Review: Summer at the Lake

Title: Summer at the Lake
Author: Linda Barrett
Length: 320 pages
Series?: Flying Solo #1
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Veteran NY cop, Rick Cooper, heads to his family’s lake house after losing a hostage negotiation, resulting in the death a child. He brings only his dog and his saxophone for company. His agenda includes lots of fishing while figuring out an appropriate career change.

Single mom, Kristin McCarthy hears the sound of the saxophone gliding through the night air…a healing sound for her daughter. She begins a search for the person who can play so beautifully. Her high hopes fall, however, when the musician turns out to be a cop. The police fell short when she and Ashley needed them most. But still…if this cop could make a difference…if he can help Ashley…well, Kristin would do anything for her young daughter.

An attractive widow with a damaged kid are the last people Rick needs in his life, and he tries hard to remain aloof. The ladies, however, knock down his barriers simply by being themselves. Fearful but brave, smart but silly. Before long, warm feelings grow between him and Kristin. Feelings that spark potential for a future together.

However, before Kristin allows herself to dream, Rick must prove he’s a man she and her daughter can trust. Can they count on him forever?

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This was a simple and straightforward read. Quick and easy for any time of the year.

This one has a bit of a different story, with some darker elements, but everything seemed very streamlined and fairly uncomplicated.


Kristin and Ashley have been let down by those sworn to protect. Ashley was raped. Kristin has brought her to the lake for the summer, where music is a lifeline for her. Ashley falls in love with Rick’s service dog, Quincy. Slowly, Ashley and Rick both open up with their musical talents.

Seeing the development between Kristin and Rick was nice, evolving into a friendship and then more, but everything was wrapped up nice and neat and that’s not how PTSD and trauma work.

Review: A Mail-Order Heart

Title: A Mail-Order Heart
Author: Janelle Daniels
Publisher: Dream Cache Publishing
Release Date: April 2016
Length: 178 pages
Series?: Miners to Millionaires #1
Genre: Historical, Romance, Western

Clara Stewart has every intention of marrying Ivan, her mail-order groom, but her plans fall apart when he dies before her arrival—leaving not one fiancée but nine! When the female-starved town offers them Ivan’s home and claim, Clara steps forward and promises to do whatever necessary to see to the women’s future, regardless of her own attraction to the town’s sheriff.

Sheriff Sawyer Morrison had one goal: to protect his town. But when nine women arrive, all claiming to be mail-order brides for the same man, his once quiet life is thrown into chaos. Safeguarding them from aggressive suitors is nothing compared to the inner battle he faces over Clara, a woman who heats his blood… but can never be his own.

But when Clara is kidnapped by the same person who’s sabotaging their mine, Sawyer must choose between the life he knew and the future he craves.

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This is really novella-legth. It is a quick read! The story is supposed to be mail-order bride but turns Western real quick.

I’m still undecided if I enjoyed this book. It was a mixed bag. It is the first in a series, so I do want to give the rest of the series a chance – as well as some of the other women who were duped alongside Clara.

Clara – and it turns out a slew of others – ship out West to marry a miner as a mail-order bride. First, there is the issue of not being picked up at the station. Then, there is the issue of a whole slew of women who were also supposed to marry Cara’s intended. And finally, the townsmen reveal that he is dead. The beginning set itself up to be an action-packed story, with a large ensemble cast that flushes out some characters well. It didn’t get off the ground, though.

Now these nine women, ranging from tearful to terrified to angry, are stuck out west with no money, no prospects, and no way back. Fortunately, the town desperately needs women. While it has all the foundations of a town out west, it is severely lacking for women. The women and the townsmen (largely made up of small group led by the Mayor and Sherriff), must come to an agreement. The women will be able to stay and reside in the deceased miner’s home and all nine of the women must stay and agree to be courted by men in the community, in hopes that they marry. But it’s all or nothing – all nine women must agree.

Clara, one of twelve siblings, was the last “bride” to arrive, but she is the one who understands the severity of the situation for all the women, and seeks out to focus and calm them. Clara does have strength and capacity that most of the women lack in spades. She becomes the unofficial leader of the women.

