Strip the Willow and Rip the Bodice

Because everyone needs a hobby …

I made all these posts and the ‘Category’ is still spelt incorrectly July 17, 2010

Yes, I’m very aware that the past few posts have been categorized under the name ‘Powder and Path’ rather than ‘Powder and Patch’ … I’m not sure how to change it for one, and for another … I don’t know why it is but my fingers type ‘path’ instead of ‘patch’ about 80% of the time when talking about this book.

Hm.

Ah well.

So – final post. I usually talk about family here but … strangely that’s missing. Well, maybe not strangely.

The last few words of the book are actually found in the last post where Cleone is talking to Philip about the contents of the locket (aka: she kept his real hair in a locket – shock, awe, surprise, whatevs).

We assume they marry.

Do we assume they have children?

Yeah, probably.

Do we assume they live happily ever after.

Yeah, probably that to.

But we aren’t actually shown it. We aren’t given that’ ‘family’ element that the other books end with. We’re led to just assume. And you know what, I’m fine with that. I’d rather assume that read ten or more extra pages of coddling children and the protagonists saying how lucky they are as they caress each other or have sex. Again.

In the end, the book was refreshing. It ended on a light note just as it began on a light note. As I’ve said many times – this book isn’t around to make you really wonder. The ‘Romance’ is already established, the couple is established, it’s more about the ‘romance’ of appreciating what the one partner really does have to offer the other, when the other is confused over what she wants.

I feel like I’m continuously repeating myself. But, this will be a short post.

I really thought I’d have a lot to write about here concerning structure, but I don’t. Obviously, the internal structure is different. The two protagonists meet but are already in love by the beginning. The impediment really isn’t an impediment of the usual sort (a rival) – it’s a style that’s the impediment and that’s easily overcome. And then we do end happily ever after.

But we’re thankfully spared the details.

I wonder, though, how popular the notion of not actually ‘seeing’ the happily ever after is. I made a choice earlier this year when writing my own novel (that isn’t a romance) of whether or not to show this one scene (this is completely unrelated – but it is worth a pause) because the reader would perhaps want it – but I found it unnecessary. The reader isn’t a child. And I think Heyer is on the same sort of wavelength.

Why write out what the reader knows?

Or, even, if they don’t marry – isn’t it fun to speculate? It’s like … Inception … mwahaha – you thought I could go without mentioning it.

At the moment, I’m more for the ‘let’s think about this’ rather than the ‘oh … happy ending.’ Plus, as I’ve also said many a time, it’s such a change from all those that I have read.

I don’t want to repeat myself anymore but I’m sure you get the idea by now. As for the book next week, I will say we’re doing a time warp. And … that’s all I’m going to say. Surprise surprise.

And just for fun – I love this picture of Gary Oldman:

Look at the GQMF!

Anywho, until next week …

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Reference

Heyer, Georgette. Power and Patch. Naperville: Sourcebooks, Inc., 1930.

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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.

 

Rank & Title & Family – Oh My! June 24, 2010

It's. Almost. HERE!

If you’ve been living on another planet … or just not reading my blog, which I couldn’t blame you for, you know that the Doctor Who season finale is coming up – which is also why the final post for The Seduction is coming on a Thursday instead of the usual Friday.

I’m getting into complete Doctor Who mode.

Exhibit A - Fourth Doctor Scarf is unpacked and being worn around the house

I just have to unpack my sonic screwdriver … wherever it is – a sentence that worries me. No thank you, college packing. Then put on my TARDIS t-shirt that I got at the Doctor Who exhibit in Glasgow, then maybe get out my little TARDIS and little dalek and make myself comfy.

None of that you needed to know – but only goes to prove my absolute geek-ness when it comes to Doctor Who. A season finale is an event – one that needs preparation and proper stanning (stanning: being a huge fan of something).

Anyway! Putting Doctor Who to the side at the moment – let’s get back to The Seduction but also back to the subject of Rank, Title, and, of course, Family.

