Vaughn, booked into an hotel with her fiance to celebrate her wedding, is bitten by a lurking werewolf, and killed. The next thing she is aware of is...moreVaughn, booked into an hotel with her fiance to celebrate her wedding, is bitten by a lurking werewolf, and killed. The next thing she is aware of is waking up in a morgue, to be told briskly by an unsympathetic fellow werewolf who doubles as janitor in this hospital morgue that she is a 'Changer' from now on, and will just have to get on with it - and he suggests she accompany him to a strange sort of halfway house for new shape shifters.
Trips to explore the local nightlife are laid on, but advice on how to cope long term is strangely lacking...
Vaughn, of course, suffers from PTSD and longs to get back to her old life - there is only a hint of comfort in her relationship with Ren, a fellow new werewolf, who works in the local library and tries to explore their condition on the internet.
I'm very impressed. I am no expert on werewolf stories, but this came across as original. A lot of the werewolf stuff out there just seems to be romance, erotic and otherwise. In this book, the combination of supernatural goings on and a realistic background and believable characters was impressive. There is romance, but it develops naturally, if you can use that word in a fantasy story.
The writing was strong: I think a lot of women writers don't want to write strong stuff because it comes across as 'masculine' and 'unromantic', but the writing here is vivid and evocative and pulls no punches. The relations between people (and werewolves) are depicted without sentimentality, yet feelingly.
I loved the humour here. A light, ironical touch and an unfailing sense of the ridiculous permeate the whole. I don't often laugh out loud when reading, but I did here.
The heroine may be flawed - I assume her having great difficulty in committing herself is intended to be a flaw - but that is a sympathetic one. No doubt she blames herself when her emotional coldness indirectly leads to tragedy for someone else - but she is in a state of emotional upheaval.
I really love the way the woman lead character initiates the guerrilla action against the 'lupophagus' ( cannibalistic werewolves who prey on new 'Changers' not sure I spelt that correctly!). All the details of this are really well done - the author must have done some good research there - and it was quite nerve racking, especially the ambiguous role of the human apparent mercenary Matt, and the twist in the tale (unintentional pun!) that comes here.
It comes across as a story which will probably continue as a series - and there are interesting nuances in the relations between the characters, particularly in the unresolved conflicts between them which should make interesting reading.
I look forward to the sequel.
A four and a half star rating for an exciting read by a promising new author.
This is a light hearted and enjoyable look at the wedding preparations threatening to take over a couple's life. We meet Amy and Nick again, who we me...more This is a light hearted and enjoyable look at the wedding preparations threatening to take over a couple's life. We meet Amy and Nick again, who we met in the prequel 'BBW...' and just about to get married.
As happens so often in reality, they wanted a small, private wedding, but family members had other ideas..
Throw in a spiteful so-called friend after the bridegroom, while he's alarmingly preoccupied about something, and you have a recipe for trouble. As always with this story, the writing flows effortlessly and there are the usual touches of humour and a nice sensual relationship between the main characters..
I hope that Amy, having learnt to deal assertively with her bossy sister, said bossy sister's obnoxious friend and a certain other male (I won't say who, that would be a spoiler) will get to be such an assertiveness expert that she's never overwhelmed by the charming but quietly steel willed Nick.
Four and a half stars for another great read by Jenn Roseton. (less)
I loved 'Watermelon' for the combination of gritty realism and lively humour, and wasn't disappointed with this, which combines the same qualities.
Th...moreI loved 'Watermelon' for the combination of gritty realism and lively humour, and wasn't disappointed with this, which combines the same qualities.
There are unsparing descriptions of brutality and degradation, but in the midst of these, the reader is subtly, almost imperceptibly, encouraged to be hopeful, like the teenage protagonists, who find a true love that is prepared to overcome all social barriers.
Jay is defined by his alcoholic ne'r-do-well of a father as 'a loser, a thief, a good for nothing'. Eight years ago his mother left him with this paragon, unable to endure the physical and mental abuse any more; Jay has grown up accepting it.
He escapes outside to the streets - which aren't much colder than his unheated, comfortless home - with his mate Billy to a diet of spliffs and junk food when he's lucky, and a series of empty sexual encounters with thoughtless girls. His life drifts meaninglessly, and when he is pressured into burgling a warehouse, he feels he has little enough to lose.
Caught and sentenced to a community service order, Jay is introduced to a whole new world - that of a stables and riding school and the country life of the well-to-do. Here he not only discovers a previously unexpected talent for riding and caring for horses, but meets Anna.
Anna is as emotionally deprived as Jay, though she has never wanted for anything material and her bedroom alone is as big as his house. Her parents also regard her as a loser. Nervous and bordering on developing an eating disorder, she is unhappy and lonely, a failure at her snobbish, fee-paying school, her only true friend her horse; and now it seems she is to be deprived of this comfort, as her parents have decided that she must have a new one, the potential champion, as skittish as Anna herself.
