Thursday, April 10, 2014

Saving Emma / Maria Miller

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Legal Thriller

Approximate word count: 55-60,000 words

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


A graduate of Xavier University with a degree in English, Maria Miller enjoys reading, writing, and being with her family.


“Emma is Luke's whole life. When she learns she has cancer, she accepts the traditional treatment. Luke watches miserably as his wife deteriorates slowly. Then he finds doctor who offers a different, unconventional treatment that has been proven to work. But Luke finds it is not so easy to remove his wife from her doctor's care. When he tries to take her out of the hospital, he is stopped by security and then served a restraining order. Now Luke must fight a legal battle for his right to save Emma.”


Luke and Emma’s story starts during the last months of high school. Both are outcasts. Luke is the smart kid lacking in social skills. It was never stated, but if he were real and visited a psychologist I wouldn’t be surprised if he was diagnosed with autism, Aspergers syndrome, or something else on the autism spectrum. Both have complicated and troubled home lives although for much different reasons. They become a couple, Luke gets a job he’s well suited for which evolves into his own business, and they marry. Life is good for the couple until Emma is diagnosed with cancer, setting Luke on a search for an alternative cure and a bad situation turns worse.

This seems like a story that could work. It doesn’t. Part of the reason is technique, with a tendency to telling rather than showing, sometimes both, as in this example:

Maureen rested her elbows on her desk and put her face in her hands. She felt physically and emotionally drained.

Doesn’t the second sentence tell us what the first has hopefully already shown us?

There is also a problem with repetitiveness in two ways. First, repeating things the reader already knows from earlier in the story, for example in the middle of the book having Luke “remember” his and Emma’s honeymoon and the reason they took it six months after their marriage, giving us details we already knew and didn’t need. Second, using the same word over and over in a short time, for example during a short encounter with his English teacher the words “his teacher” or a slight variation is used eleven times in just six paragraphs, even twice in a single sentence, never using the teacher’s name or any alternative form of reference. This kind of repetitiveness is the equivalent of a monotone voice, quick to put the reader to sleep. Here’s another example of this problem:

He grabbed his keys and walked out the door. He got in his car and drove to a motel. He could not bear to sleep alone in that house tonight.

Three sentences, each starting with the pronoun he. Mix it up. Use Luke. Put he in the middle or at the end of a sentence. Even better, do we need to know this much detail? Wouldn’t something like “not able to bear sleeping alone, Luke left and checked into a motel” accomplish the same thing?

Even more than the issues of technique, I often found the story contradicting itself or the actions of the characters unbelievable. A few quick examples. Luke inherited some money from an uncle which was “sitting comfortably in an account” by the end of June, but a few pages after that he’s receiving the check “at the end of July.” Later in the story Luke writes a computer program for his business after taking a “quick, do-it-yourself course” and is able to do it in less time than someone with years of experience would need to accomplish the same thing.

One of the more unbelievable actions happened when Emma was in the hospital and not doing well. After staying with her and letting his business slide Luke had to leave Emma to go into work to deal with tasks that couldn’t be put off any longer. No problem. He has a business with his employees depending on it continuing for their livelihood, not to mention Luke and Emma needing the same. However, being back to the hospital “as soon as I can” stretched into two days. Really? The love of your life is fighting for her life and you go into the office for two days without visiting or even calling her. Then when you finally do show up she’s happy to see you and not upset. I have a hard time believing this. I can’t rule it out due to some of their characteristics and history, partially discussed in the first paragraph, but if so the author needed to do a better job of establishing this. Even then, I’d have a hard time relating to them. As it was, I found my suspension of disbelief constantly challenged by things like this. Even though it’s fiction, it still has to be believable.

Format/Typo Issues:

A small number of typos and other proofreading or copyediting misses.

Rating: ** Two Stars

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