This was the most pleasant reading surprise I've had in a long time. Several things suggested this would be a less-than-stellar read: the cover, for oThis was the most pleasant reading surprise I've had in a long time. Several things suggested this would be a less-than-stellar read: the cover, for one. Check out that naked chick writhing around while hubby and wifey share a chaste clinch in the background! And Frank Slaughter was a prolific (and I mean prolific) author whose name is never found in the hallways of classic American literature. So I was expecting a small tidbit of tawdry, pulpy trash with haphazard writing and zippo subtlety.
The setting is the South immediately after the war. Dr. Julian Chisholm returns to his plantation after the war and tries to find his way forward through the ruins of the ex-Confederacy. The chaos is exacerbated by the presence of the carpetbaggers, the Freedmens Bureau, and the rise of the KKK. With his wife as the guiding light, Chisholm Hundred is turned into what the New South should be, where ex-slaves work for hard money rather than crop shares, and the past is left far behind. But the Good Ole Boy Network has something to say about that...
I felt that the hero was rather feckless throughout. He was caught in the Old Ways, but recognized the rightness of his wife's vision for the plantation. He did stand by her, but he also ended up joining the Klan through peer pressure with the justification that since their mission was to "protect Confederate widows and orphans" they couldn't be all bad, right? Riiiiiiiight.... It takes him about 2 seconds to realize the nefarious doings that they're up to as an excuse to commit murder without consequences. He does stand up for himself and "resign," but as he soon finds out, you just can't "resign" from the Klan. But those small bursts of moral strength were outweighed by his moments of weakness, like when Lucy Sprague, his ex-sister-in-law, enters the scene and he can't keep his Little Doctor in his pants. (Since this was written in 1950, all of "those scenes" are of the fade-to-black variety.)
My favorite character by far was Jane Chisholm, his wife. She was a strong woman who had the firmest of convictions and such things as her marriage vows were secondary to creating a New South and fighting against the forces that tried to intimidate her. When Julian finally comes to after his catatonic phase, he learns that she has been managing the plantation, working in the fields alongside the ex-slaves, and staving off the ruin that has enveloped the surrounding plantations. She believes in the idea of paying ex-slaves to work and casting off all the Old Ways of doing plantation farming. She can handle a rifle as well as any man, and has the respect of the men working for her. But Julian, still a Southern Gentleman, doesn't cotton to this and demands that she needs to stay at the house and act like a proper lady. She basically says NUTS TO THAT. You see, she works for the Federal government as an agent, and it's part of her mission to re-build the South. We don't see her for large portions of the book (one separation is over 2 years), but she's always working in the background. It's her small regiment of armed men who haul Julian's ass out of the fire when he's running for his life from some angry Klan members. Jane's a badass, and I loved her.
What kept this book from getting the full 5-star treatment was the last 5 pages. OK, Frank Slaughter was a doctor, and this book had quite a few grisly surgical scenes. I can read about arteries gushing blood, punctured lungs, and exposed muscle fibers in great detail. But what I can't handle is a birthing scene. I so did not need to read about the gelatinous placenta bulging out through the Cesarian incision. Blaaaaaaaahhhh.......
So if you're a tougher-skinned reader who doesn't mind a couple n-words and having a hero wearing the Klan nightshirt, this is quite the enjoyable read....more
This is one of those books that I finished despite the fact that on every page something was telling me to just stop, FFS, this is a waste of time andThis is one of those books that I finished despite the fact that on every page something was telling me to just stop, FFS, this is a waste of time and you'll be so much happier if you PUT THE BOOK DOWN and walk away...
It started out okay enough. Rufenna (oh that name! and I swear it was on every single page) has been in an abbey for the last few years learning the fine arts of housewifery from the nuns who would of course know about that sort of thing. She's quite the Snowflake of Speshulness, totally unaware of the effect she has on Willie, the village boy who does the heavy garden work at the abbey, while she sits in apple trees and swings her legs and innocently kisses him in thanks for stuff. The MarySue hammer smacked me between the eyes rather strongly and repeatedly, I can assure you.
