The Threat Level Remains Severe by Rowena MacDonald

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The Threat Level Remains Severe by Rowena MacDonald

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: James Donald
Reviewed by James Donald
Summary: An entertaining book that suffers from borderline multiple personality disorder.
Buy? No Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 352 Date: July 2017
Publisher: Aardvark Bureau
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1910709153

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Grace Ambrose isn't Brigitte Jones, honest; for one thing she doesn't keep a diary. Grace is our typical misogynistic Hollywood stereotype supporting female character. She is the secretly hot chick who will suddenly take off their glasses, shake out their hair and reveal themselves to have been beautiful all along. We follow Grace and her romantic adventures (and misadventures) over three years of her life at the House of Commons.

I'll be blunt: I did not enjoy this book. I am not 100% sure why this is so I'm going to tread carefully and dissect it a bit. I am going to try to avoid spoilers but it will not be easy due to the nature of this work.

Genre – Immediately I run into issues… Romance is the most obvious category but there are spoiler-filled reasons why this work does not fit into this genre. Thriller is another possibility but only at times. Political? The House of Commons is a setting and a character in its own right but this is not a political work. Being completely objective you could say that this is a romance novel that cleverly subverts the expected tropes to produce unexpected twists and turns. The author uses the Third Person Point of View style (popularised by George R. R. Martin) to great effect to achieve the goals of confusion and subversion.

If this was the goal of the author then they succeeded incredibly. If it wasn't then I am not sure what they were trying to achieve.

…okay, back to careful dissection.

As well as Grace's painfully old-fashioned transformation (she changes her dress-sense, starts to keep fit and becomes more ambitious at work (…just as Brett said she should) we have two other characters who undergo major changes (too spoiler-rich to discuss). Both of these are handled with about as much tact and care as Grace's.

Every character in this book is a stereotype but I am the first to state that this is not necessarily a bad thing. Stereotypes are exist for a reason, the trick is to use them well. MacDonald does use them well, that is not my issue. My issue, I guess, is that I just did not like the stereotypes that were picked.

The first act of this book plays out in a very normal Mills and Boon fashion. Nothing unexpected happens. We have a rose that will blossom with two suitors. One suitor loves her as she is but he is mysterious and remote. The other suitor is immediate but hated by her and they gradually grow on each other. Act two is not the same book. Rowena MacDonald pulls off a fantastic bait and switch followed by a gear change that completely threw me. I detested this at the time and I found this whole second act utterly repulsive (and this is from a fan of American Psycho). This contributed to my negative feelings towards the book but in retrospect I have to admit that if art is supposed to produce an emotional reaction that this act was true art; after all it does not have to be a positive reaction.

To move me as greatly as this work did is an act of genius. I can appreciate a good bit of writing even if I don't enjoy it.

I really, really want to discuss this book fully with someone. I really want to take it to pieces exposing the spoilers. I want to debate the issues raised by it and whether aspects of it are sexist or just represent post-modern feminism. Without this level of detail to my review I am unfortunately left with a hobbled review. Without spoiling it any more I am left to summarise this as a book I disliked, with characters that did not appeal to me and a plot that was unexpectedly interesting.

Well written (stylistically and narratively). Interesting in places. Not for me.

Further reading Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy by Helen Fielding.

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Buy The Threat Level Remains Severe by Rowena MacDonald at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Threat Level Remains Severe by Rowena MacDonald at


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