Thursday, March 22, 2012

♥♥♥♥♥♥: Bel Air by Katherine Stone

Bel Air
Katherine Stone

Release Date: June 28th, 2011 (reprint edition)
Publisher: CreateSpace (originally issued by Zebra in 1990)
Page Count: 372
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, dear!)

All that glitters is not gold...
Sometimes it is love.

Bel Air, California, where even the rich and famous marvel at the splendor of their surroundings. It is here, in the lush, sun-bright hills of Hollywood, that Allison, Winter, and Emily search for the courage to dream, to trust, to love.

But there are dark secrets and hidden betrayals that must first be overcome.

A terrible accident has stolen Allison Fitzgerald's dreams, and it has taught her that life is too precious and too fragile to waste. So when she meets a man who evokes a passion in her that she has never known before, she surrenders to his love without questioning his secretive past.

Gifted and beautiful actress Winter Carlyle has learned from painful experience that the people she loves always leave her, and that it is far too dangerous to care, and that she is only liked when she is pretending to be someone she is not. Still, she is willing to risk everything for the doctor who sees beyond the pretense... but is he willing to risk everything for her?

Emily Rousseau only feels safe, only feels free, when she is behind the lens of her camera, safe and free from the men who want her, and want to hurt her. The portraits she takes are works of art, and there is one man, unlike any other man she has ever known, who sees not only the talent in her work, but the loveliness in her. But can she accept the love and face that demons that will free her from her past?
What Stephanie Thinks: Bel Air is everything I want and expect in a sweet romance, with lovely and flawed, yet beautiful characters, an exhilarating ambiance, and a twisted (though eventually resolved) storyline. Stone brings each of her protagonists—both male and female—to life by portraying and delving deeply into their pain and pasts, of their loves and longings. I think every reader will be able to relate to, on some level, how intricately hurt each of them are in their own way.

More than the characters, is the stylistic ease and flavor Stone writes with. I can tell her words are penned carefully and thoughtfully, stringing together to produce delicate, sensory prose. To me, the plot was so-so and very foreseen, but the author's technique made each sentence an awing and impressive read.

Overall I don't think this is my ideal romance novel. Keep in mind, it was written some-twenty years ago, but it's definitely outdated, lacking the necessary suspense and just that 'hook' modern fiction has. The plot certainly has its strengths—skirting on topics such as recovering bodies and recovering hearts, bitter reminiscences and bitter ex-flames, betrayal, death, as well as a discovery of abuse, and emotional trauma—all stuff that could potentially have been considered 'dramatic' and edge-of-your-seat worthy back in the day, but cannot be said any longer. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy the book, but I just don't think it was anything phenomenal of a narrative either.

The characters' motives and the outcome of the plot were inevitable, so there was nothing really that made me hang on to the words on the pages (aside from the gorgeous and elaborate fluidity of style). I didn't have to guess anything, so the end of the book really just felt oomph. I feel I didn't necessarily get anything out of it.

I definitely think some of you will enjoy it more than I did, though; it's simply not keen on my tastes. While the typical predictable 'clean' romance is usually not my thing, I can say Bel Air is a beautifully-woven, affectionate novel about love and light to be cherished and reminded of, when the good gets going and the going gets tough.

Stephanie Loves: "'Emily, please don't go.'
'Rob, why not?'
'I'm afraid you won't come back.'
Her obvious surprise reassured him a little.
'With all the collateral you have?'
'What collateral?' he asked. The ring, which you do not want? The flannel nightgown? 'What, Emily? Are you leaving your camera?'
'No,' she said softly. 'I am leaving my heart.'"

Radical Rating: 6 hearts: Satisfying for a first read, but I'm not going back. ♥♥♥♥♥♥