Karla's Reviews > Adora

Adora by Bertrice Small
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's review
Dec 23, 10

bookshelves: historical-romance, bodice-ripper, re-reads, pirates-and-buccaneers, byzantium-and-ottomans, smutty-favorites, bertieworld, buddy-readz-r-social, nitpickers-and-pearl-clutchers
Recommended for: BR readers who love history
Read from December 21 to 23, 2010 — I own a copy

Theodora Cantacuzene is a Princess of Byzantium (and she'll remind you of it plenty of times) and is married off to the old Sultan Orkhan in a political move. Her odyssey takes her through multiple husbands, murderous plotting, wars, and personal tragedies. It's another early Bertrice Small book where the story goes cradle-to-grave with a focus on the heroine. Her life is the point of the story, not one isolated span of time with a binary romance.

I liked this one better than The Kadin because there was a better balance of romance/bodice-ripping and history. The Kadin tended to sag under the weight of all the description, although Adora has its share of pure costume porn as well. Kadin also kept the bodice-ripping until the very end when Cyra found herself in foreign Scotland. Adora has the smut scattered throughout, and it includes everything from wooden dildo rape to child rape to plain ol' rape to feather play to backdoor action to eunuch seXXXoring to implied gangbangs to simple missionary lovin'. It's all a bit much at times, but this is one of my fond childhood books and I've read it a dozen times as a teen, so I'm no doubt grading it on a bit of a bias. ;-) It had been well over 15 years since I last read it, so it was no surprise to me to find myself reading most of it as though I was reading it for the first time. It wasn't as omgawesome as I remember, but it was still pretty darn good. And I realized that it serves as a chronological prequel of sorts to The Kadin, as Sultan Orkhan and Murad are ancestors of Cyra's husband Selim.

While Small does go heavy with the history bits (and I wish these early books of hers were longer to flesh out and incorporate so many facts in a more natural way), I find the period really fascinating and thus don't mind the longish expanses of who is screwing whom over what and where. (They coined the phrase Byzantine Politics for a reason.) Because of the constant plotting and scheming from Adora's enemies, the body count is pretty high and not always where you would expect it.

One thing I have always liked about Bertrice is that she's not afraid to kill people off - and since she is writing about historical figures, she has them exit according to history even if they're the/a hero or the protagonists' offspring (as in this book). She also doesn't flinch from the nasty realpolitik of the time, and Adora often displays a cool logic in matters that result in the deaths of others since it's an age of kill or be killed. A Christian city doesn't surrender when offered mercy? Then the sack and rape is an expected and regrettably necessary consequence. At one point, she even wields the pincers with burning coals that blind an enemy. It's not typical romance, or even bodice-ripping romance, but a life saga in a brutal time that is couched within the callous and cruel attitudes of the period, with a catalogue of salacious stuff to boot. Readers don't expect "heroes" to kill off their siblings or progeny, but it's a fact that sultans did. And Small is writing about sultans, so that is what must happen. If a reader can't suck up and deal, then don't bother picking up these early historicals of hers.

I did have a sense of deja vu with this book after having read The Kadin so recently. Both Cyra and Adora are precocious children who turn into absurdly wise and astute women. It's a flaw of Small's, these Mary Sue heroines of hers, but I still enjoyed it greatly because of the outrageous BR moments and florid turns of phrase for which Small is so well-known. This book is an obvious bridge between the very straight HF of The Kadin and the flaming bodice-ripper that is Skye O'Malley.
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Reading Progress

12/22/2010 page 219
49.77% "Amazing how much you can get read when you're up at 2:50am...." 1 comment
12/22/2010 page 330
75.0% "Now Theadora gets to play the devoted mommy/hot wife and get her man around her little finger."

Comments (showing 1-27)

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Karla And remember when I said I thought the eunuch said, "Forgive me, princess" before he deflowers her?

I checked last night and, yup, I was right. :P

Yeah, love that cover. I was willing to have it hang around on the WL in order to get the original edition instead of the wallpaper reissues.

message 26: by Tammy (new)

Tammy Walton Grant I read that review this morning -- the book sure squicked out that redheadedgirl person. Wimp.

Karla I know. Spineless pussies.

And every time I see someone ripping an old BR, I think "And you probably read erotica - sorry...ROMANTICA - with threesomes and god knows what else."

Old School BRs and current romance readers...never the twain shall meet, methinks.

message 24: by KC (new) - added it

KC I don't get why'd they'd even bother if it's not their cup of tea. Maybe it's cool to rip on the Old Skool? *shrug* But tru dat, KW (and no, it's NOT Kathleen Woodwiss - :P), some of the "romantica" I've read is quite squick + eyeroll-worthy and yet people rank on old BRs. Go figure.

message 23: by KC (new) - added it

KC And I've had mah durty lil' hands on this puppy for a bit. Guess I better get to gettin' and read it, since I do so love to readz the bookz people love to hate. *LOL*

message 22: by Tammy (last edited Dec 16, 2010 09:59AM) (new)

Tammy Walton Grant *snort* Romantica - whatever. How about porn with plot?

