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All That is BeautifulAll That is Beautiful by Roxane Tepfer Sanford
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Writing a book must be an enormous undertaking. Creativity comes with a price - lots of activity going on in the brain at once. I can imagine that it takes a lot of effort to sort through the many stories and characters that form in an author’s head at one time. With this in mind, I will keep my criticism respectful. However, I also want to be honest, in the hopes that my humble opinion will help this very talented author to develop a more solid book in the future.


SPOILER ALERT!  DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN'T YET READ THIS BOOK.

One of my greatest issues with this series is the lack of integrity of the characters. The characters were built with certain traits and then did not stay completely true to them. This was seen more in The Girl in the Lighthouse, (especially with Garret’s character), but carried over into All that is Beautiful. For example, Richard Parker, was an egotistical man who lived off of his wife’s money. He was eager to gain riches, fame, and fortune, at the expense of a young girl’s innocence. Never do we see hints of genuine love for Lillian throughout his usage of her. Out of the blue, towards the end of the book he is remorseful, sorry, and madly in love(?). Okay, remorsefulness is believable. People change. However, head over heels in love with Lillian? Richard goes on to ask her to never leave him, to stay. Where the heck does that come from? If he was such an ego maniac when in the world did he have the opportunity to look outside of himself to fall in love with the person he was using? Yes, this is a possible outcome, but the story wasn’t written in a way were it was believable. It didn’t naturally flow, it was not true to Richard’s traits.

Another character flaw or lack of explanation was the fact that Richard’s wife stood on his (the defense) side of the courtroom during the trial. This signifies support and we are told earlier in the book that she allowed Richard to use Lillian as a ploy to get him to cheat, so that she can have proof to divorce him and leave him penniless. We are never given an explanation of reconciliation. So, if they didn’t reconcile the author should have wrote Judith’s place in the courtroom elsewhere - to have her stand behind Richard shows a sign of support and this is not true to the story nor to Judith’s character. And if they did reconcile because Judith needed a good looking man by her side, or for some other reason, then it should have been stated, OR how about just leave Judith out of the scene? It really wasn’t important to the outcome.

How about Heath not really showing a lot of remorse for his brother’s supposed demise? Heath is a character of integrity, gentleness, with love of family. Yet, when Ayden supposedly drowned he doesn’t go into a deep depression over the loss of his only brother? Instead he quickly proposes to his brother’s wife and gets on with his life, as if nothing monumental happened. The author needed to write a time of mourning for it to have been credible to Heath’s character. This was a stand up guy, he wouldn’t have acted so quickly after the death of his brother and if he did, then he would’ve felt a tremendous pain for doing what needed to be done and neither one of these feelings were conveyed, to us, the readers.

I can go on and on about the lack of validity in the characters, but I want to also touch on other issues.

I have a problem with some of the historical aspects of the book. Yes, they were subtle, but they irked me. A good book stays true to the era. One thing that bothered me was the normal usage of baby bottles. Yes, by this time in history baby bottles were starting to be more prevalent than they had been in the past, but this was reserved more for the elite society who viewed breastfeeding as non-chic because it prevented them from socializing and wearing the fancy fashion of the time. Working class mothers still breastfed their babies. Someone like Hazel would not have been sticking a bottle in a baby’s mouth. Bottles were expensive and the nipples that were being sold had a horrendous odor and only the rich could afford the better “teats.” A working class mother would have either nurse her baby or hire a poor woman as a wet nurse. However, this was becoming less popular since cases of syphilis being passed from wet nurses to babies were occurring. In any case, it would’ve been more believable for both Hazel and later on, Lillian to breastfeed their babies. I doubt the little store in town had a readily available stash of expensive baby bottles!

And don’t get me started on cocaine usage during this time in history! Yes, it was being used, but as an ingredient in drinks and foods or in the medical community as an anesthetic and energy booster. Opium would’ve been a truer addictive street drug during this time. I will not go into a historical explanation of cocaine, but the author and her publisher should’ve done better research.

Okay, now let’s talk about Lillian. I have never read a book with a more vain protagonist! Holy cow, how many times was she going to tell us how beautiful and voluptuous she is. It was annoying. And how many times is she going to be raped or almost raped? Exploitation of her body was so overly used that it became ridiculous. Also, her decisions were annoying and sometimes stupid. Yes, at times her decision could be explained by her youth and innocence, but sometimes that was not the case because she would discuss things very rationally and then go completely against them! A lot of the times, her decisions were not believable, and it became almost laughable. There came a point when I could no longer feel sorry for her because her choices were ridiculous.

Lillian is able to sleep with every freaking man in the book, but when it comes to sleeping with her husband, a man she truly trusts, a man who loves her, she withholds. Her excuse is to be wholesome again. Whatever! Also, there is no transitional period from her exclusively-under-no-circumstance-do-I-want-to-have-children to I-am-so-happy-to-be-carrying-Ayden’s-child. Gosh, at least give us a few sentences of doubt, of getting use to the idea - a smidgen of a transition, so that the story flows at a more believable pace. Again, the author was not true to the trait that she created in that character. We are suppose to believe that she goes from one extreme to another without any doubt. And then the baby is born and there is very little about how in love she is with him, maybe just a few words about her love for this baby. There were paragraphs upon paragraphs of her lusting and loving Heath, but only a few words about the love of her child. Yes, this is very believable (insert sarcasm). And let’s not forget how easily she is able to leave her precious newborn with some elderly dude that she JUST met , so that she can go on a long date with Heath off of the island that they live on. Let me guess, the baby slept that entire time. Oh no wait, Oliver prepared the bottles. He sterilized them, milked the cow, put the milk in, and snapped that teat over the bottle just right, fed the baby and changed his diapers too!

There were so many things that were wrong or that needed further explanation and/or development in this book. Why were we introduced to Hazel’s little sickly daughter? What was the purpose of this character? I thought she was going to die, or teach us a lesson. I thought her illness was going to have importance to the story, but it didn’t. She was a cameo character that made no sense.

The ending was rushed and pure nonsense. The Titanic, really? We waited all that time for that? Okay, the ending could’ve worked had it been further developed, but we got this rushed ending. My kid grew up, I was going to leave my husband, he was dying, asked me to stay. I stood. He died. I was going to meet the love of my life in NYC. He went on the Titanic and died. My family grew. I have great grandkids. Go back to the lighthouse. A bunch of letters are thrown at me that make little to no sense and I read them. I die and meet Heath. Ugh!

Before I end this, let me ask, how does the letter of her father make sense? We were told earlier on that he died in the arms of a prostitute when she was at the mansion and that is why he didn’t go back for her. He became less of a man without her mom, basically drunk himself to death, but then he was able to see her picture in the magazine, which came months (maybe even years) later and he was going to make up to Lillian his abandonment and her bad life, by being the father she deserved? So how did he really die and WHEN did he die? This again fits awkwardly into the story.

Pretty much this series with more patience, better editing, and more time could’ve been a five star. Why a five star? Because despite all the flaws the author has a beautiful way with words. She is talented, that is not in debate here. Her talent though needs to be further developed, just like this series.



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