I read this in one day. And not just in one day, but in 3 hours. That's 3 hours, people! If you are at all familiar with my reading history, you'll seI read this in one day. And not just in one day, but in 3 hours. That's 3 hours, people! If you are at all familiar with my reading history, you'll see that it usually takes me at least 3 weeks to read a book, not 3 hours. But these books are like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups: they're really, really unhealthy, they're totally yummy, and it's hard to stop at just one.
A (sort of) modern retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale (I say sort of as the story's set in 1871 San Francisco), like all Love Spell romances and especially those by Linda Jones, this retelling is frothy, erotic, totally unrealistic, and zippy (obviously, since it only took me three hours to read! Sorry to keep repeating that, but it still astonishes me). And the way the "Let down your hair" angle from the classic Rapunzel tale is used here is truly adorable and funny. There's a minor difference to the fairy tale in that Jones has thrown in a slight Jack the Ripper-like murder-mystery to spice things up, and I do mean slight; anyone even remotely on the ball will be able to guess the perpetrator from the very beginning, despite the deflection of suspicion near the end (which only serves to prove who the villain is, actually).
Oh, and what is it with making every man over six feet tall? I've especially come to notice this after doing research for my own hist-fic: men in the United States in 1880 averaged about 169.5 cm, which is only about 5'5" tall; a man standing 6'2" would be considered, if not quite a freak, then someone who would definitely attract a lot of attention. Yet all historical romance novel heroes routinely stand at this height or more. Weird. I mean, I know historical romance novels are written for contemporary readers, which means using contemporary ideals, but couldn't there be a little bit of accuracy? Maybe make the hero only 5'10"? That's still tall, just not... sequoia tall. Sorry, I'm rambling. Brain fart! See, this is what reading these books does to a person; it makes them all dizzy and incoherent (that's the unhealthy part of the comparison to Reese's Cups above). Yet it won't stop me picking up another title in the Love Spell Fairy Tale line. (I told you they were hard to stop at just one!)...more
Ugh. This was the worst of the Love Spell Faerie Tale romance series. The only thing which saved this from a one-star rating was the quality of writinUgh. This was the worst of the Love Spell Faerie Tale romance series. The only thing which saved this from a one-star rating was the quality of writing. What was actually written? Garbage. Based on the "Snow White, Rose Red" fairy tale (not to be confused with the Grimm "Snow White" fairy tale), Flora Speer does a good job of incorporating the strange elements of the tale, which include a bear and a dwarf. However, she's also created a story in which female logic and critical thinking has gone right out the window thanks to insta-romance, which is strange considering the story is set in Renaissance-era Italy and Snow White and Rose Red, in this case Bianca (the whiniest, wussiest, wimpiest creeping little mouse of a character; she was often the cause of most of my reading-rage) and Rosalinda, are the daughters of a duke: surely they would've been educated in rhetoric and logic, and we see them working at Latin lessons; plus, their mother boasts she was the logical mind behind her husband's throne. Yet she's also reduced to a cliched state of feminine irrationality the moment an eligible man comes into view. Seriously, I came this close to throwing the book at the nearest wall several times. Save yourself the aggravation and read one of the other Faerie Tale romances written by a more competent author....more
Marcus never expected to be a duke. He was raised to be a gentleman, but then his father died, and his brother died, and he was next in line to inheriMarcus never expected to be a duke. He was raised to be a gentleman, but then his father died, and his brother died, and he was next in line to inherit the title. (From whence the original title comes, we still don't know – an uncle, perhaps?) So he spends his time in the throes of debauchery, drinking, gambling, wenching, and doing nothing more challenging in his life than balancing a spoon on his nose for longer than anyone else. Naturally, he's bored, so when his illegitimate daughter comes to his door, he suddenly finds a purpose for his life and becomes quite determined to raise his daughter properly. Except to do that the girl needs a governess. So he turns to the recently opened Quality Employment Agency, run “by a group of well-bred ladies” one of which happens to be our heroine, Lily. She decides to answer the summons herself, which thus places her in the home and in the path of this scandalous duke, which she soon finds is a dangerous spot to occupy.
This was a rather strange read for me. I initially thought it was a Regency, which was why I got it, and so I was anticipating something in the vein of Georgette Heyer, if not perhaps as skillfully done. (Probably because of the misleading cover photo: the model is wearing a Regency gown, which would've been woefully out-of-date for the actual setting of the book, 1840; by then, waistlines had fallen slightly, though still not to the natural waistline, skirts were bell-like, and sleeves were quite balloon-y.) As I read, though, I realized that, in many ways, this was simply a modern romance plunked into an early Victorian setting, complete with snarky asides and self-deprecating inner thoughts. Switch out some names and certain articles of clothing, and the story could take place anytime in the last couple of years. At first, this approach was cute and entertaining, but the longer I read, the more it grated, exactly because of this superficiality and flippancy. See, I'm a stickler when it comes to accuracy and research. Work around it, play with it, insert as much snark and sarcasm and flippancy as you like, but be accurate to the time period you're working with, is my thought. A thinking which Megan Frampton didn't share. In addition to those snarky inner monologues and repartee, her characters were breaching etiquette left, right, and center, using the wrong names, eating meals with kids (which was never, ever done – children ate separately in the nursery), barging into rooms without knocking, servants entering by the front door, etc.