Sheriff Sawyer Morrison is quickly and overwhelmingly impressed by Clara and her ability for action. She’s not like any woman he’s known. Clara is quickly drawn to him as well, as they work closely together to solve their overarching situation and day-to-day tasks. Get any nine stranger women together – no matter the time period – and drama will follow swiftly.

And then there are series of events in which their mine is sabotaged. And Clara kidnapped. While initially when the first clues were laid, I didn’t pick up, after a hot minute it became predictable who the murderer and sabotager was. We all know the Wild West was wont with men ruthlessly laying claims to others’ gold mines by force…

There was some development of the secondary characters in the ensemble of women, with a little insight into a handful who would allow Clara to befriend them. But overall, all characters lacked full development. I found there wasn’t much to learn about even Clara and Sawyer over the course of the short read. On top of that, the actual romance between Clara and Sawyer wasn’t developed either. They were drawn to one another, but there wasn’t a lot of substance for why, or initial “courting” or romantical development happening.

Review: Royal Passion

Title: Royal Passion
Author: Jennifer Blake
Release Date: January1985
Length: 384 pages
Series?: Royal Princes of Ruthenia #2
Genre: Historical, Romance

Mara has no idea how to seduce a royal prince, or what he will do when she betrays him…

During a grand tour of Europe, Mara’s grandmother falls prey to a gamester. When she can’t settle her losses, the enigmatic gentleman makes a chilling demand: Mara must seduce the brilliant and dangerous prince of Ruthenia or her grandmother will suffer.

Prince Roderic, dynamic son of Rolfe and Angeline from Royal Seduction, is intrigued by the Louisiana belle who comes to him in a French gypsy camp. He is also wary: France seethes with political unrest that has spread to his home country, and he must guard against assassination. Trusting kisses that come too easily would be foolish. He will take what Mara offers but guard his back — and his heart.

Dread stalks Mara as the desire she pretends turns to fiery reality. Which of the two people she loves must she sacrifice when the time comes — her grandmother or the prince? 

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This is the second book in the Princes of Ruthenia series and it didn’t do the same for me as the first book. It doesn’t live up to the first book, but it is by far tamer than the first book.

Mara Delacroix is the daughter of Andre Delacroix, Angeline’s original love-interest in the first book. She and her grandmother are visiting France, where her grandmother falls to the seduction of the gaming hells. Thankfully, the debtor, Nicholas de Landes, offers a simple solution: seduce Prince Roderic and heir apparent of Ruthenia in order to gain intel and then ensure he is in a specific place at a specific time. In order to get them out of this sticky situation, Mara agrees. What other option does she have? Not to mention, Nicholas has already ensured her compliance by taking her grandmother hostage and threatening to harm her. A savior turned villain in one breath.

This book relied heavily on Ruthenian politics, which wasn’t foundationally wasn’t made real clear for this made-up country. That is the reason Roderic was in Paris, allowing Mara to set this plan in action.

The plan all begins with Mara being thrown from a moving carriage into the woods near a gypsy camp for Roderic to find her. Mara isn’t really given any direction before this. So, she claims amnesia. Except she’s a terrible liar and Roderic doesn’t believe one bit of her lost memory story. In order to find out what she’s playing at, he instills her in his household as his housekeeper!

Then all kinds of things start happening. There are of course encounters between Roderic and Mara, there’s political intrigue and rebellion, as well as some additional romances that happen.

One thing I didn’t like was there didn’t really seem to be a romantic line to the story. It was largely all because of the plot line. But, the historical setting – and the clothes! – were spot-on for the time.

Not one I will re-read.

Review: Royal Seduction

Title: Royal Seduction
Author: Jennifer Blake
Release Date: December 1983
Length: 340 pages
Series?: Royal Princes of Ruthenia #1
Genre: Historical, Romance

On a mission to bring his brother’s killer to justice, the devastatingly charming Prince Rolfe of Ruthenia takes Angelina Fortina captive at a Louisiana country ball. Mistaking Angelina for her cousin Claire who fled Europe after the death of Ruthenia’s heir apparent, Rolfe commits an inexcusable error: using sensual threat in an attempt to pry information from the woman he thought was his late brother’s mistress.

