Sunday, January 1, 2017

Amazon Book Review of Susanne O'Leary in Selling Dreams drew ire

LOL, one of my Amazon reviews ruffled an author's feathers. Usually no one ever reads my reviews, so I guess I'm thrilled. Sorta. It garnered me a negative vote from the author, though my review was positive, overall. My original review is posted at the bottom. I think I might have gotten a beta reader job offer from it all!
Suzy says: I am the author. Thank you for taking the time and trouble to read and review my books. Please e-mail me at: contact(at) for further discussions. I feel you make assumptions without knowing my background. I would be interested to know about YOUR expertise in what you call 'Hiberno-English.'

I would've been fine with the first part of her comment. But the gauntlet was thrown down with the use of "YOUR." Apparently I ticked her off. So I wrote back:

Dear Susanne,

I take it that you objected to my review comment:

"I've been following Susanne O'Leary since I stumbled upon Hot Property, set in Ireland. There, the Swedish-born author attempted to capture the Irish-English voice, but her dialogue was often flat, as Hiberno-English is, in essence, O'Leary's third language."

Then I went on to say:
"O'Leary does a far better job of capturing dialogue in her French Riviera Romance series. She seems more comfortable with portraying the south of France, than Ireland." 
And I gave Selling Dreams a solid four-star rating.

How is this a judgmental and unfair assumption? Your storyline is superb, you develop interesting characters. However, your sentence structure, and renditions of idioms are sometimes challenging. I didn't flag them all in Selling Dreams, but I will be sure to make notations in the subsequent books in the series, as it seems you question my observation skills as a reader.

I admire Nabakov, who chose to write novels in English, his third language. But it is difficult to write prose (and almost impossible to write poetry) in a non-native language. And Hiberno-English is in a unique class of its own.

Your Kerry series did not grasp the nuance of language or the music of Kerry, or Dublin English. Some characters, who were supposed to be Irish, sounded too perfunctory on the page. I also noted that when you introduced a French character in your Kerry series, that her dialogue rang true. The same is true for the Dream series. You seem more at home with the language and locale.

From your bio:
"I was born in Sweden.... I have lived all over the world, and finally landed in County Tipperary, Ireland in 2002. I started my writing career.... My globetrotting life has provided me with the settings and characters of my novels, mainly set in France, where I lived for four years, and Ireland, where I live now....We ... bought a holiday cottage on the Dingle peninsula in County Kerry on the west coast of Ireland. I was so inspired by the beautiful landscape and the people there, that I wrote three novels in quick succession, in what would become The Kerry Romance Series...
The French Riviera, where we have spent many enjoyable holidays, is another place to which I like to take my readers.... Selling Dreams, was published in December 2014."

And I found this author interview:
"I'm the Swedish-born, Irish-married author of more than twenty novels, mainly in the romantic fiction genre..... I have been the wife of a diplomat (still am), a fitness teacher and a translator.... Being Swedish, I love a real winter with snow and ice....  I went to a French school in Stockholm, so France has always been part of my growing-up years. This gave me fluent French and a love of that country."

and this:
"My latest book was inspired by my own feelings of confusion about my identity and my roots (being Swedish but living in Ireland)."

From the passages quoted above it is safe to assume that English is not your first language. Or your second language. Perhaps it is French? The Hiberno-English dialect, is certainly your third, or fourth "language."

Some Amazon review quotes on Selling Dreams:
"There is no plot and the storyline is all over the place. Very disappointing."

"I didn't have to read any farther than Ms. O'Leary's disparaging remarks about real estate agents telling lies and covering up problems to know this wasn't for me. Since I'm a real estate agent of 32 years I take umbrage with her silly, misleading and just plain wrong remarks."

"A slightly believable story easy to read but I still found it hard to believe."

"the story itself is a bit too loosely tied. The characters - particularly the major protagonist - do and say things that have me rolling my eyes too often. It just doesn't make sense that someone who has managed a Real Estate Agency for any length of time, would do or say such ridiculous things. It's the bones of the story, but it doesn't hold it up. Ditto for the other players. Everyone is placed for their part, but not always in a natural or believable way. "
"Well written however the many mistakes with extra words made me crazy. Are we reading unedited versions or are the proof readers asleep. I wish I had my blue pencil that I could make the corrections."

Just out of curiosity, Susanne, did you also take those Amazon reviewers to task, challenge their credentials?

As a reader, or Amazon reviewer, I do not need to defend my literary background, but suffice to say, I am well versed in the vagaries of language. Four stars is a stellar rating. In good faith, I could not give Selling Dreams a five-star rating as there were too many errors. And mixing up one character for another (Flora/Daisy), is sloppy writing (in any language) that a good editor should have caught. It was never my intent to hurt your feelings, and for that I do apologize.

