It is one thing for authors to review their own books and give them 5-star ratings, but it is just downright dishonest for an author to republish her own work under a new pseudonym and give it a 5-star rating in a manner that makes the reviewer look like an independent reader.
Felicity Zoe l'Archer is Sharon Marie Brooks Desruisseaux Goding, who is also Emma Eliza Woodhouse, and who knows who all else.
* * * * * *
And now that I've actually tried to read this book rather than just figure out who wrote it, a review . . . of sorts.
First of all, the usual disclaimers, or variations thereof: I obtained my copy of this book when it was offered as a free Kindle digital edition on Amazon. It was not given to me by the author for review purposes. I do not know the author under any of her names or incarnations, though it is very clear to see that I have had public communication with her regarding the book and my reaction to the way it was published. I have received one private communication from the author that is similar in tone and substance to what she has posted publicly, but I have not responded to her. She is not my "friend" on GoodReads, on Facebook, or anywhere else.
And of course the statement that I am an author of historical romances.
Second of all, the identification of the version of the book I'm reviewing, and precisely which book it is. The edition I am reviewing is identified as "Under the Shadow of the Moon" (Book Two) by Sharon Desruisseaux. The front matter of this edition further identifies it as
This is the second Edition of “Cleopatra Selene, Legacy of the Sun and Moon”. Now it is broken into three novels. This is the second novel of the series. The first novel is called “Legacy of the Moon”
Desruisseaux, Sharon (2012-11-30). Under The Shadow Of The Moon (From the sands of Egypt to Eternity) (Kindle Locations 7-10). Brooks Publishing. Kindle Edition.
as well as
Third Edition (First was “Cleopatra Selene, Legacy of the Sun and Moon”)
Desruisseaux, Sharon (2012-11-30). Under The Shadow Of The Moon (From the sands of Egypt to Eternity) (Kindle Location 16). Brooks Publishing. Kindle Edition.
as well as
Reformatted December 21, 2012
Desruisseaux, Sharon (2012-11-30). Under The Shadow Of The Moon (From the sands of Egypt to Eternity) (Kindle Location 28). Brooks Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Also listed in the front matter are editor Sharon Goding, which is in fact another of the author's many noms de plume; and illustrator Lucille Hemphill Jewett, yet another of the names adopted by the author.
Although the author employs the standard "This is a work of fiction" disclaimer, in fact the story is based on historical personages. It seemed strange to me that the author didn't just acknowledge that her story was based, however loosely, on real people.
The dedication is laced with punctuation errors, and the profusion of exclamation points made me wince. It just seemed so . . . twee.
What bothered me most about the opening matter was the constant pleas from the author to contact her. She listed her Facebook and Twitter accounts, her personal webpage, another location under her Sharon Goding name, an email for her illustrator name. All of this left the impression that the author was hanging over my shoulder, constantly whispering, "Are ya done yet? Whaddya think? Is it any good? Huh? Huh? Do you like it? Do you?" when what I really wanted was to be left alone to read the book.
I was also irritated by her statement in the front matter of the book that
As you can seemy (sic) novels are constantly being revised..."
Desruisseaux, Sharon (2012-11-30). Under The Shadow Of The Moon (From the sands of Egypt to Eternity) (Kindle Location 18). Brooks Publishing. Kindle Edition.
which suggests that this is not a finished novel at all but rather a work in progress subject to change/revision/improvement. I happen to be of the belief that books should not be "published" until the author considers them finished and polished and ready to be figuratively carved in stone. If even the author doesn't think the book is ready, why should I?
Then there is the "Introduction." Double spaced in an eye-scorching bold font, it is both a dull recap of the previous book in the "series" and an even duller outline of this book...and it succeeds as neither. If the contents of the previous book are essential to understanding the events of this one, then there should be a concise summary of those events and nothing more. Nothing about the current work. Just let it start. And if the contents of the previous book are not essential to the understanding of this, then no introduction at all is necessary. Just let the story start.
