At 12:30 this morning I said to myself, "I'll just read for an hour and finish this in the morning." Seemed logical. Was I ever surprised to find myseAt 12:30 this morning I said to myself, "I'll just read for an hour and finish this in the morning." Seemed logical. Was I ever surprised to find myself closing the cover at 3:57 having finished the novel.
Why I love this book: Sasaha, aka Prince Alexi Grigorivitch. When Simonne first encounters Sasha, he is ultra white blonde, skeletally thin, cadaverously pale, with mismatched eyes, and a skeptical, curmudgeonly demeanor. Oh, and he has a wolf for a companion! Simonne and the reader later learn that this appearance was the result of captivity in a Turkish prison and his attitude stems from the recent deaths of his wife and children. We also discover that Sasha is learned in the ways of both western and eastern medicine, radical in his beliefs, educated, eloquent, thoughtful, sensitive, fiercely loyal, and a surprisingly good friend. He is the ultimate Beta-Hero. His character occupies one of the top spaces in my list of hero-crushes. While not as prominent as James Fraser of Outlander fame, Sasha was one of the first, making the list in 1986--10 years before Jamie even entered the scene.
Why everyone should love this book: This is a radical novel for it's time. It's more about second love than first love. Oh, Simonne falls for the handsomer brother--Trevellyan, with his beautiful red hair, manly physique, witty charm, and easy way with the ladies. She is swept away by first love and blind to all his faults (of which there are MANY) and his secrets (all of which are DARK). It's not until halfway through the novel, when the reader is entirely rooting for Sasha, that Simonne realizes her mistake. AND INSTEAD OF BEING A NINNY, she goes for it without another thought for that scum bucket Trevellyan.
Which brings me to the even more radical heroine, Simonne. While she is physically innocent, this is no simpering, daydreaming miss. Illegitimate daughter of one of the most renown seamstresses of England, she aspires to have her own shop and design and clothe royalty. Simonne cold-heartedly rejects her suitor's advances explaining that she has no desire to be a brood mare to a farmer she wants to make a name for herself. Thus, she finds her self headed to the wilds of Russia where her adventures begin. Even though she's in love with Trevellyan, titled lord, she never aspires to marry him, only to catch the eye of Catherine the Great so that she can become dressmaker to the Tsarina. When she falls pregnant, she asks Sasha for an abortion, not wanting to be a slave to motherhood, acknowledging that children are a hindrance to success. In the end, Sasha refuses, not because of moral outrage but because medical technology make the procedure too dangerous and he's afraid of killing Simonne.
The genuine friendship and respect between Sasha and Simonne combined with the exotic settings of the Russian courts, the Revolution in France, and the wilds of the American colonies make this novel a perennial favorite on my historical romance shelf....more
The most important thing I have learned from this novel (the first time I read it and this last time) is that every woman should have cicisbei.CicThe most important thing I have learned from this novel (the first time I read it and this last time) is that every woman should have cicisbei.Cicisbei are men who spend all their time escorting women, entertaining women, flattering them excessively and otherwise disrupting the monotony of the mundane. That is their only true occupation. Every woman needs a team of cicisbei!
As for the rest of this novel, once again I find myself in Revolutionary Europe. The haves vs. the have nots. The jaded, corrupted, whore Venice is filled with idle nobility, antiquated social castes, political spies, vicious gossip, and the never ending displays of wealth. Revolutionaries, inspired by France and the promise of equality, fight to destroy nobility and all it represents. Enter the smutty love quadrangle between the have-nots: Raf and Lia and the Haves: Alessandro and Fosca. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can trump Revolutionary ideals like lots of sex. Throw in some Anti-Semitism and stir.
Most of this book was pretty boring--except for the cicisbei! Long live the cicisbei...more
Many, many, many people have this as an ultimate read as far as historical romance goes.
The plusses: A truly sweeping storyline. I mean it starts withMany, many, many people have this as an ultimate read as far as historical romance goes.
