#37 A Review of The Painted Lady by Felicia Rogers

I’ve said many times before that I think it’s important to read outside of your usual reading comfort zone.  In doing so it offers you an opportunity to try out new genres, authors, and subjects.  In keeping with that line of thinking I accepted the opportunity to review The Painted Lady by Felicia Rogers, a contemporary inspirational romance novel.

John Tillman has died from cancer.  His wife feels that his cancer and subsequent death was due to his workplace conditions, yet it will take a hell of a legal battle to fight the large corporation that employed John.  Enter Bruce Malone, the new “it” lawyer at Hampton, Hampton, and Hampton.  Malone agrees to take on Mrs. Tillman’s case, not knowing the extent to which Tillman’s employer has gone in order to cover its tracks.  Once he realizes what he’s up against, he prays for a miracle.  And he gets one too, in the form of Elizabeth Smith, a formerly dowdy secretary that has been transferred into his office.  How will this unlikely hero help Malone win his case?

Before I begin my review I’d like to go on the record and say that I am not a religious person.  Just because I’m not doesn’t mean I begrudge people who are.  I’ve reviewed inspirational books before (see my reviews of The Silent Governess and The Apothecary’s Daughter) and have never had an issue with the religious points of the story.  I want to make clear that I don’t have issue with that in this case either.  My issues with the book are strictly fundamental, and have nothing to do with the religious plot devices.  With that out of the way, on to my review…

For those who have read other reviews on my blog, y’all know that I take issue with weak female heroines.  From the beginning I found Elizabeth to be a weak character, which I just can’t stomach.  Elizabeth currently works as the lead secretary in a law firm.  She herself graduated college and law school and had been a lawyer for a short time before deciding the work and stress wasn’t worth it.  She quit, moved to NYC to live in a townhouse that her aunt bequeathed to her, and started working as a secretary for a law firm.  Now ok, you quit your job because of stress, that is 100% fine.  If you hate your job you hate 50% of your day, and that’s really no way to live.  What I take umbrage with is the fact that in order for her to keep this job she has to dress dowdy and gross, simply because her boss’s wife is jealous.  When she changes her dowdy appearance and dresses like everyone else she if at first fired (and does/says nothing), then eventually reassigned to work for another lawyer.  Now in my head that is 100%  sexual harassment.  She didn’t walk into work in a bra and thong, she went from long flowing skirts (think a hippie) to dressing in professional business attire.  Elizabeth just accepts her fate as “oh well, I shouldn’t have changed my appearance” instead of fighting her boss to make the claim that she was still dressed professionally.  That instance right there was the beginning of an ever-present downfall for me.

Issue #2 was the setting.  Multiple clues lead you to believe that the book takes place in Manhattan, near Central Park.  Multiple references are made of Elizabeth’s townhouse near the edge of the large park that she runs in every morning.  Maybe this is just because I grew up near NYC, but this makes me think of the Upper East/West Side.  Now for those of you who have never been to the UES it’s NOT a bad neighborhood.  The townhouses are beautiful, the view of the park stunning; it’s an overall really good place to live.  Judging from events that happen to Elizabeth, had I never been to NYC and never been to the UES, I’d think she was living in a ghetto where drug dealers walk the streets with guns pointed at everyone at all times.  One particular instance stood out to me.  Elizabeth misses her stop on the bus and realizes she’ll need to get off the bus and retrace her steps back towards her office in order to get home.  She gets off a bus (that has a mom and three children on it) and proceeds to wait for another bus because (and I quote) “At this time of day, no respectable person was on the subway.”  I’m sorry – you just got off a bus with a mom and three children.  How late could it be? Maybe 8pm? I’ve been on the NYC subway by myself after 11pm and have never felt like I was going to be knifed or held at gunpoint.  Elizabeth realizes that her only way to get home is with the subway, gets on it, and gets attacked.  (Oh did I mention this is all after she got attacked by a homeless lady on the street who pulled a knife out and stole her shoes?)  I was left with a really bad taste in my mouth with the way NYC was portrayed.

My final issue had to be with the way Elizabeth’s family was.  She’s in her mid twenties. (This is a guess because it isn’t exactly specified, but judging from the fact that she graduated from law school it’d have to be her mid twenties)  Her parents call her every Sunday at the exact same time, and if she isn’t home they freak out so badly that they literally almost get on a plain to fly up from down south to make sure she’s ok.  When she starts dating Bruce and things begin going crazy at the office she misses a few of these calls.  Her brother calls her telling her that her neighbor has been calling her mom giving her status updates on who has been seeing entering and leaving her house and the amount of time these guests have been staying there.  I’m sorry, you’re in your mid twenties.  It’s time to stand up to mommy and daddy and be a big grown up girl.  Her parents find out about Bruce and her mom FREAKS out.  They have so little faith in her and her stance on her morals that they actually FLY UP FROM DOWN SOUTH randomly showing up on her front steps one day.  They start grilling Bruce about how he’s going to take care of her etc and just interject themselves in her life.  She and Bruce attend the rehearsal dinner for a wedding they’re both in and when they arrive back home, Elizabeth’s mother literally walks to the car and knocks on the window asking if she’s “coming out yet.”  The overbearing parents were the nail in the coffin for me.  I don’t know anyone my age who still allows their parents that much control over their lives.  It just seemed highly unrealistic to me.

Even with all of the above, Rogers weaves a heartwarming story of redemption and saving together.  She finds a way to make the problems of everyone’s lives have a simple solution.  I will give credit where it’s due and say that Rogers’ character’s beliefs are inspiring, and those that enjoy inspirational novels will definitely find solace and comfort in that.

2 out of 5 Stars

The Painted Lady by Felicia Rogers
Astraea Press (2012)
eBook: 283 pages
ISBN:  2940014059268

Special thanks to Astraea Press for my review copy!