I’m so conflicted when it comes to Moonglow that it’s taken me the better part of a week to write a review that balances all the emotions involved, and explains my personal take on the novel.
First of all, I have to be brutally honest – as much as I love a good romance, I have very little patience for soap operas. I’ll gladly watch old Beauty and the Beast or Lois and Clark reruns until I have every line of dialogue memorised (which I do!), but shows like Melrose Place, 90210, or even The L Word just make me grit my teeth and reach for the remote.
Oh, and don’t even get me started on (so-called) reality shows like The Bachelorette!
What we have here, with Moonglow, is very much a literary soap opera. If you’re a fan of that kind of drama, of the betrayals, back-stabbings, and bitchiness, you’ll likely quite enjoy this. Personally, I found it all a bit too much, especially with the drug and alcohol abuse. Ultimately, the soap opera elements became an unwelcome distraction from the love-story at its heart, although I will say the drug and alcohol abuse is never glorified, and is somewhat (if not altogether) redeemed in the end.
That brings me to my favourite part of the story, the love affair between Shell and Rena. That was beautifully handled, and came across as entirely realistic. All of the tension, awkwardness, and questioning you might expect of a relationship that could be considered inappropriate (in addition to being twice her age, Shell is also Rena’s boss), is played out honestly upon the page. When they’re, they are an amazing couple, and when they’re apart . . . well, you know (or, at least, hope) there’s a good make-up session coming soon. Their challenges are not at all out of place, given their personalities and histories, and even if their decisions frustrated me sometimes, they were never out-of-place.
Although it’s largely to blame for most of the soap opera elements, I must say I loved being immersed in the colours and the fashions of the modelling world. From backstage to the catwalk, it’s all here, with the same kind of frantic pacing and breathless manoeuvring you would expect. These girls come across so well, you have to wonder what kind of exposure Charlie has had himself to the modelling world.
As for the sci-fi element, I found some of the fashionista technologies lovely to behold, but I had hoped for more. I sense there’s a much more detailed world waiting off the page, fully imagined and ready to be explored . . . I just don’t think it was exploited to the depth that it could have been. It does allow the story to focus exclusively on the beautiful people, without having to worry about day-to-day concerns, but that could just as easily have been handled in a contemporary world.
Setting the story in the future does allow for the celebration of a society that’s far more sexually open than ours, making the openly lesbian love triangles more titillating than scandalous, but I bristled a bit at the implication that bisexual women aren’t real lesbians. It’s kind of like two steps forward, one step back, for LGBT openness, but I still appreciate the effort in exploring a story that takes lesbian love for granted, and wastes no effort in hiding, disguising, or otherwise justifying it.
Finally, I must a few words about the storytelling or the writing quality itself. This is a very descriptive book, with a lot of physical/emotional/psychological detail provided with each character introduction. As a girl who loves epic fantasy novels, I have no problem with that level of detail. In fact, as a girl who is very much in love with the idea of beauty, I quite appreciated it. I did find the story a little light on dialogue, which probably slowed the pace a bit, and which makes the descriptiveness a bit more pronounced, but that’s a minor quibble.
So, with all that said, how do I feel about Moonglow? I liked it, and I suspect I could have loved it, but the balance between soap opera drama and love story romance was a little too one-sided for me. It’s still a remarkable novel, and one that I think would appeal to a wide range of readers, so please don’t let my soap opera disdain turn you away. It’s well worth a read, and I am still very curious to see where Charlie might take us next.