Now, too, Rory, the insensitive, spoiled son of their incredibly rich neigbbours wants to take her on as his girlfriend. Neither his parents, nor hers, can think of anything she could possibly want more.
Throughout the brutalities of his upbringing, Jay has somehow developed and retained a basic integrity, and a capacity for tenderness that is brought out by Anna and by the horses, too. In finding each other, they both begin to change; Anna begins to learn to be assertive and Jay to question the values he was brought up with, which can't help him when he is faced with a brutality and personal tragedy greater than any he's yet experienced, and a moral quandry: to Grass or not to Grass? The merciless world of drug trafficking closes in; can Jay escape it?
The love affair in this story is tender, but never syrupy; the stark descriptions of street life are always lightened by a wonderful streak of humour.
I recommend this face paced, engrossing story for YA readers and adults alike.
I'll leave you with a few delightful quotes: -
'The week ahead loomed over me like a bloodthirsty dentist'.
'By about half three, his face looked like a baboon's arse.'
'His fist blasted into my cheekbone like a lead football.'
'Last year, when we were on holiday in Italy, I went in this huge,transparent plastic bubble thing. You got in through a slit, then they inflated it with air and Velcroed you in. They attached it to a long rope and launched you into the sea,where you bobbed, and spun, and fell around everywhere. It was fantastic. And lying there, in Jay's arms, reminded me of it. I could still see out, I knew everything on the outside still existed, but it couldn't touch me...'
I finally finished ‘Clarissa’ a couple of weeks ago. It’s an incredibly long read, and sometimes a tedious one. Richardson never writes fifty words whe...moreI finally finished ‘Clarissa’ a couple of weeks ago. It’s an incredibly long read, and sometimes a tedious one. Richardson never writes fifty words when five hundred will do,and he just loved to tell not show.
His moral expostulations that so amused Coleridge are even more in evidence here than in Pamela: the moral conflict between Lovelace and Clarissa has more at stake than the one between Mr B and Pamela, because finally Lovelace is shown to be too wicked to be capable of reformation.
In Richardson’s earlier novel, Mr B does, after his outrageous attempts on Pamela in the first half of the story, have a (somewhat unconvincing) moral turnabout and offers Pamela the marriage which, it seems, makes all these earlier, shabby attempts on a servant’s maid’s body all right.
To be fair to Richardson, Mr B supposedly clears himself of charges of attempted rape in ‘Pamela in Her Exalted Condition’ (one of the dullest books I have ever read), explaining away his dramatic leaps from cupboards and pinning her down with the help of the brutal Mrs Jewkes as apparent misunderstandings (!!!). Mr B, though debauched enough to be a seducer, is not finally to be seen as a rapist.
Lovelace was almost certainly a rapist before he ravishes the drugged Clarissa – (an act he blames on the prostitutes in the brothel, two of them girls he has debauched himself). We hear of his abducting a woman he admired before, and when he got her to the inn, as he blithely admits to his tool Joseph Leman, ‘It’s true I didn’t ask her for her permission. It’s cruel to ask a virtuous woman’.
He schemes to kidnap and rape Clarissa’s friend, his opponent Anna Howe, in a maritme raid in which he hopes to include his group of fellow debauchees, but this idea comes to nothing as his obsession with Clarissa leads to her own desctruction at his hands.
He also casually suggests drowning a treacherous mistress of his dying friend Belton, along with the two boys of doubtful paternity (it’s hard to tell from the context if he is serious or not).
The style of this shameless brute is throughout lively and amusing enough sometimes to beguile the reader almost into warming to him at times – until you remember his disgusting history of abuse of women based solely on one disappointment in love, and an apparent conviction (shared with Richardson) that a woman’s ‘chastity’ is her only honour. He is a great believer in the rakes’ code that the only women worthy of respect are the ones who will reject his advances.
We see him being charming to his cousin Charlotte, winning her over with kisses, and entertaining his rakish friends. We see him scheming diabolically, excusing himself inadequately, and finally, being destroyed by Clarissa’s avenger Colonel Morden. His final words during his death throes are ‘Let this expiate!’ Presumably, this is addessed to Clarissa herself. What can expiate his behaviour to his other victims, and those he has made into brutes themselves, isn’t a question Richardson addresses.
His scheming is sometimes ludicrous – for instance, wishing to test Clarissa’s feelings for him, he doses himself with the emetic ipecacuanha and he sends out for blood from the butchers to mix the vomit to convince Clarissa that he is dangerously ill ( of course, she is duly compassionate).
Lovelace can’t explain away his diabolical machinations when Clarissa comes to believe in them; the reader has access to them from the beginning through his detailed correspondence with his friend Belford, who later goes over to the Clarissa camp and lets her see his friend’s letters, thereby exposing the full extent of his pointless and elaborate schemes against her virtue.