Virtually all of the front matter of this book was poorly done and displayed the author's lack of professionalism in digital publishing. She would do well to look at successful novels in her genre to see what the front matter should look like.
And my personal advice to her is to keep her own presence as much out of the picture as possible. Let the reader read the damn thing, for crying out loud.
And third of all, the review of the text.
The style is stilted and overblown and awkward. Even when the reader can figure out what the author is trying to say, the effort reduces the reading to the level of grading high school essays.
The sun from the day was slowly ending its weary course across the hazy summer sky to reach its place of slumber for the eve. The rays of the sun danced lazily across the green hills dusted with puffs of sheep. Vibrant life filled the fields of the crops that surrounded the settlement, as if to bring the attention of every person living there and in those smaller villages outside the main settlement and new capitol.
Desruisseaux, Sharon (2012-11-30). Under The Shadow Of The Moon (From the sands of Egypt to Eternity) (Kindle Locations 60-63). Brooks Publishing. Kindle Edition.
"The sun from the day" is redundant. On our planet, the sun is only visible during the daytime.
Our sun doesn't move very fast in the sky, so stating that it was slowly ending its course is also redundant. Despite its redundancies, this sentence gives an impression of sunset, in which case the sunlight wouldn't be dancing across the green hills in the next sentence. So now in the very first two sentences the reader is hit with two redundancies, a contradiction, and confusion.
The references to settlement and villages suggest that the scene is in a larger aggregation of people, which might be called a capital, but not a capitol.
This is bad writing. This is a writer trying too hard, much too hard, to be lyrical and sophisticated and failing miserably at both because she just plain doesn't know how to write a story. She's writing sentences that don't connect with each other, and that destroys any hope of a smooth, coherent narrative.
Ah, but you say I'm not being fair to base my review on just the first paragraph, and I'll give you that much for the nonce.
But the writing never gets better.
I understand, because I'm a reasonably intelligent and well-read person, that the author is trying to get across to the reader that in the Celtic world of this novel, the "day" begins at sunset. Although we in our time and culture think of a new day starting when the sun comes up, the ancient Celts, like the Jews, believed one day ended at sundown and the next began at the same time.
Unfortunately, the writer wasn't able to convey this knowledge clearly to the reader unfamiliar with these cultural nuances. She does, however, go into great and precise detail in the second paragraph -- complete with entirely unnecessary italics -- about the marriage customs among these Celts of Pryttain (which only has one T in the "Introduction"). Unfortunately (sic), this information is provided via author intrusive narrative that is about as exciting as, um, high school essays. This paragraph is an info dump of the very worst and most boring sort.
By the third paragraph, when some people are introduced, they aren't doing anything. Of course, they are introduced with grammatical errors -- "Cleopatra Selene and her family was trying"? No, they "were" trying -- and absolutely no context or action.
In his viciously hilarious 2009 essay "I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script," http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2009/09/i_will_not_read.php screenwriter Josh Olson makes a particularly cogent statement that every author who gets a really, really, really negative review should keep in mind:
It rarely takes more than a page to recognize that you're in the presence of someone who can write, but it only takes a sentence to know you're dealing with someone who can't.
(By the way, here's a simple way to find out if you're a writer. If you disagree with that statement, you're not a writer. Because, you see, writers are also readers.)
I don't need to cite any more examples from the text than I already have, because the rest of it is laced with the same kinds of errors. But much worse is the lack of showing. One of the most basic rules of writing fiction for today's market -- and it's been like this for at least half a century or more -- is that you must show, not tell, what's going on. Sharon Desruisseaux just tells the reader everything rather than putting the action onstage for the reader to see.
So it's not only bad writing, but it's boring. I made it through the first chapter, but just barely. Short of a line by line edit, I can't offer anything more constructive than what I have, and I'm not even sure a line edit would help this book. It needs much more than proofreading or sentence by sentence revision. The author herself needs to re-vision what writing is. Maybe she's capable of that, but maybe she's not. Hiding behind a bunch of pseudonyms isn't going to fix this book's many, many problems.