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Leading Lauren (Gold Coast Retrievers #11) by Vickie Carroll

1.75 stars

Okay, so I hate giving bad ratings, and I rarely, if ever, DNF a book, but at about the 75% mark, I was done. Here’s the thing, I read a wide variety of genres and writing styles, so I can appreciate slow burn books, slow plots, and getting settled in for a slow, strong story. Unfortunately, in this case, some glaring imperfections left me shaking my head in annoyance.

Let me start with some positives. Vickie Carroll had a great concept here, even if the execution was a miss for me. Her characters HAD the potential to grab your heart and not let go. The addition of Max, the dog into the story, was excellent. Being disabled myself, I love seeing the representation of our service animals on-page. They are often overlooked heroes that are an essential part of the daily lives of those who need them most.

Now the negatives. I think the first thing I need to hit on is editing. This book meanders a lot and word choice and sentence structure, pulled me completely out of the text too many times to count. Giving me reading whiplash. I could immediately tell by the phrases and creative choices that Carroll was a more mature author, which ran in contrast to her very simplistic prose. A writer doesn’t, for example, have to tell the reader that the character set the salad on the table and then took a set at the table. You’ve seat up that the characters are having dinner, and they are setting that dinner up, so why doesn’t she just sit instead of repeating and causing this redundancy. I know this seem picky, but it happened so many times that it was a glaring writing choice, like we, the reader, are too ignorant to understand some context or the scene as set. Give us some credit.

My biggest pet peeve is that this entire book is all telling and no showing. This causes the characters to feel very two dimensional and made me less invested in the story as I progressed. I wanted so much to love Mitch and Lauren’s story because I need those sweet love stories that just make me smile, and I was so disappointed to the point of deciding not to finish the book. Being an avid reader, I have a completionist attitude that makes it dang near impossible to quit a book. Still, I was so bored and annoyed the entire time I was reading this, I couldn’t continue.

Carroll had this knack of taking us through the most mundane parts of these people’s lives and then glossing over the important interactions that we should have been knee-deep in. I wanted to feel like I was along for the ride with both Lauren and Mitch. They were both facing some personal demons that would have left anyone a little wounded, but unrealistically they both seemed so unaffected. I say this because they both seemed to overshare their issues with anyone and everyone they talked to. I think this was especially true of Mitch. To have gone through the trauma he endured would make it harder for him to talk about what happened, but there was never any hesitancy to share every detail. It was just strange.

In the end, I could not get behind Carroll’s writing. I review a lot of books, and I can honestly say there are stories that I didn’t like or even hated that I couldn’t fault on a technical level because they were well written. I saw all the positive reviews for this book and wondered if I was reading the same thing. I felt no connection emotionally or otherwise to invest me in the characters or the story, and that makes me sad. I say sad because I know if we had gotten a less walking around narrative with us being “told” the characters every move and emotion to more of their inner turmoils through text that “showed” us their struggles, a connection could have been forged. I really wanted to like this.

While this book was not for me, I can see how it might be for readers who consume this type of thing all the time. I love world and character building in great detail, to the point where I feel like I can live in the world and know the people on the page. Maybe that comes from epic fantasy being my favorite genre. So, all that is to say, this is my opinion. While Carroll’s writing is not for me, it may resonate with a different type of audience because, in the end, there was a lot of potential here, it just fell really short for my personal taste.


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