Off the Bauble, by Debbie McGowan
Publisher: Beaten Track Publishing
Release Date: December 15, 2016
When nineteen-year-old Kieran O’Sullivan takes a trip to the attic for the Christmas decorations, it proves to be an illuminating experience.
– a hapless but not altogether helpless student
– a pedantic supernatural being (or two, or…well, quite a few)
– a funky older sister
– the coolest mum in the world
– a naughty rescue bunny and her easily led feline sidekick
– an insightful ex-girlfriend
– twinkle lights
* Warning – may contain traces of magic and a smidgeon of social commentary (hey, it’s a book by Debbie McGowan – did you expect anything else?) *
Of the Bauble is a young adult, biromantic/non-binary fantasy romance.
Biromantic Cis Male Character
Non-Binary Trans Character
Please be aware that this review contents mild spoilers.
Oh, how disappointing 😦
I’ve read one other book by the author and I really liked it. It was a historical romance and a full-length novel, so this holiday fantasy novella is something completely different but still. The beginning of the book was also really promising. I liked the protagonist Kieran and the whole set up with the
genie Jinn in the attic was sweet and funny and I could see this becoming a lovely holiday romance.
Unfortunately, this book was not that.
I think what it comes down to is that Of the Bauble neither tells a convincing romance nor a fantasy action story, but rather failing at both. The love story isn’t developed in a way that I find captivating and, magic and all aside, fails to convince me of the protagonists’ eternal love. There is an insta-connection, which really is fine, but it doesn’t evolve from there, thus leaving me unbelieving and unsatisfied.
In the second half of the book, the focus shifts from the romance to adventure. Kieran and Jinn set out to free the other Jinns and, honestly, that was just silly. Not only must Kieran and Jinn depart, thinking they might never see each other again, it’s basically hopping from one place to the next, and from one event to another. Um, I skimmed a lot of this part, because it didn’t hold my interest and I was bored.
The world building in this book is shallow as well. The secondary characters remain superficial, even though it feels like the author was trying. They have, however, no real agency and feel like pieces thrown into the story to make it feel more whole.
I appreciate the diversity of the characters. Kieran is a cisgender biromantic male and Jinn a non-binary Jinn. But that is NOT enough to get me to like a book. I am all for diversity but, really, the rest of the book has to be good as well. I’ve read several books recently where this was not the case, that’s why I’m mentioning it. Additionally, there were at least two instances that made me doubt whether the portrayal was actually good, though. Because Kieran is curious, he is a bit impertinent in wanting to know what’s inside Jinn’s pants, only then realising that it doesn’t really matter. And Kieran’s ex-girlfriend suggests he should better tell his future boy- or girlfriends right away that he’s asexual, to maybe spare them both the trouble or something. Yeah. Both scenes feel off to me but I am neither ace nor trans, so I might not be the best judge of it.
So, all in all, I can’t really recommend this book. Hm.
I am an author, publisher and a social scientist. My academic specialism is gender and sexual politics and identity, so you can expect this to crop up now and then in my writing too! Not in an “in your face” kind of way – subtlety wins hearts and minds.
I write character-based/driven fiction – mostly general/contemporary, some (M/M, F/M, NB) romance and a bit of sci-fi fantasy (light). Basically, I write about life. I’ve written a few stand alone novels and short stories, but my main work is the Hiding Behind The Couch series, which these days I’m referring to as a literary soap opera.
You can purchase Of the Bauble from:
Beaten Track Publishing
All Romance eBooks
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.