I don’t believe anyone – even at the time – could possibly really have thought of this novel as true to life. There are domestic details which are, obviously, for Richardson, ever a vivid and lively writer when not launched on a moral homily, can bring his imaginative world to life admirably. His depictions of life in great houses, in a brothel and in eighteenth century shop, are colourful and interesting; still, his story is in no way believable and most of his characters and their relationships are improbable, whether they are virtuous or debauched.
Clarissa is an impossible seventeen year old ( the more extraordinary as she ages two years in eight months and is nineteen at the time of her death). She is always virtuous and dutiful.
She does appear to give way, very early in the novel, to one fit of spite when she describes her sister Bella as having ‘a high fed face’ but even this may be a fault in his ‘epistolary method’. This remark is more suited to the acid pen of Anna Howe than that of the high-minded Clarissa. Her purity is such that nothing can soil even to her ruffles – these remain unsoiled in the grubby ‘spunging house’.
I don’t wish to give the impression that I in any way am decrying Richardson’s massive achievement as a man who was interested through portraying the conflict between a virtuous woman and a rake, to warn ‘the inconsiderate and thoughtless of the one sex against the base arts and designs of specious contrivers of the other- to caution parents against the undue exercise of their natural authority over their children in the great article of marriage’.
In showing the lurid and almost insane scheming of Lovelace to overcome Clarissa’s resistance to his seduction attempts after he has lured her away, helped massively by her family’s horrible insistence that she make an advantageous match with a man she finds physically repulsive, and trapped her in a brothel – Richardson was faithful to his scheme. He used an exciting, if incredible story, and vivid, if over the top characters, to make his points.
While this novel has many weaknesses quite apart from the ones I have mentioned - for instance, Lovelace’s scheme to try Clarissa’s virtue to the point that he does doesn’t even make sense within his own frame of reference – having given her a short ‘trial’ instead of becoming embroiled in schemes that made acting honourably by her impossible, he should have married her and calmly refused to reform – but it is still, particularly given the undeveloped state of the novel in this era, an impressive achievement.
He did what James N Frey calls ‘following through’ with admirable consistency, killing off Clarissa through a decline and causing Lovelace’s own death in a duel later on. We are left with little doubt of Lovelace’s final destination.
I’m glad to say I don’t believe in hell and damnation, but Richardson clearly did, and makes it obvious that Colonel Morden feels a good deal of guilt for having dispatched such a villain before he had time to repent, as Clarissa pleaded for him not to do in her posthumous letter.
While Richardson’s heroine and embodiment of virtue has become an anochronism, his dated but complex villain still gives inspiration and food for thought.
old with Jenn Roseton's usual lively humour and vivid flowing style, this is a five star read for the depiction of the cold blooded bird spotter jilte...moreold with Jenn Roseton's usual lively humour and vivid flowing style, this is a five star read for the depiction of the cold blooded bird spotter jilted fiance Howard alone.
Curvy Maddie is on the run from her own wedding. She's only just found out that her passionless engagement to her fiance Howard is a complete sham - her father bribed him to propose to her with an offer of a partnership in his law firm.
Then her car breaks down. Maddie is reduced to walking down the highway in her flowing wedding gown and uncomfortable kitten heels, with no ID and twenty dollars in her purse.
Rescue comes in the form of the spare, muscular Garret Trask, who offers her work on his ranch. He also gives her mouth watering breakfasts, ridiculously high wages and riding lessons - but Maddie wants more from him. Does he return her feelings, or does he just feel sorry for this Runaway Bride?
I found the imagery and characterization in this story impressive and recommend it.
I got a free copy in exchange for an honest review. (less)
I’ve finally finished this three volume marathon and I wish I could write a more positive review.
I am particularly sorry to write a largely negative o...moreI’ve finally finished this three volume marathon and I wish I could write a more positive review.
I am particularly sorry to write a largely negative one about a woman who wrote one of the first novels which highlight women’s issues, in however limited a fashion, and who so bravely underwent an amputation of the breast in the days before anaesthetics.
However, I do think that these points I make, which I haven’t found elsewhere, need saying.
I started off with high hopes, and if at first the heroine seemed priggish and smug and the characterization generally seemed flat, then after all, eighteenth century novels often take a long time to get going.
After the melodrama of he opening letters, there is some humour in Evelina's impressions of her first outings, but from there the humour deteriorates rapidly.
I could see that the author was making a genuine attempt to depict the treatment of women in a society where they had no vote and were openly regarded as second class citizens ( as distinct from having the vote and being seen covertly as second class citizens).
Yes, well. I seem to be in a sour mood today, but I’ve been reading this book for the last few weeks, and whatever my mood, I had strong criticisms of it that unfortunately outweighed my appreciation of the author’s attempt to address problems previously ignored by largely male writers. Probably they shouldn’t have; but they did.
