Morreau veers between troweling on shocking events and creating an epic, sweeping, and ultimately doomed romance. The characters casually and frequently use violent language from “Belly, we get it your boyfriend’s a bitch. A fucking cuck!” to racist slurs. Violence against and abuse of women, including incestuous abuse, are constantly implied threats. Lia is stubborn but not especially smart; Jack is passionate but brutish. Everyone in the book behaves unkindly and dehumanizes others, and readers will struggle to find them sympathetic or worth spending time with. In the midst of this misery, the flowery language used around Jack and Lia’s relationship is jarring. The breaking of the fourth wall serves little narrative purpose.
This installment comes to a climax of sorts but is clearly half of a larger work. The biggest problem is that Morreau can’t seem to decide what kind of story to tell. The characters are too unsympathetic to appeal to romance readers; the plot is too sparse for mystery fans; there isn’t enough drama for a pulp novel. Without direction, Morreau’s book will struggle to find an audience.
Takeaway: This mix of romance, suspense, and grit is most likely to find a home with truly omnivorous readers.
Great for fans of V.C. Andrews’s Flowers in the Attic.
Design and typography: B
Marketing copy: C
“Maybe the world would understand. This decision, right now, is the biggest regret of his life.”
If you’re a regular visitor to my blog, firstly, welcome back! Secondly, you’ll have realised that I start each blog post with a memorable quote about each topic. When I write a book review, it tends to be a quote from that particular book that I liked, one that stuck with me or something that I just read and thought, “You know what? That sounds incredibly good!” I started reading Valentine Act I by Elliott Morreau, and you wouldn’t believe what I was faced with.
My biggest quote dilemma yet! I read beautifully crafted sentences. Incredible wording, right from the first page. I was in absolute awe! I remember my first thought being, “Well, choosing a quote for this review is going to be difficult!” I settled for the quote above, but there was at least one sentence on each page that screamed talent. The chosen quote is up there as it signifies a huge turn in events and the start of one of my favourite parts of the story. We’ll come onto this later…
Elliott first sent me the synopsis of the story along with a word of warning about the topics covered. He told me there’d be some sensitive scenes in the novel that were not for the light-hearted. But, due to my love of beautifully gruesome stories like the Dexter series by Jeff Lindsay, I assured him I’d be fine. It actually made me more intrigued to get into the story and see how these topics were written.
The story is told in a very unique way, something that I’ve not yet seen before. I’m either not reading enough books, or Elliott has come up with an insanely clever way of telling his story. (It’s most probably the latter). Imagine you’re looking down on the world. Better yet, imagine you’re looking down on the world and actually controlling what the people down there are doing by scribbling down in a notebook. By actually playing God.
I loved this way of story telling, and every now and then you’re reminded that the way the main characters’ lives are panning out is because of this higher ‘being’. This brings us nicely onto the two main characters, Jack and Lia, whose lives are being controlled from above the clouds.
Jack and Lia seem to be in one of those ‘love/hate’ relationships. One minute, they’re madly in love and couldn’t bear a life without one another. The next, they’re arguing and questioning if their love for one another is actually genuine. You can tell our narrator here is loving the control he has over their lives and sometimes it seems to shock him that he is creating this happiness or misery. I couldn’t possibly explain how well this works in the story without you actually getting a copy to read for yourself. (Honestly, I’m not just saying that!) It’s a true masterpiece.
The story follows the pair as they flee from a gruesome scene. As the reader, you’re instantly dragged into their journey, finding yourself praying they don’t get caught. Putting yourself in their shoes and debating how you’d react in a similar situation seems to crop up a lot. Sorry, no spoilers…
Alongside Jack and Lia’s story, you’ll find yourself at the other end of the spectrum. We also follow the story of Claudia and Rich; detectives investigating a pretty brutal murder. I’ll let you put two and two together… We see how Claudia, a highly trusted and authoritative member of society reacts to something so bitter, something so cleverly planned and something so horrifically described that even your own stomach might turn. Oooh, I love a good bit of terror!
The story develops so many angles and combines a heap of genres into one big, incredible read. From Jack and Lia’s love story adventure to the grim and mysterious solving of a murder, you really do get the best of both worlds. I’ve picked a couple of my favourite scenes from the story to try and give you a sense of what to expect.
The first is a gruesome scene we get to share with the characters very early on in the book. The way it’s unravelled is really quite horrifying, and is the aftermath of an appalling experience for one of our main characters. As awful as it is, it’s a brilliantly described scene that is also essential for the rest of the story to fall into place.
The second, without giving too much away, is where the infamous couple flee and begin their new lives together in a whole different world to what they ever expected. On the surface, the opportunity that arises seems like a perfect ‘happily ever after’, but Jack knows that deep down, it’s not ideal. The whole process of Jack leaving for work and giving Lia her own jobs to do, how she eventually grows as a person is such a great read and is actually quite heart-warming to witness as a reader.
Reading Valentine Act I has been an enlightening experience, one that has definitely influenced the future of my own story writing. It’s sparked a new style and genre to experiment with and surprisingly, I’ve already got a couple of ideas written down! It’ll be something I’ve not tried before but I’m confident that writing something so different will be a great exercise for me.
I really should applaud Elliott on his writing ability; the thing that instantly grabbed my attention. Elliott’s story is so well written, and he has created two memorable and lovable characters as well as a plot that works incredibly well. The whole reading experience is something new and refreshing, and is something that I’ve not seen before in a novel. This story definitely has the potential to go far – it’s just frustrating to me that more people don’t know about it!
Thank you so much to Elliott for sharing your work with me – I’m looking forward to Act II! 🙂
I was in awe of Elliott Morreau's writing straight away. From the very first page, I was hooked into the story of Jack and Lia. I wanted to know what would happen to them. Morreau's writing flawless, he managed to write incredibly flawed characters yet he made them readable and more relatable than I thought was possible. The narrative structure of the novel works brilliantly with the story. Morreau has a very unique and fresh style of writing that I fell in love with immediately.
This was a compelling read with rich characters. I'm excited to read the next novel and to see how the story unfolds.
-Lauren Knapper, 2018
I loved this book! The narrative style alone captured me right away. Yes, it deals with some very dark and potentially disturbing issues, but the author handles them well. It's completely unique and bold. I have honestly never read anything like it before. If you are looking for something entirely different, and can handle a glimpse into the most shadowy corners of our world, I 100% recommend it!
-Kerri Davidson, 2018