Still, Rolfe cannot let Angelina go. It’s not just that she may yet lead him to Claire — it’s that her touch, and hers alone, has the power to make him forget the bitterness of his past.

Their passionate odyssey in search of justice, however, may already be compromised. For the enemy they seek travels with them, ready to strike should love temper the ruthless desire of Ruthenia’s future king and make him a vulnerable target.

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I first read this book in my mid or late teens. When it had a very different cover. At the time, I thought it highly romantic and adventurous.

After reading it as an adult, I still find it highly adventurous, but I see some pieces differently.

Rolfe and his men have honed in on Louisiana, hot on the heels of his murdered brother’s lover. It is made clear over the course of the book that Rolfe – now the heir – thinks that the mistress is the murderer.

Angeline is a dutiful niece, courting the upper crust of society. Her relationship with her aunt, her chaperone, is very strained. Often, she seeks out the local convent to be helpful and avoid her resentful aunt.

Rolfe and his guards take over the ball and make waves when he specifically targets Angeline for a dance. She is left confused and shaken, and tries to clarify that she is not her well-traveled cousin Claire. They look so alike as to be twins, but she is not who he seeks. Unable to do much at the time, Rolfe and his men lie in wait, watching the house that night, for the moment to secret Angeline away and solve his problem.

On a mission that night to save her notify and ultimately save her cousin Claire, Angeline is captured while making the return trip back home.

This novel does have the captor/captive element woven throughout the entire novel. Rolfe is an alpha male. He is strong in body and mind, perhaps a bit psychotic, and really reminds me of a swashbuckling pirate on land the way he is often described. He is ruthless and unforgiving, but after that night when he tries to force information out of Angeline, he is remorseful and hates what he has done to Angeline, but at the same time sees no other way around what happened. She told him many times he was wrong, and even not believing her, he or his men could have asked anyone at the ball to verify her identity.

Some label this night as “forced seduction”, but it is rape. Bottom line. There is no sugarcoating reality that people are often wont to do. And that is the difference I saw in reading this as a teen and an adult.

Rolfe continues to hold Angeline hostage, hoping to eventually make her break, and obtain the information he seeks about Claire. But Angeline has lived a relatively hard life and has made her very practical. She doesn’t have a fit of vapors or go on a rampage.

The plot is driven by Rolfe’s need to find Claire, and the story continues as they hunt down leads. As they travel across the countryside, Angeline is kidnapped by other people a few times. Eventually, she comes to be back at home and then led on a wild goose chase. She comes face to face with the murderer.

The story is told from Angeline’s perspective, so all of Rolfe’s inner thoughts – and I’m sure there were A LOT – are left up in the air. And she maintains that practical mindset in knowing that he is royalty and she is a commoner, so there could never be a marriage between them. She resigns herself to the fact that Rolfe only wants her physically and nothing more because there can be no more.

However, therein lies the misunderstandings between Angeline and Rolfe. They don’t talk about any of those things. The full breadth of his feelings are never revealed until its nearly too late. He doesn’t want her to become the next target for the murderer – because he or she is now after Rolfe.

I enjoyed this book when I read it as a teen, and again as an adult. I might read it again this summer. The highly-driven action plot is one of the greatest pieces of this novel, alongside the interesting story.

Review: Brown Girl Dreaming

Title: Brown Girl Dreaming
Author: Jacqueline Woods
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Release Date: August 2014
Length: 337 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Historical, Memoir

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become. 

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I read this book last summer with my 7th grade summer school students. Very few were black, but I had one who was. One who was always in trouble and starting stuff up with other kids. One who could clearly see the parallels of the 1960s and today. This book riveted and resounded with him.

Written in free verse, which is usually not my cup of tea, each chapter represented different snapshots in time of Woodson’s childhood, set right in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement.

Jacqueline writes a clear story that depicts her struggle of being northern and southern and how those two worlds were different. She splits her childhood between Ohio, South Carolina, and New York.

