make a long-winded mental note that she should go have a trim at the salon RIGHT when she’s prepping for said ritual. Incense? Check. Candles? Check. Invite everyone who had a role in the trauma of interwoven past lives to participate in the ritual? Check. Bob haircut with some saucy bangs? CHECK!

Also, let’s get into the reincarnation, shall we? Lovely. There was one bit of the book where I truly started to get into it, because the author started building up the history of the two characters. And then the evil Pharoh kills her. That’s pretty much how it reads and feels. So, to reiterate–the main character will allot multiple pages just to use fancy vocabulary words but wraps up THE MAIN CHARACTER’S DEATH in one sentence. Okay, maybe just an interesting literary decision, and I plodded along until her star-crossed acquaintance lover finds out his soulmate has been murdered. His response? “Noooooooo.” That’s right–”Noooooooo” with a period. I’m awash with emotion. Can you tell? But here I do have to give some credit to the author–the modern romance simply didn’t do it for me and it was pretty emotionally constipated, but you could feel ancient Egypt when she wrote about the main characters’ past lives. That’s where the writing felt comfortable and the characters were dynamic and interesting.

But lastly, and since we’re reviewing romances here–you know I have to talk about the end. Oh, that satisfying heart swell that happens when you finish up a good romance novel. The glee of two fated people working out their obstacles and finding their own version of true love. In this book? The main characters wrapped up their story by finishing up their ritual, reassuring their guests they’d clean up, and sending them home. Oh, how I WISH that was a euphemism–but no. These crazy kids are finally free to make up for all those years they could have been making out and grabbing each others’ buns and were instead dead and alone, and they celebrate by cleaning up and doing the dishes.

I just…

Sigh.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.


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