~ The Blurb ~
It’s 1961 and Palm Beach socialite, irresistible rascal and devoted father Jack Morgan encounters genuine danger while staging his suicide to shield his beloved daughters from disgrace. Next, meet his daughter Charlotte (Charlie), an over-indulged 23 year-old struggling to cope with the traumatizing loss of her beloved father, her sister’s resulting mental breakdown and the discovery that she’s suddenly penniless. Fortunately Raul, an admiring young attorney, appears to offer assistance. As terrified as she is about daily survival, Charlie soon realizes that she has to learn what drove her father to kill himself. With Raul’s much needed ego-bolstering, the drive of necessity and unforeseen determination, Charlie finds a practical use for her annoyingly lean 5’ 11” frame. In time, this career finances her hard-wrought independence, her sister’s costly treatment and an emotional eye-opening journey to Paris.
Jumping back in time to romantic pre-WWII Paris readers meet young Alan Fitzpatrick – aka Jack Morgan – lack-luster artist, expert lover, irresistible rascal, and the bewitching girl who will become the mother of his children. Not even Charlie’s relentless detective work will uncover all Jack’s secrets, but in a fireworks of surprise endings, she discovers all that she needs to know and more: disturbing truths about her father, hew own unique talent, crimes great and small and a diabolical villain.
~ My Thoughts ~
Exceeding Expectations is part love story, part historical fiction and a whole lot of mystery that will keep you guessing on every page. Who was Jack Morgan and why did he kill himself? This is the question that his daughter Charlie desperately needs to answer, and she will go to any length necessary to put the pieces of this puzzle together. Charlie discovers much more about her father and his sordid past than she ever expected and the journey she takes has the power to alter the course of her own life.
Plot-wise there was a lot going on in this novel. There was the story of Charlie and her growth from sheltered and spoiled socialite to independent and confidant woman, as well as her sister Amelia and her crippling response to her father’s suicide. There was the mystery surrounding her father Jack Morgan and his death, then the seemingly disconnected story of Jeremy Randal and his servant Disraeli (which by the end of the novel makes perfect sense). These individual elements were complicated and added to the suspense of the story, but they also left me feeling rather disconnected from the characters. Just as I was becoming immersed in a character and their unfolding story the novel shifted focus. It was a little frustrating as I was never quite ready to move on from a particular story, character or time period and the abrupt change in focus kept me from really caring about or becoming invested in the characters and their stories.
What I enjoyed most about Exceeding Expectations was the way the author chose to tell Jack Morgan’s story. I love when an author can successfully move from present to past smoothly and Smith did this beautifully. As a fan of historical fiction I found the flashbacks to Jack’s life in Paris and how the Nazi occupation affected not only himself but every member of his Parisian family to be particularly interesting. The flashbacks to Jack’s former life were well written and each one served to reveal another piece of the very complicated puzzle that resulted in his apparent suicide.
Exceeding Expectations is an intriguing historical based mystery that will definitely play on your emotions. Once I got into the novel I couldn’t put it down, and may have stayed up until 1:30 am finishing it even though I had to wake up early in the morning! This book didn’t exactly blow me away, but it was an enjoyable read that I would definitely recommend to fans of WWII era historical fiction, and family dramas.
I received an e-book of this novel from the author and Pump Up Your Book blog tours in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.