2 out of 4 stars
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Millie McDine by author Margaret Scrowther is the coming-of-age story of a strong-willed girl who was raised by her grandmother after being abandoned by her parents. The story is set in various regions of Great Britain spanning from the mid-1940s to the early 1960s.
Helping out her grandmother, Kitty, at Beeches Guesthouse where they reside, is the only life Millie has ever known. When Millie is nearly fifteen, the circumstances of her arrival as an infant at the guesthouse are exposed by another resident. Her grandmother admits that Millie's father, a Romany Gypsy, brought Millie to her out of desperation when her daughter, Sadie, abandoned them both. Millie is stunned to learn that both her parents may be alive, but she is also troubled by the realization that they abandoned her. Her life as a teenager grows increasingly difficult when Kitty's illness requires Millie's constant care. At the same time, she is fighting to break free from being sexually abused by the housekeeper's son. After her grandmother dies, Millie is heartbroken, but when she learns of Kitty's careful financial planning to provide for her, she is determined to leave the darkness that has surrounded her young life behind her.
I must confess I grew impatient with the plot's lack of focus. The story began as a coming-of-age story about Millie, whose life was off to a traumatic start. Just as the poor girl seemed to gain a new lease on life, the storyline bounced all over the place. Millie went on one wild goose chase after another to rescue her friend Mary, whose destructive behavior was a bottomless pit constantly endangering those close to her. The recurring pattern of rearranging her life around Mary was inconsistent with Millie's otherwise strong-willed character. There were also major inconsistencies with the plot. For example, there was a character who attacked Millie when she was a teenager. Later in the story, he is introduced by a different name, and though there is no mention of his appearance changing, not only does Millie not recognize him, she is attracted to him. Needless to say, I found the idea beyond unrealistic. Additionally, there was another significant event in Millie's life at the beginning of the book that wasn't mentioned again in the story. Without exposing any spoilers, I would have much preferred following Millie as she sought answers for a life-altering change rather than following morose Mary's stunts. The gaps and inconsistencies frustrated me as a reader.
By far, what I liked most about the book was the ending. Again, I don't want to reveal any spoilers, but I was relieved to read a happy ending after a plot that included so much grief and sorrow. The ending held the promise of better things to come for Millie, finally.
In addition to the gaps and inconsistencies in the plot, I disliked the excessively dark themes. It is certainly the author's prerogative to write about topics such as sexual abuse, prostitution, deviant sexual behavior, and drug abuse. However, as the reader, I prefer to be warned. The brief synopsis I read did not prepare me for the sexually explicit content.
I rate this book 2 out of 4 stars. I appreciate that it was professionally edited and free of grammatical errors. While I enjoyed the happy ending, I can't overlook the many inconsistencies in the plot which really detracted from my enjoyment of the book. I would recommend it to readers who enjoy dark stories with explicit content. On the other hand, those who tend to avoid books with sexually explicit content should skip this one.
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