But Dad is ill, so Rufenna is collected by her brother to head home to Lyall castle. On the way they're ambushed by Davon Hammond, who's got some kind of beef with the brother. But, Scottish blood feuds being what they are, abducting the sister who has nothing to do with it is totally acceptable. Rufenna's quite the nimrod, and after Davon has told her exactly what he's got in store for her, she strips down and bathes, eats food, drinks lots of ale and then crawls drunkenly into his bed while awaiting her fate. Not surprisingly, he comes in and.... HELLO! rapes her. But not really, you see. The Magical Wang™ strikes again, and Rufenna can't think of nothing else but her lurve for Davon but at the same time tries to escape every chance she gets.
At this point, I'd call it a Long Separation because she does escape, nearly drowns in a river while doing so, and gets rescued by a pack of Gypsies on their way to perform at some lord's wedding. These Gypsies must have quite the event planning mechanism in place, for they're in demand all over Scotland and constantly on the move from one gig to another. Eventually she gets back to her own castle and is totally taken in by the devious cousin who everyone warns her about. When the inevitable shit goes down, she claims everyone was duped by the guy.
Admittedly, from this point (pg 165) I started to lose interest - with only 300+ pages to go! The remainder of the book consisted of the h getting captured repeatedly, rescued (or escaping only to get captured by another party), insisting on leading her men to raids (but never participating), fighting with Davon when she finally meets up with him, some no-no-no-yes-yes sex, and then more riding off pell mell in rescue of one personage or another, including Scottish lords who are being held hostage by the English. The latter part of the book is mostly all events of The Rough Wooing starting with the burning of Edinburgh. All interesting stuff if you read about them in history books, but now I come to the main reason I didn't like this book: the writing.
Oh, it's so boring! "Rosalind Foxx" is actually 2 people, and it read like it was written by committee. The redundancies and lackluster prose were so prevalent that I found myself contemplating my compost pile because it was more interesting. Por ejemplo:
"Aye, m'lord," Sim said, withdrawing and nearly colliding with a slim figure standing in the doorway. He hesitated, eyeing the girl curiously. Davon straightened abruptly from laying down his burden and spun around, staring in astonishment at the girl standing in the doorway.
Where's this girl again? It's not exactly clear...
They rode on, passing Mangerton Tower, stronghold of the Armstrongs, and skirted the edges of Solway Moss, and crossed into England. The sharp scent of the salty marsh assailed Rufenna's nostrils as they edged around the treacherous boggy land beside Solway Moss.
Only a couple examples, but that kind of repetitious writing was constant. And throwing in the knuckleheaded decisions that Rufenna kept making on an hourly basis, it was almost more than I could take. One of the stupidest scenes was during the burning of Edinburgh, when rumors are rife that the English are already attacking the city and she gives this shining bit of wisdom after looking out her window and seeing nothing:
"Go to bed; there is nothing out there. And even if they do come, we will have a better chance of escape if we have had a good night's sleep."
Yes, because the best chance you have of escaping is if you're passed out in bed when the English are beating down your door. And the English will be kind enough to wait till morning to attack. Dimwit. (And you just know what happens, don't you?)
So really, I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone unless you like long pedantic paragraphs, repetitious word choice, huge convoluted political situations with lots of names thrown around and ureadable exposition that makes it clear as mud, and characters that you don't give a hang about. Rufenna and Davon got their HEA, but it took a long meandering "plot" to get there with so many tangents that my concentration and patience were totally used up....more
This book got off to a frenetic start as Wayne Thorpe witnesses the murder of his father, a British merchantman, by the dastardly Sir Timoteo O'BannioThis book got off to a frenetic start as Wayne Thorpe witnesses the murder of his father, a British merchantman, by the dastardly Sir Timoteo O'Bannion y Salazar, one of the brutal men on the Spanish Main. Wayne escapes by jumping off the ship and thus begins a string of adventures for the young lad over the course of several years, fueled only by his desire for revenge and to spit the evil O'Bannion on the end of his sword.
