“She was the only creature in the world who would really care if something happened to me, even if it was only because I was the bringer of kibble.”
Sylvie in The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore
I’m slowly working my way through Rosemary Clement-Moore’s books. I liked her style of writing in Texas Gothic (Goodnight Family #1) and Spirit and Dust (Goodnight Family #2). The female characters are witty and, on the whole, independent women. The Splendor Falls is Clement Moore’s debut novel, and I almost didn’t read the book because of the blurb on the back of the book.
“Sylvie Davis is a ballerina who can’t dance. A broken leg ended her career–but Sylvie’s pain runs deeper. What broke her heart was her father’s death, and what’s breaking her spirit is her mother’s remarriage.
Uprooting her from her Manhattan apartment and shipping her to Alabama is her mother’s solution for Sylvie’s unhappiness. Her father’s cousin is restoring a family home in a town rich with her family’s history. As it turns out, the Davises have a richer history than Sylvie ever imagined. More unnerving, though, are the two guys that she can’t stop thinking about. Shawn Maddox, the resident golden boy, seems perfect in every way. But Rhys, a handsome, mysterious foreign guest of her cousin’s, has a hold on Sylvie that she doesn’t quite understand.
Then Sylvie starts seeing things. A girl down by the lake. A man peering into the window. And a graveyard with an oddly placed headstone. Sylvie’s lost nearly everything—is she starting to lose her mind as well?”
The blurb on the back of the book is actually rather misleading. I am not a fan of love triangles and the blurb clearly sets up a love triangle between Sylvie, Shawn, and Rhys. While Shawn might flirt with Sylvie, she’s never truly interested in him, so Sylvie isn’t actually struggling to stop thinking about Shawn. The role of Sylvie’s mother’s remarriage is also minor. Yes, the new marriage means she is shipped off to stay with her father’s cousin, Amy, whom she has never met, but that’s about all there is on that drama.
Anyway, here’s my (more accurate) overview of the book: After falling and breaking her leg during a ballet performance, seventeen year old Sylvie’s career as a ballerina is over within the blink of an eye. Sylvie is struggling with depression because she cannot fulfil her dream of dancing, which is all she’s ever envisaged herself doing. The death of her father is still fresh in her mind, and her mother remarries. After drinking at the wedding reception and chasing that with a Vicodin, Sylvie is shipped off to stay with her father’s cousin while her mother is on her honeymoon. Sylvie doesn’t even know anything about her father’s side of the family. While Sylvie is at the house, she seems to know things about the history of the inhabitants that she couldn’t possibly know, she sees and hears things that no one else sees or hears, and she has the distinct feeling of being watched by a man at the window. Sylvie is convinced that she’s losing her mind, but is there something real to her intuitions and visions? What is going on in the small town where she’s staying? Everyone seems to have a secret agenda and Sylvie is determined to uncover what those secrets are. There’s Shawn, the golden boy of the town who wants something from Sylvie, and Rhys, a mysterious boy who keeps showing up at the right time or the wrong time depending on which way you look at it.
The pace of The Splendor Falls was pretty slow. However, the pace wasn’t excruciatingly slow; hence, I finished the book. The first half of the book is all about Sylvie figuring out that there is a mystery going on at the inn where she is staying and that the mystery is somehow connected to her father’s family. This is frustratingly slow. There is too much world-building and too many conversations about why Sylvie doesn’t know anything about her father’s family. The second half of the book is all about Sylvie solving the mystery that she has uncovered. There were too many mundane events and not enough of the mystery or paranormal events. Most of the chapters were about Sylvie getting up and eating breakfast, exploring the town to ask questions about her family legacy and the town itself, and walking her dog. Oh, and then a paranormal event, followed by obsessing over whether or not the vision equals crazy. Then, Sylvie would rest and repeat. The mystery is kind-of spoon fed to the reader, with many long conversations with key people in the town (e.g., an archeologist, a vicar, her aunt, Shawn, etc…) that weren’t that interesting. Also, the mystery itself was interesting, but a bit uninspiring as I wasn’t blown away. Rather than a mystery, Sylvie uncovered more of a past family scandal that had lived on beyond the grave. Also, although I can understand Sylvie being scared that she’s losing her mind at first, I wished that Sylvie had accepted the truth sooner so that more time was spent uncovering the mystery at the inn. I would have preferred some interactions between Sylvie and the ghosts.
