After going almost an entire year in 2020 without DNF-ing a book, I resolved to be more choosy in 2021. I decided to DNF Mr. Malcolm’s List by Suzanne Allain. I still will include affiliate links on this post, because just because this book wasn’t for me, doesn’t mean it won’t be for someone else. (Though who it will be for, I’m still confused on. More on that later.)
Note: This post contains affiliate links. When you click on and/or purchase from some links, I make a portion of the sale. This helps keep Bitch Bookshelf running.
The summary, from Amazon:
One of BuzzFeed‘s Romance Novels to Read Summer 2020
It is a truth universally acknowledged that an arrogant bachelor insistent on a wife who meets the strictest of requirements–deserves his comeuppance.
The Honourable Mr. Jeremy Malcolm is searching for a wife, but not just any wife. As the target of matchmaking mothers and desperate debutantes, he’s determined to avoid the fortune hunters and find a near-perfect woman, one who will meet the qualifications on his well-crafted list. But after years of searching, he’s beginning to despair of ever finding this paragon. Until Selina Dalton arrives in town.
Selina, a vicar’s daughter of limited means and a stranger to high society, is thrilled when her friend Julia Thistlewaite invites her to London, until she learns it’s all part of a plot to exact revenge on Mr. Malcolm. Selina is reluctant to participate in Julia’s scheme, especially after meeting the irresistible Mr. Malcolm, who appears to be very different from the arrogant scoundrel of Julia’s description.
But when Mr. Malcolm begins judging Selina against his unattainable standards, Selina decides that she has some qualifications of her own. And if he is to meet them he must reveal the real man behind…Mr. Malcolm’s List.
Sounded promising to me too. You can buy Mr. Malcolm’s List here, but consider reading my full post first.
What to know about a DNF review…
Because I did not finish this book, it’s entirely possible what I have to say in this post is bologna. Maybe everything winded up turning around… What do I know? But if I DNF a book, it is because I am either not interested in the content – because it’s just not for me, or due to the writing – or because I’m morally opposed to something within the content. If I am morally opposed to the content, I will omit purchase links in my post, especially as I make affiliate income from them, and remove them from any previous posts referencing the book. In this case, this was just not for me, and I did not like the writing.
So why did I DNF?
Spoiler alerts abound.
I wanted to read this one since I first heard about it this summer. I saw a great book trailer online with a diverse cast, which made it look really exciting. Before I started reading the ARC I received from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review, I saw it had been picked up for a movie, again with a diverse cast. Note: This book is about white people, but that’s not why I had a problem with it. I still think it’s important to know going into, just like I do with the Bridgerton books.
So again, I need to reiterate that this book has been signed on for a film, and the announcement was made when the book was published. I was really intrigued by this, so I looked at the Goodreads reviews. Apparently, Mr. Malcolm’s List was released five years ago, then pulled back and rebranded for the 2020 edition. And it’s in the branding that I think the real problem lies, leading to the negative reviews I’ve seen thus far.
What genre is this book? It’s clearly romance, but I can’t make out the full subgenre. It seems like when it was first published, readers were expecting something very proper in the style of Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer. With the new cover, I was expecting the steamy romance I’m used to. This one falls somewhere in between. There was no heat in what I read, just some lackluster kissing scenes, but the language and historical inaccuracy falls more to the historical romance fantasies I’m used to. However, the humor and characterizations seem to be a spoof of the more proper staples of the genre.
I did find myself giggling the first 50% or so. I just felt like the negative reviews were there due to a poor job marketing and an indefinable subgenre – neither spoof nor bodice-ripper, neither proper nor modern. However, the writing just wasn’t good, and I began to notice it more and more. This book is largely dialogue. Then, the unforgiveable thing happened for me that made me close the file on my ereader.
The author threw in a fun twist when the heroine (Selina)’s frenemy Julia decides to wear the same costume as her to a masquerade ball. Instead of letting this devious plot reveal itself during the masquerade scene, which would have been dramatic and interesting, the author reveals Julia’s plan to the reader. I could have lived out Selina’s shock, embarrassment, and annoyance alongside her, but now I know what’s about to happen. How boring! This is just lazy, boring writing.
To top it off, Selina is a complete Mary Sue. Mr. Malcolm has his lengthy list, and Julia is training Selina to meet the requirements, but it seems she does meet everything aside from having only genteel relations. When Mr. Malcolm does find out she has a less-than-proper cousin, he’s already so into Selina that he doesn’t care, even though it’s only halfway through the book. Where’s the tension? I didn’t mind that Mr. Malcolm was arrogant, but Selina was too perfect a creature for me to find her relatable.
Of course, I could be entirely wrong about this one. It could have a fabulous twist at 55% through, but I gave up at 54%, and I’m glad I did. I have other romance novels with wonderful writing to waste my precious time with.
Mr. Malcolm’s List by Suzanne Allain
DNF at 54% because the reviews are right. How is this being made into a film? This is one of the worst romance novels I’ve read. I saw the reviews but kept going because I thought maybe it was just a bad marketing job (it appears this one was published five years ago too?) and people were either expecting a proper Regency in the style of Heyer or a steamy romance. This is neither. I suspected for a moment it might be a spoof, but the writing somehow gets worse as the book goes on: It’s largely dialogue. Selina is a Mary Sue. And MOST OFFENDING, the author destroys all possibilities of suspense! I gave up when I did because Selina’s frenemy, Julia, has the truly devious plan of wearing the same costume as Selina to a masquerade and the author just told us what Julia was plotting. Why?? What could have been such a fun and embarrassing scene, ruined.
I really want to research how this got picked up for a film. There’s nothing fresh or fun about this. It’s booooring and a bad excuse for whatever genre it’s trying to be.