Sounds exciting? It could have been! The cover proclaims The fire-power of Yankee Pasha The passion of Forever Amber
And there were those features, but what wasn't advertised was the writing that has all the liveliness of day-old dishwater. Lots of telling, little showing - and what did I expect from a book that staunchly resides in the macho fluff genre?
This would have been a meh 3-star read for me due to the choppiness of the timeline, the shallow emotional scenes between Wayne and the series of tragically ill-fated women he comes across (seriously this guy was the Angel of Death - from death by rape to getting decapitated by cannonballs, these women's life spans shrunk immediately after meeting this guy), but there were a couple HUGE things that knocked the rating down for me.
Example #1: Of all the women in the book (and there were about 4-5 in the course of the story) he meets and has sexytimes with, there is one he falls in love with and marries, after a separation. This is the thing: I did not remember her. I flipped back a couple dozen pages and sure enough, she had been mentioned, been in a few scenes, but I had no idea who the hell she was. I'd totally forgotten her. I remembered Dorotea, the Spanish whore in the first 50 pages of the book very clearly, but Patricia Martin? Not so much. Not at all.
Example #2: One of other chicks, daughter of a Spanish don, is married off to O'Bannion. In the last part of the book O'Bannion has a Creole wife (not Consuelo). Consuelo just dropped off the face of the earth 2/3 of the way through the book and was never seen or mentioned again. So we're left to wonder - Did he kill her? Did she run away? Poor writing/continuity?
But on the other hand, this little tome is jam-packed full of pirates - the lingo and historical doings felt authentic. I had never heard of "pieces of eight" but now I know. And the dialogue is sprinkled with tasty piratey tidbits like Captain Morgan's rally to his buccaneers:
"Ye are fighting men. No better ever wielded cutlass or bedded a wench! Once we get our feet on yonder walls the Castle of La Gloria and the City of Porto Bello are ours. Follow me, ye Brethren of the Coat! Follow me, and tonight ye sleep in the arms of the fairest newly widowed flowers of New Spain!"
Then he proceeds to use priests and nuns as human shields while they scale the wall of La Gloria. :D
This book took waaaay longer than it should have for its size - the choppy writing made it hard to follow when reading in short doses (how I tend to read) but also moved at a snail's pace when I settled down for an hour's marathon read. (What? Only 30 pages?)
So, despite the awesometude of pirates, I'd suggest you go elsewhere if you want a rollicking read about them.
I had to add this book to Goodreads because it wasn't on here yet... now I kinda know why. ...more
In this book's defense, there is no way the plot could possibly live up to the cover's potential. But it was close. I've heard onVeryGoodAuthorityIn this book's defense, there is no way the plot could possibly live up to the cover's potential. But it was close. I've heard onVeryGoodAuthority™ several horror stories of the Johanna Lindsey reading experience, but that was not going to deter me from having the pleasure/excuse to legitimately fondle this cover for at least a few days while I read it.
So, the cover immediately prepped me to LURVE the hero, and I did. From the first moment he appeared, I was all
and totally invested in the characters. The heroine was likeable, and even though she was a rich society girl in the most preposterous of plot contrivances (a mail-order bride?), stuck in a situation where she had no expertise (can't cook or ride a horse), she didn't pitch spoiled brat hissy fits that made the reader want to reach in and choke her.
And have I mentioned how dreamy Lucas Holt was? All charming in such a westerny laconic way?
Their scenes were tender and emotions were built steadily until the cherry-popping point halfway through the book. It was a nice, leisurely trip and I was enjoying it immensely.
And then, at the 3/4 mark Lindsey really pulled out all the stops of Plot Contrivance, Inc. and it all started going downhill. My attention had been riveted up until that point, but once the action went back to NYC and all the loose ends flapping in the breeze were getting tied together, it was obvious it was a frantic, slapdash job which only seemed to emphasize the middle-school writing style. For one, the twist/reveal became glaringly obvious long before it was finally revealed. OK, maybe I'm just clueless, but Lindsey had totally snookered me up until that point. But more and more I was looking at the cover and losing interest in the contents inside. Even a backpacking overnighter, with nothing to do on the mountaintop but listen to the wind, birds, and wait for the sun to set, couldn't get me into the rest of this book. I finally finished it waiting for my ride at the trailhead. So...
