The reviews are right about this read: the voice of the book (really the juxtaposition of Mrs. Randall and Mr. Mirkwood’s voices) are utterly unique....moreThe reviews are right about this read: the voice of the book (really the juxtaposition of Mrs. Randall and Mr. Mirkwood’s voices) are utterly unique. Mrs. Randall’s [Martha's] character shouldn’t be someone readers like. She’s cold, stiff, and hell-bent on gaining absolutely no pleasure inside or outside the bedroom. And she’s not an iceberg that melts quickly. She spends almost the whole of her month-long daily baby-making activities distancing herself from her body’s ability to enjoy sex.
Mr. Mirkwood [Theo] on the other hand is a sensualist. Charming, witty, a lover of women, and a lover of beauty for beauty’s sake. On the surface you want Martha to fall for him. You expect her to fall fast and hard for a man who is making it his day job to bring her pleasure. Any other romance heroine would have given into the pleasure an experienced rogue can provide…Not Martha. Nope. She’s a holdout – this woman can maintain focus like no one you’ve ever seen. And while I find her to be – restricted – I understand her need to feel special or unique to a man/lover. While, like most women, I wouldn’t feel as insulted to have my body or beauty praised (quite frankly the practical talk of sheep wouldn’t turn me on, lol) what Martha wants is an emotional connection from a man who is seemingly only interested in a bodily one. All that practical talk of sheep, roof fixing, and crop rotation is really Martha connecting with Theo on an emotional level that should (seriously) come far before sex.
Ultimately, it is Martha’s emotional isolation that breaks down Theo’s immaturity and forces him to grow up and gain a conscience. He wonders…if he’s not good at pleasuring women…If he can’t do that – What is he worth? Martha unhinges him and he blossoms because of it. Theo’s sudden caring and leadership in turn break through the ice wall Martha has built around her heart.
By the end of the story you realize it took the mismatched pair to make the best of each other. To push each other to places they wouldn’t have traveled otherwise. They both end up being better people because of it.
And it must be noted that simply because Martha doesn’t want to enjoy sex, that there isn’t a healthy dose of the erotic spun throughout the book. I’m really not lying when I say Martha does nothing to ‘help’ Theo in the bedroom. He gets über excited when she touches his back at one point! However, Martha’s lack of participation causes Theo to come up with some pretty sexy fantasies involving Mrs. Randall herself and a few other women to help him fulfill his sexual errand. Lots of mirror work comes into play, and as Mrs. Randall thaws and becomes Martha its heartwarming (and then fraught with sexual tension) as we see how she begins to try to please Theo and how inspired and hopeful Theo becomes toward her. Theo is nothing if not a character with a bottomless amount of hope.
Rating: 5/5 Can’t stop my admiration for the voice of this novel and its unique premise and plot flow. (less)
If you’re familiar with the Wolves of Mercy Falls series Stiefvater found YA fame with know that The Scorpio Races is going to be a different experien...moreIf you’re familiar with the Wolves of Mercy Falls series Stiefvater found YA fame with know that The Scorpio Races is going to be a different experience. For one it’s a standalone. Yes. Stand-A-Lone.
Everyone take a moment to breathe that *sigh* of relief for not having to wait for subsequent books to finish the story.
And while this tale does have supernatural elements (hello: horses born and then raised from the ocean) it’s told in the vein of legend rather than the paranormal. I loved the feel of a legend; I loved the superstitions that pervaded the text. As a gal who always throws spilled salt over her shoulder I very much appreciated the salt rings, rhythmic knot tying, and use of iron that controlled the Capaill Uisce. Because I’ll admit that my own salt throwing is based as much in habit as it is in superstition. It was a truly beautiful experience to see Stiefvater imagine a world in which such cautions provide actual results.
Watching Puck and Sean grow up was interesting. They grew in such a unique way. Not your usual “become mature” YA style. They didn’t run into an issue and “grow up”. In a lot of ways both Sean and Puck were traditionally adult already. Caring for their respective families, holding down jobs, orphans…they seem to have run the gamut of situations that authors use to mature their teenage characters.
