Tuesday, May 3, 2011

GUEST REVIEW: Wrenfield Hall by Wannabe Charlotte

REVIEWER: MoltenChocCake

Summary from ff.net: In 1870s England, Bella finds herself without home or family when her father dies. She secures a position as a housemaid in a country manor belonging to Lord Edward Masen. The two form a bond that is threatened by class differences and Edward's past.

My goal isn't to provide spoilers to the story, but certainly it can be difficult to review a story without revealing something. You have been warned. 

Before we go any further, let's learn a bit more about the author: Wannabe Charlotte (WC). WC is a  former reporter making her first foray into creative writing. Right away, I like her perspective. She realizes that having a Bella and Edward story makes it much more attractive to TwiFanFic readers. She clearly states that she doesn't see Rob Pattinson and Kristen Stewart as the Edward and Bella in this story. I'm not as prolific a TwiFanFic reader as my wife, but I have contended that using Edward and Bella is an easy way to get readers who will read anything, good or bad, that's stamped with Twilight; and that using them also allows people to be sloppy and/or cut corners in character development. That being said, Wrenfield Hall is expertly written and compelling. WannabeCharlotte started the fic, intending to keep it secret from her husband. That didn't last long and, to her surprise, her husband has helped her significantly in the later stages of the fic. As a husband myself, I applaud their teamwork. I hope that more husbands and wives are able to share their passions with each other, whether NASCAR or TwiFanFic!

As with most TwiFanFic stories I read, this is an Edward and Bella story. Thus, you have a pretty good idea ahead of time that they'll end up together. So, the question usually isn't who ends up together, but how. That's how this story feels right from the start. It seems that it will be just a matter of time before Edward and Bella end up together. The crux of Wrenfield Hall is how to these two people, from opposite social classes, find each other and build their relationship into something  meaningful. Who will support this relationship? Who will try to damage it? The usual cast of characters exist, as in most TwiFanFic's that I have read: the lovable Mrs. Cope, Mike Newton (albeit indirectly), James, Tanya, etc.

Wrenfield Hall is rated 'T' and therefore, no real lemons. That's not to say there isn't sexual tension.

Wrenfield Hall is a period TwiFic, based in the 1870's. Bella is a down-on-her-luck servant at the Wrenfield Hall. The master of the estate is, of course, Lord Edward Mason. If you have ever read or watched Pride and Prejudice, you'll sense the similarities at once.  It's a great read with a lot of drama and character development. If you're looking for salacious lemons, look elsewhere. If you want a story with a great plot, fantastic character development, and some angst, then you come to the right story.

Bella's father has died leaving her with little choice but marriage to someone she doesn't love or taking a job as a servant at manor. She chose the latter because she would rather not marry if it doesn't include love. She realizes and accepts that forgoing the marriage means a lower station in life with hard work. WC has created a character that you can rally behind. You want Bella to find love, to succeed, to increase her lot in life. Being a Twilight story, it seems obvious that the solution is Lord Edward Masen. The question is, how can Bella and Lord Masen find love across the class barrier that exists.

On day one at the manor, Bella happens upon Lord Masen in the library. They do notice each other, but Bella is quickly put in her place when she is told that in the future she should use the servant's entrance. Bella gets to meet her fellow workers: the lovely Mrs. Cope, her new friend Lizzie, and the irritable Mrs. Mallory. It's clear that the work will be tough for Bella. And though we expect Lord Masen and Bella to start having contact, it occurs infrequently during that first week or so at the manor.

Meanwhile, we get some glimpses into Lord Masen. The readers now understand that Edward has his own demons to contend with. His brother James has describe the solution -- to what problem, we don't know yet. But, that solution is not acceptable to Edward. But, certainly, this problem will be one that Edward must contend with and probably will affect Bella and Edward's chance at a relationship.

A Visit To The Library For A Good Book

Bella and Edward's relationship does develop and does so very slowly. It centers around books and the library. The library represents what Bella gave up on her father's death and marriage proposal refusal. It gives opportunity for the pair to have a connection that is not shared with any others; it reveals how well a match they are. The library and books also are a barometer of their relationship.

With the books, Bella can live in whatever world she wishes--travelling around the world and in time. Edward gets a window into her soul when discussing them with her. The readers get invested in the relationship as it develops around this intimate book club. WC has crafted a wonderful story where the readers are rooting for the relationship to grow and develop into something wonderful.

But, life is not all rosey and neither is this story. The troubles that afflicted both Bella and Edward in the opening chapter come to light and wreak havoc on the relationship. There seems to be a path for them to walk through these troubles and arrive safely on the other side.  But will they succeed?

The rest of the story is to be discovered by the reader and not from this reviewer. It's a worthwhile ride but one I'm not willing to give away.

There's Love In The Air...or is that a Balloon?
He stood, uncertainly, inches from her, looking down at her. It would be so easy to reach out, put his hand on her waist, pull her close to him, to knot his fingers in her damp hair and angle her face up to his…

Touch me…please touch me…
There certainly is sexual tension in this story but we are spared lemons. [Yes, I said 'spared.' A personal preference, I know.] The anticipation for Bella and Edward to express their love for each other is palpable. But Bella is not in the position to ask Edward to 'stoop' to her class. Edward has other issues with which to contend. They both want each other and the reader knows it. What the reader doesn't know...well, you'll just have to read and find out. I will say that it has to do with balloons.

My Two Cents...worth less than a penny, I know

By this point, you should realize that this reviewer is thoroughly enjoying Wrenfield Hall. I have recommended it to many. However, there are some aspects of the story that give me pause.

Since this is an all-human story, I would be happy to not have the electrical charge between a touching Bella and Edward. It doesn't fit and seems awkward. My suggestion is for most stories: don't do it. I realize that it is canon, but this is something that does not need to be repeated. [At this point, I must confess that I have not read any of the Twilight books! I have seen the movies, however.]

Secondly, for all the great development of the relationship and trials that come, the resolution of the story seems too quick and convenient. It almost feels as if WC wanted to get the story finished and rushed through the ending. At the time of this review, the final chapter or two had not been published, so it's possible that my opinion will change.

The grand story line is somewhat predictable but so what? Lots of twiFics tell you whether the story is HEA (happily ever after) or angsty or "Bella and Edward." Frankly, I'd prefer to not know; that's what makes the various stories exciting. Wrenfield Hall, although somewhat predictable, has enough twists and turns to make it absolutely delightful.

In summary, this is a wonderful story. The development of the relationship between Edward and Bella satisfies the romantic side of me because it's tender and believable. The character development seems natural and deep. The plot keeps my attention. The writing grabs you from chapter one and tugs at your emotions throughout. If you haven't started Wrenfield Hall yet, what are you waiting for?


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review! Very kind. On the "electrical charge" point - I agree. I kind of cringe every time I re-read that bit and wish I hadn't put it in there. I might take it out, along with other bits that I really wish I had written differently, in retrospect.

-Wannabe Charlotte

Anonymous said...

This outstanding story deserves the outstanding review. Glad that someone else was able to see the pure talent that went into this story. I don't know Wannabe Charlotte, yet I am confident that she is a strong, capable woman, and that given the write venue for her work, she could definitely be a published author. Her writing left me yearning for more from each of her highly developed characters. FanFic is not my typical choice for reading, yet upon finding her story, I realized that there are serious, unpublished authors on the fringes of the literary world.
I am happy I found this story. Better late than never!
"It's an Escape" (on FF.net)

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