For the majority of the book being enjoyable and disproving the scientific theory that Lindsey sucks from pg. 1: 5 stars For the last 80 pages of boredom: -1 star For the ridiculous character of Charley the tomcat: -1/2 star
But since that McGuinness cover is Teh Awesumest EVAH I'm rounding up to a shiny, sparkly 4 stars....more
I'm not one for sci-fi (other than classic Trek). Fantasy doesn't do it for me either. But where I do make a major exception is when the story centersI'm not one for sci-fi (other than classic Trek). Fantasy doesn't do it for me either. But where I do make a major exception is when the story centers around the extinction the humanity (or threat of extinction). The rapid disintegration of the veneer of civilization that humans flatter themselves into thinking makes them better than the "baser animals" is a fascinating topic, and a topic which the best sci-fi writers have explored. This classic story captures it perfectly.
A virus destroys the world's grasses, beginning in China - rice, wheat, barley, etc. At first, the civilized Western world is horrified at the stories of cannibalism coming out of China and aid is sent. But soon it becomes apparent that it is spreading, and countries begin to circle the wagons and look after their own. Governments topple and mass executions are carried out - all in the first 60 or so pages. The focus of this story is a small group of fugitives from London, led by John Custance, on their obstacle-filled journey to his brother's farm in the country. The brother had decided to follow The Worst Case Scenario and had left nothing to chance - plant potatoes, kill the livestock that required grasses for feed, and build a huge barrier at the end of the valley to prevent the inevitable marauders.
The journey of John Custance, his wife and children, and the inevitable hangers-on was long and drawn out. It seemed aimless, but the real point of the story was the transformation of John from the strait-laced, mild-mannered, play-by-the-rules cog of society into a tribal chieftain, killing others for their supplies and always balancing The Needs of the Many over the Few (or the One).
As the journey progressed, I began to dread the finale because I just knew it couldn't be as easy and Happily Ever After as it seemed at the beginning, and boy was I right!
An excellent what-if story that does an excellent job of showing just how precarious the Rules of Civilization really are and that we're only 3 square meals away from total anarchy and chaos....more
Oh, the inevitable aggravation of reading a novel set in an era that you know backwards and forwards... every little inaccuracy jumps out like a spastOh, the inevitable aggravation of reading a novel set in an era that you know backwards and forwards... every little inaccuracy jumps out like a spastic squirrel on a backcountry road, sending your concentration swerving and skidding out of control as your pre-ABS mind slams on its brakes. I've been so disappointed in the past, and yet I never learn... Not many novels are set in Hollywood during the days of silent film, so I take what I can get.
This is the 2nd book in the series The Shackleford Legacy, but it easily stands on its own. It's 1918 and teenager Julia Shackleford leaves for Los Angeles to get out from under the domineering thumb of her wealthy businessman grandfather. She stays with a friend and inevitably gets noticed by the director while being an innocent onlooker during the filming of a street scene. A screen test is made, and of course she has a natural talent for acting despite having no experience. She starts in 2-reel comedies and branches into drama. She meets handsome Wesley Stanton, a young man trying to make it in Hollywood but with minimal success. He has the looks, but not the talent. As with all Hollywood romances with this setup, it immediately becomes a re-tread of A Star is Born and everything falls apart because Hubby refuses to be Mr. Famous Actress. The marriage becomes history, but the Hollywood life has become too much for her and she leaves it all behind. But it's not over - the final 50 pages or so of the book is Mr. Washed-Up Who Has Turned A New Leaf trying to get back custody of their daughter.