Apples and oranges, I say, and they shouldn't even be compared. Too twue with the twain. Those old BRs are in a class completely by themselves, imo. Redheadedgirl would have to suspend her twenty-something feminist outrage in order to enjoy them.

Sometimes those outraged reviews seem so naive to me. I mean, they can read buttsecks and threesomes and piercings without flinching, they LOVE anything to do with vampires and other beings, blood, guts and Brazilian waxes in their books.

But given them a harem story about group sex and a wooden dildo (cause what do you think they used before silicone?) and holy fuck! They are horrified!! And they don't even appreciate how prudish they actually sound.

(wow, how did that soapbox get under my feet?!)

message 21: by KC (new) - added it

KC Exactly. Leave them to those who can appreciate.

message 20: by Tammy (new)

Tammy Walton Grant Haha! I must be easily wound up today -- sorry ladies!

message 19: by Karla (last edited Dec 16, 2010 10:58AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Karla Keep on that soapbox! Yes, "naive"....perfect. Couldn't have said it better myself.

I'd seen lots of "OMG! ICK!" reviews of Devil's Embrace, but I still read it with an open mind. I was actually prepared to like it, but didn't. Yes, the hero was creepy (way creepy!) but more offensive to me was how boring and plotless it was! That's what made it more of a stinker. But at least I read it before I judged it. :-\

Karla Tammy wrote: "Haha! I must be easily wound up today -- sorry ladies!"

I'm wound up too. I likes me the company. :)

Karla Thanks for that, Jeanine. My work week was so boring :D

message 16: by Tammy (new)

Tammy Walton Grant Why, thankee :D. I wonder sometimes if some reviewers don't realize that most of these books were written during the "Calgon, take me away!" era (remember those commercials?). Nothing will take you away from a messy house, whiny kids and a schlumpy spouse quite like one of these books!

message 15: by Tammy (new)

Tammy Walton Grant Jeanine ♥ Cheshire Catt ♠ wrote:
Me three - I'm the one that got Karla started! :D"

Thank you, too, Janine! I'm stuck in my house with 2 kids home sick from school so I've got all day to do nothing but rant, lol.

message 14: by Tammy (new)

Tammy Walton Grant Jeanine ♥ Cheshire Catt ♠ wrote: "I fondly remember the Calgon commercials! :D

Unfortunately doesn't work for me - any time I get anywhere near the tub my daughter wants to come with and PLAY!!"

Oh, I remember that quite well! Thank God my kids have outgrown it - kinda hard to read a book and shave your legs with a squirmy 3 year old playing Barbie shoved in there too.

message 13: by Tammy (new)

Tammy Walton Grant Karla wrote: "...but I still read it with an open mind."

That's the trick to reading these books, I think. You gotta be ready to just strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.

Karla It's the dildo stuff, because I read that as "strap yourself ON"

I need a nap. :P

message 11: by Tammy (new)

Tammy Walton Grant Jeanine ♥ Cheshire Catt ♠ wrote: "LOL - so what are we ranting about next???"

Haha! You pick, I've been bitching all morning!

message 10: by Tammy (new)

Tammy Walton Grant Karla wrote: "It's the dildo stuff, because I read that as "strap yourself ON"

I need a nap. :P"

That's it - those books have finally sent you over the edge, LMAO!

message 9: by Kerrie (new) - added it

Kerrie yeah, RedHeadedGirl's dildo comment was the most outrageous thing in the review, I thought. I could imagine fingers in ears, and lalalalalaing, at the IDEA that there were dildos before 1990. I wonder how old she is, anyway?

Karla "OMG, my parents had SEX?????!?!?!?" I can imagine the freaked-out discovery about that too. :P

John Wilmot/Rochester/Johnny Depp even wrote a poem about a dildo back in the 1600s, so....yeah. *eyeroll*

message 7: by Tammy (new)

Tammy Walton Grant Didn't the Phoenicians even have dildoes made of mud or clay or something?

Kids these days, thinking they invented sex. And rock'n'roll. Harumph.

Karla Aw, it was my bias showing! I could see the faults in it, but I still loved it.

message 5: by Tammy (new)

Tammy Walton Grant Nice! I wish I liked reading these types of books as much as I liked reading your reviews. (Although someday I think I might have to read this just for the wooden dildo.)

Karla I wish you liked reading them, too - because I'd love your reviews for 'em. :D

Sandi *~The Pirate Wench~* Great review Karla! I plan on re-reading this one myself..

Karla Very interesting! Informative, too! They got me interested in the Tudors and harems. :D

Karla Bertrice is a two-way street!

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