Narrated by Mackenzie Cartwright
How much is happiness worth? Is it better to love and lose, or is being safe and alone the answer for those of us with fragile hearts? Author Ella Frank explores these questions in Exquisite, the first book in a series with the same title.
Lena O’Donnell is intelligent, pretty, and guilt-ridden. She’s a successful pediatrician, but her success doesn’t matter to her, because she’s constantly haunted by thoughts of her younger sister, the victim of a car accident almost a decade earlier. By contrast, Mason Langley is happy with his life. He and his sister own one of Chicago’s most popular restaurants, and there are plenty of women around to satisfy his needs. He’s not looking for anything serious. This changes when his mother asks him to run an errand for her, and he meets Lena, a woman as cold and remote as Mason is warm and easy-going.
These two are attracted to each other for reasons I cannot explain. They certainly don’t seem to like each other very much, but the sexual tension is high. Lena insults him whenever she gets the chance, making scenes in public in hopes of driving him away. Mason takes whatever Lena throws at him, even when her behavior almost costs him the restaurant he’s fought so hard to build. I get the physical attraction thing, but don’t two people have to actually like each other in order to fall in love? According to Ms. Frank, sexual tension is enough. There were times when I just wanted to scream at Lena for her thoughtlessness and total self-absorption, and at Mason for just taking it. Sure, he got mad at her occasionally, but sex fixed everything.
This was my first time listening to a book narrated by Mackenzie Cartwright. I found her voice pleasant enough, but her frequent pauses were very distracting. I expect slight pauses between chapters, but these were just random. She would read several paragraphs, and pause, almost as if she had to think about how she wanted to continue.
I was troubled by Ms. Cartwright’s inability to voice supporting female characters in a way that wasn’t shrill and grating. It happened rarely when Lena was the character being depicted, but other women consistently sounded very shrewish. Lena’s friend Shelley is a prime example.
Ms. Cartwright did depict Mason’s character quite well. She is able to suggest a male without straining or sounding forced. She allows the listener to feel the love he feels for his mother and sister. Ms. Cartwright also did a good job of letting us know when Mason was frustrated with Lena. It’s the author’s fault he didn’t just walk away.
Personally, I want the hero and heroine to be genuinely happy with each other once they admit their feelings. Of course there can be conflict, but not the kind of conflict that makes me wonder why either one is bothering to try to make the relationship work. Ms. Frank put Mason and Lena, two people who couldn’t be more different, in a relationship that I couldn’t believe in. How can you say you love someone who is constantly insulting your intelligence and finding ways to make you miserable? And, to be fair, how is it possible to love someone you feel you must insult at every turn?
I want books to show me things, not just tell me that they happened. When a huge breakthrough occurs for Lena and Mason, we only learn about it because of a conversation he’s having with his mother. I would have liked to witness such an important moment. I wanted to know how both Mason and Lena felt as they explored their feelings. Instead, the whole thing fell flat, offering no insight into the motivations of either character.
Entice, Book 2 in the Exquisite series, is Shelley’s story. Although Shelley didn’t bother me the way Lena did, I doubt I’ll pick it up. There’s something very superficial and shallow in Ms. Frank’s writing that makes it difficult for me to enjoy. Exquisite is almost thirteen hours long, and there were plenty of times when I was tempted to skip to the end. That’s not how I want to spend my time reading.
Breakdown of Grade – Narration: C+ and Book Content: D
Unabridged. Length – 12 hours 51 minutes