The plusses: A truly sweeping storyline. I mean it starts with sixteen year old Marianne Locke being thrown in a charnel house with animal and human corpses while she waits to be whipped by her much older employer, one Lord Thomas Eden for refusing his advances. Parents lose their minds. Brothers turn their backs on family. Smuggling, because Cornwall. Conniving, obsessive older men. Vindictive, jealous sisters. Deflowered maids. Virginal eccentric artists. Salons of the literati as they discuss Revolution in France, the need to shake up the status quo in Jolly Old England. And of course, a charlatan selling sex aids. What's not to love, right?
The Minuses: The "hero" has nearly nearly 20 years on the heroine and absolutely no redeeming qualities. None. He's skeevy, morally corrupt, beyond dishonest, not above chicanery to get a little play. Just when you think you can maybe, just maybe, like Thomas Eden, he does something so reprehensible all you can do is throw up your hands in disgust. Some of the story lines are not fully fleshed out or tied up too quickly. Thomas CERTAINLY does not deserve all the collusion and forgiveness he receives in this novel. Poor Marianne definitely deserved better.
Ultimately, though, buckle up, children! Mr. Toad's Wild Ride ain't got nothing on this novel....more
When we last left our reading heroine, she was completely engrossed in the hot, virile, gratuitously violent men of the History Channel's series, VikiWhen we last left our reading heroine, she was completely engrossed in the hot, virile, gratuitously violent men of the History Channel's series, Vikings--so much so--that the entire first season was absorbed in one lazy Saturday.
Not quite finished with the need to experience Viking pillaging, I turned to my friend the internet and before Bob's your uncle, Viking smut downloaded and begun.
To be clear: I blame The History Channel for this latest time suck. Beyond the rapey-rape because hey, this was written in the 90s, the sheer stupidity of the characters kept me focused on the anachronisms of the novel. I couldn't let go the of the fact that "France" did not exist as a country and the Vikings would be raiding the Franks, instead. Nor was the quirkiness of the lusty Frenchman a national characteristic until way past the Viking era. Mind you, there were no "Frenchmen" in the novel but I couldn't let it go. I blame my history minor for that particular problem.
As for the rape, it can be annoying if the writer is truly awful--like Connie Mason--but given the times the novel was supposedly set in, I think any modern sensibility would be offended by the gender relations of the the time. I felt worse for Zarabeth because her husband was a bad lover. No sensuality at all. Just a bunch of fingers and squeezings. Ouch. I don't blame her for taking a while to warm up to him.
So. The History Channel made me down load it. The anachronisms and the stupidity of the characters annoyed me. But I am the idiot who kept reading. Glutton for punishment, reporting for duty....more
The Best Part: There was a seduction scene with kittens! With kittens! Spinsters everywhere sighed happily as their chones slid to the floor.
The GooThe Best Part: There was a seduction scene with kittens! With kittens! Spinsters everywhere sighed happily as their chones slid to the floor.
The Good: Kinsale excels at creating complex characters. An incommunicative stroke victim? In a lit crit book called The Contested Castle the author posits that as gothic romance developed throughout the 18th century, the heroine no longer needs to choose between good and bad men but rather the good and bad blend in one man. Thus the heroine must find her way to the truth of her hero. He or she may start in power but eventually there must be an equalizing. A poor Quaker girl and a peer of the realm? The way to balance that power, have the hero become infirm and dependent on the heroine. He may have the social power but she controls his physical well being. After all it worked for Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. The complex task of reconciling the religious conflict, bring the hero back into his power, combining efforts to battle the family, the washing away of the hero's sins, makes for very good reading.
The Part I Didn't Like: While Maddy's rectitude carried her through a lot of trials, it seemed her Truth was a little lacking. She was devoted to her father and then he disappears for a significant portion of the novel without much effort on her part to retrieve him. I also feel like Jervaulx didn't really appreciate the significance of her sacrifice. So I guess, the intermittent Quakerism bothered. I guess had she been fully Quaker she'd have left with Gill and there the story would have ended. Much as if Jane Eyre had married St. John......more
Holy cesspit of political incorrectness, Batman! I am.... I just.... <-- That's me with mouth agape at the sheer wrongness of this novel. (and yetHoly cesspit of political incorrectness, Batman! I am.... I just.... <-- That's me with mouth agape at the sheer wrongness of this novel. (and yet I did keep reading because there was some smutty, smutty sex).