So you’re not shocked, guess what Vanessa and Damien decide to do come the end of the novel?

I’ll give you a moment to guess. Here’s the quote once you’re finished – which you should be.

“His lips grazed her temple as his hand slid lower to caress her abdomen. ‘We should find something to keep you from being lonely while I’m occupied with mundane governmental affairs.’

‘You don’t find them mundane in the least,’ she replied with amusement. ‘I know very well that you relish your new challenge, spinning gold from dross for the good of the country.’

‘Quite so. But perhaps you need a new challenge as well, now that you’ve succeeded in taming a wicked rake. Would a child or two fit the bill, I wonder?’

Her heart welling at the thought, Vanessa turned to gaze up at Damien. Moonlight poured through the window, highlighting the sculpted contours of his face. ‘Having your child is the only thing that could make me happier than I am at this moment.'” p.345

I know. You’re surprised, aren’t you?

S0 – let’s just take the family bit as a given. Everything ends happily ever after. Olivia marries Vanessa’s brother. Vanessa obviously marries Damien. The end.

But back to title and rank … if WordPress will be so kind to let me make a post about this. In the past five books I have read, we have encountered female protagonists that have two things 1. they are period (that is, they’re in period fiction) and 2. they have some sort of rank and title that plays very much into their role in the novel.

The first is important because I plan on, soon, embarking on reading texts that take place in a more contemporary setting – that was my main focus in my last B&N trip beyond two … other … things that will remain to be seen in this blog. But know – something contemporary is coming in a few weeks (probably 2 in terms of blog, 3 in terms of actual time). But, anyway, using historical fiction, authors are able to give these characters titles like Duchess and Princess that set them – most of the time – in a place above their male counterpart.

This isn’t always the case though. In fact, in The Seduction, Vanessa’s title/rank is equal, if not a little lower than Damien’s – but it is enough to provide her cover.

What do I mean by cover?

Well, take you Duchess and Princess as hyperbolic examples: they have their title to protect them from huge scandal. That is, they have a looser lead. You may not think so – but if it was a simply country farm girl, situations could be different. The farm girl doesn’t have the power to say ‘this didn’t happen’ or brush something under the table. Sure, the ones in power don’t escape rumour – but they have rumour rather on their side. It’s not great, but unless they’re caught – let ’em talk.

In Vanessa’s case, it’s similar. She just needs to concoct a cover rather than having one already. That cover – or rather title/rank – is companion to Damien’s sister Olivia. There’s her out. She’s not there as his mistress, or there because she running from a murder she and her sisters committed, or there because she’s helping out a friend bring her husband home – nope, she’s just there as a companion (previous examples from other books, of course).

I’m not saying title can be something that excuses everything – of course it isn’t – look at Breanne and Caedmon – when they’re caught ‘in the act’ – Breanne’s father pretty much makes them marry (though neither really have complaints about that). Title just gives a little extra protect to the female – not to mention sometimes a step above the men – especially with the Duchess … but probably more on her later.

Now – for the more … metaphorical side of title and rank. I know I addressed this before in my nutshell ‘title and rank’ post last week – but it’s still relevant like I thought it would be here.

Vanessa’s other title includes ‘inexperience’ and let’s just throw ‘virgin’ in there as well because – even though she’s had sex – she’s still a ‘virgin’ to the experience of pleasure, which is what Damien’s out to do.

Of course, he just thinks he has the power in this situation – the power to teach Vanessa ‘pleasure.’ In fact, some of the novel is just that – Damien teaching her how to please a man because Vanessa is convinced that after she leaves Damien when the summer is up, that the only way to support her family will be through becoming a whore. Why this is – I really don’t know. I think it was just an excuse for more sex to throw in the book because really, I couldn’t make much sense of it. Seeing that Damien’s promise was to give back the land, if she was his mistress for the summer – why she would need to sell herself is beyond me still.

