I happened across Suite Nineteen as a free read on All Romance Ebooks, and maybe that should’ve set off some alarm bells for me. To begin with, I very rarely find full length novels given away as freebies, and even more rarely have I been lucky enough to find a free novel that’s been great. Unfortunately, this book continues that streak.
I fully believe the key to enjoying this book hinges on several things, the first and foremost of which is whether you like the narrator or not. Written in the first person, which is a voice I usually enjoy, this one was a disappointment to me because I simply didn’t like Ben Lebeau, the story’s protagonist. I couldn’t help but think as I was reading this book that it might have been much better had it been written in the 3rd person omniscient. Other than benefitting from taking the primary focus of the story away from Ben and his ever vacillating thoughts and contradictory actions, which were a chore to keep up with—not to mention it being incredibly frustrating—changing this to the 3rd person point of view might have corrected the problem of the huge info dumps (delivered in the form of a long and tedious monologue) that occurred toward the end, which is the second issue I had with the way this novel was written. It’s not very often that I have a difficult time following a plot and then summarizing what the story was about, but in this instance, I have to say that I was fairly lost until the eleventh hour, and even still, there were elements of the plot that were not explained thoroughly, which I don’t think was necessarily a reflection of my inability to understand but was more a reflection of certain points not being clearly delineated.
The relationship between Ben and Ezra Collins, Ben’s enigmatic neighbor, was surface and little substance; there was no actual evolution of the involvement between these two characters; it simply was and the reader is meant to accept it. Theirs was a supernatural and spiritual bond, as it turns out, but in the end was still somewhat unsatisfying because, whatever the relationship between these two men was, it didn’t really go anywhere before the book ended. I’m not sure if that means there’ll be a sequel or if it was just another flaw in the book’s creation, though. Throw in the “body snatcher” element, who’s lying, who’s the villain and who isn’t, and an odd assortment of half-insane role players who felt like seat fillers by the time the story concluded, and I was left feeling a bit cheated of the time I invested in it.
Suite Nineteen is one of those books that had a really promising premise but suffered in its execution. The contradiction of free will and fate: What is merely chance? What is directed by the whims and benevolence of higher powers? How much of what we do, see, hear, and experience is a machination of the universe versus our own power to choose and manipulate is always interesting to reflect upon, and this story brought up a lot of interesting points. Sadly, however, when it came down to the nuts and bolts of the way the story was written, all that potential was left somewhere in the space between the author’s imagination and the writing of the book.
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