Caroline Dowdall’s Love is More than Just a Pearl Necklace is a coming-of-age adult novel set in the 1970s and explores the love and loss of teen protagonist Chloe. With her ‘bean-pole’ legs and inexperience with beauty products, Chloe nervously enters a new school with her insecurities in tow, only to be taken aback by the promiscuity of her peers.
Chloe’s journey begins in a place of innocence and naivety that is swiftly tainted by peer pressure and the prospect of love.
When Ben enters her world in the shape of her friend Helen’s boyfriend, Chloe is sceptical of his intentions. And it’s no small wonder from the secrets Helen confesses to Chloe, revealing Ben’s manipulations and tendencies to push boundaries. Still, one thing leads to another, and Chloe is inevitably caught up in a love triangle that can only end one way…
Chloe and Ben’s relationship often borders on the inappropriate, with Ben’s controlling and narcissistic tendencies constantly testing Chloe’s boundaries and steering her into a deeper infatuation.
Despite the youthful age of the characters, this book is for an adult market, with frequent explicit scenes and coarse language.
Unfortunately, Dowdall’s complex narrative is often lost in the poor formatting and insufficient editing. A reader must stumble over grammatical, spelling, and formatting errors, keeping one from investing in the book. Also, with its small writing and 675-page-count, it proves to be a difficult read. The omniscient narrator only adds to the difficulty, often confusing the reader as to whose perspective is relating the story. As a reader, I would’ve preferred to have insight into Chloe and Ben’s perspectives alternately, rather than being privy to a whole cast of characters.
Dowdell’s characterisation, however, is a saving grace. When permitted to fully enter the story, a reader can almost feel Chloe’s timidity, insecurity, and uncertainty, as she awkwardly encounters Ben’s intense and philandering ways.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Calder
Rating out of 10: 4