REVIEW: TORN BY KAREN TURNER

TORN

Author: Karen Turner
Self-published RRP $24.95
Review: Monique Mulligan 

Forbidden love, drama and intrigue … that’s what to expect with Torn by Karen Turner, according to the blurb. When I was approached to review this book, independently-published via Palmer Higgs, it was the blurb and attractive cover that eventually sold me, rather than marketing hype or a known name. I’ve always been drawn to books set in English manor homes, so it wasn’t a difficult sell; I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Torn was an easy, light read with a plot that for the most part lived up to the forbidden love, drama and intrigue tags.

Arriving at the family home after a lengthy absence, Alexandra’s mother has some disturbing news for her three children, which she flings insensitively at them as she walks inside. She’s married, pregnant (and in disgrace) and they now have a step-father, step-brother and a step-sister. Soon afterwards, Alexandra is introduced to Patrick, her handsome step-brother, who has somewhat of a reputation. Their first meeting does not go well, and Alex’s hostility towards him increases as he befriends her brother, Simon. Fourteen is a fragile age as it is, but without her mother to guide her and support her, Alex feels like everything is falling apart.

Despite her resentment towards Patrick, Alexandra finds herself drawn to him more and more. Over the next few years, as she is forcibly betrothed to another man, her attraction grows. She knows nothing can come of it – after all, her mother wants him to marry Alexandra’s younger sister – so she battles to hide her feelings. When it turns out that Patrick feels the same way, Alexandra must make a choice. Will she do as her family orders and marry a man she does not love? Will she put her family’s advancement above her own desires? And if she does follow her heart, can Patrick be trusted? After all, he’s a man with his own secrets.

War intervenes. Both Simon and Patrick answer the call of adventure, against their family’s wishes, and join the fight against Napoleon. Will they return? And if they do, will they be the same?

Although the first chapter initially hooked me in, a complete reading of the book left me wondering whether the first and last chapters were needed. Set about sixty years later, they featured Meg, Alexandra’s half-sister, who played very little part in the body of the book. As I read the body of the book, I kept looking for references that would justify the way the book opened, but while there were some events that may foreshadow plot points in future books (Torn is the first in a series), I wasn’t convinced of its relevance – and I felt the same with the closing chapter. Removing them would not change the reading of the book as it is. The other thing that stands out is the forbidden love idea – is Alexandra’s love for Patrick forbidden because he is her step-brother or because she is betrothed? The book seems to set up the idea that it’s because they are step-siblings, but that premise isn’t really convincing since Patrick is being set up with his other step-sister. Or is there a deeper, darker secret yet to come? Also, as a matter of personal preference, I like books that are part of a series to be standalones – I don’t like a lot of loose ends – however, since Torn is part of a continuing series, I think that needs to be clear on the cover.

Overall, Torn was a pleasant read that kept my interest throughout. I particularly liked Alexandra and felt for her as she struggled against the conventions of her time; it was easy to feel sympathy for her when compared with her selfish and narcissistic mother, a character I did not like at all. I also liked the insight into the Regency period and the drama created by societal expectations versus the heart. I had expected Alexandra to struggle more with her new step-father, but he turned out to be a relatively decent man who was more supportive (mostly) than Alexandra’s own mother. He also seemed to struggle with societal expectations – on one hand, he expected Alexandra to go through with a betrothal for the family’s sake (though he did not expect the same of his independently wealthy son, but I sensed his sympathy for her, probably because it seems he has only married Alexandra’s mother to avoid further disgrace. There was a good mix of characters – some likable, others not – and plenty of hints about the darker nature of some of the characters.

Turner is a writer with promise and fans of historical romance/fiction are encouraged to give Torn a read. I’m interested to see how the story and characters develop.

EBook and print copies available from good bookstores (online) and Palmer Higgs. This copy was courtesy of Esencia Communications.