Sunday, May 8, 2016

Thoughts: The Night Before

The Night Before

by Lisa Jackson
Book 1 of Savannah

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.5 Stars

This book is chock full of the makings of Korean makjang (see: Dramabeans - Glossary, scroll down to the makjang entry) as each new, deep dark Montgomery family (and extended family) secret is revealed. There's the "Montgomery Curse", mysterious deaths, family secrets that weren't secrets, gossip about incest in the family... that wasn't really gossip, more and more deeper secrets...

But I’ve got to hand credit where credit is due: I got sucked in.

As much as I was trying not to roll my eyes at the continued reveals of secrets, and the barrage of soap opera drama, and how each character in the book took his or her turn at playing exposition fairy… At 50%, the detectives both actually sit down in a bar and recap “facts” from the first half of the book, in great detail and with color commentary, over a dinner of greasy burgers and fries.

How much more blatantly obvious can we get to being a “Recap Chapter”?


I got drawn into the story. And to be honest, it wasn’t really a terrible story at all. I got drawn into the mystery, which, to be frank, is really the only thing that this book had going for it. While everything else seemed fairly predictable (Caitlyn’s and Kelly’s big surprise reveal, Adam’s little secret, Sugar’s married lover, and probably every other “big” secret that kept surfacing, because I think a new secret was hinted at each chapter) the murderer, Atropos’ identity caught me off guard. I mean, when you think about the true identity of Atropos it really DOES make a lot of sense and ties together; but it still managed to dupe me, even if the motivation seemed a little silly.

So… while everything else was overly dramatic, Lisa Jackson does seem to have a way with her telling. I got sucked in, plain and simple.

The Story:
Caitlyn Montgomery Bandeaux wakes up in her bedroom to find blood everywhere and her shower door with a hole in it. Her wrists are cut and she can tell she’d had a nosebleed. But the amount of blood in the room feels wrong--it's everywhere--though she is too distraught to consider this fact. There is a gaping hole where her memory of the night before should have been, so she freaks out big time and tries her darndest to get ahold of her twin sister, Kelly who was supposed to meet her for drinks last night. Obviously, Kelly will know what happened and Kelly will know what to do.

Of course, later on we learn that Caitlyn has been seeing a shrink for a couple years since her daughter’s death and she admits to having lots of moments where her memory is like Swiss cheese--she has black-outs (which, in dramaland, really only means one very predictable conclusion).  Things just start to spiral out of control from there when Caitlyn starts to question her own likelihood of being a killer.

And then the "big boating accident" is mentioned and I pretty much figured out what the deal with Caitlyn was, even though I already had my suspicions.

Anyway, her estranged husband, Josh Bandeaux is killed, made to look like a suicide, but also made to look like a botched attempt at making the murder look like a suicide. Still with me on this one? All arrows point to Caitlyn with the proper motive: estranged husband is divorcing her, suing her for wrongful death of their child, really just married her for her family trust fund, and had always been an asshole on top of seeing other women. She has no alibi and her car had been seen at her husband’s home the night he died.

The circumstantial evidence (listed above) pointing at Caitlyn... were repeated almost every other chapter for the first 50% of the book... and then maybe once or twice more in the latter half of the book. (Thank you, exposition fairy detectives; I needed to be reminded over and over again why, in terms of storytelling and traditional climactic twists, Caitlyn is absolutely NOT our murderer.)

The plot thickens as we finally see the pattern of the murderer’s ultimate mission: Eliminate any and all of the Montgomery family, et al.

My Thoughts and a List:
It’s just unfortunate that the negatives about this book were so much more than the positives, because the murder mystery really wasn’t all that bad. The suspense was trying at times, but it held up well.

But a few things just kind of irked me:

(1)   A lot of scenes were overly dramatic as if trying too hard to evoke a sense of suspense and melodrama; and I kept hearing soap opera music in my head at each new “surprise” twist or “secret reveal”, which is probably my own fault (the soap opera music in my head, I mean), but still...

(2)  Lots of repetitive information were being recapped over and over again every two to three chapters just in case the reader might have the memory of a goldfish and forgot that either:
  • a) Caitlyn was being sued by her husband for wrongful death of her child and thus had motivation for killing even if everyone doubts she’s capable of murder, or 
  • b) the Montgomery family’s history is like a daytime soap and at least 50% of them are loony; the other 50% are just dysfunctional.

