An American Editor

November 9, 2010

On Books: Olivia’s Kiss

My general policy is to review only books that I find exceptionally good (e.g., On Books: Promises to Keep are Promises Kept) or exceptionally bad (e.g., Truman & MacArthur & Why a Good Editor is Important) or that relate to language (e.g., On Books: An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology). However, Olivia’s Kiss by Catherine Durkin Robinson, which is available at Smashwords and other ebookstores, is an exception.

Catherine Durkin Robinson’s Olivia’s Kiss is a book that should (and could) be exceptional. The subject is compelling (battered spouses revenged/avenged by a female professional assassin) and author is a compelling writer. In fact, as I read her book, I immediately thought of Dashiell Hammet and Rex Stout, occasionally even Ed McBain. Robinson’s writing style is the staccato, rhythmic style associated with the original hardboiled detective story writers of the 20th century.

If I have to rate Olivia’s Kiss in its current form on a 5-star scale, it gets 3 stars; it could easily be a 5-star book, however. Although self-published, this book does not suffer from the grammatical and spelling errors often seen. In this regard, the book appears to have been well-edited.

Yet editing of a book is more than grammar and spelling and punctuation. What Olivia’s Kiss desperately needs is a quality developmental edit. As it stands now, Olivia’s Kiss is an acceptable, mediocre novel. A reader won’t go too far wrong buying it and reading it (although I think the $3.99 price is high for this particular book; in its present form, I think $1.99 is a more appropriate price) because the writing is taut and the story interesting.

I think, however, with a good developmental edit Olivia’s Kiss could become a cinderella and go from acceptable-mediocre to great-outstanding, worthy of being picked up and published by a traditional publisher, deserving of great accolades from ebookers, and worthy of a significantly higher price. This is that rough diamond waiting to be transformed by a good polish.

The author describes Olivia’s Kiss as follows:

Olivia discovered a talent for killing men while in her teens, after shooting her abusive father in the head and watching him die. Now, a sophisticated young woman, Olivia travels the world pursuing bad men and making them pay. When Max, her longtime love, proposes marriage, Olivia dares to wonder: Can she really trade guns and glory for gold bands and bath towels?

The description is accurate as far as it goes (although Olivia pursues bad spouses regardless of gender, not just men). Unfortunately, the story is inadequately developed and much is missing in its current form. Characters are underdeveloped, especially the important parts of their histories that make the connections that are presumed in the novel; more character development/background is needed. For example, how did Olivia make the transition from killing her father to professional killer? How did the friendship of the 4 women that is central to the story develop? The friendship of the 3 friends who, along with Olivia, are the core of the story is taken for granted; it is insufficiently developed to support the ending. Why did Olivia confess her story to Sarah and why didn’t Sarah disclose it? (Yes, I know that Sarah is a nun, but that doesn’t solve the problem.)

Based on her Smashwords profile, it seems that this is Robinson’s first book. Hopefully, it will not be her last. Robinson clearly has a gift for communicating, but needs the guidance that a professional developmental editor can provide.

Should you buy and read this ebook? Yes and no. Yes, because it is well-written and there are no distractions caused by poor grammar, spelling, or structure. The story is compelling and interesting. By buying and reading the book, and adding your own comments and review, you will encourage the author to work more on this and future books, and Robinson is an author who should be encouraged. No, because it is unsatisfying because the characters and story are incompletely developed. Olivia’s Kiss almost seems as if it is a draft of what could be the next great novel.


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