Janet Chapman's "Courting Carolina", a non-review

Review book courtesy of Penguin Group


In case it’s been a while: I do a “non-review” when I couldn’t finish a book. I won’t rate it on Amazon or GoodReads, but I don’t mind telling you here why I chose not to finish. If there’s one thing I’ve found over the years, it’s that there are too many good books to waste my time finishing a book that I can’t get into.

Janet Chapman’s Courting Carolina is a “Spellbound Falls” romance. It seems to be billed as one of those books that’s set in the same world as an author’s previous books, but that’s supposed to stand alone relatively well. Or at least, that’s the impression I got from the cover. Certainly we’re seeing more and more of this lately—we’re getting more series of indeterminate length, often with smaller print runs, meaning that you can’t assume a reader will have read all previous books when they pick up a new one (particularly if you’re hoping to pick up new readers as you go along). At any rate, my impression was definitely wrong. While the story itself sort of stands alone (at least for the first 100 pages, which is what I read before stopping), the world does not. Sure, you can tell there’s some paranormal to the world as you read, but it hits a point where the author is just dumping in mention of weird thing after weird thing, late enough in the game that it feels like an out-of-nowhere genre shift. (Even the back-of-the-book text, if you aren’t familiar with the series, gives no real indication that this is a paranormal romance, other than the “Spellbound Falls” moniker.)

I imagine that if you’ve had time to adjust to all of the weirdness in this author’s universe over the course of the previous three books this might seem fine (although its apparent absence for the first part of the book might feel a bit odd). However, when a seemingly low-magic universe suddenly becomes an incredibly high-magic universe partway into the book, it’s jarring.

It didn’t help that I really didn’t find the lead characters to be all that involving, and the chemistry between them didn’t grab me.

I tried to keep reading. Really I did. But when I kept finding myself picking up other books—any other books—rather than finishing this one, I knew it was time to stop. It wasn’t a terrible book; it just wasn’t interesting.

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