Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
It’s taken me a few days to start this review. I’ve been thinking about why I’ve struggled to find the words for Staci Hart’s Mum’s The Word when her poignant story of finding a deep abiding love in the arms of the least likely of people is charming, intentional, and thoughtful. For her first two books in this series inspired by Pride and Prejudice, the reviews flowed through my fingers, the words easily found as I read the book. But this one has made me more introspective, searching for words to explain the soul of this book. This isn’t because I didn’t adore Mum’s the Word. Instead, it has a different presence than the first two books of the series. With Coming Up Roses, there was a tension from the start as Tessa and Luke fought feelings of lust and disdain for each other, and with Gilded Lily, Lila and Kash fight their chemistry, even though it’s apparent from the first page. With Mum’s the Word, even though Marcus and Maisie’s story mimics Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, soulmates destined for each other even though they come from warring families, Marcus and Maisie fall for each other instantly. Their complication isn’t necessarily between wanting to love each other; it’s really them against their world. Therefore, it took me a bit to accept that Marcus and Maisie could fall in love almost instantaneously, unable to stay away from each other and accepting their destiny fairly quickly. It felt strange, at first, for that tension to be missing, as it seemed to be a staple in the first two books. However, this story isn’t about their love for each other; it’s about their ability to love when their world makes it nearly impossible to do so.
Once again, Staci Hart shows us why she’s an exemplary writer. She has this ability to exact a different writing voice in each of her stories, and that voice fits her characters easily. I don’t think people realize the genius behind this skill. When you read a particular author, most of the time, there is a distinct thread, a specific voice, you find in their books. You could read the book blind-folded and know fairly easily that the book belongs to them. Yet, Hart is a chameleon of sorts, taking on a particular voice for a specific story. Other than her covers, you don’t really know the voice of the story you will get from her until you’ve read the book. From a writing standpoint, it’s an accomplishment to do so. From a marketing standpoint, I imagine it can be a challenge because her writing is a challenge to qualify. What I can tell you above anything else is that Staci Hart’s stories are the types of stories that are meaningful, entertaining, and intentional. And Mum’s the Word? It is no different.
There is a gravity to this story as it tells the story of Marcus and Maisie. I don’t think it could be anything else. For one, going into this story, if you’ve read Coming Up Roses or Gilded Lily, Marcus is the most sensible, serious Bennet. He shrouds himself in business and taking care of everyone. This causes him to form a shell of protection for himself and his family. It was necessary for Staci Hart to craft him as someone who would have an immense depth of feeling for someone he loves instantly. Every choice he makes is careful and intentional, planned out long before his action. Therefore, Hart’s first moment of genius is having the most serious guy fall head over heels in love at first sight for his family’s aggressor. Not to spoil the story, but make no mistake, Maisie and Marcus love each other from the beginning. By doing this, Hart is setting a foundation of love for these two. They will need it because Hart has created one of the meanest villains I’ve read in quite some time.
Evelyn Bower is the impetus for growth in this story. She is a horrible person with very little, if any redemption. Hart uses her to create moments where Marcus and Maisie draw strength from their love for each other for purposes of healing and finding one’s truth. While Maisie’s father has been her primary caregiver, she has also grown up in the shadow of her mother’s vitriol. Even though Maisie’s spirit is divergent from her mother’s, she lives with a worry that her mother has influenced her in some way. This worry becomes the tension of Mum’s the Word. Maisie doesn’t quite know who she is if she isn’t defined by her opposition to her mother. Working through this increases the chances that she and Marcus will struggle through it. Without a grounding love, there is no way through Maisie’s journey. As such, Hart’s need for Maisie and Marcus to fall deeply in love with each other is necessary. In devising their relationship different from his brothers, Hart is able to create different struggles for the Bennet children. Again, it demonstrates her range as a writer, and it keeps her readers guessing as they read her books. It is what draws me to her as an author because she challenges me as a reader to accept her as she is.
The lovely depth of Marcus and Maisie’s love and the seriousness of the challenges of their world make for a book that clutches you in its grasp from the start. There is something solemn and serious about Mum’s the Word, but it never feels too onerous. Because this is a Staci Hart story, you know she will forge an ending that brings about the best outcome for her characters. You trust her in her storytelling. In Mum’s the Word, she uses a metaphor, illustrating this colorful, loving family through the Bennet’s greenhouse. Maisie notes “[t]he greenhouse was the Bennets—alive and a little messy, bursting with color and teeming with a feeling of home.” To a certain degree, Staci Hart’s novels are also like the Bennet’s greenhouse: colorful and diverse, offering up some of the most artistic, aesthetically-pleasing blooms. Mum’s the Word is no different, and I believe she has surely saved the most beautiful blossom for last.
In love and romance,