Even by the ridiculously low standards set by the early age of bodice rippers, this book was BAD.
Let's start with all the rape.
Raping nobility Raping prison guards Raping overseers Raping hero Raping sailors Raping savage Indians who can't get heap big fill of white flesh Raping scorned woman who uses men to rape in her place Raping black buck who doesn't really rape but is forced to simulate rape
Let's move on to the racism. Indians are savages. Blacks are gentle giants who love their masters. All men of color want virginal white flesh. White flesh is defiled once a penis of color enters it.
And the Sexism There's lots of mansplaining. The heroine, despite the several descriptions of her amazing strength, is unable to speak up and so her hero/domestic abuser/rapist must mansplain to her how she feels.
Turns out, that all a woman needs to recover from rape is a couple nights of abstinence and the love of her first rapist/lover.
Also, it's A-OK for a man to beat a woman, rape a woman, degrade a woman, humiliate a woman--as long as he loves said woman. Life is hard for a plantation owner of noble birth when he buys a woman who has been raped a lot and then lets her get raped over and over--even raping her himself. That's hard. Sometimes a man just has to take his rage out on a woman. Cause he's a man. He'll mansplain that later if she dares try to ask a question during all the mansplanations.
I want to remind everyone, I have incredibly LOW expectations with this type of novel. I am not hard to amuse or entertain. But this book....
Oh historical romance, how you shame me so. I get swept up in your story lines, your alpha males, your marriageable misses, your insistence on the midOh historical romance, how you shame me so. I get swept up in your story lines, your alpha males, your marriageable misses, your insistence on the middle class values of fidelity, heterosexuality, and a decent income to buy nice things.
And yet, I love you so with your scheming landed gentry plotting to amass wealth, fresh faced ingenues with a will of steel, domineering heroes who won't be led by a woman, misunderstandings, an under current of evil and smutty, smutty sex.
Laurie McBain is old school. Written before the era of political correctness, the caricatures unapologetically abound: the virginal, virtuous heroine and the rakehell hero who is as alpha as can be. Seriously. By the time he professed his love, it took damn near four pages of lovey-dovey drivel. He had a lot to apologize for. Lighter on smut than I expect from these older novels, but still, enough well drawn characters with enough exposition that one actually roots for them.
All the while shaking head in shame at being suckered into yet another historical romance.
I was on the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books website a few days ago reading the Johanna Lindsay discussion. Many waxed sweetly about this book Hearts AflaI was on the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books website a few days ago reading the Johanna Lindsay discussion. Many waxed sweetly about this book Hearts Aflame--how it was both rape-y and feminist all at the same time. It's hard to think of a smutty romances as *that* paradoxical but the 80s were the golden age of bodice rippers when tempestuous and fiery women could only be subdued by alpha males with giant members and big muscles. That's just how it was. It would get, well...rape-y.
Anywho, imagine my surprise when browsing through a used bookstore yesterday, I stumbled upon the very book under discussion. Two whole dollars and three hours later and it was exactly as described. But I miss that, yanno? All these marriagable misses and the "ton" are boring. It's equally boring when the author tries to "modernize" the heroine--equalize her as some sort of blue-stocking, private business titan or what have you and the action never gets any farther than "the country estate.". I miss the days when the women would go a-Viking on a whim and end up with a grand adventure that covered continents with their irascible and irresistible hero who really does love her but he doesn't know it so he has to have rape-y sex with her.
Oh, and the absolute *best* part? The picture of Johanna Lindsey inside the back cover with a femi-mullet. Feathered bangs and long scraggly blond hair. I bet if they took the whole pic, she'd have been wearing Jordache jeans and Vans just like I did in the early 80s. A feathered roach clip in her hair would have made it picture perfect....more
This is not the smutty historical I usually prefer. This is no where near the most historically accurate representation of Arthur. Well written? HardlThis is not the smutty historical I usually prefer. This is no where near the most historically accurate representation of Arthur. Well written? Hardly. But I have read it it at least 4 times, including last week. That last scene with Arthur and Morgan and the lavender in her hair STILL gets me. Every. Damn. Time....more