Interestingly, although I’ve only taken a cursory look through the literary criticism of this on the web, I haven’t found the points I thought particularly weak or objectionable mentioned.
I was surprised at the sheer dullness and flat characterization in this classic, which supposedly is written with such brilliant psychological insight, and I had heard, has a likable, human heroine. I found the characters one dimensional and often their actions were frankly unbelievable; this would be fine if it was in the funny bits, but it's often in the parts which are meant to be serious moral lessons.
It is certainly true that it does attempt to tackle the problems faced by a sheltered, aristocratic young woman when exposed to the false values and male dominance in wider society,and Frances Burney is innovative in this.Unfortunately, because Evelina and her mentor and guardian Mr Villars share the same patriarchal values which the rakes and fops hold in debased form, this criticism is toothless and ineffectual.
I have often wondered from where Mary Bennet in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ got her sententious quote about women’s so-called honour being ‘as brittle as it is beautiful’; now I know: it’s straight from the pen of goody-goody Mr Villars.
This is meant to be largely a comic novel with serious purpose and I’m all for that. Yet somehow, I didn’t find it worked for me (it obviously did for Johnson, and may well for many others, past and current). I usually love knock about humour, but as all this (save the monkey incident) is directed at aging women (in the case of the race, at two women of over eighty) it is painful rather than funny. I do see that this was never endorsed by the writer, but it made painful reading anyway.
I don’t see how Captain Mirvan’s pretending to be a highway robber, dragging Madame Duval from her carriage, shaking her, tearing off her wig, dumping her in a muddy ditch and leaving her tied up is anything but purely ugly. For sure, the heroine protests that it is very bad, but it is clearly intended by the author to be an amusing episode too. Later, Eveline greets the man she knows did this to her grandmother with smiles.
A problem often cited with another epistolary novel, ‘Pamela’ is that because she has to repeat scenes highly flattering to herself, she comes across as vain, reveling in Mr B’s obsessive pursuit of her. I often wondered just how I could feel so unsympathetic towards a young girl at the mercy of her immoral rape-contemplating master, and it's because of her apparent self satisfaction. I found the same problem arose here. It's obviously one of the problems with the 'epistolary method' unless it's used very carefully.
It’s made worse,because unlike in real life, the other women who are rivals for male attention don’t even deny Evelina’s vaunted attractions and appeal for men. They just sulk soundlessly while Evelina solemnly reports every compliment she receives from the immoral rakes to her guardian. We never hear of any spiteful, jealous put downs from her rivals. If women are going to be shown as sexually competitive, the writer should at least be realistic about it, and show the levels of spite to which low minded women can unfortunately descend in such situations.
In recounting scenes meant to show wearisome sexual harassment and even a semi abduction, Evelina comes across as complacent and obsessed with her physical assets (presumably, besides the ‘red and white’ complexion so admired then, the long nose and double chin also fashionable).
I know modern writers like myself go in dread of being accused of creating a Mary Sue, and this is a term often used unthinkingly by reviewers over a character they resent, but I think one has to read this to realize just what a real Mary Sue is (or a Marty Stu, in the case of the faultless, handsome and brave Lord Orville).
Everyone either desires, admires, envies or frankly worships Evelina. The qualities of her mind are constantly stressed, though they seemed very unremarkable to my twenty-first century understanding, except in her ability to repress anger against the father who for so long rejects her. Everyone thinks Lord Orville is wonderful, too, except himself and possibly, the villain of the piece Sir Clement Willoughby.
Though supposedly a good Christian, Evelina sits in harsh moral judgement on all the morally faulty characters save for her father Sir John Belmont. This doesn’t seem to be seen by the author as one of the difficulties in coping with society which she must overcome if she is to be wise and prudent.
As for the hero, he never comes to life at all; the heroine might as well fall in love with a handsome statue; the villain of the piece, Sir Clement Willoughby, is far more lively and interesting.
There are also a series of highly improbable, even ludicrous, co-incidences in this involving Evelina’s unknown half brother, Mr Macartney (as, incredibly, she never gets round to referring to him by his first name, I don’t know what it is).
On going to Paris, he just happens to meet and fall in love with the woman whom he later finds out is believed to be his half sister, and then on going to London, he just happens to stay in the house belonging to his true half sister Evelina’s relatives. For goodness sake! If this was written as grotesque comedy, it might work, but this part is written as pure tragedy.
Of course, one has to take into account that the psychology of the times was rudimentary, and Evelina subjected to modern scrutiny comes across as very different to how she appeared to her creator and the readers of the time. Frances Burney certainly deserves respect as an innovator, but I wasn't really drawn in myself. I found it an excellent way of gathering background information on society life and the highly repressed sexual nature of respectable women in the second part of the eighteenth century. Johnson, who so loved Evelina, obviously only approved of females totally cut off from their sexuality. If they weren’t, well: ‘The woman’s a whore and there’s an end of the matter.’
