The De Kuyper saga churns onwards, with a generation living, loving, and dying during the Revolutionary War and playing a role alongside the likes of...moreThe De Kuyper saga churns onwards, with a generation living, loving, and dying during the Revolutionary War and playing a role alongside the likes of Franklin, Washington, Hamilton, and even Louis XVI.
I really enjoyed the first two books in this series (From Distant Shores : The Novel of New York 1613-1667 and On Maiden Lane), but this one ended up venturing into "meh" territory. It started off fairly well: Nathan Hale's last few days and execution as well as the promise of a truly despicable (and yet oh so dangerously gorgeous) villain in the vein of Jason Isaacs in The Patriot. Then, the whole thing kind of lost its way and sense of direction.
Part of it, I think, is that the author was churning out one of these 500+ page epics every year. No doubt cashing in on the family saga gravy train that John Jakes had started a few years earlier, but that's only my conjecture. There are a TON of characters in this book, but not enough plot to go around, and not enough action. Many of the plotlines simply involve characters loving each other, and talking to other people about it. There were many short scenes "around the dining room table" as mother advised daughter, sister browbeat brother, etc. about their love lives. I believe the action scene count in this book was perhaps under a half dozen, and nothing approaching the awesome sea battle and pirate ship episodes in the second novel that had me flipping the pages totally enthralled.
The biggest disappointment was the disintegration of the evil captain, Patrick Blakely. In the beginning, I dreaded his appearance on the scene because I knew Bad Shit Was Gonna Happen, and you're only the helpless reader who can't reach in and prevent it. Then, like with all the characters, he found LOVE (because Nicolaysen can't bear to have any character without a mate, it seems) and softened. Even in the last 20 pages when (view spoiler)[he set fire to New York and got killed by the useless De Kuyper drunkard in a last act of redemption before dying himself, (hide spoiler)] there had been way too much time since his last evil act, so the scene didn't generate the "Hell yeah!" reaction that it should have.
I do give props to the author for taking the historical figures like Washington and in their limited screen time making them real people rather than ideal wallpaper figures. Washington swears like Patton, which read a little funny at first, but heading a rabble army always on the edge of mutiny would test any man's genteel vocabulary.
I'm continuing with the saga - hell, there are only 2 volumes left - but I'm really hoping that the next one will have a better sense of direction.
ETA: I have no idea who the 2 people on the cover are supposed to be. The main female character (who owns Beekman Place) is a blonde. A bit of a peeve of mine.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
If this book had a neck, I would have throttled it.
For over 500 pages, the story ping-ponged frustratingly between a terrible romance with the most ri...moreIf this book had a neck, I would have throttled it.
For over 500 pages, the story ping-ponged frustratingly between a terrible romance with the most ridiculously shallow cast of characters you'll ever see and short scenes of well-written and well-researched historical events revolving around Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys. If only Barbieri had made this a book about that rascally revolutionary and borderline criminal, but no...
Instead, we get a story about a perfectly beautiful young woman, Melanie, who is the magnetic north to which all mens' crotch compasses point. No matter where she goes, the lustful glances follow. She, of course, is oblivious to their attention until it's pointed out to her, at which time she blushes and becomes even more beautiful, if that's even possible, and suddenly it all turns into a tent-pitching party. I wish I was making this up. Melanie's utterly devastating beauty and damn amber eyes were referred to so many times--and every part of her body was referred to as "perfect" at one point or another--that it eventually became hilarious after starting out as really annoying.
I got the feeling that Barbieri couldn't figure out what kind of guy she wanted to claim Melanie's heart in this book, so she threw in three of them. The most sympathetic one who most readers would root for would be Asa, the middle-aged man who falls in love with Melanie when she's 13 (unconsummated until 3 years later), even though he's 30 years older than she. If you're squicked out by huge age-gaps like that, then give this one a pass - but it's not an Anna-Nicole Smith/Cryptkeeper gross-out!
