MEC Reviews: The Delicate Things We Make – Milena McKay

The Delicate Things We Make is an engrossing novel that blends romance, intrigue and drama into a tour de force. I found myself putting it down then picking it up – I wanted to savour and prolong the story, but couldn’t stay away for long. Similar to Jamie, once my interest was piqued, I quickly became obsessed and consumed.

When the Editor in Chief of Poise offers Jamie an assignment to investigate and expose the identity of the mysterious and influential artist, DeVor, Jamie jumps at the opportunity. Struggling to re-establish herself and juggling multiple jobs, the offer is almost too good to be true, but it is her chance to break back into investigative journalism and her innate curiousity is a driving force. Delving into the intersecting worlds of art and fashion, Jamie begins to uncover secrets and agendas that quickly becomes as fascinating as the original assignment.

Ms. McKay has a very distinctive writing style that is wonderfully rich and vibrant. The first chapter took me a bit to get into it – but once I got used to the style and the story began to truly unfold I was enraptured by the characters and the unfolding plot (much like the main character was enraptured and completely consumed by the subject of her investigation) and I found myself quickly immersed in the characters and story. The use of dialogue – or no dialogue for large parts of the book – was something I thought I would hate, but it worked. During the first part of the book, there are so few scenes of dialogue that when a conversation occurred it had more impact. The dialogue itself was particularly erudite and intellectual – and may not have always felt completely natural, but the characters were all deeply involved in the world of art, fashion and journalism and it felt natural for the characters. .

The romance was off the charts – the slow build as Jamie’s investigation pulls her deeper and deeper into who DeVor and Vivian are is outstanding and the suspense over what will happen when the truth is revealed literally had me at the edge of my seat -I nearly had a panic attack at the 50% mark and had to put the book down for a few hours to brace myself for the oncoming onslaught of emotion. As a reader I was just as obsessed as Jamie was with Vivian. The chemistry was wonderfully thick and just oozed unspoken passion and desire.

The suspense/mystery part of the blend was equally well done. I loved how Ms McKay slowly peeled back the layers, revealing details and tidbits that Jamie followed while investigating DeVor – nothing dropped in her lap, but things lined up as she encounters and speaks with the different characters who all have their own complex and compelling agendas. It was wonderfully constructed so that it felt completely believable and the investigation was as fascinating as the subject of the investigation.

I’ve been debating with myself about the turn at the 50% mark – the investigation of who is DeVor shifts into a different tangent and takes Jamie in another direction. The blend moves from suspense/intrigue to full-on drama. The romance and relationship has been established but whether they will be able to overcome further obstacles and be together is still in peril as the characters are in conflict over the new investigation. I was so enraptured by the initial storyline around DeVor and Vivian but I realize that the author could not have sustained those plotlines without the story becoming overly contrived or causing me to have a complete heart attack if she ratcheted the suspense and chemistry any higher. The second half is topical and important – and the conflict it causes between the mains continues to push the development of both the character and the romantic element. So … I think it worked well.

The characters were outstanding – complex, nuanced and absolutely fascinating. Jamie is obviously the most developed/real character as the story is all from her perspective. As an outsider in the world of money, fashion and art, she gives the reader a bit of grounding and a reality check to the other characters. Vivian is ethereal and the obsession Jamie develops easily transfers to the reader. There’s a wonderful vulnerability in her character that juxtaposes with the cool, reserved and aloof façade she projects. For secondary characters – I loved them all. They could have easily been paper thin stereotypes and means to an end (providing the snippets and clues), but Ms McKay imbibes them with life and realism and they stand out as rich and fully realized characters with own stories and agendas that you become just as invested in.


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