An excellent refutation of Cynthia Eller's book , which I thought dealt with many of the issues too cursorily. Dachu makes many ecxellent points, argu...moreAn excellent refutation of Cynthia Eller's book , which I thought dealt with many of the issues too cursorily. Dachu makes many ecxellent points, arguing for instance, that the way variants of the phrase 'Gimbatus' arguments have long been refuted' are repeated uncritically is not based on as much unbiased research as seems to be believed. Recommended. (less)
Payton Carlson is a social success: she was Junior Prom Queen, is planning to be Senior Prom Queen; she's planning to go...moreFive stars for a page turner!
Payton Carlson is a social success: she was Junior Prom Queen, is planning to be Senior Prom Queen; she's planning to go to the Homecoming dance with Ian, her handsome latest crush.She's the head cheerleader, at the head of the in group at school. She's got her life exactly as she wants it.
But then, her night terrors begin; the dazzling lights, the floating sensations, the sinister grey figures with the great black eyes - are these nightmare experiences bad dreams, or something worse?
Only one person can advise Payton - serious minded, unpopular loner logan Reed, who Payton's always dismissed as a super nerd.
And she needs his help.
But is Logan what he appears? For that matter, are her best friends Jo and Hailey quite what they appear ot be?
As with her former books, author Lauryn April delivers a fast paced, exciting story full of vivid characters with an effortless combination of paranormal elements and day to day high school issues.
I received a free copy of this in exchange for an honest review.'
This series of stories is an impressive achievement.
The writing is sensitive, sometimes humorous, lively and peop...moreThat's a four and a half star rating!
This series of stories is an impressive achievement.
The writing is sensitive, sometimes humorous, lively and peopled with vivid characters.
The title story, ‘Loving Imogen’ deals tastefully, but realistically, with a relationship of a contentious sort – a love affair between a young girl and an older man. Daniel, the melancholy protagonist of this story, is anything but the lecherous stereotype of the middle aged man who becomes involved with a young girl.
This story depicts a true love relationship, which both the girl and the man know must end unhappily, but find impossible to resist. Daniel, when we first see him in the beginning of the story, is a bitter, lonely man who has been unable to surmount the devastation of his life by this all absorbing passion for the lovable and intelligent, but flawed Imogen.
When Imogen turned unexpectedly up in Daniels’ life twenty years back, along with her taciturn soul mate, her twin brother, who, isolated by his speech defect was soundlessly devoted to his sister, and the twins recounted to Daniel their story of their abuse at the hands of their previous guardians, he was outraged, knowing he could never aim such hatred and bitterness at such innocents himself.
Or could he?
‘Most people, Daniel thought: the innumerable hordes who managed expectations, shaped standards, and killed dreams. They seemed to embody everything that he had both yearned for and tried to escape from for his entire life. Had he ever been one of their number, really?’
‘The Song of the Sea’ is a short but fascinating exploration of an age old enemy of mankind, and its effect on the unlucky Jacob: -
‘Twenty years ago, as a young man sound of mind and strong of body, he went out to sea with his brother Isaac, and when he came back again, he was broken up, wild eyed, and deaf and dumb.’
This story touches obliquely on marine conservation issues, and I found myself asking all sorts of questions about it long after I had finished reading.
The third story had me mulling over questions long after I had finished reading it, as well. ‘Summer’ is a humorous study of repressed energy, of social and sexual frustration in the form of the Rectory ghost, who smashes tings, plays malicious tricks and writes obscene abuse on walls.
Such goings on don't fit in with a banker's notion of reality at all: -
“‘Filthy, cowardly behaviour,” he (Peter) fumed, strutting up and down in front of the cold fireplace with a glass of scotch in his hand…’
But his overbearing ways won’t still the Rectory ghost…
‘Fragile Things’ is another short, but compelling story of another doomed love affair. It also depicts, as does 'The Song of the Sea' how a lurid episode lasting no more than minutes can completely change a life – or three…Here, the nature of the horror is prosaic and everyday, but the author’s delicate treatment of this triangle of characters is not: -
‘”People are fragile things’ ‘He (Shankley) once said, sucking on a cigarette. “Even the ones who don’t believe it, and act like they’re made of stone, like they don’t feel a thing. They’re fragile; they don’t last long, and they’re sad.”’
Full of the vivid word pictures that was one of the features that made her previous novel ‘The Quickening’ such a compelling read, Mari Biella has created a selection of fascinating and compelling stories in this selection.
Curvy, fair haired Emma is running a ranch at Coldwater Springs. She's independent and tough, but she would like to meet a man special to her. Past ex...moreCurvy, fair haired Emma is running a ranch at Coldwater Springs. She's independent and tough, but she would like to meet a man special to her. Past experience has made her take a dim view of her body shape. When one of her clients hires a new horse trainer, the ex Rodeo star and bull rider Cade Winters, handsome and muscular, a perfect gentleman but a little too full of himself, she finds it hard to distance herself as they are brought together every day.