It was all rather predictable, except for some really improbable revelations and plot turns at the end that seemed like a desperate way to wrap it all up rather tidily. For a book covering only 4 years I felt that a lot was glossed over with some very quick recapping and rather unimaginative writing. There were a few scenes that stood out for me that I thought were done very well, but the rest of it felt very workmanlike.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about this book was the inaccuracies and what they were. Things that were very easy to look up (even before the on-demand answers of the Internet) were wrong and some of the more esoteric names and dates matched up. For instance, Erich von Stroheim is referred to by a character in 1918 as an innovative director, but he didn't even direct his first feature film until 1919. Ivor Novello is mentioned as co-starring with Marguerite Clark in 1918 - although Clark was in Hollywood at that time, Novello was not and actually being quite famous on the British stage. Valentino is mentioned as always losing the Latin lover roles to John Gilbert and Ramon Novarro in 1919, and both of those guys hadn't even hit their stride in Hollywood yet, let alone being seen as romantic leads. Then the author throws out the name of lesser-known Hollywood figures like Charles Brabin and Thomas Meighan, and it's all accurate. She did a pretty good job presenting Mabel Normand, Mary Miles Minter, and William Desmond Taylor and thankfully we don't delve into that scandal too much.
Which comes to the reason why I did like this book so much. Many of the Old Hollywood books I've read use the famous celebrities as background, getting perhaps one line of dialogue directed toward our main character before moving on. These celluloid gods and goddesses became honest-to-goodness real characters with more than a superficial relationship with our main protagonist. Rudolph Valentino wasn't the steamy Latin lover but a gregarious young Italian man who befriends our heroine and is absolutely frigging adorable and carefree. Mabel Normand also claims a fair share of "screen time" as a person in her own right.
I was very surprised that Julia didn't follow the typical trajectory of these Hollywood stories - she didn't become Gloria Swanson or Greta Garbo famous. Her career seemed somewhat lackluster, only in 6-8 films, and playing the American girl next door. Maybe more of a Barbara Kent famous. (I hear you say, Barbara Kent who?)
And finally, I give major props to Riefe for not having Charlie Chaplin appear once. Huge icon of the silent days, would have been a perfect opportunity for a lech episode with sweet Julia, but nary a glimpse of him. Yay!
Final rating of 3.5 stars, but knocking it down to 3 for GR because I can't ignore shit like the Stroheim or Novello errors. And the creepy likeness of Skeletor Nicole Kidman on the cover. (And why did the cover artist think a Packard popping out the guy's stomach looked good?)...more
Despite all appearances, this book was a real page-turner whenever I managed to carve out some time. Several details simply deman*looks at start date*
Despite all appearances, this book was a real page-turner whenever I managed to carve out some time. Several details simply demanded that I read it: the Vermont setting, a house called Tamarack that hearkened back to my hometown, and that luscious Tom Hall cover art that I could fondle to my heart's content.
This is a huge, lush goffick with all the usual goffick elements writ large, with time to revel in the broodiness and malevolent dwama and twagedy that we come to expect. This story takes its time to unravel the events of 1820 and the unhappy young wife Emelie Carson (through her journal, no less!) and the modern-day woes of her descendant Emelie Milne.
The cold, cruel, puritanical Israel Carson is the villain you love to hate, and his seeming modern counterpart, Justin St. John, was no cuddly teddy bear either. I never cottoned to him, even in the finale when it turns into somewhat less dim sunshine and rainbows for our couple. Somehow when a guy calls his lady an idiot, even when it's described as "tenderly," it doesn't really warm the cockles of this girl's heart. :D
Throughout the book I was trying to figure out just where the fictional town of Welkin was located, because being a Vermonter, I must know. There was internal squee at mentions of real towns that I know quite well, and my best guess is
Just in case you're curious. :P
So, highly recommended for any gothic lovers out there who want their historical and modern yarns at once. And teeming with tragic love, murder, and madness.
ETA: What this book really needs is a family tree in order to keep straight how all the modern day family members are related to each other. There are so many generations involved. But... one of the big reveals would have been given away, so maybe that's why it is omitted. Dang it....more