REVIEW: ‘Butterfly Tattoo’ (2009) by Deidre Knight

by Sarah on April 2, 2010 · 11 comments

Genre: Contemporary Romance

POV: 1st Person (told in alternate chapters by hero and heroine)

Sensuality: Hot

Violence: Mild

My Grade: C+

I suspect every reader at some point or another has found themselves reading a much-hyped book and not being overly impressed by it. I sometimes wonder if an abundance of glowing reviews gives me unrealistic expectations which few books can live up to. Perhaps this explains my lacklustre reaction to Deidre Knight’s Butterfly Tattoo. It wasn’t a bad book, but I certainly wasn’t blown away by it like so many readers were.

Butterfly Tattoo is the story of Rebecca O’Neill, a former soap actress who was left badly scarred after an attack by a crazed fan, plus Michael Warner, a bisexual electrician who is still grieving for his dead lover. Rebecca now works as a development executive in the studio where Michael is employed as a set electrician. Rebecca is deeply traumatised by the attack and finds it difficult to trust people, especially men she doesn’t know.

Michael is struggling to keep himself together after his partner was killed in a car accident the previous year, an accident which also injured their daughter, Andrea. Since then, Andrea has retreated into herself and refuses to express her grief. A chance encounter with Rebecca changes all that. Rebecca’s visible scars help Andrea to deal with her internal ones. Slowly but surely, Andrea and Rebecca help each other to take the first steps towards recovery.

Michael is grateful to Rebecca for her help with his daughter. She’s also the first woman in years to whom he’s felt sexually attracted. Rebecca also feels attracted to Michael but initially dismisses it as she’s certain he’s gay. This being a romance, naturally Rebecca and Michael get together and begin the slow and painful journey towards rebuilding their lives.

Butterfly Tattoo is not a bad book. It’s well-written and the romance has the original twist of Michael being bisexual. However, I felt the characters lacked depth, and that most of the emotion was supplied by their tragic back stories. In many ways, I preferred some of the secondary characters, such as Rebecca’s friend, Trevor. I’m also not a fan of romances in which children play a prominent role, and Andrea annoyed me.

Perhaps my chief objection to Butterfly Tattoo is the premise. I’m not convinced by the notion that two deeply damaged people can heal through the power of love. Judging by all the glowing reviews, many readers disagree with me, but I think people need to recover individually before they are in a position to love.

In the comments section of my March Reading Round-Up post, Edie made the following remark:

re. Butterfly – sometimes I think people enjoy a book more for it’s differences than it’s quality if that makes sense?
It is like Madness of Ian Mackenzie, if that book hadn’t had Ian as he was, realistically the book would have just been another average historical release. (Mind you I did enjoy – but I will freely admit I just enjoyed the difference)

I think her observation is spot on. While I preferred The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie to Butterfly Tattoo, its appeal definitely lay in its originality in featuring a hero with Asperger’s.

What do other readers think? Can an unusual twist elevate a book from average to excellent? Can too much hype kill your enthusiasm for a book by raising your expectations to unrealistic heights?

Other Reviews of Butterfly Tattoo:

Jane at Dear AuthorGrade A-

Leontine’s Book Realm4.5 out of 5

Limecello at The Good, The Bad and The UnreadGrade A-

Smart Bitches Trashy BooksGrade A-

KatiebabsGrade A-

Stacy’s Place on Earth5 out of 5 stars


Kat April 2, 2010 at 14:29

Bummer. I was thinking of reading this book, but I didn’t even like The Madness of… so now I wonder if I should bother. Is it well written? Great writing trumps all for me.

Sarah April 2, 2010 at 14:31

@Kat: Yes, it’s definitely well written. I simply couldn’t connect with the main characters.

Laura Vivanco April 2, 2010 at 15:52

Kat, quite a few chapters are available via Google Books so you could read those and see if you like it.

katiebabs April 2, 2010 at 16:31

I think the character of Michael is what made Butterfly Tattoo a winner for me and how Deidre wrote him. If this was just a love story were two damaged people came together, it wouldn’t have hit me as hard as it did. The fact that Michael’s love for Rebecca is so different for his love for his male partner and the way that is explained gave me a turning on the light bulb moment.