I could tell that Splendor Falls was written before the two books in the Goodnight Family series because Sylvie’s character wasn’t as well fleshed out as Amy (Texas Gothic: Goodnight Family #1) or Daisy (Spirit and Dust: Goodnight Family #2). Sylvie was grumpy and sarcastic at times, which were qualities that I liked in Amy and Daisy. However, Sylvie is also a little too whiny because she is no longer able to dance, and I would have liked her to try and get past that a little sooner. I know that Sylvie’s character is probably realistic, but you don’t need to be that realistic. Sylvie also tends to get distracted easily by Rhys and Shawn’s good looks, a quality that all the female characters in Clement-Moore’s books seem to suffer from. I feel like that is one way that Clement-Moore shows that the female characters are attracted to the male characters. I find this somewhat annoying because I feel like it plays into the stereotype that women are so easily influenced by a handsome man. Now, Clement-Moore’s characters don’t play into any of the other female stereotypes (e.g., fragile, submissive), so I think that the reason this annoys me is because of the repeated occurrence of this within all her books.
The other characters in the Splendor Falls are forgettable. Yes, all of them. Well, Sylvie’s dog, Gigi, and Rhys may be the only exceptions. The reader barely knows anything about the large majority of characters (even the ghosts!) in the book as they do not receive much spotlight time. There are only three characters that the reader gets to know anything about. The first character that the reader gets to know is Sylvie’s step-brother, John. John crops up at the beginning and then again in one or two telephone conversations. I liked the sibling relationship that Clement-Moore established and the interactions between John and Sylvie were funny. I’m not sure that John’s character was necessary though because he doesn’t advance the plot in any way. The second character that the reader gets to know is Shawn. Shawn’s character doesn’t undergo any character development. Shawn is the “perfect” boy in town who charms everyone. Even when the reader sees a darker side to Shawn’s character, there is no character development. Shawn’s character is exactly the same at the start and the finish of the book, except that the reader learns more about his character. Finally, the last character that the reader gets to know is Rhys. Rhys receives more spotlight time in the book, but the reader doesn’t really get to know Rhys properly until the last few of chapters in the book. Up until those last few chapters, Rhys is cloaked in mystery. He doesn’t really tell Sylvie anything about himself and redirects the focus back onto her. Towards the end, Sylvie does uncover the mystery surrounding Rhys, which satisfied my curiosity, but I still don’t really know Rhys as a character. For example, I know he’s interested in geology and he’s sarcastic, but that’s about it. Gigi, Sylvie’s dog receives more time than any of the other characters. While there were moments where Gigi added some comedy to the plot (e.g., the image of Sylvie walking off in a huff with a handbag dog prancing after her), the book became the Gigi show at times. This was not consistent and towards the end of the book, Gigi definitely falls into the background; however, in the first half of the book at least, Gigi is too present in the book.
The romance was okay. The chemistry between Shawn and Sylvie was weak. Although Shawn flirts with Sylvie and she is attracted to him, this romance never really goes anywhere. I was relieved about that actually because I dislike love triangles. The romance between Rhys and Sylvie was marginally better; a simmer on a scale from stone cold to boiling hot. However, the majority of their relationship was filled with back-and-forth banter as each person tried to get the other to reveal their secrets. This was interesting, but it didn’t make me root for their relationship. As the book progressed I think the chemistry did build up, and I became invested in their relationship to some extent. I just didn’t understand why Sylvie and Rhys liked each other. They spent so much time arguing, and neither character seemed to grow before the sudden turn-around in feelings.
Final Verdict: A paranormal romance lacking enough “paranormal” and a “romance” to make a great book.
For HIDDEN CONTENT about the ending of The Splendor Falls click here: The Ending of The Splendor Falls: Veering into the Strange and Unexpected.