Review of 'Gilded Lies' (J.S. Martin)
Overall Rating: 3.5/4
A solid read. Recommended.
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Book Title: Gilded Lies
Author Name: J.S. Martin
Publication Date: April 8, 2022
Summary (no spoilers): Set in the 1920's, this story is Peaky Blinders meets every book boyfriend you've ever been secretly (or not so secretly) obsessed with. Lily Beth Winters is dead set on living the life she dreams of--one filled with friends, dancing, and above all else, success. Her dreams are threatened when her father sends her to live with family in Boston and find a husband to take over the family business. Unwilling to let anyone ruin her dreams of running the family business herself, Lily is willing to do anything--even kill--to get what she wants. Caught up in the shady underbelly of the city, Lily must contend with family secrets, lies, and an irresistable attraction to some of the most dangerous gangsters in Boston; gangsters with dark secrets of their own and shadowy magic unlike anything she's ever known.
Gilded Lies has some fantastic characters. The male love interests are en par with Edward Cullen and Rhysand in their ability to make you fall in love with them. There are love triangles and double crossing. Ambition. Dark magic. Gangsters and prohibition. The story moves at an excellent pace, the multilayered conflict ensuring there's never a dull moment. Easily consumed in one-sitting.
This book did so much right, that the 'questionable' aspects can be taken fairly lightly. There were a few minor grammar issues throughout that weren't so distracting that they took our readers out of the story and a few sentences when the prose felt clunky in comparison to the rest of the text.
Our biggest critique of this book is that when we immediately decided to dive into book two of the series, it was apparent that the second book didn't get as much editing as the first. The writing itself felt clunkier overall and there were several typos within the first few chapters that were distracting, though we loved the characters enough to keep going and finish out the series.
Writers can learn a couple of things from Gilded Lies, one from something Martin does well with the book, and one from something that left room for improvement.
1) Embed questions in your story, then answer them (but not all at once): This was something Martin did extremely well in Gilded Lies. She created intrigue by leaving some things in the text unspoken or understated, forcing the reader to crave answers. The questions themselves weren't forced on the reader (rather than leave the reader to ask the questions themselves, many books pull the reader from the story by overstating key questions in the story through the character's internal dialogue), and answers were doled out systematically, never coming too early (breaking the suspense) or too late (frustrating and confusing the reader).
2) Treat your sequels like your readers have never heard of you: In an industry where fans want new content fast and the algorithms governing visibility favor content en masse, it's tempting to release sequels or subsequent publications as quickly as possible; however, you can't trust that readers will be forgiving just because you've hooked them in the past. If a lot of editing went into your prior publications, don't fall into the trap of believing your future works will need less editing just because you're a more experienced writer; even the best writers need heavy editing. Edit, edit, and edit again.
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