Book Review: I'll Sing for my Dinner by BR Kingsolver

I'll Sing for my Dinner by BR Kingsolver
I'll Sing for my Dinner by BR Kingsolver

About the book:

When Cecily Buchanan walks into the Roadhouse Bar and Grill and offers to sing for a meal, ex Marine Jake McGarrity can't say no. Some say Jake is too soft hearted for his own good. But letting the waif with the cover girl face and the voice of an angel walk away would be more than he could stand.

Cecily's sweet nature, bubbly personality and obvious talent endear her to everyone she meets, and Jake soon knows his heart is lost.

Cecily has secrets and won't talk about her past, one so dark that she has nightmares and clutches a knife while she sleeps.

When those who are chasing her close in, she faces the decision of whether to run again or to trust her life to the cowboy angel who has taught her the meaning of love.

“Shocking, but oh, so sweet.”

Author's note: This book includes content about past rape and abuse.

Meh. Not necessarily my cup of tea, but I can surely see how others could give it 4 or 5 stars.

There were several things about this novel I loved.

First off, Cecily had some real zingers. Some of my favorites:

When she talks to a friendly, unnamed stray cat: “Well, there’s no shame in being a slut. That’s just a label foolish men and dried-up old ladies use for friendly girls. You and I will get along fine.”

When she’s talking to Jake about her experiences: “Everyone talks about Christian charity, but there aren’t very many people who practice it. I’m more used to people calling me names when I’m standing on the side of the road than having them give me a ride.”

After she and her trusty violin are released from jail: “There isn’t an instrument better for conveying emotions than the violin. I’ve been playing funeral dirges almost non-stop for three days straight.”

Talking with Jake: “Yes. Poor little Cecily, her spirit broken. I’ll probably start drinking and die of cirrhosis before I’m thirty. It will be a tragedy of cosmic proportions.”

Talking with Jake about his brother: “You’re a lot more than your looks, but sometimes I’m not sure if Jared is.”

I also liked Jake. Not loved, just liked. He seemed genuine enough and the character building was there, but there wasn’t anything in particular about him that reached out and grabbed me.

There was also quite a bit that I questioned.

Cecily goes out riding horses with Jake: “Now I understand why girls like horses so much.” She leaned down and patted Maggie’s neck. “I never expected that I’d get my first orgasm at the Top Hat Ranch from another girl.”

Uh, what? I’m 99.9% sure the author has never ridden a horse a day in her life because if she had, she’d know how difficult it really is. Among those of us in the industry who do this stuff professionally, this is the biggest lie out there. Just because the pelvic movements mimic sex doesn’t mean the act of riding a horse is sexual in any way.

Beginners, when they first start riding, instinctively grip with their calves and feet first, which leads to erratic, often painful bouncing around in the saddle. To properly sit the trot, to get enough clitoral stimulation from the saddle, Cecily would have needed several years’ experience under her belt because it takes an unbelievable amount of inner thigh and core muscle strength (among all the peripherals) to achieve this.

I’ve been riding and competing heavily for the better part of 20 years, as well as training with some of the industry’s elite, and trust me when I say we all laugh at the idiocy of statements like this. It took every ounce of willpower I had not to DNF right here. (Besides, bouncing in a western saddle is acutely painful, especially if Jake’s saddles were traditional western ones with unpadded leather seats. Honestly, it would be more akin to getting kicked repeatedly by someone wearing steel toe boots than having sex.)

Thanks, BR, for fetishizing the industry and demeaning me as a woman and a professional.

The insta-love was kinda shocking. Instant physical attraction I understand. Instant infatuation, even. But I haven’t read insta-love quite like this before, and yowza.

That said, as the story went on, I began to understand the insta-love angle from Cecily’s POV. (Jake’s is still a mystery to me.) The further along the story got, and the further into their relationship the author delved, the more I began to feel their connection. There weren’t any heart-rending, “Omg I totally feel his/her pain!” moments, but I wasn’t hit with the mentions of their ache out of the blue, nor did they feel forced the way they had at the beginning.

Honestly, the relationship between Jake & Cecily could’ve been handled a lot of different ways. It’s obvious that Cecily’s been used & abused by men before & just wants a man to treat her properly for once in her life.

That said, I knew a couple of girls who were abused. They didn’t go blurting out “I love you” like it was “Hello.” They were guarded and bearing their feelings was more like pulling teeth than tossing candy from a July 4th parade float. I know the author had to move things along because the book covers a bit more than a year timeline wise, but I still felt like the relationship was forced early on.

The whole thing felt very “tell” rather than “show” and that threw me off the most. I felt like I was listening to someone else tell Jake’s & Cecily’s story, rather than experiencing it with them.

For some reason, the author kept glossing over what I felt would be some of the best parts of the story. The act of Cecily falling for Jake, Cecily’s reaction to being offered a gig, all the times Cecily revealed bits about her past. The potential issues surrounding Cecily moving into Jake’s sister’s room, him seeing parallels between Cecily & his sister, & then Cecily convincing them to clean her stuff out. Cecily’s hearing. (I really would have liked to have “seen” her do all the badass things the author glossed over in 2 sentences.) Or how about her former agent showing up and threatening to sue? That one could have been so good!

The sheer amount of on the nose dialog left no room for subtext, which could have been turned up to 10 with the premise the author used.

There was a strong imbalance between dialog and internal monologue, as well. Personally, I like a 50/50 mixture, and this was more like 80/20. Possibly 90/10.

Also, why does the author go back and forth between spellings of Cecily’s name? Is it Cecily or Cicely? Was this on purpose, since it’s mostly in Jake’s POV that Cecily’s name is misspelled?

All that said, I feel like I really got the author’s intent behind this story. It glosses over the scary bits and focuses on more of the bland, “fluffy” stuff. If I had to guess, I’d say she did all of it on purpose. The potential for triggering scenes was astronomical, but she avoided them, probably as a favor to those who can relate to Cecily and the terror she experienced.

When I requested a copy to read, B.R. sent everyone that requested it in my group a message stating that some parts could be difficult for anyone who had similar experiences. Even though I haven’t, I can certainly understand why her warning was necessary, and I’m grateful she added it.

My rating: 3/5

In all honesty, I probably won’t read this book again, but I don’t think I’m really her target audience. That said, if I ever meet someone who’s been in Cecily’s shoes and who trusts me enough to tell me about what they experienced, I’m buying them a copy of this.

Oh, and be sure to read to the end.