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Chocolate Roses: A Jane Eyre Parody by Joan Sowards (2010)

Book review: Chocolate Roses: A Jane Eyre Parody by Joan Sowards (Walnut Springs Press LLC, 2010)

Chocolate+Roses1She’s in love … he’s out of reach … is there any hope?

Janie Rose Whitaker’s world revolved around her chocolate shop until Roger Wentworth and his young daughter moved into the apartment across from Janie’s. Anyone would think Roger for the mold of the “perfect” guy, but soon Janie discovers secrets that could keep them apart forever. Though she resists getting involved in Roger’s complicated life, they are drawn further into a bittersweet relationship.

You will laugh, cry, and crave chocolate as you read this LDS parody of the classic novel Jane Eyre.

The book in three words: chocolate, Mormonism, stalking. In that order. I had to look up what “LDS” meant, because it wasn’t a mis-spelling of LSD (now that would have made for an interesting novel); it stood for “Latter Day Saints”, i.e. this is Mormon fiction. Could just as well have been Martian fiction for all I care, that’s about how alien it felt at times. I’m Swedish so it being a decidedly American novel is a little bit of a culture clash to start with, but bringing religion into it as well, woah there.

Not specifically because it’s about Mormons, though. Mormons to a Swedish person is basically a couple of nicely suited up young men who knock on your door and want to talk to you about God. This book mentions temples and stuff, but had the author been talking about it in a Jewish concept, it would have been equally strange. In fact, I would’ve felt uncomfortable if it was just a plain Lutheran thing (Lutheran Protestant Christianity is what you’ll find in churches around Sweden), because it’s still a very religious society that’s being portrayed, and Sweden’s a very secular society, as is Britain. So the whole after-church activities and general glee over someone deciding to convert is a bit weird. It kind of makes me want to get a Pagan into my own Jane Eyre derivative. Although that would probably weird me out a bit too. (I’m very secular, even when it comes to the faith I normally allow myself to be classed as. :P)

Anyway.

I’m not entirely sure the author knows what a parody is, to be honest. A parody tends to be, well, put it this way: Airplane! is a parody of Airport and similar disaster movies. You take the original and put a funny spin on it. This is not a parody of Jane Eyre. I think Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair is more of a parody, and that’s not very parodical (is that even a word?) either. Hey, Jane Slayre – there’s one! It’s a vampire-filled twist on the original. Parody! You don’t get a parody by loosely basing a story on some events from a book. You get a derivative. A parody, at least in my view, is meant to be funny and to poke fun at the original to a certain extent. This doesn’t. It’s amusing in parts, but the laugh the back of the book promised was a stifled chortle at best. (And no, I didn’t cry either. Chocolate – well, it’s chocolate, y’know, yumm.)

As a book, it was very enjoyable, even if the religious bits made me cringe. The story didn’t have an awful lot to do with Jane Eyre, though. Chubby chocolate shop singleton with a huge dog crushes on a customer who pays her no attention at all, until he moves in next door. He has a cute little daughter and a mad wife who likes to paint. And there’s a murder mystery looming in the air. So there are plenty of things to make it readable, and it’s a nice little story, but seriously, none of the characters have anything to do with the Brontë originals.

The bits with the wife felt a bit strange too. Partially because it didn’t feel very plausible in what happened, and partially because the main thing anyone outside of Utah knows about Mormons is the “multiple wives” thing. As soon as the female protagonist lamented the male protagonist was married, I just thought “but you’re a friggin’ Mormon, woman! Since when was bigamy ever an issue?!” I know, I know, I’m not a complete dunce, I’ve heard that it’s not legal nowadays and all that, but I have also seen a documentary about it and that there are men who live as married with multiple women and they’re all one big, happy LDS family. Which is perfectly fine. Each to their own, I say. But then again, I only think bigamy is wrong if you go behind your partner’s back. If you’re all in agreement, I really don’t see why it should be anyone else’s business how you choose to live your life. It might not be my personal preference, but hey. Have as many wives (or husbands!) as you want! Why not?

