Strip the Willow and Rip the Bodice

Because everyone needs a hobby …

So that thing called ‘Marriage’ July 3, 2010

Pretty much how I communicated my thoughts after I finished reading ...

In the previous post, I gave you a little taste of Jemma and Villiers’ fantastic sort of relationship with each other. I liked Villiers in the last book and I really liked him in this book – as well as Jemma … for a few hundred pages.

There was a strange turn that Jemma’s character takes … and it may have something to do with this:

Say WHAT now?

Jemma and Elijah? Yeah, we get the foreshadowing in this book – but the foreshadowing comes rather … all of a sudden. But wait – let me give you the summary of the next book so you can see where I’m going:

“Wedding bells celebrating the arranged marriage between the lovely Duchess of Beaumont and her staid, imperturbable duke had scarcely fallen silent when a shocking discovery sent Jemma running from the ducal mansion. For the next nine years she cavorted abroad, creating one delicious scandal after another (if one is to believe the rumors).

Elijah, Duke of Beaumont, did believe those rumors.

But the handsome duke needs an heir, so he summons his seductive wife home. Jemma laughs at Elijah’s cool eyes and icy heart—but to her secret shock, she doesn’t share his feelings. In fact, she wants the impossible: her husband’s heart at her feet.

But what manner of seduction will make a man fall desperately in love…with his own wife?”

No … just … no no no.

Let’s recall: Elijah is a cheater. What’s with this sudden – ‘I’m falling in love with my own wife’?

And it gets worse. I kid you not. The book about Jemma and Elijah is followed by another about Villiers and some other girl.

Leopold Dautry, the notorious Duke of Villiers, must wed quickly and nobly—and his choices, alas, are few. The Duke of Montague’s daughter, Eleanor, is exquisitely beautiful and fiercely intelligent. Villiers betroths himself to her without further ado.

After all, no other woman really qualifies.

Lisette, the outspoken daughter of the Duke of Gilner, cares nothing for clothing or decorum. She’s engaged to another man, and doesn’t give a fig for status or title. Half the ton believes Lisette mad—and Villiers is inclined to agree.

Torn between logic and passion, between intelligence and the imagination, Villiers finds himself drawn to the very edge of impropriety. But it is not until he’s in a duel to the death, fighting for the reputation of the woman he loves, that Villiers finally realizes that the greatest risk may not be in the dueling field…

But in the bedroom. And the heart.

What? WHAT!

Even the Doctor doesn't approve.

Okay  – right now you’re probably accusing me of just being a sore ‘shipper’ – mad because the characters I actually liked didn’t get together. But that really isn’t it. Granted, maybe it is a little – but I’m looking at through through the lens of structuralism, which I’ve dealt with before.

In summation:

1. protagonists meet

2. protagonists fall in love

3. impediment

4. impediment solved

5. Family! Marriage! Woot!

Or … un-woot here. Jemma returns to Elijah when it’s rather clear in this novel that Villiers is in love with her – and her with him.

Until a dues ex machina or really just a change in the narrator’s tone realizes that this could upset Jemma’s already set marriage.

“Jemma blinked at him. She fully expected him to say that he had to work. To read those documents that he was always reading, even at the supper table. ‘You mean -‘

He held out his arm. ‘I have decided not to work in the evenings. I am at your command, duchess.’

‘Oh,’ Jemma said, rather uncertainly.

They strolled toward the drawing room. ‘I suppose the soiree,’ Jemma said, deciding. ‘I should like to dance.’ She was wearing a new dress, a delicious gown of figured pale yellow satin with a pattern of tiny green leaves. Her skirts were trimmed with double flounces and rather shorter than in the previous year.

Elijah looked down at her with a smile in his eyes.

‘Yes, I am wearing a new gown and I should like to show it off,’ she told him, thinking that there were nice aspects to having been married so long.

‘The hem reveals a delectable bit of your slipper,’ he said gravely.

‘You noticed!’ she stuck out her toe. She wore yelled slippers with very high heels, ornamented with a cunning little rose.

‘Yellow roses,’ he said, ‘are not nearly as rare as a perfect ankle like yours, Jemma.'” p.127

I’m sorry but he sounds like an idiot trying to gain brownie points with a woman who’s obvious emotionally conflicted. I think it’s a little contrived. And it goes on like this until Jemma decides that she does want her husband – but Villiers is still willing to do whatever she asks. And whatever Elijah asks, too, seeing as he seems to be dying.

Now that would have been perfect – kill Elijah and let Villiers and Jemma be happy together. Why not? The characters are both flawed and it really seems like they could ‘fix’ each other, so to say.

But no – for some reason, there has to be a set protection around an already existing marriage – that of Jemma and Elijah. Wouldn’t it be a little more interesting to disrupt the structure a little (I mean, Elijah’s death could easily be an impediment, if you really want to stick with it), and put two compatible characters together, rather than protect an already ruined marriage?

I really think that Jemma is being taken advantage of by Elijah – another thing that disturbed me in the book beyond the ‘impediment’ element being control between Isidore and Cosway. Obviously, Jemma is confused when her husband starts giving her attention – something she’s always wanted. But what if it really isn’t good for her?

I’m sorry, but I cried foul when I read this book. There was nothing romantic about fighting for power in a marriage, or watching a woman who seems happy with someone just as flawed as her become confused due to her cheating husband … who is dying and won’t tell her …

I mean … wtf?

I think this is what really underlines the reason I didn’t care for this book. There were too many things I took issue with on a very base level – control (even if we’re talking period) and emotional stress or even abuse (because I really think that Elijah – while he may love Jemma, sure – is playing off her old hope that he would come and get her) isn’t something I’d want to read.

Is it just because of marriage? Oi.

Again – take it with a pinch of Twatlight.

Oh – and a week off! Yay!

Sorry I was incredibly bitter towards this book – or maybe you preferred it. Who knows?

I shall be back in a week with a rather … unique? book.

lalalalala ...

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Reference (if not linked)

James, Eloisa. When the Duke Returns. New York: Avon Books, 2008.

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