The small, almost back-woods island has kept not only traditions alive, but a slightly antiquated view of life. An earnestness, almost repressive, but ultimately a genuine feeling. It’s a place still haunted by legends of yore – a rough place to live in general – disconnected from modernity. You can see how such serious children grow there. The character George Holly (who stands as a modern counterpoint to the people of Thisby) captures the feel of Puck and Sean succintly:
“You do fancy him, don’t you? What a strange, wonderful, repressed place this is.” (324, 1st ed.)
Because that’s what this story is about. Puck and Sean finishing the process of growing up.
Puck is beginning to see herself as a woman. No suffrage movement to be found. For Puck, finding her femininity was more shocking than actually being a woman in a man’s world. There seemed to be no higher theological/societal aspiration for furthering feminist theory…at least none that originated from the character’s own choices. What the author was trying to promote was up for grabs; I’d like to think that Stiefvater was demonstrating a post modernist point of view: that women should have choice, free of the trappings of theory. In the end Puck was pledging herself to her island. What started as a foot-stomp became a realization of her womanhood and a strong connection to the land she loves.
For Sean the experience of this particular Scorpio Race provided a different outlook. From a young age Sean was running a HUGE horse operation. To have found and cultured your purpose in life at such a young age is disconcerting. For Sean these races are more about realizing he needed to work his gifts of his own accord rather than under the shadow of someone else.
And back to what I loved most about this book. It’s probably one of the best examples of magical realism/practical magic I’ve ever read. The working superstitions feel so real, you forget these rituals hold no power…at least none that a modern world seems to recognize. Stiefvater did this by giving the superstitions/rituals/charms weight. She gave them physical consequence.
It was awesome because of the romance, because of the inspiration, and because of its scope. This book isn’t in any way new. So my love of this book...more It was awesome because of the romance, because of the inspiration, and because of its scope. This book isn’t in any way new. So my love of this book may not surprise many out there. It’s been beloved by readers since its original publishing date in the fall of 1991. But it’s classified as inspirational, and it’s no shocker that I prefer my romances slightly less strictly moral. And I’m also not a fan of a “preachy” voice in a book…No matter the subject matter being pushed.
So, as someone who doesn’t read inspirational literature I can whole-heartedly say that I loved this book. This rendition of the story of the prophet Hosea and his wife Gomer was so accessible. Rivers set out to tell a tale of love and also of the struggle of people who try to play God themselves. And by “Playing God” I’m not talking about the people doing crazy movie-villain type things…or of Doctors making life changing calls. Instead it’s talking about that desire in all of us, especially women, to fix it all ourselves and not to give in to a higher will in our lives. One of my favorite meditations is “If you want to make God laugh tell him your plans”. When I practice yoga I follow the intention “to be”. I try to focus on being wholly present in the moment. That’s what this novel asks of its character, to give up and enjoy the gifts we’re given, whether it be the simple beauty of fresh summer flowers or the awesome gift of love.
It was so great to see this mission set forth in a pretty standard romance plot. What would a romance be without a character who thought themselves unworthy? Where would the payoff be if not for the redeeming quality of that love? That’s what pushes this story into the level of lifetime favorite for so many; the compound redeeming grace of both romantic and Godly love.
The characters are so fully developed. They’re not just archetypes of a saint and a sinner. I loved Michael. He was such a strong good man. Also, seeing his thoughts kept him from being too much of a paragon. That we were privy to his anger and frustration helped. It made the process he was putting Angel through seem less demanding. Without it he would have been a Duke of another extreme.
Angel’s history is laid out in a heartbreaking, but realistic fashion. When you think of the biblical prostitute Gomer, heck, when you think of any adult woman who chooses to sell herself it’s difficult not to look at that woman without prejudice. Not to think there must have been another way…another path. Thus, Angel’s childhood of hard knocks and forced prostitution helps contextualize her as a fallen dove who really seemed to have no other way. Only through the love of Michael and God does she begin to see another path.
A few tidbits for those who’ve already read this one. I found Paul to be sooo annoying, wish he would have been slapped with the truth a little earlier or that Miriam had shared the reason Angel left. Also, totally cried when Jonathan Axe brought Angel out of the brothel. Cheered when she took the girls with her as well. Fist pump when they walked out the front door exposing Duke’s sick desire for little girls. And finally, I know it was true to biblical story but wish Angel wouldn’t have run away so much.