The focus throughout is really on her family and friends, and how life changes. It is a powerful read.

Review: Only One Life

Title: Only One Life
Author: Ashley Farley
Publisher: Union Publishing
Release Date: April 2019
Length: 289 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Women’s Fiction

Julia Martin grew up wealthy, but it wasn’t until she met her husband, Jack, that she knew true happiness. He made her feel worthy and loved. Their marriage was also an escape from her sister’s bullying, her father’s scrutiny, and her chilly and enigmatic mother. But when tragedy strikes on the night she gives birth, Julia’s happiness is shattered. She has no choice but to return home to her family’s South Carolina mansion, where the grief and guilt buried in her mother’s past await her.

As a young woman trapped in a bitter marriage, Julia’s mother, Iris, once needed her own means of escape. In Lily, she found a best friend. In the flower shop they opened, she discovered independence. Then came a transgression—unforgivable, unforgettable, and unresolved—that changed Iris’s life forever.

Now, in Iris’s most desperate hour, her only hope is to regain the trust of the daughter she loves—and to share the secrets of the heart that could rebuild a family’s broken bonds.

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I tend to enjoy books that are set in the South. I did enjoy some parts of this book, but overall it just didn’t do it for me. There was something with the writing right from the start that annoyed me.

We learn that Julia and Jack Martin are waiting for their baby’s birth. There have been pregnancy issues in the past, so they are excited but nervous. Julia came from money but still had an unhappy childhood, and has been estranged from her family since she married Jack. It’s a very different life now – they are happy, but struggle hard with finances.

But things aren’t going to remain happy or simple for Julia.

Eventually, she must return to her childhood home, her parents, and sister. Julia tries to mend the broken relationship with her mother, Iris. While it does take time, there are some breakthroughs with her mother. The book does travel back in time for both Julia and her mother. However, her sister is just as much the bully now as she was then, if not even more. There is no reconciling with her father.

Despite growing bonds and reconciliation, I could not stand any of Julia’s family. I hated what happened surrounding her labor and birth of her baby. It forced her into only one choice. Did I say I hated her family? I mean, like, a lot.

One thing that really rubbed me wrong was the way mental illness was presented, portrayed, and “cured” in the book. That last bit isn’t reality. It’s not easy to get better. That’s not how it works.

Review: The Earl’s Defiant Wallflower

Title: The Earl’s Defiant Wallflower
Author: Erica Ridley
Publisher: Intrepid Reads
Release Date: December 2014
Length: 203 pages
Series?: The Dukes of War #2
Genre: Historical, Romance

Oliver York returns from war to find his father dead, his finances in arrears, and himself the new Earl of Carlisle. If he doesn’t marry an heiress—and fast!—he and his tenants are going to be pitching tents down by the Thames. He definitely shouldn’t be trading kisses with a penniless debutante…no matter how captivating she is!

Miss Grace Halton is in England just long enough to satisfy the terms of her dowry. But a marriage of convenience isn’t as easy as she’d hoped. Back in America, her ailing mother needs medicine only Grace’s dowry can afford. Which means the dashing earl she can’t get out of her mind is the one man she can’t let into her heart.

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Grace Hamilton is a Yankee. An American. She and her mother have struggled for years. Now that her mother has fallen quite ill, Grace plans to travel back to England, secure a wealthy husband, collect her dowry, and return to care for her mother.

In order to accomplish any of this, Grace has to essentially convince her tyrannical and heartless grandparents and get in their good graces. They were the best thing done well in this short novel.

Oliver York has returned from the war and finds himself seeking to save Grace among the ton. But Oliver also is in dire straits – his father bankrupted the family estate and title.

This was almost insta-love between the two, but not quite. It’s clear there is something, but the two don’t allow themselves to enter the marriage market mindset with one another because they’re both seeking a mate with money.

Grace most certainly displays her American spirit while trying to fit in and follow the rules of the aristocracy. It is a decidedly set of hard tasks that she feels she will never master.

There were so many standards and rules and etiquette broken, ignored, or not even acknowledged by multiple characters. It seemed very blase and just doesn’t fit the time period at all.

