*Huge thank you to both the author and the people over at Author Marketing Experts, Inc for sending me a copy of the audiobook in exchange for a review*
An Ignorance of Means by Jennifer Oakley Denslow, narrated by Elizabeth Langelee
Catherine has a great life, she’s living in 18th century France, has loving parents who are also in love, a father who taught her all she needs to know in the world, and an amazing soon to be husband. She believes her marriage will be just as loving as her parents, until Richard reveals his true self. She is not trapped in his estate, forced to either abandon her ideals and dreams for her life, or be subject to the anger her husband had hidden for so long.
*Content warnings for: sexual assault, physical abuse, death of a friend, death of a loved one, emotional abuse*
Wow! I want to start off by saying this is only the second period “romance” book (if you can call it that. Maybe anti-romance is better?), with the only other one being Outlander. But I was very surprised with how much I enjoyed it. The story may take place in the 18th century, but it didn’t feel like it. Catherine felt like a very modern character, and her anger toward her treatment made sense. I was just as outraged as she was, and I really enjoyed that. Catherine as a whole was honestly a great character. Her hope and her ability to not give up not only motivated her but the other people around her. It was sweet to read, and something I appreciate. I’m a big believer in once you lose hope it’s game over, so that was a nice little grouping.
I think my favorite parts of this book were hands down the dream sequences and the asylum. I know some people seem to not have particularly enjoyed the dream sequences, but I loved them. They were weird, a pseudo-reality, and it was hard to discern sometimes. But that’s why I loved them. It was also a powerful way for Catherine to process the death around her without the book getting too violent. The asylum was great for me for similar reasons. It’s not often books today put the main character through the wringer when there’s nothing wrong with them. Catherine was put in the asylum for no reason other than her husband wanted her gone. She had to deal with all of the emotions while also questioning if she was even of sound mind. This tied in with the dreams was such a good section of the book, I honestly wanted more of it.
Before I move into what I didn’t love in this book, and why I ultimately gave it a 3.5/5, I want to mention one more thing. I really thought this was a romance, so I thought another guy was going to sweep Catherine away from Richard, or duel him. I was gleefully wrong. Catherine is able to do almost everything without a man and it was such a great take on a period piece. If you asked me I’d say this is an anti-romance, or a romantic tragedy rather than a straight up romance. It is a story of sadness, hurt, hope, and growth. But definitely not love.
If the book was made purely of the above, this would easily be a 4 star read, but some of the issues I couldn’t get past. The masochist in me got a little indignant as to the ending specifically. I thought it tied up way too nicely and convenient. From where all the characters ended up, to how Catherine’s life is going, I thought it was all too nice. Especially for what Catherine had went through in the book. See? I told you, the masochist. Sure a happy ending is good for her, but it felt *too* nice and as if it were just a mirror to the start of the book, but it wasn’t.
The biggest knock down for me, was the narrator. I adored the voices used for all of the characters except for the men. Specifically Richard. It sounded like they were trying to have a lower, deeper voice to play the part of a confident strong man. But it came across cramped, forced, and definitely not good for the vocal cords. I would be invested in the story until he started speaking and I was pulled out once again. I would’ve been happier if the Richard’s voice, even all the men in general, just stayed in the normal register for the narrator. It would’ve taken less time to get used to, and the style of the voices could have been played with more. I knocked half a star down for this specifically because of how often it pulled me out of the story. No matter how engrossing Catherin’s journey was, I couldn’t get past the voice.
Would I recommend?
YES! I definitely think everyone should give this a go. The audiobook flew by, and the French play on words (from a non French speaker) sounded so good. It had a great journey and covered some topics that I think are lacking in historical fiction books. Also the journey was a rush from start to finish, even though it definitely followed Catherine for a long time.