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Brilliantly creepy fractured fairytale, dark and compelling- 5 Stars
By Kacunnin, Amazon Vine Voice, Top 500 Reviewer, January 12, 2014
Timothy Patrick's TEA CUPS & TIGER CLAWS is a fractured fairytale, a darkly funny parable about haves and have-nots, takers and givers, and what it's like to live in the shadow of great mansions on the Hill. The story is divided into three parts. The first revolves around three identical triplet sisters born to a white trash mother and her alcoholic loser husband living in a garbage-littered dump. Two of the babies - Abigail and Judith - are adopted by "the Duchess," who lives in one of the town's two palatial Victorian mansions; the third sister - Dorthea - grows up in poverty with her parents in a run-down shack, with little hope of anything better. Abbey and Judith become young ladies living in the lap of luxury, while Dorthea learns the lesson her parents teach her - "when love isn't an option, sometimes the next best thing is hate." She vows to get revenge on her sisters, the Duchess, and the Newfields who live in Sunny Slope Manor, the grandest estate in town.
In the second part of the story, the focus shifts to the second generation, as Abbey's daughter Sarah, Judith's daughter Veronica, and Dorthea's adopted son Ernest become pawns in Dorthea's continuing quest for vengeance. And by the third act, these enemies play out their diabolical and twisted roles as Dorthea moves to rid herself of all of them, taking what she's wanted all along - Sunny Slope Manor for her own.
At its heart, this is a novel about human depravity, and our very American fixation with wealth, power, and social standing. Patrick's convoluted saga spans over sixty years, with Dorthea's simmering hatred fueling the action. In another writer's hands, this story could have played out like an American Cinderella story, with poor Dorthea left behind as her sisters become wealthy and powerful. But Dorthea is hardly sympathetic, and she's no Cinderella. Although she's smart enough and cagey enough to manipulate her way into a fortune of her own, it can never give her what she really wants - the status of her sisters, and the right to live on the Hill with the "old money" crowd. Her bitterness is reminiscent of Dickens' Miss Haversham, who uses her ward Estella in a twisted plot against the hapless Pip, or perhaps Bronte's Heathcliff, who works to destroy not only the people he believes have betrayed him but their children as well (including his own son). As skillfully as Dickens or Bronte, Patrick brilliantly illustrates the results of allowing hatred and a thirst for vengeance to direct the course of one's life.
TEA CUPS & TIGER CLAWS is a beautifully written novel, with a sharply satiric style that works to propel the saga of these characters from twisted fairytale to morality play, without ever once getting preachy. There are characters here to root for - Sarah, for one, who manages somehow to rise above the craziness of her family and the town she lives in - and others to despise (including the noxious Veronica, who would give Roald Dahl's Veruca Salt a run for her money in the spoiled brat department!). And the town Patrick has invented, with its mansions on the Hill (the Hill the working classes are always gazing up at with awe and envy), is totally believable, even in its stereotypical familiarity. The rich are always envied, the poor are always bitter, and hatred really is easier to latch onto than love when the good life seems so very far away. This is a smart and savvy novel that will draw readers in from its first page. I highly recommend it.
[Please note: I was provided a copy of this novel for review; the opinions expressed here are my own.]
Murder Mystery?- 5 Stars
By D. Elliott, Amazon Vine Voice, Top 500 Reviewer, January 23, 2014
A possible genre for this book could be `murder mystery' and certainly there are plenty of murders, but in fact `Tea Cups & Tiger Claws' is much more - it is a family saga, it is a romance, and it is a historical societal commentary. The book is divided into 3 parts - first is `Sisters' covering identical triplet girls where Abbey and Judith are adopted by a rich `Duchess' and the third triplet Dorthea is brought up in squalor and poverty by her natural parents. In the second part, `Cousins', Dorthea shows her true colours and sets out to usurp her sisters where pious Abbey turns to religion and spoilt Judith enjoys living in luxury and as upper class. Both have baby girls, cousins Sarah and Veronica, who are brought up quite differently and have very different temperaments. Vindictive Dorthea adopts a young boy Ernest and embroils him in her scheming to supplant his cousins - and everything comes to a head in the final section, `Enemies', where new liaisons form with friends and foes co-existing for a frenzied roller-coaster finale.