But Melanie, despite being intelligent and quick-witted (as the author keeps telling us, but all evidence points to the contrary) doesn't realize she has A Good Thing with Asa. Her quivery lady bits are set all atwitter by Stephen Hull, one of the Green Mountain Boys, who has serious emotional issues. He loves Melanie so much he hates her. So intimidated by her loveliness is he that he can't stop abusing and threatening her, but well, he's just so darn handsome and dark and all muscled and everything that Melanie can't help herself. I never knew where the author was going with this character. After he did something awful, (view spoiler)[like slamming her head into a brick wall and then forcing her into his room, making her disrobe, and then raping her (hide spoiler)], he would act all tormented and cry out his love for her and it felt like Barbieri was trying to make him sympathetic, but he only came off as totally psychotic. Any modern-day woman would recognize that right off the bat, or I should hope so! But not Melanie. This cycle happened again and again throughout the novel and still, up until the end of the book she harbored affection and love for this nutbag, and in fact, felt like she owed Stephen for tormenting him so! WHAT????
The third hero in this mess of a romance was Simon. As the book progressed, I actually started to see no fundamental difference between him and Stephen, but only in terms of degrees. Both were jealously possessive of Melanie, but Simon was just nicer and not physically abusive about it. Possessive jealousy was really the author's only expression of "love" shown in the book. Even dear old Asa prided himself that Melanie belonged to him and no one else. It was disturbing, but also cartoonish.
This book is complete nonsense, with a heroine that is annoyingly perfect and impossibly beautiful, where never a scene goes by without a paragraph-long description of clothes (and how they flatter every aspect of her figure), and countless scenes with her unaware of someone watching her as she just happens to be doing something rather twee and perfect, like fingering objects which bring to mind past memories and lead to a wistful expression or smile which only makes her more beautiful. And sometimes dimples dance over her cheeks when she smiles or laughs. The plot is slight and could have been covered in 150 pages, and the characters were about as deep as a desert rain puddle. One star because I actually finished it, and an extra star for the glorious bastard who was the reason this wasn't a completely excruciating reading experience:
The true hero - Ethan Allen, the only male in the book who could stand in Melanie's beatific, perfect presence and not be driven to the heights of lust. AND he beat the Brits' butts at Fort Ticonderoga.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
If you look at my past ratings, I don't hand out 5-star ratings easily. In fact, sometimes I feel like I'm too hard on these poor little books whose o...moreIf you look at my past ratings, I don't hand out 5-star ratings easily. In fact, sometimes I feel like I'm too hard on these poor little books whose only goal in life is to give the reader a few hours of enjoyment. But I thoroughly enjoyed this book. There were a few flaws, but nothing that detracted from the book as a whole.
After what felt like a rough start in From Distant Shores : The Novel of New York 1613-1667, where plot and history were sometimes clunkily intertwined, Nicolaysen really hit the ground running with this book. The combination of the family narrative and historical events was done much more deftly, and he did a significantly better job of making the characters living, breathing people. Jacob Adam, who was (purposely) made an inscrutable cipher in the first book due to his parentage, transforms from calculating businessman to caring, emotional human during the events of the first 150 pages. There were also longer stretches of pure fiction, so this book as a whole had much more depth than the Potemkin village feel of the first book, where fictional names were hung on history.
Nicolaysen's writing in this book struck me as very cinematic. It's not flowery, but clearly describes what's happening. There is a lot of head-jumping between characters, but no endless inner monologues that drag down the action. And action there is! The episode with Captain Kidd was riveting, the sea battle scenes were very well done and kept my eyes glued to the page. He took us from New York to Madagascar, to the middle of the Indian Ocean and every scene stood out in old-timey vivid Technicolor. The same holds true for the short but terrifying episode in 1741, when slaves were targeted by mob rule and hanged/burned at the stake for their imagined role in setting fires throughout New York City. And the high-pitched battle between Micmacs and our New Yorker protagonists on Cape Breton Island near the end of the book acted itself out in my mind with close shots, panning shots, the smokey cloud of musketfire and the sickening sound of tomahawks sinking into human flesh, all accompanied by an Erich Wolfgang Korngold score.
After a roller coaster ride of action, the book ended with a dinner debate between an old scion of the de Kuypers and the young colonel George Washington, setting the stage beautifully for the next book in the series because I have a feeling the de Kuyper clan will be fighting on both sides of the American Revolution. I can't wait.
ETA: Bruce Nicolaysen did in fact write the novel/screenplay for a WWII movie called The Passage in 1979.(less)
Don't get me wrong. I loved this book, as those 5 stars attest. However, fr...moreWARNING: GIFs ahead
You know what this book needed?
