Review by CaitlynLynch -- Ever After by H M Irwing

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Review by CaitlynLynch -- Ever After by H M Irwing

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[Following is a volunteer review of "Ever After" by H M Irwing.]
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1 out of 4 stars
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Ever After by H.M. Irwing is a modern-day retelling of the classic Cinderella fairy tale. Cindy Marshall is a Melbourne girl who tragically loses her mother to cancer when she is only sixteen. Sent off to boarding school and then college by her distant father, she has to fend for herself and takes a job as a waitress at a high-end nightclub after graduating. The club turns out to be owned by the infamous businessman Julian St. John, self-made billionaire, rumoured to be the product of the scandalous affair between an Italian mafia don and a Dutch princess.

Cindy and Julian strike up an unlikely friendship but, unknown to Cindy, Julian wants a great deal more. When she travels to Europe to get to know her new stepmother and step-siblings, Julian arranges for a grand ball and announces he will choose his bride on the night of the ball. Cindy attends wearing the jewels he sends over for her only to discover that they are traditionally given as an engagement gift to new brides in his family.

The story very much follows the traditional Cinderella storyline with Cindy being the neglected child, her ‘wicked stepmother’ refusing to buy her a dress so that she can attend the ball and so on. Cinderella is a popular and enduring tale retold in thousands of ways; almost every ‘billionaire’ story is a version of this fairy tale. Naming one Ever After comes with issues, though, since that is already the title of a popular Cinderella retelling, namely the 1998 film starring Drew Barrymore. To avoid confusion, the author might want to consider renaming the book.

Reading the book, I was struck by a quite extraordinary number of incorrect words, found on almost every page. Not spelling errors, but words used incorrectly, where a similar-sounding word would be correct. Some of them were fairly standard fare, like “ever since Sinbad road the waves” instead of rode the waves and “the engines were restrained by my feet pressed securely on the breaks” instead of brakes. Others were either malapropisms or just incomprehensibly inappropriate. “Nice of you to finally remember the existence of us pheasants” had me in near-hysterical laughter, while the following sentences about dresses had me making a very inadvisable internet search for alternate meanings of ‘strap-on’:

“Who even wore buttons anymore? This was the day and age for zippers and strap-ons. But I doubted I would be seeing any of those tonight on anyone but me, that is. While I had not stooped to a strap-on, I did have a zipper to contend with.”

I still have absolutely no idea what that is supposed to mean. The longer I read, the more convinced I became that the author is a non-native English speaker, and while I genuinely applaud anyone who can write in a language other than their first, it is absolutely essential to have a competent native-language editor go over the work before publishing. An editor would have picked up on matters like the incorrect word choices mentioned above, plus other things like the hero’s eye colour changing from ‘dark’ to silver partway through the book, and the name of the heroine’s room-mate suddenly changing from Sally to Tracy in the middle of a chapter.

The author uses very stilted and formal language, making almost no use of contractions, which makes the dialogue between characters feel clunky and unrealistic, and definite articles are either absent when they are required or present when they shouldn’t be, such as before proper names.

There were some things really well-researched in the book; if the author is not a resident of Melbourne she has certainly visited, because Melbourne was realistically written. Others were an utter mess, like a ‘European breakfast’ being served in France which consisted of bacon, eggs, pancake and sausage. Pancakes wouldn’t even be served at an English breakfast, and a French one would most likely consist of croissants and coffee.

The most shocking case of wild inaccuracy, though, was the statement that Julian’s mafia family ‘have represented many countries in illegal arms dealings’ and that the Australian Army consequently ‘allow him use of their base’. Frankly, that’s defamatory and as a proud Australian, I’m absolutely infuriated the author would dare imply this could even be a possibility.

Even without the mess of malapropisms, stilted writing and poor editing found throughout the book, that last enrages me to the point where I cannot recommend anyone should read it. I strongly recommend the author hire a native-English speaking editor at their earliest convenience.

For all the above reasons, I cannot award this book any more than one out of four stars.

Ever After
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