Seeking Mansfield (Kate Watson)

Sixteen-year-old Finley Price has perfected two things: how to direct a world-class production, and how to fly way, way under the radar. The only person who ever seems to notice Finley is her best friend and godparents’ son, Oliver Bertram. Since Finley moved in with her godparents after the death of her father, she and Oliver have grown close. If Finley could just take Oliver’s constant encouragement to heart and step out of the shadows, she’d finally chase her dream of joining the prestigious Mansfield Theater. But when teen movie stars Emma and Harlan Crawford move across the street from the Bertrams, they shake up Finley and Oliver’s stable friendship. As Emma and Oliver grow closer, Finley realizes that Harlan’s attention is shifting to her. She discovers she might have feelings for him too. Or, is she only interested in Harlan because Oliver is taken? Finley doesn’t want to be won, and she doesn’t want to see Oliver with anyone else. To claim Oliver’s heart — and keep her own — she’ll have to find the courage to do what she fears most: step into the spotlight.

I read this book as a buddy read with Cátia @The Girl Who Read Too, go to her blog in the next few days to read her review of this book, which I’m already warning you, will be slightly more flattering than mine.

You know when you are reading something with the most amazing reviews, and all you can think is “WTF? Did they read the same thing as me?!”. That’s how I felt about this book. I was excited to read it because it had some amazing reviews on goodreads, also, it’s a Jane Austen retelling, so what could go wrong, right? Well, for me, almost everything.

The redeeming quality of this book was the great writing. I have to say that Kate Watson sure has her way with words and she made the writing great on this one. However, the story and the characters just didn’t live up to it.

I have to admit that Mansfield Park is probably my least favorite of Austen’s stories, though I haven’t read the book yet, only saw the adaptation on the TV. But while the story works in that setting, I didn’t think it worked at all in the modern world.

The characters were all flawed, and I could have been on board with it, but they weren’t at all likable. I felt some sympathy for Finley and Oliver, and that was it. I HATED everyone else.

Finley felt like such a weak character, and I while I understand that she was broken from her past experiences, she still subjected herself to way too much abuse. She had no voice, and she allowed people to speak for her, in all areas of her life. I mean, by 90% of this book, she was still allowing herself to be stepped on by people who she supposedly loved and loved her back. And while I appreciate that she grew a lot and took charge of her life throughout this book, it still happened more because of other’s people’s influences, than her own will.

Oliver was my favorite character of the bunch, and I felt like he truly wanted Fin to find her own way, instead of constantly fighting her battles for her. But the thing is, he still fought her battles way too many times, and he neglected her big time when he got a girlfriend. And while I understood his reasoning behind being with Emma, I still thought it could have been dialed down a bit.

I hated Emma and Harlan, and yet, their feelings were sincere and they were super important to make Finley come out of her shell. They were still pretty horrible human beings, and the fact that Finley and Oliver were in relationships with these two characters, made me a bit sick.

I’m gonna drop some situations in the book that didn’t make any sense to me and that I honestly hated, ok? So, a bit of SPOILERS ahead…

  • Finley sees Harlan and Juliette kissing. Juliette had a boyfriend at that point, which was not Harlan. And yet, after this Finley gives him a chance and FALLS IN LOVE with him. HOW? Their relationship felt way too physical for me. She hated that he smothered her opinions. And yet, she loves him?!
  • Her godfather, Oliver’s dad, opens his eyes by the end, and makes sure that Fin is happy and has everything she needs. And yet, for 2 years she was treated horribly. She only had hand-me-down clothes, she didn’t have a proper phone, she sacrificed all her time to do whatever they wanted. And this might have not been so bad, if not for the fact that they were filthy rich, and he made sure he told her how “lucky” she was for what they gave her.
  • Tate, Oliver’s older brother, technically likes and treats Finley like family. But has no problems waking her up drunk at 4 am, so she can pack for him. Or almost kiss her at some point. Those things are not addressed, especially the fact that he was always hitting on her and making his moves.
  • By the end of the book, I still wasn’t sure if Harlan was just that stupid, or if the author didn’t know the difference between Portuguese and Spanish…
  • Harlan blames the fact that he cheated on Finley on… FINLEY! Yep, his excuse was that it was her fault because she wasn’t there. Her thoughts?! “He might have a point”… WTF?!
  • I had a tough time buying the whole thing about Finley’s past. Liam, her older brother, was almost 18 by the time their dad passed away, and I found it kind of unbelievable that he would let their mom abuse her like that and not say something before. The whole story would have made much more sense to me if she was an only child.
  • Oliver offers the spot of someone working hard and proving themselves to go on a mission with him, to his girlfriend Emma, who had no interest in the work whatsoever. That felt so cheap and wrong for me.

Overall I really disliked this book. The writing was great though, and it was the only reason I kept reading it. That and the fact that Cátia wasn’t allowing me to give up on it. So, it was not my thing at all, and I honestly don’t understand all the raving reviews, but hey, to each its own…