A bunny. LOTS of bunnies.
Don't get me wrong. I loved this book, as those 5 stars attest. However, from beginning to end the gloom, doom, and consequences of every very human flaw that the characters possessed made this a very suffocating, disturbing, uncomfortable read which almost defies description.
Sometimes I just couldn't bear to look.
For instance, I usually prefer to personally like at least one character, even just a little bit. All of these characters were fairly loathsome in different respects, but the aforementioned human flaws kept them from being total monsters.
Lord Thomas Eden is strictly a man of his time, where there are 2 kinds of people - the nobility and the help. This accident of birth allows the former to do whatever it likes to the latter with nary a twinge of conscience. He's the ultimate rake with no redeeming values. This time around, he's all horny for Marianne the fisherman's daughter and he'll do whatever it takes to bed her (and toss her aside once he's popped that cherry). His well-laid plans often have unforeseen results.
As with anyone who has never had to face real-life consequences for his actions, he's emotionally stunted. When coming up against resistance or anything that doesn't fit the scenario he has lined out ("I'm a Lord and you're an inferior, you'll do as I wish and you'll be happy to do so") he flails out in all directions like the spoiled, overprivileged drama queen that he is and heads for the fainting couch.
Even the heroine, Marianne, didn't get sympathy from me until the last 70 or so pages. In the beginning of the story when she was under the most duress, other aspects of her character came out through the words of others that perhaps she got what she deserved for being such a spoiled, willful brat. Her behavior at her sister's house in London clinched it for me. Did not like her.
I'm new to Marilyn Harris's brand of crazy WTFery and despite all the warnings and heads-up that I got, I was still shocked at some of the turns the plot took. That scene with William Beckford and the serving girl (once again totally caused by Eden's "I'm the puppetmaster!" sense of noble entitlement)? Totally didn't see it coming.
And Harris has the balls to never tell us what actually happened.
What struck me the most about this book was the very realistic vibe. Throughout I kept thinking, Yes this was the way things were. Women had no rights, were treated as objects for men to do with as they pleased, and they had no recourse - only to suck it up and deal with it in whatever small way was available to them. Someone as elevated as Eden was still taken in by the snake oil of a Celestial Bed. The structure of English society was really that stagnant (and ossified) and the threat of that rigid order being overturned from the rumblings in America and France were really a cause of concern - from Eden's point-of-view, anyway. But considering his actions in the name of that lauded social structure, bring on the revolution, I say!
What a long, bleak read that was. Even the HEA at the end wasn't enough to counteract it. But I'm hooked, and no doubt will get greedy and glut myself on the Human Agony of the Eden clan. I hope I have the stomach for it.
What started as a fun-sister-buddy-read quickly devolved into a constant bitchfest until its merciful conclusion.
I had hopes for this book. Not high h...moreWhat started as a fun-sister-buddy-read quickly devolved into a constant bitchfest until its merciful conclusion.
I had hopes for this book. Not high hopes, but it had everything that would make it good. Time period, location (my homestate region), and subject matter of indian abduction/captivity/assimilation and the drama of being caught between 2 worlds. In theory it could have been an engaging read. But the execution was lackluster and disjointed and about as bland as eating plain white flour. (Try it. You know what I mean.)
There was no there there with these characters. It was people doing things, but as to why they did them.... who knows. The author did not get into their heads except only rarely and when they did it gave nothing to the plot. I wanted to care about them, because shit, we're supposed to care about poor Sarah Wells, right? Stolen from her family by marauding Abenaki, she's faced with abuse, loneliness, a foreign way of life, and then the dangers of the wilderness when she finally escapes. But the reader was simply a distant observer and the only way to get close was to fill in all the gaps that the author left.
Why does Sarah suddenly feel some kind of connection with her captors enroute north? Did something happen during that unexplored period of time between one scene and the next scene that begins with "three days later"? I felt like I had to write more than half the book in my head in order to make sense of anything.
Now I feel like picking up Follow the River to make a comparison. I read it years ago and have mostly forgotten it, but I don't remember being incredibly impressed with it either. Perhaps the authentic captivity narratives will have to suffice.(less)