Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Bonnie Dee - The Tutor

Seeing an ad for a position at a Yorkshire estate, typesetter Graham Cowrie decides to make an upward career move by passing himself off as a tutor. How hard can it be to teach a few subjects to a pair of nine-year-old boys? But on his arrival at the ancient house, he finds the staff creepy, the twins odd, and the widowed master temporarily absent.
His first meeting with brooding, stern, but oh-so-attractive, Sir Richard doesn’t go well, but with no other prospects vying for the teaching position, Graham manages to keep it. His mission soon becomes clear, break down the walls of reserve both father and sons have erected and attempt to bridge the gap between them.
But strange sounds, sights and experiences keep Graham on edge until he finally admits the Hall is haunted by two entities with very different agendas. Graham works to appease one and combat the other while protecting the broken family he’s grown to care for.

Comment: When I first saw references to this book I immediately thought about romances where the employer falls for the employee and vice versa and that convinced me to try it. This month, I finally got to it.

This is the story of Graham Cowrie, a young man who replied to an ad for a tutor at a remote Yorkshire estate. He thought he would have an easy job, a safe enough time and at the end of it, good references to make him go one step forward in the world. What Graham didn't count on was to like the boys he would be tutoring nor their reserved father. But the problems start because the estate seems to be filled with strange presences and auras and something must exist there besides the few employees.
At the end of it, can Graham help the family or will he be just more more person to fall victim to the depressive aura in the estate?

I had the idea this book would be more romantic than what it ended up being. I also thought it would be an interesting take on the governess trope we often see in regency books but with male protagonists. The story isn't bad but there were some issues that made me not like this as much as I wished.

The book is narrated by Graham, which is already limitative in terms of what we can see and know from other characters, especially if Graham himself isn't part of the scene. I understand 1st person narrators but it's not a working technique for all stories and in this case, I think a 3rd person narrator would have worked better. Just think about the whole potential we loose by not having access to what the other protagonist is feeling.

Something that also caught my notice and that I'd change is the character's interactions. I know this is meant to have a gothic feel and some situations are supposed to make you think and dread what's coming (it's not scary, though even if that would be one of the goals) but all the characters were gloomy except the narrator and one of the boys. I mean, ok, that suits the story but it's so unrealistic and I couldn't think or focus on that when I was noticing the things that were over the top, like this and the need for scary thoughts - which weren't.

The plot is quite simple, Graham feels presences in the house, he sort of realizes who and why, he knows that's what makes the house creepy - but not - and what the solution could be. In the meantime, his employer finds out his real occupation and that Graham wasn't completely true when stating his past references and work. This should have presented more drama added to the ghost and spirits thing, but no, at this point we already got the idea there was attraction between Graham and Richard, the father of the boys he was tutoring.

To me, the relationship between the two men was the biggest let down. I expected romance, despite everything but to me their story wasn't very romantic. Even the connection between them didn't feel especially strong but then again, we only have Graham's POV. Still, it's not something impossible to develop as seen in other books out there, but Richard is in a mental and emotional position that a relationship with Graham simply didn't seem real. Plus, Richard, supposedly a member of the aristocracy and used to manage estates and people was too "scared" of his feelings. I can understand why, and how his psyche could be weak after the things he saw and the consequences of his actions but he acted like, I'm sorry to say, a pansy. I mean, he didn't inspire much apart from Graham's lust and the little scenes where they supposedly connect intimately didn't ring true for me.
Graham is the stronger element for several reasons but their relationship never felt balanced nor romantic and the end just validated all my concerns about their HEA, it was too sugary and unlikely.

I suppose there are good elements here but in my opinion they weren't explored the best way they could, namely the ghost concept and the tutoring of the boys. Graham felt too unconcerned at times about his position and although I admire his attempts, he wasn't professional all the time. Maybe if he did, his newfound relationship with Richard might have looked more desperate, in the sense that their connection would feel inevitable. The way things were, it just seemed as if Graham did what he could to seduce Richard, apart from jumping him. 

Anyway, this wasn't completely bad, some of the scenes and moods explored were interesting, strong enough...but overall, I wasn't convinced by this and not even the captivating way the boys were presented is enough to save this from its less than good situations.
Grade: 5/10

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