Athbhliain faoi mhaise duit!

Nice website BTW.

Suzy says:

Gosh, I didn't mean to question your reviews.I think you're terrific to take such interest in my work! It was only your comments about my knowledge of Irish English that rankled. I have been married to an Irishman most of my adult life. English is certainly not my third language, but I believe by now my first. I could never write these books either in Swedish or French, even though I speak those languages fluently My children are Irish, as most of my friends.My Irish readers have mostly commented positively on my Irish books,and our Kerry neighbours have told me I got Kerry 'spot-on.' Equally, my Tipperary readers. Also, I found it difficult to place my novels with English publishers, as they said my English was 'too Irish.'

My characters speak the way I hear people around me, with, yes,an accent but with a reasonably educated vocabulary. I didn't want to make it too colloquial, as that would be hard to understand by many readers around the world.

But, sure 'tis all in the eye of the beholder, to be sure, to be sure... (sorry, couldn't resist a little joke).

To finish, yes I have Swedish roots but the top of the plant has Irish blooms. I love Ireland and I do believe my stories are true to my adopted country.

Happy New Year! Many thanks for your interest in my books. ETA, and of course the stars!


P.S My editor for both the Kerry series and the Selling Dream series is English, but I recently hired an American editor , who seems better suited to my writing

MoHurley says:

RE: "I recently hired an American editor, who seems better suited to my writing."

Good on you! Work him hard to the bone.

And yes, I am that kind of pernickity OCD reader, as I have dyslexia so I need to work harder than the average bear.

But I beg to disagree with your readers/editors who say your English was too Irish in the Kerry series. It wasn't over the top. It just didn't always ring true. Your instinct was right to not make it too colloquial. As my Irish teacher would've said, "We'll have none o' that fookin' shamrockery 'round here." But he was from Mullingar, not Dunquin. It begins to ring truer in your Tipperary series.

One's own native language is alway lurking in the background, which is both a blessing and a curse. My favorite Russian malapropism is Invisible lunaticsâ€"from Out of sight, out of mind.

Suzy says:

My daughter-in-law is from Mullingar. Here's a thought, maybe you'd like to beta read my next book? Let me know. Good beta readers are worth gold.

MoHurley says:

LOL! I'll think on it!


Amazon Customer Review

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Two loosely connected stories weave a tapestry of love and hope, December 31, 2016
By MoHurley
This review is from: Selling Dreams (The Riviera Romance Series Book 1) (Kindle Edition)

Selling Dreams is two separate stories loosely connected; the characters are fairly well developed. If you persevere, the two stories will mesh. Upon second reading (in order to review it), I enjoyed it more as I now have a better understanding of the central characters.

Chantal owns a shady real estate agency in Antibes, and Flora left an agency in Ireland to join the team. Chantal disappears from the scene after her husband, suffering from dementia, is hospitalized, leaving Flora to navigate the vagaries of selling real estate in France, with her co-workers, Daisy and Iris.

Meanwhile Chantal is having an affair with a painter, and many of the prospective buyers, and locals of Antibes are willing to offer solace to the girls who are looking for love in all the wrong places.

I've been following Susanne O'Leary since I stumbled upon Hot Property, set in Ireland. There, the Swedish-born author attempted to capture the Irish-English voice, but her dialogue was often flat, as Hiberno-English is, in essence, O'Leary's third language.

O'Leary does a far better job of capturing dialogue in her French Riviera Romance series. She seems more comfortable with portraying the south of France, than Ireland. She does not attempt to imitate French speakers speaking English, or Irish speakers speaking French, TG.

It's not easy to overlook the odd grammar, or the conflation of characters' names: Flora is about to go out, solo, to show a house to a client. "Daisy stiffened. "What? Me?" The problem is that Daisy is still asleep at home. Flora is speaking to Iris.

Chantal, worried about making ends meet, thinks the "money will be a welcome boost to our economy." Economy is the wrong word. Perhaps income?
"They were younger and more clued up." Clued up is a malapropism, reminding me that English is not O'Leary's first language. Perhaps clued-in, or in tune?

I do like the way O'Leary economically recycles her characters introduced at the beginning, in her later episodic novels. If you read them in sequence, the layering and detail really builds and fleshes out the characters, making them memorable figures.

Riviera Romance series:
Selling Dreams
Borrowed Dreams
Forgotten Dreams
Marianne's Christmas

Duty Free is set in Paris, and Villa Caramel is set on the Riviera, but they are from a different, earlier series.

BTW, the first three books in the Irish Romance series, The Kerry Romance Box Set, Hot Property, Hot Gossip, and Hot Pursuit, are free on Kindle right now. The fourth book is Hot Wishes. I enjoyed them, but I liked The Blow-In from the Tipperary series better.

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