Susan’s Review: Special Angel by Nancy Loyan

Posted: May 26, 2014 in Reviews
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It wasn’t that long ago that I was all excited about Nancy Loyan’s Special Angel. And then I went and got all excited again when Ms. Loyan was kind enough to send me an ARC copy to review.

I sat down with the highest expectations … and was crushed when they weren’t met.

Here’s the thing: the plot’s really cool. We have a woman who is discovered as a young child. She’s a Jackie Evancho, except she’s an orphan, found in the woods in the French countryside and raised by nuns who think she is an angel, a gift from God. With a voice like hers, perhaps she is. During a public appearance, she is spied by a couple of scheisters who decide to adopt Angelique and exploit the holy hell out of her.

Right here, I began to have issues with the plot. Why didn’t the nuns vet this couple at all, let alone more carefully? Was Angelique up for adoption even before the Davidsons asked for her? How were they circulating the word about their angel, if so? Are these public concerts less of a sharing of Angelique’s precious gift than a way of marketing her to the best adoptive parents?

But none of this happens. In a scene famous throughout fiction, Angelique is called into the office and told she’s going to be the child of these total strangers no one has met before. And, of course, the family turns out to be abusive.

This was the part of the book I was most looking forward to. From the book’s description, these were going to be the best villains this side of famous Broadway shows. And… we were told more than we were shown. Told about isolation, about tranquilizers (and why didn’t Angelique ever go through withdrawal or become addicted?), about abuse. But Angelique never shows any behavior consistent with an abused child. She doesn’t fight back, she doesn’t go submissive… nothing. Not even Stockholm Syndrome. Yet we’re told she’s aware she’s being abused. Why does she take it so meekly? It’s never explained to satisfaction. And so, it doesn’t ring true.

After she turns 18, the point at which she’d be a legal adult and free of the servitude the Davidsons hold her in, she’s not. We’re told repeatedly that she’s still their ward. Again, makes no sense that I can see, and I began to be a bit angry. Details were dragging down a good concept.

Except it was more than details. Go back a few paragraphs, where I say we are told more than shown. This is an ongoing problem through the book, and what a shame. Loyan has great characters in Angelique and Brian. I genuinely wanted to know them, wanted to see them, wanted to understand. I wanted them to live and breathe.

But even Brian’s complicity in Angelique’s escape has holes in it. As does the eventual fallout – how am I supposed to buy that she lives for three months in a lighthouse with no food, water, or toilet facilities? And, again, there’s no after effects, no negative repercussions.

It’s a shame. Good plot. Intriguing characters. The potential was there.

And I am one sad reader.

One last note: I know this was an ARC copy, which means Advance – which means the book will go through one final proofread before it is published. But holy smoke, the typos. Problems with she and he. Peek and Peak. These are basic mistakes, and when I take a step back and look at the project as a whole, I think that Ms. Loyan was let down by her publisher. A good editor would have pulled more of the story out of the book. And caught the typos. A better editor would have helped this realize its potential. And a great editor would have turned this into the home run it deserved to be.

I feel like a heel for not liking a book provided by the author. But I’d feel like a bigger heel if I sold out, raved about it, and damaged an awful lot of credibility for everyone involved.

In an ideal world, Ms. Loyan would get the rights to her book returned to her and she’d find a better support team. I’m telling you, the bones of this one are there. They really are.

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