Helen J. Christmas’ debut novel, Beginnings, is a fast-paced thriller that keeps you turning the pages. Filled with last minute escapes and intrigue, the whole thing will be hard to put down. The storytelling is engrossing and keeps the reader’s adrenaline flowing.
The story itself, seems to plod along at times, as Christmas seems to struggle with making the relationship development seem natural. The age difference between Eleanor and Jake is not very apparent, and they go from being wary of their feelings to embracing them as love in a matter of weeks.
Eleanor comes off as whiny in the beginning, but given that she was sent to away to boarding school, it’s amazing the growth you see in her character. While facing hard decisions and traumatizing events, she manages to maintain a certain level of naivete that Christmas uses to propel the story along.
Theakston is the best written character in the book, in my opinion. He really comes to life, both with his obsession over Eleanor and the way he treats the residents of the East End. The menace he exudes leaps off the pages. Christmas has a true gift for portraying the ‘villian’. Over the year or so that we follow the characters, he seems to grow as well, making him someone that people want to see more of. Christmas lobs the “evil” descriptor around quite a bit, but the reader can see that there is something more to Theakston’s story hovering at the edges.
Other characters are well-developed, though I was rather disappointed in Jake. He seemed rather bland and forgettable, not really seeing much growth or change from the cowering figure he is introduced as.
The political machinations in the novel are, sadly, kept to the back of the story. It’s only at the very end that they really are brought to light, and even then it’s like they’re an afterthought. Without them, we wouldn’t have Jake or Eleanor meeting Jake; but the whole angle feels underdeveloped. I’m hoping to get more on this key part to the story in future books.
Fairly decent editing was employed, though a rather liberal use of italics is jarring and distracting. It came to the point where I was ignoring ALL italics because otherwise, I’d have to stop and reread to see why that particular word or phrase was emphasized. Also, long passages where the action was rehashed in characters minds could have been cut out. This all happened in the same book, I didn’t really need a recap every 5 chapters. Overall, I’d say this is a good read and look forward to the continuation of the story in book two of the Same Face, Different Place series, Visions.
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Author Bio –
Helen J. Christmas lives on the south coast of Sussex with her husband. With a love of writing since childhood, she started her decade spanning thriller series ‘Same Face Different Place’ in 2011. Her first book ‘Beginnings,’ set in 1970s London, combines romantic suspense with a hard-hitting conspiracy thriller. Writing is something she juggles around family and social life. Helen is self employed and enjoys running the web design company, she and her husband set up from home. They have no children but enjoy the company of a faithful border collie and a fluffy white cat. Helen confesses to have got most of her ideas for writing, whilst walking Barney along the beach.
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