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Topic: Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas

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Subject: Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas
Date Posted: 4/10/2008 9:49 AM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
Posts: 4,058
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I thought this was mentioned in its own thread somewhere, but I don't see it.  I went ahead and made one, because I thought it deserved more than a small blurb in the What are you reading? thread.  First off, I very much agree with Sandy from AAR's review here:  http://www.likesbooks.com/cgi-bin/bookReview.pl?BookReviewId=6613   She gives a pretty good summarization of what it's about, and zooms in on the highlights, weaknesses & strengths pretty accurately.  It's what I'd call imperfect, but exceptional romance fare.  Thomas is frequently being compared to Judith Ivory, and I'd say that's a valid comparison in a lot of ways, but don't expect her to fill Ivory's shoes.  She's not as good or polished as Judith Ivory, but her style does have some similarities.  From what I'm seeing, this looks like her first published book though, and good writers always aquire a lot of polish over time.

I'm glad Sandy gave Private Arrangements Desert Isle Keeper status.  I'm still wrestling with the question of whether or not it makes my own keeper list - and I read it (all in one night) night before last:P  What's exceptional about it from my personal POV is that Thomas did very well with both things I usually like and things I usually don't like, and she didn't lose me in the process.  I stayed with this book for about 18 hours straight - sat up ALL night reading it, and I haven't done that in an age.  I can't even remember the last time I did.  She's written main characters that I love and hate, want to strangle and shake, and yet still ended up caring about.  The H&H are kept apart for an excruciatingly long time (one of my "I hate" things); 10yrs, but she very deftly uses another device which usually irritates the snot out of me: flashbacks to keep it from being a tedious 10yrs.  Long separations has consistently has been one of my pet peeves with estranged married couple stories, but with the alternating flashback chapters, you're not forced to eat it for a couple hundred grueling pages.  And I don't know how she manages it - all I can say is she's good - but the constant jumping back and forth doesn't knock the pacing all out of whack.  The only thing that caused me to stumble at all were the chapters devoted to the heroine's mother and her own romance with a duke.  And that's not to say that secondary romance was at all boring or out of place.  I was just impatient with getting too far afield of the H&H's romance:P    Just for my personal preferences, she went a little bit off the beaten path here with the way she let this story unfold, and while the secondary romance was enjoyable, I think the story might have been just the slightest bit tighter, had she left it out.  Words that come to mind are: neat, polished, smooth.  But that's just me.

Things that bugged me - the conflicts were all internal, and man, that's a tough juggling act for any writer, much less a new one.  Of course, my preference is always for external conflicts, most especially when we're talking about long separations that last as long as 10yrs.  I have a hard time buying into a couple being that deeply in love, and then allowing their own hardheadedness & stupidity keep them apart for 10yrs.  The TSTL factor is too overwhelming.  Had Thomas not used the flashbacks, this book would have hit the wall with me at about Chapter 4, and I doubt I would have reconsidered.  Ultimately though, I couldn't assign blame for the separation too heavily on either of the main characters - which worked in Ms. Thomas' favor here.  I leaned more toward blaming the hero - he was a total pill.  For a strong, honorable, stud-muffin type, he was wishy-washy as hell.  But I had to allow that what the heroine did to cause the rift that alienated them was pretty serious.  My biggest problem with that being - and this might be considered a spoiler, so skim this if you're worried about that - I didn't 100% buy into the prior commitment he'd made to this secondary love interest, Theodora, and I found myself wanting to brush it aside as easily as Gigi did.  For one thing, Thomas doesn't even put her and Camden in the same room with each other until near the end of the book.  Further, she's not much of a presence in it at all.  What you do see and know of her, she's not very memorable.  Granted, the point is more what Gigi did to rob Camden of his freedom to choose that made him so angry with her and unable to forgive, than it was Theodora, but he did some pretty unforgivable things to Gigi afterward.  I don't think of a man who seems that unable to forgive as being very heroic.

Anyhoo...  I have this, and I'm done with it.  Willa has dibs if I decide not to keep it.  I just can't decide right away.  I think I might want to read it again, but I'm also thinking it's one of those things I'd get a sudden urge for, like after her next book comes out:P

Last Edited on: 4/10/08 10:00 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 4/10/2008 10:28 AM ET
Member Since: 3/24/2008
Posts: 271
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I totally agree about the secondary romance with her mother..to tell the truth I skimmed through those parts because it didn't matter to me. I really like this book but it wasn't a keeper for me because I can't see myself wanting to reread it. I was so frustrated at how stubborn the Hero was about keeping them separate, and then when he came back the heroine was so determind to be with the other dufus. Great story not a keeper for me.

Date Posted: 4/10/2008 10:56 AM ET
Member Since: 12/7/2006
Posts: 1,099
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Kim - you make me want to reconsider reading it.  It has one of my top hate pet peeves -  the H/H being kept apart for an interminable amount of time and add that to the fact that it was internal conflicts that did it?  It's usually something I avoid.

Date Posted: 4/10/2008 11:42 AM ET
Member Since: 10/24/2007
Posts: 1,313
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Thanks for the review Kim.  They have this one out our local library so I'm going to check it out.  I don't like the seperation storyline either, but I am still curious enough to give a shot I think!

Date Posted: 4/10/2008 12:24 PM ET
Member Since: 7/10/2006
Posts: 673
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Kim, you pretty much captured my feelings about it.

I really hate secondary romances so I prepared myself beforehand but I did think it was unweildy for the first 120 pages or so alternating between the Past, the Present, AND the mother. Thomas elevated somewhat it that the secondary romance really was VERY good and logistically, I understood why she did it.

When i finished it, I compared it here to Beast. Both are on my keeper shelf but neither are really THAT romantic. Both books are what I appreciate with my mind more than my feelings (altho PA did wring a tear from me or two which Beast never did).


as for the long seperations, it should have ended after 5 years after the Copenhagen episode. People seem to love the Copenhagen pages but I just wanted to smack Cam upside the head. It's like what Billy Crystal says at the end of WHEN HARRY MET SALLY: once you decide that you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want to tell them right away. You dont waste time saying goodbye to another woman, primping, and going to the jeweler.


Oh, and Thomas mentions that there is a small cameo in DELICIOUS that links it to PA.

Last Edited on: 4/10/08 12:25 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 4/10/2008 12:28 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
Posts: 4,058
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Well, I hope I'm not discouraging anyone from reading it.  It really is good.  It has a lot of great things going for it, and Thomas really is a great writer.  I'd love to see her do something that doesn't require such a delicate balancing act between past & present, and I look forward to hearing her voice in the future.  I think she can do stories that primarily utilize internal conficts well, but also think that's something that requires a little more polish than she's developed yet.  I do appreciate it for what it is though.  I'd still rather read something like this than most of the so-so fare out there by established, best-selling, meat & potatoes writers.  She did well with getting me past my usual pet peeves, and I have to give her high marks for that.  Maybe if the separation had been shorter.  She does fill in some of that time with a couple of external, near miss situations, but it still boiled down to a 10yr time out for stupidity:P

Jess - Bingo!  You hit it right on the head with the Billy Crystal quote.

Last Edited on: 4/10/08 12:30 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 4/10/2008 12:40 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
Posts: 4,058
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Oh, and about Copenhagen - what a great story if he'd have jumped out of that boat, and swam after her.  I think if she could fall on her arse getting to him, it's the least he could do.  Of course that would have required a lot of rewriting further back, but what a great ending!