The end was just off course. Everything got wrapped up nice and neat and much too fast for plausible or authentic purposes. But also from the beginning the entire mother storyline wasn’t plausible either.

I think most of the characters had some development, but they needed some…refinement. There was a lot missing in the plot and setting. None of the secondary characters really made a debut and there weren’t really any subplots besides ones related to Grace’s goal in mind. It seemed like this was written to be a novela instead of a novel.

Review: Once Upon an Accidentally Bewitching Kiss 

Title: Love on Beach Avenue
Author: Bree Wolf
Publisher: WOLF Publishing
Release Date: April 2022
Series?: The Whickertons in Love #6
Genre: Historical, Romance

England 1803: TROY BEAUMONT, only son to the EARL OF WHICKERTON, risked his heart once…and came to regret it. Now, he knows only duty, forsaking his family’s tradition to marry for love and love alone. Truth be told, he would rather not marry at all; however, as his father’s only heir, Troy knows he cannot be selfish. He must marry. But who?

LADY LEONORA—or NORA—lost her heart once, mere days before her marriage to another man. Ever since, she has been living a life of regret…until—most unexpectedly—her husband succumbs to his scandalous exploits and she returns to her old home a young widow. Loath of her year of mourning, Nora rides out one day, only to have her path cross…


After avoiding Nora’s presence these past few years, Troy is shocked to find himself face to face with the girl who once stole his heart. He knows he should turn around and leave. Yet his feet refuse to comply, holding him in place as old feelings reawaken, for her teasing smile and compassionate eyes spark an old familiarity. 

Once, they were friends. Once, they knew each other. Once, there was love between them. Could there be again?

Nora is overcome by the way her heart trips and stumbles the moment her eyes fall on Troy. For years, the dreaded thing felt almost dormant, making her wonder if it ever truly functioned in the first place. But why now? Now, that she knows there can be no future for them? After all, Troy needs an heir, and she…cannot provide one.

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I admit, I have enjoyed reading several of Bree Wolf’s books. But this one fell massively short of the mark.

Almost the entire book, up to about the 80% mark, was entirely manufactured misunderstandings, break-offs in mid-sentence, storm offs, and overall refusal to communicate. I was extremely frustrated wondering what was going to change, how anything would be accomplished for either character with their own families, and where this plot was going.

There was essentially no action driving the storyline besides this over-wrought woe.

I definitely started to dislike Nora. Multiple times she seemed to be playing games with Troy regarding marrying or not marrying Mr. Clarke. She constantly swiveled between “I can’t marry Mr. Clarke, he repulses me” to “I think I’ll marry Mr. Clarke, he already has an heir.”

And Nora’s mother. She had a very interestingly strange marriage story. As then did we learn Troy’s parents had. It was too coincidental and much to be plausible. Not to mention all 4 of his sisters got married within one calendar year.

The two biggest points of the book are the end when the mishap occurs and one of Grandma Edie’s secrets is revealed.

It really seemed like this was a book just to be written and there wasn’t much there, simply to wrap up the final siblings’ story.

But. Grandma Edie needs a book!

Review: A Dangerous Temptation

Title: A Dangerous Temptation
Author: L.R. Olson
Release Date: July 2015
Length: 387 pages
Series?: Dangerous #1
Genre: Historical, Romance

Ruined by scandal, Julianna has hidden away in the country for the last few years hoping her indiscretion will eventually fade from the memory of society. Yes, she’s been lonely at times, but she’s content enough to follow her own rules. And when that bothersome nagging sensation that she’s missing something more flares, she’s able to shove it aside and focus on her friends, family and her true passion…painting. Until James arrives. James is arrogant, demanding and makes her believe that anything is possible, even a second chance at love. But is James the man he pretends to be?