The setting is a small town, Prospect Park, where the divisions of social class are real barriers between trash at the bottom of the hill, increasing respectability part ways up, and high society literally at the very top - though all is never what it may first appear and these generalisations cleverly mask undercurrents. Author Timothy Patrick skilfully employs homilies to explore concepts of honesty, sincerity, privilege, regret etc. and he introduces concepts of love and loyalty as well as jealousy, hate, misery, suffering etc. plus insights to domination, control, revenge etc. `Tea Cups and Tiger Claws' is a complex novel, and as such some events are perhaps not fully explained, and there is a degree of implausibility in Dorthea's wielding of power - but it all makes a great story. Narrative is easy to read and comes across as spoken by a raconteur, with much humour in the dialogue and commentaries which at a serious level highlight differences between American white-trash and the old money class. Dorthea herself makes good financially but cannot overcome snobbery, inbred superiority and authority of those living on top of the hill. The final chapter queries what has changed within the family, and more importantly what remains the same in the wider community of Prospect Park.
A Tale of Triplets Separate at Birth- 5 Stars
By Alan Roberton, Amazon UK Vine Voice, Top 1000 Reviewer, February 2, 2014
"Tea Cups & Tiger Claws" by Timothy Patrick is a well written book which covers the period from 1916 to the 1970's. It tells the story of triplets from birth and how the lives of the girls evolve from the beginning when two of them are adopted by the foremost family in the town and the other through parental greed is left to a life of early poverty with alcoholic parents.
It describes the different lives they lead, the connections they make and the ends that the down trodden triplet will go to not only to succeed but to come out on top and show all her critics that she is as good as her sisters.
The story covers two generations and shows that money is no guarantee of happiness and that murder cannot solve the problems of poverty. it gives an insight to the society of the period and the prejudices surrounding wealth and poverty.
The book is enjoyable and well written and I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys social history or even a good murder mystery.
The Power of Hatred and Jealousy- 5 Stars
By Dolphin, Amazon UK Top 1000 Reviewer, February 4, 2014
A pitiless look at how wealth and position drive the lives of a diverse community of people in the genteel small town of Prospect Park, California. It's impossible to outline the contents of the book without giving away too much of the plot and, since I hate spoilers, I will focus this review on the style and quality of the writing. The three parts of this complex, convoluted and multi-generational saga are so different in focus and tempo that, in different hands, might have ended up as a trilogy. Timothy Patrick weaves the separate strands with great skill and mastery, creating a tapestry of jealousy, hatred and revenge, shot through with sardonic observations of middle-class hypocrisy and, occasionally contrasted by the opposing forces of love and family devotion.
There is so much in this tale that it could have easily come apart but, somehow, the theme of revenge drives the plot relentlessly like a devastating tornado through a corn field. Some aspects are unrealistic and far-fetched but this is a work of fiction and the everyday authenticity of the common people's world is strong enough that the reader is willing to suspend belief and be taken along for the ride.
The first part “Sisters” spreads its poisonous foundations like an oil spill. The middle “Cousins” ticks along like a time-bomb, plotting and calculating, spinning a web of intrigue that is perhaps difficult to relate to real life. The third and last “Enemies” takes us on a mad, unstoppable ride of reckless power games and murderous folly where the book becomes a page turner and hard to put down.
Most of the main characters are frankly revolting human beings, and even the 'good' ones are not always easy to like. The narrator's voice remains neutral and non-judgemental but I sensed a fair amount of sympathy for human weakness in the face of adversity. Even though the story deals with three identical triplets, the author shows how upbringing and childhood values shape the character of the sisters so that, in maturity, they are as different as can be imagined. Their children (natural and adopted) are also heavily influenced and moulded by their respective mothers' personalities and parenting styles. Strangely, in this distorted slice of reality men have only limited influence and their impact is mostly dependent on their jobs and positions. There is a Henry James quality to the inevitability of an outcome that was almost impossible to foresee but, nonetheless, once the wheels of hatred are set in motion, can only lead to one conclusion. Dorthea's machine-like epic power is counterbalanced by the very human scale of characters such as Sarah and Mack, whose only strengths are their cool intelligence and determination to survive. Horse lovers will appreciate Tim Patrick's confident and knowledgeable treatment of equestrian matters and I very much enjoyed the horse-gentling subplot of Mack's youth, which reminded me of Monty Roberts.
Although the storyline is predominantly disturbing and there is some graphic violence, when something is done very well, it is enjoyable no matter what. This is certainly the case here and I loved the strong, assured quality of the writing, the fresh and original phrasing and the total command of both the gutter and lofty heights worlds that co-exist with such unease, separated and cushioned by the large and anonymous middle-class who despise both bookends with equal vigour. An intriguing and engaging read. I would like to see Tim Patrick tackle some lighter material with the same detached sardonic eye.
