Author: Michelle Turner
I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review through the Never Too Old for Y.A. and N.A. group on Goodreads.
I’ll preface my review by saying I really enjoyed this story. It was a bit hokey in places, but overall, I really enjoyed it.
That being said…
If Nicholas Sparks wrote Romeo & Juliet and riddled it with bad punctuation, Promised by Michelle Turner is likely what would result. It had the happy-sadness you would expect from Nicholas Sparks with the insta-love and fear of family exile you get with Romeo & Juliet. Now, I find Nicholas Sparks repetitive and predictable, I like his movies better than the actual books (never a good thing), and R&J was a tragedy, so take that for what you will.
Promised is about a gypsy girl named Arwyn Scott (Wyn), and the boy who has been loving her from afar, Lincoln Tatman (Linc). Linc wants desperately to meet Wyn, but it’s impossible to get close to her because of her very over-protective and very big brothers. But as fate would have it, a guidance counselor throws the two of them together for some volunteer work, giving them the perfect opportunity to get to know one another.
Unfortunately for Linc, Wyn has been promised to a gypsy boy named Shay. Arranged marriages are the norm in her world, and if she refuses Shay, she risks being shunned by her family. What transpires is your typical tragic love triangle – Wyn sneaks in time with Linc, but at the same time promising her family to see if love with Shay is possible. Eventually, she is forced to make a decision – stand by her family and the traditions that come with it or step out on her own and experience true love?
The character development on both ends was kind of lacking. There was a bit more depth and realism with the female characters than the males, I’m guessing because this book was written by a woman. The girly bonding scenes between Wyn and Dani were pretty spot on for what you’d expect. But for the most part, whenever men were around, things were just awkward. For example:
1. Linc describes in great detail each of Wyn’s outfits. An example: “Today she’s wearing an oversized green sweater dress that falls off her left shoulder, a pair of gray leather leggings that cling to her perfect legs and a pair of green ballet flats” (11). I think something more realistic would be “She was wearing a green dress, tight gray pants, and green shoes.” Or nothing at all, because you generally don’t hear male narrators detailing what girls are wearing, unless they’re wearing very little. He also described his own stomach muscles as “rock hard” and “sculpted” when Wyn touched him, which was weird.
2. Linc had somewhat of a Jekyll and Hyde persona when it came to Wyn. On numerous occasions even before he and Wyn were in a relationship he slammed his best friend Nate up against walls, threatened him physically, and became destructive. For example, when Nate described Wyn as “smokin,” which I don’t really see as too insulting, Linc threw him up against the lockers and growled at him (50). And later when Nate calls her a “sweet piece,” which is, I’ll agree, kind of disrespectful, Linc slams him against the fridge with his arm against his throat (66). Then, after a particularly upsetting conversation with Wyn in the school library, he proceeds to trash the place, throwing lamps “with a scream worthy of a Scottish warrior” (59). Get a grip. Seriously.
3. Shay is a little odd. He goes from being sweet and shy, to pushing Wyn against the car to stake his claim on her, to being sweet and shy. Normally I’d think it was an act, but there was nothing to indicate the nice guy bit was anything but sincere. In almost every other interaction he had with her, he seemed like a relatively ok guy.
I did, however, like Nate’s character. I can’t really pinpoint why. As crass as he was, I just found him more personable than the other men in the book. Wyn’s brother Adam was also a sweetheart, protecting her not only from outsiders, but from certain family members, as well.
What I liked:
1. The overall plot was good, it just needed some finesse. I liked the idea of a modern-day Romeo & Juliet but with a not-so-tragic ending.
2. The dress shopping scene. Wyn’s mother took her mother-of-the-bride role too far, and Wyn finally loses her you-know-what and lets her mom have it. It was absolutely perfect.
3. Dani, Nate, and Wyn’s parents. Here’s why:
Dani: She was the only one that had a lick of sense. She told Wyn like it was, smacking her hand when Wyn cried about Linc because it was her own fault things had gotten so far. But overall, she was a supportive, loving, and trustworthy friend. There was never any inkling that she might betray Wyn.
Nate: He was vulgar, crude, and that guy who I wouldn’t want my boyfriend/husband to be friends with. But he was the most realistic and therefore most enjoyable out of them all.
Mr. and Mrs. Scott: Based on everything they show on TV (not that that’s real life, I know), Wyn’s parents were exactly what you would expect of gypsy parents. They were extravagant, over-the-top, and overly opinionated. Mr. Scott did things by the (gypsy) book, but you could tell he loved his wife and family. Mrs. Scott was really annoying, but in the ways you would expect. She was planning one big fat gypsy wedding exactly like you’d see on My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. I actually liked the very minor involvement she had in the story.
What I didn’t like:
1. The editing (or lack thereof) was atrocious. I’m a grammar nerd, and bad grammar can be very distracting when I’m reading. I’ve come to expect it with self-published books, but it still drives me nuts.
2. The fact that the characters in the “What I liked” section are minor.
3. The entire timeline of their relationship was screwy. Up until the guidance counselor threw them together, Wyn hadn’t even known Linc existed and Linc only knew that he thought Wyn was pretty. But then within two days Linc was professing his love and they were both nearly in tears because of the relationship they couldn’t have.
4. It seemed like Wyn was making the choice of WHO she wanted to marry at 18, not whether or not she wanted to marry at 18. She had to decide if she wanted to turn her back on her family and the marriage that was planned for her after she graduated, or stay and live out her life in a one-sided marriage. I was all about her getting out of the situation she was in, turning her back on tradition, and becoming her own person. But it just seemed like the alternative to that was just as bad. Her family would be gone, she’d be living with Linc’s family while he was off serving in the Army, and they’d get married so she could live on base with him. She’d get to go to college and be with the boy she loved, sure. But at 17, how certain could she be that she wanted to turn her back on her entire existence to be with him?
I’m really torn on my rating for this book. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the story. On the other hand, there was plenty about it that made me shake my head. I’m going to give the author the benefit of the doubt and give a 3.5/5 instead of the 2.5 it was initially. She seems to have potential as an author, but her writing just needs some fine tuning. If this story had been gone over thoroughly with a professional editor (which I know isn’t always an option with self-publishers), it probably would’ve been a lot more enjoyable. It was a pretty quick read, so you’re not missing out on a huge chunk of time if you check it out.