I found this a good read, both amusing and touching; I liked the way the author introduces all the previous characters in the series at the end. I also liked the introduction of some of the male point of view, too. As ever, the vivid detail, touches of characterisation and clever use of concise sentences make for a fast paced and well written story.(less)
One of my favourite novellas, written as a condemnation of the atrocities inflicted in the Belgian Congo. Modern authors may be outraged at the racist...moreOne of my favourite novellas, written as a condemnation of the atrocities inflicted in the Belgian Congo. Modern authors may be outraged at the racist language that the author uses at times, yet the tone of moral outrage is sincere. Conrad was not a tender man; but the inhumnanity of the Belgian authorities towards the local population stirred him to horror, and horror at self -seeking corruption, in the darkness that can lie at the heart of humanity, is of course, the subject of this book.
The narrative method is complex and subtle; Marlowe finds his way through the tangled skein through the web surrounding The Heart of Darkness into the nightmare visions of Mr Kurtz - the 'hollow man', the opportunist who has gone out to exploit the wealth of the Congo under the cover of comforting empty phrases, but who is forced at last to confront the darkness in his own heart. 'The horror, the horror'.
One of the most brilliant pieces of strong, evocative writing that I have ever read.(less)
This story was perfectly paced, I thought. Full of Jenn Roseton's vivid descriptions and concise characterisation, it features a tender developing lov...moreThis story was perfectly paced, I thought. Full of Jenn Roseton's vivid descriptions and concise characterisation, it features a tender developing love affair between Cassie, survivor of a relationship between Cassie, the curvy survivor of an abusive relationship, and Luke, the rancher, who is really adorable. I particularly liked the characterisation of Phillip, the abominable ex, who went in for all sorts of psychological abuse and manipulation to undermine Cassie's self confidence and make her a willing victim. Her desperate need to escape and her craving for a tender man make her discovery of Luke's real concern for her the more enjoyable.(less)
I remember trying to read this when I was fourteen and snowed up in North Wales (my mother attended lots of auctions to buy Victoriana and got stuck w...moreI remember trying to read this when I was fourteen and snowed up in North Wales (my mother attended lots of auctions to buy Victoriana and got stuck with a lot of job lots of books along with other stuff). At that time, I found it too ridiculous to read properly, 'skim' reading it instead. It certainly wouldn't have been fair to review it on that basis.
Remembering this as an example of an old novel on the tired theme of 'Disgraced Lord Turned Outlaw is Framed for Murder by Conniving Cousin Who is Also a Rival in Love' which I am using for my latest novel, the spoof historical romance 'Ravensdale', I decided to re-read it.
I found it even more ridiculous this time round; while I love a melodramatic read full of cardboard characters and absurd co-incidences, as for instance, Vulpius' 'Rinaldo Rinaldini',somehow, I couldn't enjoy this, absurd as it was.
I am also in a quandry; if this was a modern author, I would mark down as a matter of course to a one star rating anyone who displayed such awful anti Semitism and snobbery; but as one has to judge writers by the time in which they lived and unfortunately, a good deal of otherwise good writing of the late nineteenth century was marred by these ugly features - I am awarding it a two and a half star rating (which will show up as a three). Unfortunately, besides having these defects this isn't good writing either- it's purely dreadful.
However, I do think it's wrong not to find something positive to say about a book and at at one point I was actually touched by this absurd story. This was when the hero shows humility and magnanimity when he thinks he has lost everything after trying to reform: - '‘He (the Conniving Cousin) has stepped into my place, he has got my father’s good will, that’s all right enough. And now he has won you! Oh yes, it’s all right! I am paying the penalty. I am reaping the harvest I have sown, but my God! It’s hard to bear…He will take my place. I was never worthy to fill it. God bless you, Eva.’
I think this is because all writers have occasional access to a state of inspiration where one has access to a strange mind state where the writing seems to come from above and beyond oneself, and Garvice reaches it there. He is letting the hero reveal himself as he wants him to be to the reader, unassuming,brave and capable of great things, including transcending his own violent urges and striving to become 'a good man'. Unfortunately, most of the time he badgers his readers about Heriot Fayne and Eva Winsdale's admirable qualities instead of showing them.
Ms Matter in her fascinating article on Garvice, 'Pursuing the Great Bad Novelist' is kind enough to say that he' endured more ridicule than any decent human being should'.
I can see why. The tone is melodramtic, sentimental and sententious; the characters are made of cardboard,the plot is full of wildly improbable co-incidences (treated solemnly) and the author makes no attempt to endear his hero and heroine to the reader, saying of Eva Winsdale 'the reader is to fall in love with her as quickly as possible'.
Of his Mary Sue heroine he says:- 'Eva...was full of spirit and wit,and by no manner of means at all like the fool of the ingenue one...reads of in the impossible modern novel'.