Then again, I read it on Sunday and it’s Thursday now – not that I forget things that easily, but these novels’ particulars don’t stick in the mind – especially if it’s the secondary plot that’s pretending it’s the main plot when … not one really cares about it.

What am I missing?

Anyway – Damien thinks he’s teaching her. That’s where most of the sex scenes lie, in fact. I didn’t actually make a ‘sex post’ for this book since it’s unneeded (but I’ll tag this as a sex post nonetheless) – there’s nothing really stand-out about them – beyond this idea of ‘teaching.’

Damien is giving her these tools – he thinks he’s in control. But looking again at Vanessa’s unsaid ‘title’ of ‘virgin’ and ‘inexperienced’ – he’s not in control, he’s handing the control over to her more so. She already has that power over him in her inexperience that she can dangle over him (since he said he wouldn’t take her until she agreed to share his bed – blah blah – Damien’s dialogue was really just … blah). But now, Damien has upped her title from ‘inexperienced’ to ‘experienced’ – which now she can really dangle over him.

She’s experienced and is going to go out and find another man, who will care for her financially in return for her favours. Now she has tricks up her sleeve to make Damien want her even more – she’s holding even more power now – power that he inadvertently gave her. Sure, he may have given her financial freedom at the end of the book – but that’s all monetary.

This is very much ‘in the mind’ – so to say. Damien now knows her knew ‘rank’ in the … I guess, let’s call it the ‘sexual world.’ And that rank is tempting to him. That rank also gives Vanessa another cover like Princess and Duchess – this is now her apparent or wanted (well, unwanted) occupation. There’s her cover – she’s just a whore.

Rank and title play huge roles in these novels – metaphorical and literal. But what’s always interesting is that the ball always seems to end up or even start in the woman’s court.

But then … are we surprised?

WordPress, you better not erase this post … I’ll … well, I’ll be very angry if you do.

So off to eat lunch then dig out my sonic screwdriver.

Bits and bobs and I CAN'T WAIT FOR THE SEASON FINALE!

Until next week – where there’s a pretty decent surprise waiting in terms of what I’m reading. I maybe hinted at it … once. Somewhere. I forget.

But – until next week!

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Reference

Jordan, Nicole. The Seduction. New York: Ballantine Books, 2000.

 

Reading a Book by Its Cover June 21, 2010

When I finished reaching the book for this week – The Seduction by Nicole Jordan – I sort of had a pause moment about how my strategy of picking out books for this blog has changed since the first.

Walking into Giant weeks ago, my only thoughts were: Fabio on the cover (or something like it) and the words ‘throbbing,’ ‘bud,’ ‘nub,’ and ‘shaft’ – and so on. It just took a flick through and there I went through the self-checkout and so be it.

Then, after reading then, I started to set out looking for books that I thought could help answer the questions I was coming up with. So – If He’s Wild I bought because there was only a man on the cover. Duchess by Night I bought because there was only a woman on it and she was blonde.

And this week, I bought a book with no one on the cover.

No, the Female Protagonist is not a rose, nor is the Male

And no, it wasn’t just the price, either, that caught my eye.

I thought it would be interesting to read a book with no one on the cover. In fact, I didn’t even read the back. I wanted to be completely in the dark when I read this – the only clue I had were on the cover.

I know I took issue with the cover with Duchess by Night – it was ‘misleading’ – well, as misleading as a romantic novel cover could be. I was just put-off by the fact that she was blonde on the cover and brunette in the book. Oh well. Not a huge deal.

But The Seduction – I looked at it as a sort of challenge. I wasn’t surprised to find that it was historical – it takes place in 1810 – and I wasn’t surprised that it followed the same formula as every other novel I’ve read.

That’s not to say it had it’s moments. In fact, after a long monologue to my mater last night about Shakespeare, Wordsworth, and Coleridge (I went on a mini-lit-rant), I said that this book was my favorite after Duchess by Night.

Why?

