My rating: 3 of 5 stars
J. L. Oakley is an excellent writer. She’s adept at constructing a world from the past and taking us there. This story of a privileged woman at the turn of the 20th century, determined to claim her autonomy, to be a modern woman and live on equal footing in a world still dominated by men, has many high points. The prose, for the most part, is engaging and smart. The story is populated with an interesting blend of characters, most of them well formed, that come from a variety of social classes. Oakley quickly wins us over with Caroline, the Timber Rose in question, and shortly thereafter with Alford, a chance acquaintance who soon becomes her suitor. The story moves very quickly at the beginning but I found myself increasingly distracted by editing errors, passages of sloppy writing, and the occasional sentence that simply didn’t make sense. Oakley needs an editor. And if she already has one, she needs to find a better one.
To explain, the book is a CreateSpace production so the author receives no editorial support from the publisher. It shows. Glaringly. In the story’s opening — a mountaineering scene — we’re bombarded with an avalanche of names and characteristics. It’s impossible to keep them all straight or know who it is we’re meant to follow. All that mixed in with the logistics of a climb gone wrong because one young man finds himself out of his depth on the climb. If I hadn’t been so determined to read the book, if Oakley’s prose hadn’t been so compelling, I would have quickly abandoned it. A good editor would have provided some good advice about the scene. All writers have problems in early drafts and a good editor fixes them.
As frustrating as the editing issues were at times, I still have to recommend this book. It’s a good story. Just realize you’ll have to make some concessions along the way. And I hope that Ms. Oakley finds a good editor for her next story. She’s too good a writer to have her reputation marred by work that is still a little rough around the edges.