So, guess what? Happy Book Noise (copyright pending) is, without a freakin' doubt, some of the best noise on the planet. And, know what else? That noi
So, guess what? Happy Book Noise (copyright pending) is, without a freakin' doubt, some of the best noise on the planet. And, know what else? That noise gets all the more kick-ass when it follows from previously thinking, "Uh-oh, this book might fail all painful-like!" Yep. That entire scenario plays to Season for Surrender just so, because this book is a damned good story, but holy-crap-on-Satan's-ass, I was worried otherwise for a wee bit, I'm not gonna lie.
In so many ways, the first fifty pages of this novel kind of left my ass shivering on the sidewalk. While my initial, "Hey, hiya Louisa and Xavier!" introduction to our two lead characters wasn't painful or of the Oh Dear God Why! variety (*cough*Twilight*cough), the opening pages were problem laden. As in, oh'boy'howdy we-got-a-problem laden. Some authors can hit characters out of the ballpark from page one, while others...? They need some time for the book to build momentum. The biggest issue I faced at the onset of Season for Surrender was getting a realistic hold on the hero and heroine; put simply, they just didn't feel like real people cemented with reality. At least, at first anyway.
Yeah, yeah, I know; that's vague as hell. Frankly, though, I know of no other way of conveying the, "Who ARE these people?!" sentiment I had throughout the first fifty pages of this book. BUT, WAIT! There is indeed hope, because Romain totally kicked my assumptions and misgivings into the "Girl, why you worryin'?!" arena. I read a ton (forgive the pun) of historical romance novels, and in order to make my brain go all spastic-happy for your lead characters, well, it takes some work. Like, lots of work.
I admit it; I like smart heroines. Hell, I like smart heroes for that matter (and thankfully, I scored on both accounts herein), but my favorite are smart heroines! Intelligence is smexy as hell, and when a writer can create a character where their personality and identity is rooted in their ability to appreciate higher-thought concepts, I'm all a'quiver. Louisa is, yes, just that; she is smart, but confined to her role of bluestocking. This reality of intelligent wallflower is a part of our heroine's character makeup, but only a small facet. Her circumstances are not a matter of contentment for her part, and thus she's even more fascinating as a female lead. Incidentally, we're best friends, this fictional words-on-a-page woman, she just doesn't know it yet. *Proudly brandishes Nerd Flag.*
And then, we got Xavier! Yeah, I be lovin' this male lead character, like with all my particle existence. What fascinates me so intently about Alex's character is that he, incidentally, shares many commonalities with Louisa in that the two are more than their label, more than their societal roles. They are bound by their own identities, and yet unable for the longest time to break from their respective molds. While Xavier/Alex plays the role of rake, and does so willingly, embraces that label even, his motives for doing so are the very chains that keep him from experiencing true happiness. His desire to be loved is what keeps him from being loved...and holy crap, you talk about one hell of a fascinating dynamic and character!
(We'll leave out the clarification as to whether that GIF applies to just Louisa, or not. *Cue the smirk!*)
Though, in all seriousness, while Louisa and Alex morph from being lukewarm words on a page to busting onto the scene with all aspects of fascination and relatability, their existence as people would not have been nearly so amazing had it not been for the beautiful technical structure of their story. The writing style, the voice of Theresa Romain was so powerfully present through 99.9% of this novel that I literally am still shell-shocked by the power of the story. Plot wise, it's a good mix-meshing of external conflict being driven by internal conflict, though on its own not too terribly impressive. However, the sexual, emotional, and character tension between whom Louisa and Alex are to their own selves and who they are to one another drives this story along insanely well. Ostensibly, the story just does...well...this...
Frankly, if your heart doesn't try to go all Alien-like, busting out of your body-cavity, after reading this novel, then welcome to earth, Mr. Tin Man. The pacing of the book makes the characters, the writing, and the plot so much MORE in so many respects. No character interaction feels rushed, no romantic or emotional plot points seem forced or faulty, and the book is pretty much just freakin' phenomenal. My one criticism (because CRITIC!) is that the characters do take a few pages to "get going," which can be a bit struggle-worthy when the dynamic and tension hasn't been built as of yet. BUT! That one nit-pick aside, just, yeah. This book, read it. Listen to the outcry of your soul, awesome reader- it needs this story! Well done, Ms. Romain, so very well done!
It's not an indication of bat-shit insanity if a reader is filled with an all consuming desire to punch an author in the face, is it? No? Good. Becaus
It's not an indication of bat-shit insanity if a reader is filled with an all consuming desire to punch an author in the face, is it? No? Good. Because my crazy card is full-up, and Patricia Waddell is in want of a serious rag-doll shake. "Jacqueline! You mean you didn't like this book?" you ask? Oh, you little genius, you're so on the ball these days, I'm so proud of you. But, alas, to say I didn't like this book would be a huge falsehood. In order to dislike a book, there must firstly BE a book. I'm throwing the gauntlet all up in yo' face if you dare call this anal-gouging experience a "book."
Really! Let me innumerate!