At its core, the main problem with the book was its immature writing. Basic grammatical/spelling mistakes aside, the word choices, sentence construction, and general set-up was just so irritatingly puerile in many ways. There's no actual villain in the piece, so the book mostly consists of Lily and Marcus dithering over their feelings for each other: she thinks he's so hawt and he just wants to bone her luscious bod, and we spend oodles of time with their inner monologues concerning their insta-love, monologues which take up the majority of their interactions with each other, even while in the midst of actual conversations with other people. Once they finally dance the horizontal mambo (after a couple of heavy petting scenes which led nowhere except to some major frustration for the duke), there's the obligatory misunderstanding which causes Lily to run away which then leads to the big finale. At which the two of them act quite inappropriately in front of Queen Victoria, something I'm sure would not amuse her one bit. The whole book was, well, rather stupid. There was some entertaining chemistry in the verbal sparring between Marcus and Lily, and Rose was appropriately adorable, but there's nothing of any actual substance to the book once you get past those few details. Is that necessarily a bad thing? No. But it's not necessarily a great thing, either.
In the end, I wouldn't call this brain-damaging fluff, but it's most definitely fluff: a light, frothy meringue that doesn't stick with you once the last page is read....more
I admit it: For the first time, I've jumped on a literary bandwagon. And, yes, I'm annoyed, mainly because I had to request the book from the libraryI admit it: For the first time, I've jumped on a literary bandwagon. And, yes, I'm annoyed, mainly because I had to request the book from the library and waiting in the queue was a major pain in the ass. No, but seriously, this wasn't a whim brought on by the new BBC adaptation; having been a fan of the original series starring Robin Ellis and Angharad Rees as Ross and Demelza, I intended to read the series way back when. (Not when the original series came out—I'm not that old! I'm simply talking sometime in the late 90s, maybe early naughts.) But I never got around to it—one of those situations of getting caught up with other books and losing track of my to-read list. (This was well before I'd stumbled upon Goodreads and its handy virtual library shelves.) Then I bought the DVD set of the original series a couple of years ago and it reminded me of the books, but, weirdly enough, at that time my library didn't have them. You'd think the Poldark series would be a pretty solid, mid-20th century classic set of books for a library to own, but since it's the Sourcebooks copy they own now, with Aidan Turner from the new BBC production on the cover, they obviously only bought in it the past couple of months or so. Aaaaand I'm getting off track.
Anyway, this is billed as a classic romance, but it's not, not really. At least not in the way you'd expect. After all, it's written by a man and (not to get all reverse sexist here, but) men don't really do romance. Don't expect flowery prose, complicated and complex conversations concerning the relationship, softly lit and erotically charged love scenes, etc. In fact, beyond a few musings from Ross (“Hmm, I still regard Elizabeth, but Demelza takes up most of my thoughts,” “Hmm, I think I'm falling in love with Demelza,” that kind of thing), it's more about the actions than any deep feelings expressed. Which is fine, but rather leaves one wanting. I mean, you go from Demelza as urchin to Demelza as bedmate and wife and wonder, where was the actual wooing? Then again, it's symptomatic of the time period and the region: life in Cornwall in the 18th century was short and harsh, so there was little time for extensive romance; you found someone you liked well enough, agreed to make a life together, and did so. Which is just what Ross and Demelza did.
Short-shrifted romance aside, this book is mostly about Ross (obviously, otherwise it would've been titled Francis or Elizabeth) and how he fits back into life in Cornwall after fighting in the American Revolution. When he returns, his father is dead, his family farm is in ruins, the family servants are slovenly sloths, and his mining interests are all but exhausted. Basically, Ross has nothing and must rebuild his life from the dust and debris of what he's given. As he figures out how to come back from this precarious position, we also watch him develop as a person; when he returned, he was not much changed from the angry young man who'd left--a bit wearier, a bit more cynical of human nature--but the small joys found in his new life eventually sand away the rough edges that remain and while Ross still rebels against the class system that keeps the poor poor (and starving, near homeless, jobless, and without any means of improving themselves), he's less likely to use his fists to fight the injustice he sees (although that doesn't mean he won't if it comes down to it; Ross doesn't become a total pussycat). And that's what makes Ross unique; even though he's a country squire, someone of a higher class than the farmers and miners whom he supports, he'd much rather socialize with his "inferiors" than with those who are his supposed peers, and there are several occasions when he rails against those of his class for remaining willfully oblivious to the suffering of the lower classes.
