223 Orchard Street, by Renee Ryan

Please note that my rambling reviews almost always CONTAIN SPOILERS!

I was in the mood for historical fiction, and this was alphabetically the first choice of NetGalley books, so that was that. I was excited about the time period and the set-up of two Irish sisters trying to make it in America, one arriving a year after the other. The narrative is third-person but the events are relayed from both sisters’ perspectives which is the optimal balance between detachment and getting to see the world through the character’s eyes.

So all was well for the first couple of pages. Katie gets a summons from the immigration department to collect her sister from Ellis Island, but when she gets there it turns out that little sister Shannon has been detained due to a mysterious illness and might get deported. Katie can only wait and see what the verdict will be.On the way back Katie encounters a familiar figure – Doctor “my friends call me Ty” Brentwood who instantly recognizes her. Despite seeing dozens of patients every day, Ty somehow remembers this lovely girl with Cupid bow lips and big eyes and is drawn to her because she reminds him of a mysterious mistake he made in the past……

And that’s when I realized that this is a romance novel, and I got the urge to barf.

At least it’s not too sappy. After the initial Harlequin descriptions and lots of INTENSE MOMENTS between two strangers, the relationship between Katie and Doctor Ty comes back to reality… well, it gets closer to it anyway. 


Writing style: Flows naturally, is easy to follow. Dialogue stumbles a bit, but finds its rhythm eventually.


Immigration issue: paints a vivid picture of immigrant life and struggle. I had no idea how awful the process of entering the country was. I thought the hardest part was surviving the journey on crowded ships, but I was wrong. It’s much worse to get denied entry on a medical issue that’s not even explained to you.


Ty’s “dark” past: this whole thing with Ty being so dark and dangerous and destroying all the good and beautiful things in his path is so bogus. So he had one surgery that went terribly wrong – so what? It’s not something to be taken lightly, for sure, but it’s not like he botched it on purpose. It’s not like he was drunk or high during the surgery. It’s not like he straight-up murdered that woman and her newborn baby. So what’s the damn problem?! I understand that he’s feeling guilty as hell, and like no amount of lives saved can bring those two back. I get that. But it was a mistake – doesn’t he realize that as a doctor?! It was a complicated procedure that he’d never done before. Plus it was the turn of the twentieth century, people! Medical science was not so advanced back then. Even now people are still dying on operating tables or they never come out of anesthesia. It’s tragic but it happens, and it’s hardly ever the doctor’s fault (unless he’s drunk or high, as I’ve already said). 


Which brings me to why the inevitable romance between Katie and Ty is so annoying. The author is trying to turn Ty into a villain to artificially create an obstacle that they will have to overcome. Like there can’t be anything else that’s keeping them apart? Something that feels organic and not forced? Even having his wealthy family being opposed to him romancing a poor Irish girl would be better. Sure, it would be a cliche, but at least that’s something that actually happened and still happens to people. Pretending that a good doctor suddenly turned into Doctor Doom because of one fatal surgery is bullshit.


And this is where the rambling really gets going…


Overall it feels like this book lacks plot. I’m at the half-mark right now and nothing much has happened. The pages are instead filled with “inner monologue” that all reads the same – as a description of generic feelings of the three main characters. It’s a straightforward description and therefore lacks the ability to get you attached to the characters. You can’t even tell which one of them is “feeling” what, unless you pay close attention. Shouldn’t the characters have their own distinct voices and characteristics?


A little over the halfway mark and I’m reeeeealy bored. Nothing much is happening, the characters keep going round in circles… Katie and Ty are drawn to each other but keep talking themselves out of it because OBSTACLES (that don’t actually matter). Shannon is pregnant and alone, but keeps telling herself that her beloved Liam is on the next boat over to America! (which honestly is NOT happening). And that’s it, basically. Why am I reading this again?!


OH FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, Liam actually came to America!?! WHY??? At least give me something that doesn’t suck about this book. But no… I guess this inspirational romance gotta inspire and there’s nothing inspirational or romantic about the guy who knocked you up out of wedlock and turned out to be an actual creep. Ugh…


So in conclusion, I tried to see this romance that betrayed me by being a romance, from the point of view of someone who actually likes romance novels. And you know what? It still doesn’t work! The insta-attraction between Katie and Ty is forced, their initial avoidance of each other is forced, their inevitable attraction to each other is forced. It was outright laughable when Ty became SO jealous of that girl’s brother who came to tell him that Shannon was bleeding to death. Ty was all, So he’s making moves on my Katie – I challenge thee to a duel! Bitch, please. Shannon’s romance with Liam is even worse because it’s mostly talked about and Liam is clearly set up to be the villain and when he actually turns up at the eleventh hour you’re just annoyed.
2 ANNOYED STARS for this one.

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3 thoughts on “223 Orchard Street, by Renee Ryan

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