Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Book Review: Brake Failure by Alison Brodie

I received a copy of this eBook for free in exchange for a review. I was happy to get the opportunity after reading another of Ms. Brodie's books. 

"Is it too late to tell him you love him when you're looking down the barrel of his gun?"

Ruby Mortimer-Smyth is upper-class English, rigidly brought up to marry a man from the pages of Burke’s Peerage. She knows the etiquette for every occasion and her souffl├ęs NEVER collapse. She is in control of her life, tightly in control. Until …she ends up in Kansas.

Ruby, far from home, is making Unsuitable Friends and "finding herself" for the first time. She falls in with a gang of Hells Angels and falls foul of the law. At every turn, she comes up hard against Sheriff Hank Gephart, whose blue eyes seem to look deep into her soul. She desperately wants him, but knows she can never have him. As the clock strikes midnight of the new Millennium, she's on a freight train with three million dollars, a bottle of Wild Turkey and a smoking gun.

What happened to Miss Prim-and-Proper? And why did she shoot Mr Right?

What I have to say about it:
This is the story of Ruby, an upper-class English woman with mommy- issues, a love-less marriage, and hypochondriasis who is expecting to be swept away to Paris but is, instead, relocated to Kansas. Emotionally repressed, Ruby gets swept up in the wild ways of the natives, complete with finding a “brown-skinned” man to covet. (Wigwams, Ruby? Really?) The story is told in two timelines: one that follows from when Ruby found out that she was moving to Kansas and throughout her move. The second is a “now” time as a police chief is piecing together a bank robbery in which Ruby may or may not be involved. The two story lines do a good job of keeping the story interesting and moving along. It's also interesting to hear the information from the Chief's point of view and then see the context as it happens from Ruby's perspective.

It’s hard not to compare this book with Ms. Brodie’s other book, The Double, which I reviewed earlier this year as part of the related blog tour. I liked that book, too. I think the writing in this one is better but I kind of liked the story and the characters better in the other one. Ruby is “in control” of everything but she really isn’t. She’s a good girl, but really not. Actually, the problem is that her narrative about herself is inconsistent with the character as she presents… she does indeed change after she gets away from her controlling and toxic family. I liked her. I liked her friends more.

Ok, Here’s the hard part to write: There were a couple of things that rubbed me thr wrong way while reading this book. First, it really bugs me when dialects are spelled phonetically. I get that the Kansas folks are uneducated and hillbilly- like (if you bristled at the use of the word hillbilly, I’m with you) but I’m pretty smart. I get that the way people talk in real life sounds different depending on their region and background. It might have been ok if the main character wasn’t such a posh chick. In the context of the story, though, it felt like the book was making fun of the other characters in the book, which I really don’t think was the intention.

The other big complaint is the sheriff’s internal dialogue about how he wants to “dominate” Ruby. The sections with Hank read like a Harlequin romance with a half-nekkid cowboy on the cover and an uppity girl who needs the cowboy to “learn her some manners.” But we never get the “throbbing shaft” scene. And when the hell did they fall in love! Did I miss a whole scene? Also, if we ditch the Indian Chief, which would be nice, we’d get a bit more time to fall for Hank, which I would love to have a little bit more of. I mean, I’m not speaking disparagingly of domineering half-nekkid cowboys! I’m from Texas, y’all!

And, an extra little note to Ms. Brodie: I’m so glad you went the way you did with Donna’s character. 

As an aside, do you guys remember when people were scared about what would happen when the year 2000 hit. It was a big deal, right!? Ridiculous. Anyway, I think this would be a good book for a Women’s Lit book club. There’s enough good story and questionable actions and psychologically-traumatizing back story for a good discussion.
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  1. It is very wrong of you to insinuate that I view Kansas "folk" as "uneducated and hillbilly". My best friends are there. They are charming, intelligent and the friendliest people on the planet.
    Brake Failure touches on the ever-widening language gap that is growing between America and Britain. If I were to say to you, "What a spanking new belt." What would you think, as an American? (spanking means posh, smart).
    I make fun of the English accent (especially upper-class), American accents and especially the Scottish accent. (And I'm a Scot).
    Y2K WAS a big deal. Countries across the globe were stockpiling food. Airlines were not flying. America built a command centre and continually televised what to do in the event of "meltdown". Nobody actually knew what would happen when all those zeroes popped up.
    Alison Brodie

    1. That's how it felt to me as an American reader. Thanks for sharing your thoughts as the Non-American writer. You wanted my thoughts on the book. Those are my thoughts. They don't change because you don't agree with them. And the "but my best friends are [insert whatever]" doesn't change anything either.

      And I agree that many people thought Y2K was going to be a big deal. And it still seems ridiculous to think of it now. Hindsight is 20/20 after all.

      Good luck with your book.