A Delightful Satire Full of Black Humor- 5 Stars
By B. Case, Amazon Vine Voice, Top 500 Reviewer, February 17, 2014
“Tea Cups and Tiger Claws,” by Timothy Patrick, is a dark satire and morality story on the theme of revenge. It’s written very cleverly along the lines of a fractured adult fairy story. It is delightfully complex and crosses two generations and sixty years before the perverted revenge-plot comes to its ultimate fulfilling conclusion, an ending that leaves the reader with a brilliant coup-de-grâce moral message.
I thoroughly enjoyed the elaborate and convoluted plot. I took delight in the (mostly evil) characters and the bigger-than-life dimensions of their personalities and actions. But most of all, I enjoyed the black humor as well as the frequent searing passages of dazzling satirical prose. At its heart, this is a novel darkly critical of the growing worldwide divide between the rich and the poor, a divide that the author believes leads to envy, hatred, and moral corruption. The author is deeply sardonic; his prose is savvy and smart. It is clear he believes that justice and morality are difficult to foster in a world with a huge divide between the rich and the poor.
If you love social satire delivered with a large dose of brilliant black humor and you are concerned about the current growing divide between the rich and the poor, you’ll probably love this amusing twisted tale. I did and I recommend it highly.
Great Debut Novel; Fascinating Story -- 4 Stars
By Karen Hancock, Editor, BellaOnline.com, April 10, 2014
In his debut novel, "Tea Cups & Tiger Claws," Timothy Patrick begins the story in 1916 in the small town of Prospect Park, California. Like many small towns in those days, the residents are divided by class according to both family name and income. The rich who live on the hilltop do not associate with those who live down below, and no one associates with the lowest of the low who live in the worst part of town referred to as “Yucky D.” However, when Ermel Railer and her husband Jeb, become the new parents of identical triplet girls, people from miles around come to look at the triplets. Most visitors leave envelopes with money as payment for seeing the triplets. The Duchess, who lives in the second largest mansion on top of the hill, comes several days in a row to see the girls, and brings both money and gifts for Ermel. Jeb, without his wife’s knowledge, makes a deal with the Duchess to sell (under the guise of a phony adoption) his triplets for a thousand dollars each, and is also promised a job. However, when the papers are being signed, Ermel double crosses her husband and the Duchess; only two of the triplets, Abigail and Judith, end up being adopted and Ermel keeps Dorthea for herself.
As Dorthea grows up in her loveless home with alcoholic parents, she recognizes that she does not fit in, and feels like she has been cheated when she sees her rich sisters; Judith, who is malevolent and cruel herself, constantly makes fun of Dorthea, and although Abigail is a little nicer, Dorthea knows she will never be her sisters’ equal. Dorthea becomes determined not only to get back at her parents and sisters, but also to own the largest house on the hilltop, Sunny Slope Manor. Her ambition is driven by hate, greed, malevolence, and jealousy. Dorthea begins planning while young, and will stop at nothing to realize her dreams.
Several themes are intertwined throughout the novel: class distinction, and how the poor are obsessed with fitting in with high society, family relationships – mother & daughter, sisters, and aunts – drug and alcohol addiction, struggle for power, entitlement of the rich, obsessive ambition, and cold, calculated murder.
There is palpable suspense throughout the novel as the lives of the sisters evolve. Dorthea becomes rich and powerful in her own right. She is, however, not respected or accepted by those members of high-society that she is so envious of, but is still able to manipulate not only her sisters, but also her two nieces, Sarah and Veronica. Dorthea’s careful planning puts each of the characters in danger in different ways, and she has no qualms about committing murder and blackmail while working her way up.
This novel is not perfect. Patrick has obviously not had first-hand experience with a drug addict; Veronica’s behaviors when using the “white powder” (coke) that Dorthea supplies don’t ring true, and when she “quits taking it” it sounds a little weird, since most coke addicts snort it and don’t “take” it. In fact, Veronica’s quick recovery from her drug-induced state and new sobriety (a matter of a few hours), are quite implausible. There are also a few minor editing errors such as on page 244, “bindles of white powder” instead of bundles, page 227 “encouraging words “form” Mr. Scarface” instead of from Mr. Scarface, page 345 “older “then” the last time” instead of older than the last time, and a grammatical error on page 212, “you and I here” instead of you and me here. Even the most careful editors in bestselling novels miss a few errors, and these really don’t take away from the story.
Albeit the minor problems in the novel, the story is fascinating and well-written. The characters are not only interesting, but Patrick is able to present them so that they seem real – one or two may remind readers of someone they are actually acquainted with. There are several unexpected twists and turns in the story, and some of the events in the end are a surprise. For readers who enjoy historical and psychological suspense that is a little bit different from the ubiquitous who-done-it, this book is definitely recommended. Hopefully there is more to come from Timothy Patrick