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Review: Hidden Treasures by Michelle Adams

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By Simon Demetriou

 The best that can be said about Hidden Treasures, the latest offering from Limassol-based author Michelle Adams, is that it has the makings of a successful Hallmark Channel movie. By the same token, the worst that can be said about Hidden Treasures is that it has the makings of a successful Hallmark movie channel.

If you’ve ever seen a Hallmark movie, you’ll know that things don’t really need to make much sense. There needs to be a couple that have to overcome some kind of impediment; a location that represents rustic quaintness and freedom, set against one that represents the worldly constraints of the everyday; at least one – more or less predictable – twist that places the happy ending in jeopardy; and a happy ending in which some sentimental platitude proves to be true.

Hidden Treasures has all of these. The couple are Harry and Tabitha, apart for a decade due to Harry’s decision to care for the manic depressive, hoarding mother who mysteriously abandoned him as a boy. The impediments are a lack of communication surrounding past and present secrets, personal traumas, and the inability to express emotions. The fairytale land of liberty is France – a France of medieval villages where everyone is either an artist, a model or an antiques dealer, and where the diet consists entirely of croissants and cassoulet. I won’t give the twists away, but they’re there. And the happy ending teaches us that to love someone, you need to let them go; that we are all worth more to others than we think (there’s a muted It’s a Wonderful Life moment); and that love conquers all.

The problem is that in the same way that I would be able to buy into a Hallmark movie, no matter how formulaic or corny the plot, if the bad acting didn’t keep pushing me out of the story, it is very hard to suspend disbelief and immerse yourself in the events of Hidden Treasures because the writing does the story no favours. Much as I might want to cheer for Harry and Tabitha, I just can’t when so much of the writing is heavy-handedly tautologous, or when pronouns are muddled, or when phrasal verbs are oddly misused.

I’m the first to admit that I am not this novel’s target demographic. Just as I am not the Hallmark Channel’s ideal viewer. And I think it’s terrific that a local writer is being published by a major house and seeing their work gain international success. But a major publishing house needs to employ better editors and proof-readers who are up to the job, because with better editorial support, Hidden Treasures could have much broader appeal.

 

 

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