I’ve only had a handful of reviews for my dozen books published to date (since I’m terrible at marketing and self-promotion), so imagine my shock to see a 1-star review of And Aleksey Lived at Goodreads recently. This reviewer didn’t just fail to click with my story, she went on a long, rambling, vitriolic rant full of personal attacks, including several updates she made while reading. She assigned all these bizarre motivations to me, and even called me a shameless murder apologist.
I totally understand that not everyone will like all of our characters or books. Some people in my writing groups have really been rubbed the wrong way by feisty Cinnimin, but everyone else who’s ever met her over the years has loved her and thought she’s an awesome character.
But there’s a huge difference between not being a book’s target audience and going on a rant that’s thousands of words long, where you constantly speak for the author’s beliefs and motivations.
This person has only reviewed a few books at Goodreads, and they’re all Romanov books, which she also hates. God forbid anyone imagine a radically different alternative historical scenario than they would! If it angers them so much, they should write their own books.
Mine is the third book she’s read that matches Aleksey with an older woman, which just makes her apoplectic. Is it that unthinkable that a grown man would fall in love with an older woman? I had absolutely zero political or feminist motivations for making Arkadiya seven years older and morganatic. I explicitly explained my reasons in “The Story Behind the Story.”
This person didn’t understand why I couldn’t marry him to an equally-ranked princess close to his own age, like Princess Astrid of Sweden. If you love that match so much, you can write a story where it happens! Writers have the right to choose the direction they take their own stories in, you know.
I wanted one major fictional character instead of only working with real-life people. Absolutely bizarre how this reviewer thinks Arkadiya is unrealistically perfect and a self-insert, and that Aleksey only changes his mind about avoiding marriage because of “magic vagina.” Since when?!
She takes issue with how Aleksey doesn’t like his sisters and grandmother still calling him Sunbeam and Baby even into adulthood. He never lashes out at them in rage when he asks not to be called by his baby nicknames! It’s hardly unusual for people to reject a childish nickname as they get older.
And since when are Aleksey and his sisters ever disrespectful of their late parents? They say multiple times that they’ll always love and miss their parents, despite coming to realize what a mess they made of the Russian Empire and how it wasn’t healthy to be kept so cloistered and babied their entire lives.
I also stand by my decision to keep Nicholas and Aleksandra murdered. That was what the story needed.
She hates my dialogue and character development, and thinks relevant dialogue about Aleksey’s past is too much telling. Odd how everyone who read excerpts on my blog over all the years I wrote this book, and the people in my writing group back in Albany, had the exact opposite reaction. I’m not some 12-year-old writing fanfiction!
I’ve always been extremely honest about how emotionally difficult it was to write this book when I couldn’t stop thinking about how Aleksey and his sisters were murdered in real life, never had these happy endings. That necessarily gave some of it a more distant POV, and my old-fashioned writing style was more pronounced.
She thinks it’s inexcusable how Aleksey “lets” his uncle and Regent Grand Duke Mikhail continue his pogroms and martial law resulting in thousands upon thousands of deaths and untold suffering, instead of taking power and ending it all. BUT…
The core conflict of Part II is Aleksey feeling insecure about his inexperience, and wanting to learn these skills by studying at the Sorbonne, living independently in Paris, and having an apprenticeship with Mikhail when he returns home. Without that, there’s no compelling storyline!
Of course Aleksey’s sisters don’t rush to hug him when he’s confessing his irrational grudge against them for not comforting him when they were in front of the firing squad. He’s lying in bed with a serious injury and can’t exactly move around at ease!
And speaking of the firing squad and captivity, that changed the five of them forever. They couldn’t just go back to their old lives as though nothing happened. Since Aleksey was only thirteen, his brain was much more malleable and open to a radically different way of doing things.
I also CHOSE not to feature Aleksey’s sisters very heavily once they’re married because the story isn’t about them, and they’re already so overrepresented in Romanov fiction.
She thinks I’m an evil, shameless murder apologist who believes murder is okay as long as you’re a leftist. When the HELL did I ever even remotely imply such a vile thing! Just because some of the leading Bolsheviks are genuinely rehabilitated in prison, pardoned, and given high-ranking positions in Aleksey’s new government? Redemption is a thing, you know!
Stalin is never released, since he’s mentally unwell and too much of a security risk.
There would have been NO interesting story if Nicholas and Aleksandra had been rescued as well and Aleksey had continued with the 18th century arch-conservative policies and rigid House Laws that caused so much trouble before.
The entire book is also leading up to Part IV, when Aleksey saves nine million Jews from the Nazis in the greatest act of his life. It would just be a generic WWII story otherwise.
My story, my rules!
5 thoughts on “I got a bizarre, defamatory 1-star review!”
Those one-star reviews are amusing, aren’t they? You’re right, she should write her own book.
So sorry, Carrie. That’s bound to happen at some point if your book is being read by many people. I’m sure there are good reviews that balance that ONE out.
One star reviews happen… Really, I think you’re giving this person far too much attention and credence… They’re feeding off your discomfort and the fact that they were able to rile you up. Step away from it (at most say “I’m sorry if my book was not for you”… at MOST say that).
Because no book, no author can please all people. Indeed, some people simply cannot be placated by anything… they thrive on creating hurt feelings. Don’t feed their frenzy.
It’s not that it’s a one-star review, but the fact that it was full of personal attacks and libelled me as an evil murder apologist. That goes far beyond not clicking with a book or disagreeing with every single plotting and character decision a writer made. I won’t be responding to her review, since it’s so unhinged and doesn’t even discuss the actual story as it is.
I realize that… I just hate seeing you get so upset because of some meanspirited … person. You are caring, obsessively conscientious, curious, creative… and you don’t deserve to be tormented by this nonsense.
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