It had two interesting aspects. The first: the male protagonist was very much a rake. In fact, the prologue is made up of him having sex with another woman, only to be interrupted by news that his sister has had an accident. Yes, this all seems part of the formula, but I found it striking that we are given more of a glimpse into the life of this particular rake, Damnien Sinclair (aka Lord Sin – I know, it’s terrible). Sure, we’ve heard of past exploits in the other novels, but in this we actually open with one. It plays with the convention of the ‘one woman’ aspect – and I can’t wait to explore that.

The second this was … hair color again. While the female protagonist, Vanessa, was technically a blonde, her hair was often described as being fire-like.

I thought of using a DIAF .gif for laughs, but this one was just more fun.

So – decide – are you redheaded or are you blonde? And that’s for the ginger post.

I’m getting the feeling that these ‘first posts’ are just outlines of what i plan to do with the book of the week. I’m liking it so I’m keeping it that way.

There are other interesting bits in this book too – I’m going to return to the whole title/rank subject this week, too. Like Duchess by Night it is one of the ‘movers’ of the plot, so to say. Vanessa isn’t very high up socially (she’s nicely put, though) – but the power play she initiates with Damien is worth comparing against the other novels read. Because, hey – they’ve all had some sort of power play, obviously.

I think this week too I’m going to address the use of other literature within these novels – but just the past two. The first three novels made no mention of contemporary texts, but both Duchess by Night and The Seduction have purposely mentioned texts contemporary to their respective time periods. Since I went off on a mini-rant last night I realized, I’m going to have to take a look at this.

Why?

Because I don’t think that they’re just put there to say “Hi! Look how period-correct I am!” And, if they are, I’m totally going to be ripping into that. I’m all for allusions or references, but they have to mean something – sloppy references make me rage, let’s just be honest here.

So, subjects to be discussed: 1. the Male Protagonist 2. Hair (of course) 3. Literary References. I’m excited about number 3 – that will be fun and my Norton Anthology upstairs is buzzing with excitement.

Oh, and for your viewing hilarity, a picture of me reading this novel taken by my 5-year-old cousin:

There should be a book called "If You Give a 5-year-old Your iPhone"

Busy week it looks like – and hopefully I’ll get some other reading done that I’ve been neglecting terribly … very terribly.

Until tomorrow a …

PALATE CLEANSER! CLICK ME!

(and there is a reason behind all of this RDJ overload – I’ve found that because I become bored with reading this books about 10 pages in, I just slip RDJ’s face onto the guy and I’m fine – I guess that’s the whole escapist thing … actually it’s Restoration‘s fault but if I said that you wouldn’t believe me so I thought I’d lie and say it was the whole escapist thing even though … it isn’t)

Reference

Jordan, Nicole. The Seduction. New York: Ballantine Books, 2000.

 

The Post in which I Get Tired of Happy Endings June 18, 2010

It appears! The RDJ .gif I was going to use in the Title and Rank post!

Okay. I have to admit.

I see the pattern, duh.

But I’m really sick of the constant happy family ending.

As you probably guessed – Jem is a family man at heart, raising his daughter Little Father – sorry, Eugenia on his own. In fact, she gets her own little subplot where she is bit by a rat and suffers from rat-bite fever.

Shock and awe that this is another chance for Jem and Harriet (now known to Jem and Eugenia as a woman) to bond. Over a child.

Okay. That’s fine. So Harriet, in marrying Jem, becomes Eugenie’s mother. Saw that from the beginning.

But the epilogue?

“‘Where do you suppose this baby came from?’ he said wonderingly.

‘The usual places.’ He loved her laugh.

‘But we were married for years without children. And then Colin, and now -‘

‘I didn’t think I could.’

Under his hand was just the smallest flutter of life. ‘I never used to cry, not a single damp eye, before I met you,’ he said accusingly.

She kissed him until he didn’t feel sentimental anymore, just hungry. But he didn’t want to wear Harriet out, so he didn’t follow that kiss to its natural conclusion.” p.365

Yep. They have their own baby and another is on the way.