There’s a Norwegian character in the story, who has a name that sounds pretty Norwegian to me and Joan Sowards seems to be able to tell the difference between Sweden and Switzerland! Hooray! She even has her characters realise that Scandinavialand consists of more than Norway too. (No, it’s not a given. Sadly. They should get the Nordic edition of Ticket to Ride, actually. That’ll teach ’em!)

Chocolate Roses is a bit like a Mills & Boon novel, except with less romantic fwuff to coo over. It’s sweet and mostly harmless as a story, some bits are quite amusing and I Joan Sowards’s style of writing. I rooted for Janie and the dog and hoped she’d get her Roger eventually, but really, she was no Jane Eyre and he was definitely no Edward Rochester. No matter how pained he tried to look. (He also didn’t really seem to have a personality aside from being “the hot guy the female protagonist fancies”. Sounds awfully familiar.) So thumbs up as a book in general, general shrug to it as a Jane Eyre derivative and a thumbs down as Jane Eyre parody. Because a parody it ain’t.

A very average 3 out of 5 chocolates.

Traxy Thornfield

A Swedish introvert in Robin Hood Country (Nottingham, UK) where she lives with a husband and two cats. She's an eager participant in tabletop and play-by-post roleplaying, woodworking, photography and European travel. Will get a novel out one of these days, if she doesn't get too distracted on the way.

6 thoughts on “Chocolate Roses: A Jane Eyre Parody by Joan Sowards (2010)

  1. I’m Mormon, but I normally don’t like LDS fiction too much. I usually don’t find it as funny as the authors mean it to be and I am sorry about the religion making you cringe a bit. I can see how it would be odd to read from a non-Mormon’s perspective. You most likely were not the targeted audience. Anyway, I love your blog. You’re hilarious.

  2. You’re spot on, there. I get that feeling too, that the author meant it to be funnier than it actually is! I mean, it’s lighthearted and bits had me if not giggling than at least smiling, but no laugh out loud moments.

    And yes, you’re right, I’m not really the target audience. To at least 75%, I am (female, similar age of heroine, chocolate conoi… connai… lover, Jane Eyre fan, enjoys a good romance novel, and so on), it’s just that the remaining 25% isn’t, such as not being LDS. But then again, it’s just one book in the vast sea of … lots of other books! 🙂

    I’m just glad it didn’t suck! After I finished it, there was no feeling of it was a waste of perfectly good paper, but in fact, I had rather enjoyed the X hours it took to read it, and I was never bored by it. Which is more than I can say about another book I’m currently trying to get through … kh. Maybe I’ll go back to the audiobook and hope my ears don’t shrivel and fall off. One can but hope.

    Thank you for your kind comment. 🙂

  3. Yeah, sounds like a failed parody to me, maybe a “modern re-imagining” would have been a more accurate label?
    Religious fiction isn’t my thing either.
    Hope your ears and sanity stay intact inspite of your reading exertions!

  4. Ok, I just wanted to clear something up really quickly. (And please don’t be offended, because I’m not trying to be pedantic or prissy or anything here. I just want to make sure my religion is represented accurately, as I’m sure anyone does.) Plural marriage is not only illegal, but is not IN ANY WAY a part or practice of the LDS church. Yes, it used to be…100+ years ago. There are people with multiple wives in Utah and around, but they belong to the FLDS religion (and I’m sure other things too, but this is why people still associate Mormons with plural marriage), a faction that broke from the LDS church decades ago. Mormons do not practice polygamy.
    That’s all! I love love love your blog. Thanks for posting so regularly!
    ~Carrots

  5. Thanks for the clarification, Carrots! 🙂 I do point out that it’s illegal, but I didn’t know there was a breakaway group. To all us foreigners, we haven’t got the foggiest, and we just go with the general stereotype … even if it doesn’t match reality. (Like “every Swedish person is blonde and sex mad” and “all Brits have bad teeth” and so on. Also incorrect.)

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