Book review: Chocolate Roses: A Jane Eyre Parody by Joan Sowards (Walnut Springs Press LLC, 2010)
She’s in love … he’s out of reach … is there any hope?
Janie Rose Whitaker’s world revolved around her chocolate shop until Roger Wentworth and his young daughter moved into the apartment across from Janie’s. Anyone would think Roger for the mold of the “perfect” guy, but soon Janie discovers secrets that could keep them apart forever. Though she resists getting involved in Roger’s complicated life, they are drawn further into a bittersweet relationship.
You will laugh, cry, and crave chocolate as you read this LDS parody of the classic novel Jane Eyre.
The book in three words: chocolate, Mormonism, stalking. In that order. I had to look up what “LDS” meant, because it wasn’t a misspelling of LSD (now that would have made for an interesting novel); it stood for “Latter Day Saints”, i.e. this is Mormon fiction. Could just as well have been Martian fiction for all I care, that’s about how alien it felt at times. I’m Swedish so it being a decidedly American novel is a little bit of a culture clash to start with, but bringing religion into it as well? Woah there!
Not specifically because it’s about Mormons, though. Mormons to a Swedish person is basically a couple of nicely suited up young men who knock on your door and want to talk to you about God. This book mentions temples and stuff, but had the author been talking about it in a Jewish concept, it would have been equally strange. In fact I would’ve felt uncomfortable if it was just a plain Lutheran thing (Lutheran Protestant Christianity is what you’ll find in churches around Sweden), because it’s still a very religious society that’s being portrayed, and Sweden’s a very secular society, as is Britain for the most part. So the whole after-church activities and general glee over someone deciding to convert is a bit weird.
I’m not entirely sure the author knows what a parody is, to be honest. A parody tends to be, well, put it this way: Airplane! is a parody of Airport and similar disaster movies. You take the original and put a funny spin on it. This is not a parody of Jane Eyre. I think Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair is more of a parody, and that’s not very parodical (is that even a word?) either. Hey, Jane Slayre – there’s one! It’s a vampire-filled twist on the original. Parody! You don’t get a parody by loosely basing a story on some events from a book. You get a derivative. A parody, at least in my view, is meant to be funny and to poke fun at the original to a certain extent. This doesn’t. It’s amusing in parts, but the laugh the back of the book promised was a stifled chortle at best. (And no, I didn’t cry either. Chocolate? Well, it’s chocolate, y’know?)
As a book it was very enjoyable, even if the religious bits made me cringe. The story didn’t have an awful lot to do with Jane Eyre, though. Chubby chocolate shop singleton with a huge dog crushes on a customer who pays her no attention at all until he moves in next door. He has a cute little daughter and a mad wife who likes to paint. And there’s a murder mystery looming in the air. So there are plenty of things to make it readable, and it’s a nice little story, but seriously, none of the characters have anything to do with the Brontë originals.
The bits with the wife felt a bit strange too. Partially because it didn’t feel very plausible in what happened, and partially because the main thing anyone outside of Utah knows about Mormons is the “multiple wives” thing. As soon as the female protagonist lamented the male protagonist was married, I just thought “but you’re a friggin’ Mormon, woman! Since when was bigamy ever an issue?!” I know, I know, I’m not a complete dunce, I’ve heard that it’s not legal nowadays and all that, but I have also seen a documentary about it and that there are men who live as married with multiple women and they’re all one big, happy LDS family. Which is perfectly fine, each to their own! But then again, I only think polygamous relationships are wrong if you go behind your partner’s back. If you’re all in agreement I really don’t see why it should be anyone else’s business how you choose to live your life, or however many partners you want to have. It might not be my personal preference, but hey. Have as many partners as you want! Why not?
There’s a Norwegian character in the story, who has a name that sounds pretty Norwegian to me and Joan Sowards seems to be able to tell the difference between Sweden and Switzerland. Hooray! She even has her characters realise that Scandinavialand consists of more than Norway too. (No, it’s not a given. Sadly. They should get the Nordic edition of Ticket to Ride. It might help.)
Chocolate Roses is a bit like a Mills & Boon novel, except with less romantic fwuff to coo over. It’s sweet and mostly harmless as a story, some bits are quite amusing and I enjoy Joan Sowards’s style of writing. I rooted for Janie and the dog and hoped she’d get her Roger eventually, but really, she was no Jane Eyre and he was definitely no Edward Rochester, no matter how pained he tried to look. He also didn’t really seem to have a personality aside from being “the hot guy the female protagonist fancies”. (Sounds awfully familiar.) So thumbs up as a book in general, general shrug to it as a Jane Eyre derivative and a thumbs down as Jane Eyre parody. Because a parody it ain’t.
A very average 3 out of 5 chocolates.