Eva, in fact, does make one witty remark in the whole novel (not needless to say, at the expense of the hero, who is obviously never ridiculous, even when staggering round drunk with a bashed head dressed as a coster) but apart from hanging on to the reins of her bolting horse she shows very little spirit at all. Instead she goes pale as she sacrifices herself for her father, drops her head on her arms and occasionally, faints.
However, everybody worships her; she gives the Wicked Lord, Heriot Fayne one sympathetic look (actually, I think, two) and he is struck by a desperate urge to become worthy of asking for her hand. The Conniving Cousin, the nasty, manipulative Stannard Marshank, falls in love with her at first sight. With regard to the names,I can only suppose that Garvace, who regularly produced twelve novels a year, was running out of names to come up with such a pair as Stannard Marshbank and Heriot Fayne.
Eva's two cousins distinguish her from 'Ordinary girls like ourselves'; that's the spirit, minor characters - know your place! Her father and the hero's father compliment her on her Christian attitude of sympathy towards the Outcast Lord Heriot Fayne but nobody sees anything amiss in her coldness to the young girl she thinks has been debauched and deserted by him.
Needless to say, I did.
Also, when the Conniving Cousin makes a (nearly full) confession of his murder and dies, she does not say a kind or comforting word to this unwelcome fiance, though he is very considerately leaving her alone at last and worships her. Though he is obviously unrepentant about the murder, she makes no effort to turn his thoughts to higher things. I must admit I found this very unappealing.
In Heriot, Lord Fayne, the author has created almost an ideal type of Marty Stu over achieving hero with 'an indescribable air of command'. Lord Fayne is: - '...superbly made...his head in shape and poise like that of a Greek statue, was set upon a straight, columnar neck. His eyes, of a dark brown hue, flashed with daring reckless gleam'. But - horror of horrors- this aristocrat goes about dressed like a costermonger in cords and a cap,this not because he has sympathies with the working class - his views are oddly conventional for an outcast - but because he wishes to shame and disgrace his family, and likes brawling in music halls.
Eva's flaccidly cynical father has said why he does this: ' His brother was the pink of perfection, every inch an Averleigh - the eldest son was worshiped, pampered, feted, idolised; this second, this Heriot Fayne, neglected...it raised the devil that must have been sleeping in him...'
Oddly enough, though this older son has had such an effect on the development of Heriot Fayne's character, and his rift with his widowed father and his Aunt, we never hear more about this son, even his name, and never are told what the neglected younger son thought of him.
Of course, Victorian understanding of character strikes us as being very primitive, but this is just one of the many odd blanks in the text. Another is why Lord Fayne suddenly tuns up lying on the heather near his father's estate when we last saw him flaked out in his London apartments. One assumes it is meant to be connected with his concussion. Eva mistakes him for a tramp, but this is not depicted as being amusing. A note of humour, of ironical detachment, would actually have rendered these characters and their situation far more appealing, but Garvice was no more capable of such a subtlety than Richardson.
Anyway, I gather from Ms Matter's articles that this Hero Concealed in the Heather in Readiness to do a Rescue is a favourite device of Garvice, and he places Heriot Fayne there to rescue Eva when her horse bolts.
On the question of the text, by the way, I would probably have found this harder to read if I hadn't roughly remembered the plot from before; this digitally enhanced version is very poor with scrambled sentences on every page.
Heriot Fayne has contradictions in his character beyond the ones for which the author allows; for instance,he is supposed to be 'wild and reckless but incapable of a mean act' but he does several mean things.
In the first few pages, after the 'row' at the music hall (in which somebody hit his head with a decanter, leaving him clearly concussed, though Heriot Fayne is far too macho to be seriously discommoded by that, let alone disgracing himself by vomiting), he returns home and encounters his drunken friends (unconvincing costers and prize fighters, I think) and a Jewish money lender: '" Sorry to trouble you, my lord, but that little bill..." Lord Fayne smiled, gripped him by the shoulder, and forced him over to the window. "Your bill's all right, Levy; bother me just now and out you go.'
Lord Fayne, you see, has an air of 'indefinable authority' and 'indescribable breeding and command'. He only need order 'finish the bottle and clear' to these sycophants, and they hurry to obey him.
Then, when Heriot Fayne finds out that his cousin has seduced the daughter of one of is father's tenants, he says, 'I have never deceived a confiding, innocent girl' but we gather that he has treated other women rather badly: 'Women had been, to him, fair game; to be hunted, beguiled, deceived; his heart had never quailed until now; Love! He had laughed at it...'
These, of course, must have been bad, naughty women who had done bad, naughty things with him; not pure girls like Eva, who doesn't even seem to have a body.
He promises Eva he will reform, throws his whisky and soda into the fire, tears down his prints of racehorses and prize fighters and sets off as an itinerant fiddler, mingling with farm workers. This is rather odd; his associating with the urban poor is seen as a sign of his degraded character, but his associating with country commoners apparently cleanses his soul.
