I will admit that when I put myself on the waiting list for A Forgery of Roses by Jessica S. Olson,  it was largely a “oooh, pretty cover” impulse, coupled with a little bit of “ooh, magical painting!” just for funsies.

The Goodreads blurb starts:

She’s an artist whose portraits alter people’s real-life bodies, a talent she must hide from those who would kidnap, blackmail, and worse in order to control it. Guarding that secret is the only way to keep her younger sister safe now that their parents are gone. 

For the most part, I enjoyed this book. The main plot is interesting, there’s some representation in the form of long-term illness, and mental health challenges, and the “magic system” was an interesting twist on “magic as a religion” and quite well done, I think. I like that the relationships between the family members are complex without being totally over-the-top complicated.

That said, I did have some problems with this book:

  • First of all, decide what the plot driver is. Painter who can heal the injured? Dead guy? Sick sister and lost parents? Mysterious murders/disappearances of painters all over the city? Hidden magical talent? Love interest from the upper class while you’re basically scraping by? Hypocritical politicians? Holy wow, Jessica S. Olson – I know sometimes plot lines show up uninvited when you’re writing, but maybe pick one?
  • I did not buy the love triangle, at all. One dude shows up out of basically nowhere and you trust him?? C’mon, authors – let’s give these female protagonists more credit, please. This is my exact complaint from when we read The Witch Haven and there’s some immediate “Oh, I trust this random dude I just met, sure thing!” behavior there, too. Stop it authors. Be better.
  • I’m 90% sure this is a stand-alone, but the author clearly isn’t completely sure it’s a stand-alone, and if you read it I think you’ll know what I mean.
  • I feel like I should note that some of the Goodreads reviewers were really bothered by the descriptive language (one reviewer called out this sentence from Chapter 5: “Handsome, with a spill of auburn hair above his left eyebrow and thick freckles across cheekbones sharp enough to cut stone.”) and while I “get it,” the main character is literally a portrait artist, so that’s kinda what she’s wired to do/notice when looking at people, right?

I vacillated between a 3 and 4 for this one, and honestly although I rated it as a 4 it’s really more like a 3.5 for me. I think listening to this might have been the way to go, because the reader did an excellent job and it made some of the points where the story was slow move along in a way that it may not have if I were reading it physically.

So. That’s a lot of words to say, I didn’t love it enough to immediately recommend it to my friends and fellow-bloggers but I don’t regret the time I spent with it, either. Thoughts on books that try to have one too many plot irons on the fire? Did you read this and like it more than I did (or even less than I did)? Let’s chat about it in the comments, below!

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