Ellen’s Review: The Rules of Love and Law by Jeff Russell

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Ellen’s Review: The Rules of Love and Law by Jeff RussellThe Rules of Love and Law by Jeff Russell
Published by Abbott Press on 2014-09-15
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Pages: 328
Format: eBook
Source: the author
It is 1938 in Baltimore, Maryland. The worst of the Depression is over, a troubled Europe is an ocean away, and all races seem to know their place. But on Thanksgiving Day, a violent assault brings two very different people together and changes each of their lives forever. Juliana Corbeau lives in the city's most prestigious neighborhood, attends private school, and is a near-perfect example of blue-blood upbringing. But when she makes the mistake of taking a walk through Wyman Park at dusk and is attacked by a man, it is Will Stahl, an immigrant's son, scholar, and near-perfect example of a first-generation American, who rescues her. As their unlikely love story begins, they are set on a path where they must not only confront the biases that separate them, but also a tragic miscarriage of justice, a fateful Supreme Court decision, and danger for family trapped in Nazi Germany. When the war finally reaches America at Pearl Harbor, everything changes again, forcing them to make impossible choices about love, justice, family--and ultimately their very lives. In this historical tale, two young lovers brought together by chance must somehow find a way to keep their love and dreams alive amid prejudices, uncertain times, and forces beyond their control.

The Rules of Love and Law by Jeff Russell is set against the backdrop of an America recovering from The Depression and turmoil rising to the forefront in Europe.  The story follows the lives of two seemingly opposite Baltimore residents.  Juliana Corbeau is Baltimore royalty.  Her family lives in the nicest house in the most luxurious neighborhood and makes money through her mother’s railroad dynasty and her father’s upscale jewelry store.  Across the town lives Will Stahl, the son of middle class German and Swiss immigrants.  Will is a student at Loyola prepping for law school application.

The story begins Thanksgiving evening as Juliana is strolling through the local park.  She looks up to discover a colored man charging at her.  In the distance Will hears a scream and rushes to Juliana’s aid.  The assailant quickly escapes the scene and is left for the local police to find.  From the start, there is obvious chemistry between the two – something more than a hero and damsel in distress.  Problems arise when Juliana realizes that neither her father nor debutant society will approve of Will’s middle class upbringing.  Similarly, Will’s family constantly warns him that getting involved with a society girl will only lead to trouble despite his insistence that they are only friends.  So starts the tumultuous relationship between Juliana and Will.

If you are a fan of Nicholas Sparks, then you will enjoy The Rules of Love and Law.  The plot will remind you of Sparks’ The Notebook in both time period and of love between economic opposites.  The main difference is portrayed in Will’s storyline, as he is not a stereotypical, lovesick protagonist.  Will’s first love is the Constitution.  Everything he has worked for has been to help him achieve his goal of working for the Justice Department.  Through Will, we learn how the U.S. justice system failed to treat minorities equally and about the process of amending the Constitution.  It is Juliana who learns to adapt to Will’s life more so than Will altering his lifestyle for Juliana.

Although they attempt to be no more than friends, the book remains a love story.  There were moments when I wanted to toss my Kindle and yell “just kiss her already” at Will because it takes so long for the pair to realize the strength of their feelings towards each other.  I don’t want to spoil the ending, but it will leave you both upset and satisfied.  I wish Russell hadn’t written such an abrupt ending and that I could learn more about how each character develops; however, it is the ending that I think separates the book from fairy-tale love stories.

Despite liking the story, I felt that I was longing for more out of the writing.  I missed Sparks’ colorful, romantic language, which Russell substitutes with straightforward vocabulary.  The dialogue was more realistic to how twenty-somethings would speak, but again, I like fiction for being able to use fantastic vocabulary.  Certain descriptions also seemed unnecessary or too detective-ish, like “so-and-so was watching them from afar,” which could have been incorporated in a more fluid manner.  I found a couple errors in word choice and spelling, but in all fairness, I’ve also found them in academic works.  Ignoring my concerns, The Rules of Love and Law remains a charming story about discovering love and was an enjoyable read.