I suspect that this may have been because at this time, costermongers were notoriously 'Chartists to a man' according to Henry Mayhew, unlike the nice, forelock tugging rural population, who knew their rightful place.
Garvice's sentimental view of rural people is all in line with the whole tone of this novel.
Over achiever as he is, Heriot Fayne is not only 'one of the best lightweight boxers of his age' but also a brilliant violinist, pianist, singer,sailor, athelete and horseman and he only need pick up a fork and 'Darned if you don't handle a fork a'most as well as a fiddle-bow, my man...'
One can only suppose the older son who so eclipsed this paragon was super human.
Soon, Heriot Fayne is reformed, one of the side effects of the country air, it seems: - 'He was a new man, softened by contact with and sympathy for the rural poor, and the simple minded, honest country folk. Wherever he went he was made welcome, not only on account of his wonderful violin and the musical voice, but by reason of his handsome face and frank, kindly manner.'
I would like to add here that I am a great believer in the redeeming power of love - but not from a sentimental viewpoint; Heriot Fayne's change of heart and mind is portrayed in excessively sentimental terms, and us both arbitrary and unconvincing.
Of course,even in his debauched days he always impressed people with his patrician air of command and his Greek statue appearance, but now he is developing into a worthy successor to the aging Lord Averleigh - everyone loves and admires him, from the ailing little Lily on the isolated ranch where he gets temporary employment, to whom he provides songs and stories on long journeys,to her phlegmatic father who nurses Heriot through his bout of malaria 'as gently as a woman' knowing his worth. He says he hasn't met an English gentleman before, but if Heriot is anything to go by, they are an admirable lot. He even wins over the hardened detective Jones who bursts out on seeing him during his short (and of course, stoically borne) imprisonment for the murder done by the dastardly Stannard Marshbank, 'You're a brick, Sir! Sorry...'
The Conniving Cousin, by contrast, has 'pale eyes' and is small. A successful opportunist politician, he has no friends, and acts dishonourably throughout, deliberately leading Eva's father into financial ruin so that he can obtain power over her through him, seducing an innocent girl, murdering the man who threatens to betray him to Eva and finally, plagued by nightmarish visions and addicted to 'chloral', falling into the copper mine into which he pushed his own victim, thus sustaining mortal injuries.
It is never explained why he hates Heriot Fayne so much - jealousy, presumably, must play a big part - but this is only one of many gaps in the story.
Heriot Fayne sacrifices himself for Eva, believing that she loves Stannard Marshbank - not as if anybody does, everybody seems to blame him for being short with pale eyes - but the misunderstanding is all sorted out. This is done partly through the investigations of a tough but fair detective. After a series of absurd co-incidences - in one Marshbank just happens to come on a malaria suffering Heriot Fayne in a remote ranch in Argentina - all ends happily, with the reformed Lord Fayne slipping his ring on Eva's finger and reconciled with his father and aunt.
Overall, 'The Outcast of the Family' is one of the worst books I have ever read. I certainly should have given it a lower rating, but I must be in a charitable mood today. Too much fresh air, I think, making me feel benevolent. Plus, I do hate awarding low star ratings to books. Where's my whisky and soda?
I finally quote some fascinating comments from Laura Sewell Matter's stimulating article on Charles Garvice: -
'The question that concerned the critics was not whether Garvice's work was high art - it patently was not - but whether he was a calculating businessman who condescended to write for the newly literate feminine masses or a simpleton who believed in the sort of twaddle he peddled. A fool or a cormorant. Either way, he was damned. I began to collect Garvice's novels - On Loves Altar , His Love So True , A Relenting Fate. I could never get through any of them, other than The Verdict of the Heart. Little beyond the particulars of the heroines hair color differentiates one from another, and without seaweed stuck to the pages, the stories were stripped of mystery. They bored me….
'Those critics who would rather rend his pages and toss them into the drink than sit on the beach reading them have had their way in the end. The formula that Garvice so successfully exploited - virtuous heroines overcoming numerous obstacles to attain happiness - is a predictable one, which any author might employ. His readers are now dead, and their Garvices - if they exist at all - molder in the attics of the Western world while books much like them, by authors who have learned the same lessons and applied the same patterns to their fiction, are being read on the beach today...'
'What Garvice knew and honored, are the ways so many of us live in emotionally attenuated states, during times of peace as well as war. Stories like the ones Garvice wrote may be low art, or they may not be art at all. They may offer consolation or distraction rather than provocation and insight. But many people find provocation enough in real life, and so they read for something else. One cannot have contempt for Garvice without also having some level of contempt for common humanity, for those readers - not all of whom can be dismissed as simpletons - who may not consciously believe in what they are reading, but who read anyway because they know: a story can be a salve...'