A lot of other things kept getting repeated and recapped too, but these two stood out the most.

(3)  Caitlyn gets a random personality lobotomy of which I’m pretty sure was a means to forward the romantic progression between her and Adam, because until that moment (60% into the story), the romance was just a couple of monologues on each side about how they were lusting after each other for no reason other than they were attracted to each other because the other was extremely sexy and attractive (of course). But, oh, they’re falling in love with each other anyway, so that’s okay.

I get that Romantic Suspense novels are usually chock full of insta-lust to insta-love scenarios. And most of the time you ignore the legitimacy of it for the sake of the Happily Ever After in the conclusion, especially if the characters are extremely lovable (and unfortunately, in this book, they are not).

Insta-lust to insta-love is more readily acceptable for me than straight-forward insta-love. Beautiful people are attracted to beautiful people in real life anyway. And the history of Romantic Suspense novels has taught us nothing if not that our main heroes are forever the works of beautiful physical perfection, are always attractive and sexy in their own unique ways, and will always have mind-blowing sex; and so if they can fall in love with each other while screwing each other like bunnies and getting to know each other amidst the screwing each other like bunnies scenario, I’m fine with that.

Happily Ever Afters of good people in fiction can sometimes make me overlook a lot of things that don't make sense, ya know.

(And if I had a choice in the matter we would get a more thorough version of “getting-to-know-each-other-love”, but there’s not quite enough time in most Romantic Suspense novels, what with the violence and the murders and the suspense going on in the background. So insta-lust becoming insta-love it is!)

But this insta-love is just taking it to a whole new level of me quirking my eyes because I’ve used up my eye-roll quota. The main couple fall into a territory between insta-love/lust because I couldn’t tell if they just wanted to sleep with each other or if they really did start falling in love after their first meeting (which was a therapy session, nonetheless)... or if they somehow managed to equate lust with love (because those are two different feelings, y’know, but who can tell the difference?) and just went from there.

(4)  I’m squicky about the whole “shrink coming onto his patient” scenario... and it doesn’t help that he’s only pretending to be her shrink, even if he really is a psychologist. Having wet dreams about a “client” you are helping as a therapist the very night after your first therapy session is probably NOT the best way to evoke feelings of professionalism with the public. I know that shrinks are human too and have human emotion and also need love in their lives... but I still feel weird about the whole patient-doctor-romance angle in a therapy setting.

Nonetheless, the story had done enough to hook my interest and I managed to at least like some aspect of it.

Entertaining read. Could have been shorter and less gasp-worthy provoking. The romance needs work. I shall continue the series and hope for the best.

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in October 2014.

A First Impression (originally posted on October 1, 2014)

I’m not gonna lie.  I’m currently not really enjoying this book.

We start off with the murder of Josh Bandeaux, some hotshot rich dude in the city.  Then we cut to Caitlyn Montgomery Bandeaux, estranged wife, waking up in a carnage of blood and blood and lots more blood practically covering every inch of her bedroom, bath, and herself.

Honestly, this is dramatic enough without all the internal monologuing about how dramatic the situation is.

I previously read If She Only Knew by Lisa Jackson and didn’t quite enjoy that one either, but at the very least, the narration didn’t feel as soap opera dramatic as this book.  Several reviewers mentioned how that book reminded them of a badly done Lifetime movie… and I’ve never seen a Lifetime movie before.  Now I’m wondering if this is what they’re like.

Thus far, aside from the scenes with our detectives investigating the murder, everthing else has been reeking with over-dramatisation.  The prologue detailing Josh Bandeaux’s murder as well as both scenes focused on (and detailed overly intricately), Caitlyn’s panic at having woken up in pools of blood and not remembering what had happened the night before (oh my! Titular reference alert!) when she went out and got the classical “memory loss” drunk going, have been very, very… well, dramatic.  Every single thought, every repeat reference to the situation, and even randomly spoken aloud sentences just seems to be… too much.

As I mentioned, the situation is dramatic enough as is without every single aspect of the narration trying even harder to provoke feelings of suspense.  In fact, it’s trying so hard that I’m starting to get annoyed.  Can’t we save the suspense for proper climax twists or surprise secrets?  Or at least be a little more subtle about it?

Or maybe I’ve misunderstood the whole point of suspense.

I don’t know.


Either this book needs to start getting a little bit better at holding my attention, or I’m going to have to rearrange some of my Reading Challenge lists.

This first impression was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in October 2014.

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