Problem #1: Characters The Vagina
Hey! Do you hate heroines who claim they're strong, independent vagina-havers, but then spontaneously morph into a simpering pile of boo-hoos, "I wove him; I obey him" idiotic bitch biscuits? Well, tough luck, sweetie, Hilary is all that, and worse. If the fact that I just had to reread the book blurb to recall what Miss Heroine's name was doesn't speak volumes (despite having literally just finished this novel 10 minutes ago), I don't know what evidence could more underscore the underwhelming ugh-factor of this character than said fact-checking. From the opening chapter, we the reader are given the suggestion that Hilary's supposed to be a strong, independently free-thinking leading lady, but by chapter five that shit sunk harder than the Titanic.
Ironically, it's not. I'm not a bra-burning feminist, but holy-nut-crackers, I'm almost one now. This book's heroine is practically a damned expert at constantly contradicting her identity. Before marrying Captain Douche-Nozzle (AKA the hero)? She's all, "I won't be dictated to!" After marriage? "Fine. I'll obey you, but with only the slightest amount of argumentative resistance." Before marrying Ass-Blaster 3000? "Books! Traveling! Politics! I care about these things, dammit!" After marriage? "Hero husband! YOU ARE MY EVERYTHING!" Hilary is so boring, so fake, so flatly one dimensional that a rice cake and a blank wall have more zest and roundness by comparison.
With monikers such as the ever illustrious ones utilized above, it's not too much of a plot twist within this review to realize I'm all about some hero-hate with this particular character. And, frankly, I'm a ginormous idiot to have assumed that I wouldn't be raging-out over Fitch The Hero Face. The fact this guy was an astronomic prick pilot shouldn't have been surprising, for it's in the title; He Said Now. And, boy, did he say now! There should be monuments built in honor of Fitch's macho ass-hattery. I can count on one hand the number of times in this book Hero Jerk wasn't being dictatory, rude, inappropriate, arrogant, high-handed, or inconsiderate to Hilary. What made him so intolerable as a character stemmed largely from the fact that his expertise in Douche Bag 101 was, while more subtle than overt, still enacted with microscopically thin motivations behind such behavior.
(view spoiler)["It would serve their future much better were Hilary to surrender herself into his keeping without a major confrontation." Direct quote, that. (hide spoiler)]
Problem #2: The Writing
There were SO many please-God-no problems with the technical elements to this book that I can't even. I have lost the ability to even. But, for the sake of a holistic (though admittedly crappy) review, I'll try. Aside from the atrociously written characters and the abysmally constructed plot (we'll get to that in a minute), it was painfully obvious this writer has no grasp on the concept of smart writing. Oh, the literary elements were all in order, but so many instances of missteps and stumbles went a long way in injuring this story. Romance authors, please, understand that when you're writing in this genre, the very last thing we the reader want to witness is unnecessary time-jumping. Skimming over the first ten days of interaction between the hero and heroine? HUGE EFFING NO-NO! These are key emotional developmental moments that we don't want pushed to the background, dammit! Doing so causes the romance to reek of insta-love, and just no. Fuck insta-love.
Oh, and, hey, while we're on the subject of badmoronic "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!" writing, please, I beg you, learn to research. Believe it or not, research is a thing. A good thing, even. Want to know how I know Patricia Waddell didn't know said tidbit? The fact that she had no knowledge that males congratulating the soon-to-be bride for becoming engaged was considered abominable rude. It was a breach of etiquette, for men congratulated the groom, they instead wished the bride well. Oh! Want more evidence that Patricia's ignorant when it comes to research? Fine.
"We've been too long without children in this house. I was the first to say amen when Raskett sent the news of his lordship's marriage. Amen, and about bloody time, if you excuse me for saying so."
No. Just, no. No way did a housekeeper in 1864 talk that way to the mistress of the house, and they damned sure didn't use the profanity of "bloody." Yes, the specific etymology is unknown, but is largely accepted to still be a curse, thus your housekeeper utilizing it immediately upon meeting her new lady boss is complete shite.
Problem #3: The Plot
Last, but certainty not least because here lies proof that this novel is an enormous waste of time. "The plot," or as I like to refer to it, "The instrument by which the Spanish Inquisition wish they had in their arsenal." Over all, this plot has so many things wrong with it, not the least of which is it being laughably unbelievable. The gist of the entire novel can be summed up quite simplistically. The hero is emotionally traumatized from the war, (though I still don't buy that load of crock for such trope was constantly pushed to the back-burner in the book and only pulled out to display as Here's The Plot!) And, that's basically the entire book. He wanders off at times to go suck on a bottle and doesn't talk about being a sad-face about his war experiences to Hilary, and Hilary thereby doesn't like that.
Yep. That is the absolute extent of this story. To say the conflict is boring is one tremendous understatement. Hell, the whole entire book is boring, and the conflictdrama bullshit is worst of all. This whole "I'm emotionally angsty about my angsty war-ness" is drawn out in such gratingly bad told-not-shown detail, it's pathetic in its lack of believability, and has a resolution which is so quick/"Okay-done!" that it gave me whiplash. Hero magically realizes he's an ass-hat, professes his love, annnnd...Hilary faints. The end.
Likewise. This entire book was one huge user error, and frankly I'm convinced I deserve a damned medal for actually having completed it. The fact that I didn't DNF this novel just goes to prove that hope and stupidity walk hand in hand. I spent the entire course of my reading experience with this thing praying it got better; it had to. It so desperately wanted to be good, you could see it was just a big ball of Little Engine That Could. Sadly, that freight train derailed and plunged engine-first into an eternal pit of fire. This book was bad and boring, and I regret all my life's decision that brought me to this novel.