After reading Butterfly Tattoo, I finally understand how a person can love someone for who they are and that love shouldn’t have labels. It shows that just because a man was in a loving relationship with another man, and then is attracted to a woman, it’s not as strange as some may think it to be.

Lord Ian is very much the same. What if Ian was a typical everyday run of the mill hero?

Magdalen April 2, 2010 at 17:26

Well, I still don’t think that Lord Ian has/had Asperger’s. Some other problems, sure, but the very first page (as I recall) had him thinking in some metaphorical way about a concept relating to interpersonal relations. I’m no neurologist, but I think literal thinking is one of the hallmarks of autism.

But I still liked Lord Ian and his book. Quirky people (I count myself among their number, and with good reason) interest me. I know that damaged people can help heal each other, but I’m not sure it’s a fast enough process to work in a book. But hey, Butterfly Tattoo is still on my TBR bench, so I can’t speak to the book.

Loved your review, though!

Lori April 2, 2010 at 20:09

I loved Butterfly Tattoo because I believed the characters. I believed Rebecca’s scars, her distrust, her fear. She resonated well and I found that I followed her thoughts and believed what she saw with more belief.

I think one of the other differences between Butterfly Tattoo and Lord Ian wasn’t just the originality of premise or characters but really fine writing. I think sometimes when people start ooh-ing and ah-ing over books as they did for these, it’s more because the writing has been elevated to a level of being art that so many books nowadays lack.

heidenkind April 2, 2010 at 22:38

An unusual twist can definitely make a book special–especially in genre books, which are all about a twist on a familiar formula. The problem lies in whether or not you can buy into the twist–if you can’t, the book just flops. With Butterfly Tattoo, I think it’s obvious its success lies in the twist of Michael having a male partner before he falls in love with Rebecca. I knew from the get-go that would make me go “meh,” which is one of the reasons I’ve never picked up this book. But you never know, I might break down and read it some day…

Edie April 3, 2010 at 11:45

It is definitely a skill to throw in a different character/storyline and have it believable etc, but I do think that sometimes while enjoying the difference you overlook other things.
I mainly brought up Ian’s book, as since I read it, I have tried to read several more of Jennifer Ashley’s books, and most were DNFs. And some of the things that put me off those books were in Ian’s book, but I managed to gloss over them.
But yes for me I have to wave my hands in the air as I read mainly the one genre these days, difference can elevate the book up to excellent for me.

jmc April 4, 2010 at 04:25

Coming out of lurkdom…

I felt very much the same about both Lord Ian and Butterfly Tattoo. Butterfly Tattoo was better written, but ultimately failed for me as a love story because I wasn’t all that engaged in the relationship between Michael and Rebecca. The bisexual twist? Eh. (And I say that as someone who reads gay romance.) Found the daughter and dead ex to be the more interesting characters, and was more interested in the relationships with them than with Rebecca.

RfP April 4, 2010 at 04:57

Online hype often turns me off a book, or if I do buy the hype it can set up a disappointment if I do read it. And some reviewers judge a book by its message rather than by its literary content, whereas my orientation is often the reverse.

Kaetrin April 6, 2010 at 14:07

I didn’t really connect with the characters either. From the glowing reviews, I can tell that this book resonated with many people – for them, it had that quality that stays with you, when you find yourself thinking about the characters and the story at odd moments days later. But it didn’t resonate with me. I think there is a strange alchemy with the “resonating” book and I think it does have something to do with the headspace of the reader at the time he/she does the reading – but I can’t predict it. I guess that’s what makes it special.

For me, this one fell just shy of the mark. It engaged me on a more cerebral level but didn’t get me in the heart. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t adore it either.

@ Magdalen. I’m with you on Lord Ian. I enjoy a quirky character but I’m not sure he had Aspberger’s. My brother in law has it and he has difficulty connecting with anyone. He doesn’t read any of the verbal/facial cues that non-Aspberger’s people commonly understand. Maybe I recall it wrong, but I remember thinking that by the end, Ian seemed to be connecting pretty well with the heroine (I forget her name) and expressing himself pretty well too. I think it was the quirk of the book that made me read it. I like it but didn’t love it. It didn’t make me go and glom onto Jennifer Ashley’s backlist but I’d probably try her again one day.

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