If Winston Graham isn't generous with romance in his dealings with Ross and Demelza, he is, however, overflowing in his love for the Cornish people and countryside. And that's where the book shines. The landscape comes to life--the roiling sea, the salt-wind-swept grasses and heath, the dangerous and claustrophobic mining caves--along with the rough-and-tumble people who struggle to eke out an existence in this harsh, but beautiful land. But you also see and feel and smell the horrors of the time, the casual cruelty of beatings and cock fighting, the unwashed bodies crawling with lice, the crowded jails filled with forgotten souls, their only companions Pestilence and Death. This balanced perspective keeps the novel from becoming either too saccharine or too grim.
About the only real criticism I have is for the language. Oh, not that it's salty or anything (it's not), but there are occasions where reading the dialogue of certain characters was quite difficult. One, the young wife of the local doctor, because she had a speech impediment--she lisped quite badly--meaning I had to read and re-read what she said several times to understand it, and sometimes I still didn't fully comprehend certain words, even when I used the context of the entire sentence, so I simply gave up and moved on. The other occasion was the patois of the native Cornish speakers; most of the time it was pretty easy to work out what was being said, but occasionally it got a bit thick--Jud in particular--again necessitating a couple of re-reads before I got the gist of things.
In a slightly off-topic rant, reading the book gave me a new appreciation for the TV adaptations, though. The first one, with Robin Ellis, followed the books much more closely, while the second adaptation was quite a bit freer with the story. Then again, that seems to the be the trend whenever a classic miniseries is remade: the story is trimmed, oftentimes quite dramatically; the source novel is only lightly touched upon; and most importantly the “cheesy” soundstages and interior shots are exchanged for location and outdoor shooting, which is fine except when certain productions seem to go overboard in that direction just to prove a point. You notice that? The original Upstairs, Downstairs had 68 episodes and while it wasn't shot on a soundstage, it was shot pretty much exclusively inside 65 Eaton Place, Belgravia, London. The new Upstairs, Downstairs had, what, only 9 episodes as well as outside and location shooting alongside filming at 35 Clarendon Square. The original Forsyte Saga runs for 26 episodes and more closely follows the book, which includes making Soames Forsyte the bastard he is, while the later Forsyte Saga runs only 10 episodes and is quite a bit more loosey-goosey with the story. (And there are a lot of people who hate that this later version made Soames more sympathetic, going against the grain of the original story.) Personally, I like the later version of The Forsyte Saga mainly because of the luminous Gina McGee, but I acknowledge it takes quite a few liberties with the source material. And then we have our current topic, Poldark. The original TV production ran for 29 episodes, which allowed for a deeper exploration of the books' storyline, while this newer production seems to be skipping over some bits. And, don't get me wrong, I admire Aidan Turner's tumbling, windswept curls as much as anyone, but it seems like most of the shots seem to be of them rather than of anything else. I know I'm exaggerating, but you get my drift. And why do we still not have a Demelza with black hair, as she is in the books? I love gingers, I do; I wish I was a ginger and have dyed my hair often enough to achieve that end, but still... Demelza has black hair, even with her fiery personality. Okay, rant over.
To get back to the book (after all, this is a book review, right? Right): At the end of the day, this is a solid mid-century historical fiction novel, with the slightly stilted writing style typical of that era. Yet it remains a strong, highly readable story focused, at heart, on the same human emotions and turmoils from which we still suffer today....more
I've been curious about this, Georgette Heyer's first historical romance, since I first discovered her (which, I admit, wasn't that long ago). I haveI've been curious about this, Georgette Heyer's first historical romance, since I first discovered her (which, I admit, wasn't that long ago). I have to say, upon finishing it, while I can see the glimmerings of her much-lauded knowledge of the Georgian/Regency eras, along with her talent for witty repartee and her deft hand at romantic entanglements and disentanglements, The Black Moth on the whole has a rather rough and raw feel to it: You can definitely tell this is her first foray into the genre.
The story at times can become rather rambling and over-long; I found myself at several points wishing she would speed things up and get to the more pertinent parts of the tale. I also found the overall tone to be, I won't say amateurish, but somehow...immature. What with all the abductions of fair maidens by dashing villains and cross-country chases, it felt less like a light-hearted romance novel and more like the melodramatic Gothic novel so prominent in the late 18th/early 19th centuries, those devilish novels reviled by proper mommas and secreted away by dimpled girls, fresh from the school room, to be read and raptured over away from prying eyes. Don't get me wrong, that kind of novel has it's place and you have to give Heyer credit for creating such an authentic story. I just wish The Black Moth had been identified as such, rather than lumped into the Georgian romance genre. Between Gothic romance and Georgian/Regency romance, there is a difference. Never mind that, to a modern woman like me, the high-handed treatment of women by said dashing villain, as well as the laissez-faire attitude taken towards his actions by his peers, is repugnant in the extreme and certainly no sane woman's idea of a romantic gesture. Give me the gentle flirtations, the clever banter, the mistaken identities and inevitable reconciliation found in Heyer's later books any day.
