Rating: 3 – 3.5 stars
I had an extremely hard time rating this book. It was the kind of book that as I read it I couldn’t decide whether I liked it or not, yet I could not put the book down.
Let me start with what I really liked about this book. The writing was phenomenal. Actually, I think this was my favorite part of the book and the reason why I could not put this book down. The author had a way of describing the scenes in a way that made you think she was painting you a picture. It especially came through when she was describing Charlie’s paintings, which were dark yet powerful in their own right. Marni’s writing had an artistic flare to it and it really kept my interest.
“I believed every woman wanted to desire, and to be desired; it was only a matter of finding that someone who would allow her to feel it freely, to inspire it within her.”
I also loved the concept of this book. The whole idea of this hidden mansion where Charlie went to explore her sexuality all while behind a mask was so fascinating. I loved the descriptions and different encounters that Charlie had. Marni did not glorify Charlie’s “profession.” At the beginning it was exactly what Charlie had needed, but towards the end of the book Charlie began seeing it and what she was doing for what it was.
“I wasn’t a prostitute; I was an artist who used her fingers to paint a fantasy that her body fulfilled. And when I was desired by men, I felt the most creative.”
Another thing I really enjoyed about the story was Charlie’s art. I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan of art. However, I do have an appreciation for people who are passionate about it and use it as a way of expressing emotion. The paintings and the parts of the book where Charlie and Cameron were painting together were some of the best parts of the book for me. They weren’t just some fodder to add to the story; they were integral to the story line.
The one thing that bothered me about this story though was Charlie herself. I could not connect with her. It wasn’t that she wasn’t written well or wasn’t well developed. It was more that I just didn’t like her as a character. I know that may sound harsh so let me try and explain.
Charlie had a horrible childhood and absolutely zero role models or family. Her mother brought a different man home and Charlie watched and/or heard her various encounters with these men. It is no wonder she uses sex to escape her loneliness and to deal with her pain. The one bright spot in her life was her best friend, Emma and her family. But that went to shit when an accident left her alone once again.
“When Cee was reborn every night, I was able to rest Charlie’s pain, her fear and loneliness.”
So Charlie’s way of coping is to use sex to escape. And I get it. Life had dealt her a shitty hand and I don’t blame her for acting that way. But, I just kept waiting for Charlie to grow, to realize that she needed more than just sex – to want more than sex. Well I waited a long time. A very long time and by the time Charlie started her personal growth, it was just a little too late. I was just too frustrated with her by then to even care.
“Sex held me at night, stopped my mind from dwelling, remembering, regretting. It was the only time I didn’t feel alone.”
I also felt like the ending was…unfinished. I don’t know if this means that there is going to be another book or if the author intended it this way, but I was left a little unfulfilled. So much happened in the last 10% of the book that I felt things were a bit rushed for me. I am hoping there will be another book to tie up loose ends.
“But I was trying to become something and someone better – better for him, and much better for me.”
I really like Marni as an author. I would gladly read another book that she writes because she writes so beautifully. I may not have love love loved this book, but it was good. My favorite line of the book was “it’s always darkest before dawn” – I felt like this really expressed what this book was about.
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