I wanted to love Olivia Twist. The synapsis sounded right up my alley. A gender-bending variation on the Oliver Twist story. Plucky heroine in Victorian London disguising herself as a boy to save her orphan friends while falling in love with a familiar face from her past. Unfortunately, I found that the story was too much romance and not enough plot.
Olivia Brownlow is the female version of the Oliver Twist character. Born in a workhouse, she’s grown up disguised as a boy for her own safety, picking pockets in order to survive. When she’s finally caught, she discovers she has more family than she knew. Her uncle takes her in, cleans her up, and presents her to society where she’s all set to marry a friendly, but misguided and boring man to provide for her ailing uncle. However, she still steals and dresses as a boy, sneaking out of the house at night to take care of homeless orphan boys.
During her adventures, Olivia runs into the boy who protected her on the streets, also a new member of polite society. What is he up to? Can he help her stand up to her criminal bully of a brother who wants her dead? And can she resist his charms and stay true to the man who offers her family financial stability?
The story sounds exciting, but it moves slowly. The plot doesn’t even begin to thicken until about halfway through when the villain is introduced. The first half just focuses on Olivia meeting Dodger and taking care of the boys. The brooding romance is a little over the top and takes over the entire plot. Constantly agonizing over each other and denying their feelings despite the obvious attraction. Even once the plot moves on with a bit of intrigue, the romance is heavy-handed and overdone.
Don’t get me wrong, I do read romance novels, but the love story felt a bit generic and predictable. I wanted more excitement. I wanted to be wowed. Instead, I found myself bored and setting it down for long periods of time. Once it hit the halfway mark, it picked up a bit, but it wasn’t quite enough to save the story for me.
2.75 out of 5 stars
(The Barnes and Noble site was down when I wrote this. I’ll try to remember to add their link above when it comes back up.)