Book Review of Lyovitalis, by Julie Kirtón Chandler

I’m still on vacation. I’m currently sitting on the patio of Casa Escondida in Chimayo, New Mexico writing under a double rainbow.  Life is good.

Rainbows over Casa Escondida

Unfortunately, the book I’m here to review wasn’t. As this is a road trip and I’m not driving, I’ve gotten lots of reading done. But this one still took almost 3 days to finish. It just didn’t particularly hold my interest.


Author, Julie Kirtón Chandler sent me an e-copy of Lyovitalis for review.

Description from Goodreads:
Set during the early days of World War I, Lyovitalis follows the journey of the young and spirited doctor, Audrianna Foster, as she travels to Switzerland to continue the research of her recently-deceased father. Her object is to find a cure to the mysteriously fatal disease called lyovitalis, which not only killed her mother, but also a slew of young women in the idyllic town of snowy Zurich—where Audrianna comes to reside. In Zurich, Audrianna falls into the treacherously seductive company of Lorna and her regal family, the von Traugotts. Racked by incipient sexual desire for the salacious Lorna and a near-obsessive drive to uncover the seeming conspiracy around lyovitalis, Audrianna’s quest unfolds within the riveting pages of a medical mystery of the highest order. As Audrianna delves deeper into the science of lyovitalis, she is forced to dive deeper into herself—her desires, emotions, and insecurities—and what she discovers on the other side will change her life (and her universe) forever.

Nope, nope, nope, nope. When I was asked to read this book it was presented to me as F/F romance. I object to this classification. In fact, I don’t even consider it a romance, but I especially don’t consider it F/F romance. Sure, two girls kiss, but that’s not enough of a qualifier for me. Which leaves me questioning what genre it is. The answer is I don’t know. I think the author was aiming for romance, but just failed to actually accomplish it. These characters don’t even like each other.

Add to this a profound dislike on my part for every character, an irritation with the excessively formal dialogue and narrative style, an overuse of names, an odd need for everyone to scream, yell, or shout, instead of say thing and an even stranger number of things that secrete (like emotions) and you have a guaranteed failure for me.

What’s more, the book walked an awful close line to didacticism when it discussed the necessity of letting go of negative emotions. This came in the context of hinting what some of the characters were, but this really wasn’t ever explained satisfactorily for me. It was explained, but I found it offhand and incomplete.

The tragedy seemed pointless and it seemed like the ultimate villain was defeated too easily, if he was actually defeated. That’s never really cleared up. And lastly, but maybe most importantly, none of Audrianna’s emotions are believable. She never asks pertinent questions, accepts the unacceptable with ease and never reacts in a way that makes sense — swinging from defiant to weepy to angry to sad to embarrassed to gallant in an instant and without any apparent impetus for the change in her emotional landscape.

Now, maybe this is a style thing. Maybe other readers will enjoy what I didn’t. Other than feeling stiff, using names in dialogue too often, and some anachronisms the writing is pretty good and the editing is pretty clean. So, I wouldn’t discourage others from reading it. It just wasn’t a winner for me.

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