Monday, October 6, 2014

Review: Love by the Morning Star - Laura L. Sullivan

Love by the Morning Star by Laura L. Sullivan
Genre: YA, historical fiction, comedy, romance
Published on June 3, 2014
Published by HMH Books
Pages: 320
Read From: 8.28.14 - 9.2.14











SYNOPSIS
For Hannah, life is a cabaret, full of artists and bohemians and the songs about sheep that the audience loves so well. But in 1938, Germany is no place for a half-Jewish girl. Luckily her other half is English, so Hannah sets off for the grand country estate of Starkers, where she expects to be received as a distant relative. 
Anna might have been born a grocer's daughter, but with her golden good looks, she plans to marry well. And at Starkers she might marry very well indeed, if she can catch the eye of the right man. Too bad she's supposed to enter the household as a maid so that she can spy for the Nazi sympathizers her father has befriended. 
What could possibly go wrong? In this sparkling, romantic comedy of errors, nearly everything goes wrong for Hannah and Anna - until it goes so very, very right!

Review

Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I do like the cover art, though it hints at more of a romance novel than a comedy (which it is, in fact, both). And the guy behind the tree looks like the 11th Doctor! :-)

Characters: This isn't a book where you necessarily have to fall in love with the characters. I liked them, but I didn't love them; even so, I had a ton of fun reading about them because they were so bloody entertaining. Anna Morgan is absolutely and totally conceited, spoiled, and manipulative. But her airs and pretended graces were hilarious. She wasn't totally unlikable, either; I mean, she is forced into a situation she doesn't want by a father who doesn't really care about her, so it is actually understandable why she's so desperate to escape. Her way of doing that is just not the best. Hannah Morgenstern is the almost opposite; she's dramatic, talks too much, friendly, and doesn't put on airs at all. Some of the things she said were an absolute riot. Then there's Sally, the head cook who tries to be tough but is really just a sweet lady; Hardy the undergardener who is absolutely taken with Anna (but whom everyone thinks likes Hannah); Teddy Liripip, the posh heir training to be a spy; Lord Liripip, a naughty old man who laments his passing youth; and then there's Lady Liripip, his rude and condescending wife. Every one of these characters has a lot of personality, and whether you hate them or love them, they bring a lot to the story.

The Romance: Anna can't deny her attraction to Hardy the undergardener, but she is determined to marry into money, so she sets her cap on Teddy Liripip. Meanwhile, Hannah and Teddy have been meeting each other at night by the yew trees, and they have fallen completely in love. The problem is, Teddy thinks Hannah is Anna, and everyone assumes that Hannah loves Hardy, while Hardy assumes Anna is in love with him. Yes, the romance is crazy and convoluted and twisted in every direction, but it's part of the humor of the book. I don't normally find romantic mess-ups funny, but in this case it was an absolute riot. I wasn't necessarily emotionally invested in any of the relationships, but it was entertaining.

Plot: Anna is a grocer's daughter who wants to be aristocracy. She has been born with natural beauty and she has done the rest - perfecting her posh accent, straightening her teeth with rubber bands, softening her hands, constantly wearing gloves, et cetera. So when Anna's Nazi-sympathizer father tells her to go undercover at Starkers - one of the estates the royal family frequents - Anna is certain she's to masquerade as a gentlewoman. Not so - she's to be a kitchen maid. But there's no saying "no" to her father. Meanwhile, in Berlin, Hannah is the daughter of an English woman and Jewish cabaret owner. When the Nazis start to crack down on Jews in the area, Hannah is sent to Starkers, to live with her English relatives the Liripips. But things take a quick turn for the confusing when Anna and Hannah both arrive there. Everyone assumes that Anna is the German-Jew relative because she looks aristocratic - and Anna does nothing to persuade them otherwise. And Hannah is mistaken for the new kitchen maid, dressed as she is in threadbare clothes and coarse hands. Hannah assumes that her English relatives mean to humiliate her, and is determined to play the game with a stiff chin. Further confusion abounds when romance gets involved, and pretty soon everyone is confused about everything and assuming one person is someone that they're not. Have I said how much of a riot Love by the Morning Star is? Because I don't think that can be stressed enough. It's hilarious! One of the best stories of mistaken identity and twisted romance since Twelfth Night or A Comedy of Errors. Right when you think things might get a little better for Anna and Hannah, someone assumes the wrong thing and it makes it worse.

Believability: It's a comedy; circumstances are supposed to be ridiculous and probably not all that likely to happen (though it isn't entirely impossible).

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. I loved the writing. It completely added to the humor, and it in fact had the feel of an omnipotent narrator. The humor is very lighthearted and absurd, but it also has an edge of darkness about it, given some of the subject matter (i.e. WWII and Nazis).

Content: There are several lewd allusions to character pasts and circumstances, but that's all it stays as: allusions. Never details, never demonstrations. But it also doesn't take too much of an imagination to figure out what the characters are talking about.

Conclusion: It's safe to say that the ending is tied up nicely and quickly, but in a book that has not a single serious bone in its body, that's fine with me. This is a comedy; a satire, even, in some cases. Things happen for the sake of being entertaining and funny. There's no in depth character development or endings. It's all pure fun. And it was awesome.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, seventeen-and-up, fans of WWII-based historical fiction and romantic comedies (and are more comedic than romantic).

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