There are some things that I consider to be cardinal sins in books. One of them is data dumps, where the author just tells us a bunch of information instead of weaving it into the story naturally. This happened in several places in this book—especially at the beginning—and it certainly did slow things down. Another cardinal sin, at least in my book, is not starting where the action is. I don't know why some authors feel like they can't just start with an interesting part; instead, they ramp up into the action instead of just placing us there. I felt that that happened in this book. It should have started with the scene at Rudy's mother's house with Mariette. Finally, another cardinal sin is to cut away from this pivotal first scene to something that is mostly irrelevant. In this book, just after the big announcement in that pivotal (true) first scene, the author cuts away to telling about the narrator's birth and early childhood! Seriously!
This novel didn't really feel completely coherent to me. It isn’t just the pacing. There is an odd collection of narrators as well. The first part of the book is told from Rudy's standpoint, the next healthy portion of the book is told in flashback from Mariette's perspective, and the last part ends with a jumble of perspectives. I felt that some incidents in this last part came out of left field, which honestly shouldn't happen in a book like this. Foreshadowing is so important so that we get glimpses of what the future may be.
In general, I really enjoy historical fiction, but I didn't really feel like this was true historical fiction. It felt more like family drama that happened to take place in the past. The book description makes this sound like it is a romance, but it really isn't. The romantic elements are downplayed and are certainly not the major thrust of the book. So if you are thinking of picking up this book because of the romance angle, you will most likely be disappointed. We aren't actually told how the romance turns out until the epilogue, where it is told in an obituary. Frankly, this book left me feeling like there was no “there” there. Lots went on in places, but as events that I just didn't like or couldn't believe kept happening, it felt like all sound and fury, signifying nothing.