As always, any flaws are expiated by Heyer's talent at creating fully-fleshed characters and her attention to detail. Her coquettes are perfectly flighty and frothy, her heroes are properly proud and determined; villains are devilish, yet, even as they get their comeuppance in the end, remain enigmatic and dangerous. And while Heyer's witty dialogue may not reach the rapier-sharp heights of Jane Austen's, it certainly comes a close second and often wins out due to its more plain-speaking style....more
Not having read very many of Heyer's Regency novels, I don't know if The Nonesuch is a more typical example of her work. I will say, while it3.5 stars
Not having read very many of Heyer's Regency novels, I don't know if The Nonesuch is a more typical example of her work. I will say, while it is amusing and entrancing, with very well-drawn characters, it's a bit of a struggle to get through because of the language. Heyer is known for her attention to historical detail and she shows off that knowledge through an extensive use of Regency slang and haut monde cant. While you might not need a dictionary by your side to complete the book, it sure would come in handy now and then as you struggle to piece together the meaning of a sentences like "Do you take me for a flat, young sauce-box?" and "Don't be so ready to sport your canvas!" from context alone. While I'm not so dull I can't figure out the meanings of such phrases, it would be nice to know exactly what the characters are saying. The only other disappointment I have with the novel is the ending. Now, as you know, most Regency romances end on a high note, usually with a flamboyant marriage ceremony, tying the bow on the romance which dominated the book. (Sometimes secondary characters will also get married, but their ceremonies are far less important to the story.) However, The Nonesuch offers only a couple of happy engagements, ending rather abruptly before everything is completely tied up, in my opinion. I feel cheated somehow; I should at least have witnessed the wedding of Ancilla Trent to Sir Waldo Hawkridge, the Nonesuch himself. And while the brat of the tale, Miss Tiffany Wield--the most spoilt, repugnant, irritating, heartless creature ever created and a perfect example of why no one should ever name their child Tiffany, ever--gets her comeuppance in the end, it's not satisfying enough.
However, as Regency romances go, this is still one of the better ones, written by the mistress of the genre, with enough humor, action, misconceptions and mistaken agendas, as well as romance, to satisfy anyone looking for a pleasant diversion from reality. My question is, why hasn't the BBC gotten around to turning any of her novels into costume dramas? They have enough meat on their bones to satisfy anyone with a hankering for high-waisted Regency elegance (and I wouldn't mind seeing some more tight, well-filled-out breeches, either *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*)....more
This is not a Gothic romance novel. This is a handbook concerning A) a sociopathic* personality, how its psychosis manifests in actions, words, and thThis is not a Gothic romance novel. This is a handbook concerning A) a sociopathic* personality, how its psychosis manifests in actions, words, and thoughts, and how with the smallest trigger, it spirals down into further depths of depravity and horror, and B) the warning signs of an abusive relationship, wherein a husband/boyfriend/lover mocks the low intelligence of his partner, disparages any independent thought, isolates his partner from outside influences, including friends and family, before finally resorting to physical violence to exert control over his partner. Is any of this really romantic? I gave the book three stars for the writing, which, considering it was Seton's second novel, is remarkably mature and well-paced; the tension is palpable, the atmosphere evocatively limned on every page, and the chill of horror and suspicion is felt even in the happiest moments of the novel. First-rate writing. The storyline, however, is not my cup of tea. I will never be a victim and to read of someone willingly, and blindly, overlooking the warning signs from their partner, thus remaining a victim to that partner's whims, is absolutely abhorrent to me.
*People tend to mix up psychopaths and sociopaths, for some odd reason, and I've seen it mentioned that, were Nicholas Van Ryn to be categorized today, he'd be diagnosed as a psychopath. That is incorrect. A psychopath has no conscience yet he also has no control; he doesn't care how he appears to the larger world and has no desire to fit in. Rather his psychosis manifests in ever-increasing bouts of violence with no sense of planning or logic, however twisted that logic might be. A sociopath, however, while still lacking a conscience, looks, acts, and seems like any other person. He is a chameleon. Just look at Ted Bundy, the most famous of sociopaths. It's only when his twisted desires, his super-sized ego is thwarted that the mask of humanity comes off and his inner demon is revealed. Nicholas Van Ryn, though a fictional character, is a perfect example of this mental disorder....more