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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Gracious Living Without Servants by Brenda Cronin

Gracious Living Without Servants  by Brenda Cronin
Published by Stoneslide Books ISBN 9780985233839
Trade paperback, $14.95, 376 pages

We meet Julia, a thirty-year-old widow who has spent the past six months living back with her parents in New Haven grieving her lost husband. Her parents think it would be good for her to get out, see people, and think about what she will do next.

What she does next is begin an affair with Seth, her parents' sixty-five-year old neighbor, a law professor married to a wealthy heiress. I confess that I found this puzzling. Was Julia looking for security after her world was turned upside down? Was she just looking for a fling?

As the story progresses, we see that Seth and Julia seem to be falling in love. Julia wonders about a future with Seth, and he seems very smitten with her, unlike other women with whom he has had affairs. They meet in his office, have assignations at a local run-down hotel, and Seth makes elaborate preparations with food, wine and flowers.

Seth's wife Naomi arranges for Julia to interview for a job at a local arts newspaper. She runs a foundation that annually bestows a prestigious dance award. She also teaches dance locally, and many of the winners of the foundation's award were her students.

Julia gets the newspaper job, and starts out compiling events calendars. Naomi pushes Julia to write a story about her and the prestigious awards, and when Julia gets the assignment to write the story, it is not the fawning puff piece Naomi hopes for, but an investigative piece about financial irregularities at the foundation.

While investigating the financial irregularities, Julia meets with someone who has more damning information about Naomi and an improper relationship she had in the past. Julia continues to delve further, without telling Seth what she has uncovered.

And this is where I have an issue. Julia is a thirty-year-old woman, not a young girl starting out, and she should know better about conflict of interest. She is writing a story about the wife of a man she is sleeping with and she doesn't seem to ever question her own ethics.

At the very least she should tell her editor she has a conflict. She wouldn't need to get into the specifics, but she is jeopardizing any career she thinks she may have if the truth comes out. I don't think the author (who is a journalist herself) hit on this hard enough; there should have been more about how Julia's ethics were compromised.

The story is interesting, and the author gives us an insider's look at a small newspaper. Julia is a smart woman who makes bad choices, and seems to be a little out of touch with the reality of her situation.  The fact that she thinks she could get a job at a bigger newspaper and keep Seth shows her complete lack of  understanding the consequences of her actions.

I would have liked this novel better if Julia was more contemplative, but maybe after the last six months of her isolation and grief, this made her feel alive, and perhaps that is what the author intended all along.

rating 3.5 of 5

You can read the first chapter of Gracious Living Without Servants here.

Thanks to TLC Tours for including me on this tour. The rest of Brenda Cronin's tour is here.

Brenda’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, October 15th: bookchickdi
Tuesday, October 22nd: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Wednesday, October 23rd: Bibliotica
Monday, October 28th: Book-alicious Mama
Wednesday, October 30th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Thursday, October 31st: A Simple Life, Really?
Tuesday, November 5th: Anita Loves Books
Thursday, November 7th: Brooklyn Berry Designs
Monday, November 11th: Amy’s Book-et List
Tuesday, November 12th: A Book Geek
Thursday, November 14th: Obsessed Italian Brat


  1. Humm. Not quite sure this would be a good match for me. I think I would end up wanting to shake her for her poor choices.

  2. I can't even begin to imagine how I'd react if I lost my husband. Hopefully not like Julia, but I guess you never know until you're actually in it ...

    Thanks for being on the tour!