the naked nun book coverReviewed by Jennifer Jensen

Lisa Von Bidmont was born into a life of privilege only to lose her parents in a tragic accident at the age of four. After her aunt was found too unstable to care for her, Lisa was placed into a foster family of humble means. At the age of 18, Lisa decided to escape her abusive foster father and ran away to pursue a modeling career in New York City.

Upon arrival, a serendipitous encounter with former NYPD officer Charley Cameron throws Lisa back into a glamorous lifestyle–and into the arms of billionaire real estate tycoon Bill Brenner. When Bill’s wife Sophia threatens Lisa’s life, she is placed into the Witness Protection program under the guise of a nun. Not too soon after her arrival, Lisa (now known as “Sister Elizabeth”) and several of her sisters stumble upon a demonic presence right in their very own backyard. As Lisa and the others set out to uncover the Satanic secrets left behind by previous landowner Joseph McDonald, a mysterious figure watches Lisa from the dark.

The Naked Nun by M.E. Gardner begins at the end and works its way back to the beginning. The readers will schlep through chapter after chapter to learn why a girl who was on top of the world and had recently become engaged to a handsome billionaire has ended up with nothing–including her fiance.

The Naked Nun tries to be too many things: a romance, a mystery, a thriller, a supernatural tale, and even erotica. The sudden shifts between the various genres were contrived and without direction. Gardner’s ambitious attempt to pack all these elements into one novel has failed miserably. The plot itself, with a bit more guidance from a capable editor, could have possibly saved this novel from being a complete disaster.

One of the most important pieces of writing advice I have ever been given is the following: “Show, don’t tell.” Throughout The Naked Nun Gardner ignores this principle and summarizes scenes for the reader rather than allowing the characters to reveal the action through their dialogue. On page 154 she writes: “Bill gave a brief description of how they met, the traumatic experiences she had as a child, her escape from the farm, and added that it was love at first sight for both of them. He also told the story about Lisa being a virgin, and taking her to Jefferies’s private island.” In cases where Gardner does use dialogue, it is very unnatural. At other times dialogue is overused as the various characters each get a spotlight moment to ramble on about their struggles in life.

I could not find one redeeming quality about M.E. Gardner’s debut novel. As I neared the end of the book (an ending Jane Austen would be proud of), I increased my pace just so I could finish it. During the day and a half I spent reading it, I would look for any excuse to put it down, including taking out the trash (which I hate doing) and engaging in some much needed retail therapy to preemptively award myself for completing The Naked Nun.

Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Langdon Street Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.