James always gets what he wants, and he wants marriage to a woman who will honor and more importantly, obey. The problem is when he meets Julianna, while he’s bathing nude no less, he suddenly starts to question his carefully constructed plans. Bold and daring, Julianna is the very opposite of a meek, obedient wife. He certainly doesn’t need any more scandal; his family has had quite enough. And having an affair with Julianna would definitely bring scandal. The problem is he can’t seem to get her out of his head. But is she truly the sweet country girl she portrays herself to be, or a conniving fortune hunter out to trap him into marriage?

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This is a book supposedly set during the Regency period, but the setting and other details throughout raise questions about its true time in history. However, it is one of the first I’ve seen of historical romances that alternate POVs. A last large note: it needs quite a bit of editing, and most likely accuracy for the time period, which might be part of the problem since that is unclear.

The storyline follows James, an almost broken man with a terribly tragic past that is just so much, as he travels away from his home. And leads to Julianna, who has been secluded in the country following her indiscretion several years prior. Hopefully hidden away society will forget all about her and allow her sister to still have a chance. She now lives a very different life than she did before.

It does follow the trope of a dark and brooding hero and an innocent and virginal heroine. However, they’re both keeping secrets from one another – their real identities. They both are presenting themselves as and believe the other is a nobody. And the reality that he’s not just a farmer and she’s not just a country girl begin to complicate things.

There was definitely attraction and sparks, but then also a lot of doubt and mistrust. It created this divide and turmoil between them. For a while, it didn’t look like they’d make it. I particularly didn’t like James’ constant thoughts that Julianna was a whore. A lot of the inner thought looping, was at times hard to get past.

But – there were a lot of really good quotations to pull from this book. I had 31 lines or excerpts I highlighted or notated, which is quite a bit for a rather simple read such as this. As I went back and re-read my annotations, I was struck by some of the quotes and how well they were woven into the story. Gems among costume jewelry.

There was redemption in the epilogue, which piqued my interest about the other brothers.

Review: Because the Earl Loved Me

Title: Because the Earl Loved Me
Author: Ellie St. Clair
Release Date: September 2018
Length: 270 pages
Series?: Happily Ever After #6
Genre: Historical, Romance

Desire for drama…
Known by all as a beauty with a haunting, hypnotic voice, Anne Finchley has always longed for more than marriage to a nobleman. She dreams of gracing the stage as an actress, an occupation unheard of for the daughter of a duke. But a chance meeting at a country theatre changes her fate forever.

Perfectly planned…
The Earl of Merryweather, Christopher Anderson, pre-determines every moment of his life, carefully calculating every decision — including marriage to the sister of the Duke of Breckenridge. When he begins his courtship, however, everything goes awry, as nothing about her fits his expectations.

A shocking incident changes everything…
When Anne suffers an accident and must rely on Christopher for help, she turns his life upside down. Despite his inflexible ways, Anne finds herself falling for the man she once rejected, but now it may be too late, as the resulting scandal and upheaval may prove to be too much for Christopher to overcome. Everything is telling them they are wrong for one another — but then why does being together feel so right?

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Anne is the daughter and sister of a duke. She’s grown up in the confines and privilege of nobility. There are rules and etiquette that must be followed and adhered to in order to avoid scandal.

But her heart’s desire is to become an actor. On the stage. Not marry off after her debut season.

This dream comes at a time when young adolescent boys were no longer playing the women’s roles, but to be a woman on the stage was most improper. A woman on the stage was a harlot. Most definitely not suitable for a duke’s daughter.

However, Christopher comes courting. Anne tries to do everything in her power to dissuade and discourage him from her. He’s her brother’s best friend! She pushed the limits so far that she did run off with a troop of actors, set on killing two birds with one stone: get rid of the stuffy nobleman and get on the stage.

Except a jealous troop member sets out to enact an accident that ruins not only Anne’s dream but also her face. While Christopher still was able to rescue her and mostly shield her from scandal, everything changed.

I really liked this one with the sparring between the love interests as well as the action. The plot kept moving along. There were moments I didn’t like Anne or Christopher as an individual, but it wasn’t a no coming back from this level of dislike.

I didn’t like the injury scene or certain comments and events that happen afterward. While there was a grain of truth to some characters’ comments, it was beyond socially deplorable etiquette and just cruel. It more than made its point to Anne.