Friday, October 24, 2014

Jazz Baby by Téa Cooper

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: October 14, 2014

In the gritty underbelly of 1920s Sydney, a fresh-faced country girl is about to arrive in the big, dark city – and risk everything in the pursuit of her dreams. Sydney is no place for the fainthearted – five shillings for a twist of snow, a woman for not much more, and a bullet if you look sideways at the wrong person. Dolly Bowman is ready and willing to take on all the brash, bustling city has to offer. After all it is the 1920s, a time for a girl to become a woman and fulfil her dreams. Turning her back on her childhood, she takes up a position working as a housemaid while she searches for her future. World War I flying ace Jack Dalton knows he’s luckier than most. He’s survived the war with barely a scratch, a couple of astute business decisions have paid off, and he’s set for the high life. But a glimpse of a girl that he had forgotten, from a place he’s tried to escape suddenly sets all his plans awry. Try as he might he can’t shake the past, and money isn’t enough to pay the debts he’s incurred.

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I'm not much of a romance reader, but I rolled the dice on Téa Cooper's Jazz Baby. The WWI reference caught my attention and I was more than a little intrigued by the setting. Unfortunately, the novel didn't work for me and I admit, I'd be hard pressed to recommend it.

For one, I felt the jacket description incredibly misleading. The blurb paints Dolly Bowman as an adventurous and determined young woman, but her character is neither. Exceedingly naive and prone to making brash assumptions, Dolly is much more of a Dumb Dora. Her romantic interest, Jack Dalton, had potential, but he's far too pure of heart for a Lounge Lizard. 

I was similarly turned off by Cooper's highly coincidental plot twists. I wont ruin the story for anyone, but
 Jack and Number Fifty-Four, the man he meets at Susie's, Cynthia's sudden change of heart, all of it left me rolling my eyes. There is no tension here and very little mystery, just a drawn out chain of events leading to one inevitable conclusion and forgive me, but that's not the kind of literature that appeals to me.

It was a crap shoot going in and this time fortune failed me. I wanted something historically authentic, characters who radiated the attitudes and conscience of the jazz age, but I afraid Jazz Baby missed the mark and left me wanting. 

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He cast his eye up and down her trim figure. She'd undone the dreadful brown worsted coat and the sight of the heart-shaped neckline on her plain cotton dress made a man wonder what lay beneath. Jack quelled the desire to laugh at his reaction, sitting here watching his erstwhile sister, thinking thoughts he didn't even dare admit. 
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