Curb my enthusiasm.

But this doesn’t make sense. We’ve learned that this novel takes place in the 1780s right? And at the start, Harriet is twenty-seven. Jem is thirty. Eugenia is eight. In the epilogue, Eugenia is in her teens (she’s come out) so that means that Harriet has to be somewhere in her mid thirties.

And it’s 1780. I don’t know – I feel like the author is playing with fire here. Especially since Eugenie almost dies of rat-bite fever – sickness was easy to come by. To give birth in her thirties seems a little troublesome – but then again – maybe not so much. I guess we can just chalk that up to the masculine side of Harriet.

But I’m going to speak plainly here. I did not want this book to end with a happy family. Marriage? Sure. Family unit? Sure. But a new baby and another on the way?

Simply: I felt that Harriet’s masculinity was taken away. She had this great side to her for over three hundred pages then all of a sudden … she’s a mother and pregnant. She still has her streak of independence, of course (we hear about her riding from Jem as well as her wearing breaches when she rides), but I just felt that in this moment, Harriet was de-masculinized.

I won’t even comment on Jem getting teary. We’ve seen in pretty much every novel before this that the men get this sentimental streak in them by the end of the novel so it isn’t out of the ordinary. It’s part of the formula. I don’t even think I’d bring my gender argument into this part because it’s so hackneyed that his ‘weepiness’ was just expected.

Happy family, remember?

So – my question: is there a book out there that ends with the protagonists going off on a new adventure rather than settling?

Is there something else to look forward to?

Sure, for the first few books, the ending was satisfying but now … now, I want something different. You can always change aspects of the formula  – but the structure of it remains. Can’t adventure be substituted for ‘happy family?’

I don’t mean that I expected Harriet and Jem to explore the world – they didn’t seem the type – but what about the characters like Breanne and Caedmon from Viking in Love who seem to be?

So – until I find that – my reactions to the family-endings of these novels is going to be something like Ned’s:

Yeah ... no.

I was going to used a bummed Ron and Hermione (from PS even!) but I miss Pushing Daisies and I don’t want to think about how principle photography finished on Harry Potter a few days ago.

I still remember where I was when I first saw Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint in a picture together – I was at my friend Sandy’s house using the computer – the picture took forever to load and the background was a the usual logo in tile effect. I remember how excited we were. And that was so many years ago …

End of an era … my childhood is really dying next year with the last film (though, it really did probably end with the final book – I’m giving it one last stretch).

Anyway – enough about HP.

Next week book looks … well … it looks interesting in an interesting way.

Have a great weekend!

PALATE CLEANSER! CLICK ME!

Reference

James, Eloisa. Duchess By Night. New York: Avon Books, 2008.

 

My Week Off: Vlog 1 June 12, 2010

And, yep, I’m planning to do this each week I take off.

I don’t know why. I just am.

 

Bringing in the Lit Theory: Structuralism June 4, 2010

Well, I’m finally a little more well rested than I have been. I’m still a little wonky, but eh. I have to thank B&N.com though for making my evening – I was able to get the special edition of The Full Monty online for a mere $10 (coupons & free shipping for members -woot!).

But blah blah – serious posting time.

I’ve decided that after every three books, I talk a little about structuralism, which will of course bring in the whole point that there is a formula when writing a romance novel.

So – yay! Lit Theory day!

I'm still ashamed I spent money to see this film ... never give in to cinematic peer pressure - even if it involves MGoode

And I’ve even brought out the big guns.

What do I mean by the big guns … beyond linking you to the darn book. This – this is what I mean:

I love this book. I mean - I love it. Look at it! It's gorgeous!

The editors of this book, Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, give a brief introduction of Structuralism before they move into the essays. Oh – I love seeing my notes from class again – makes me giddy. Anyway:

“Levi-Strauss [and early Structuralist] began to see that culture, like language, is a system characterized by an internal order of interconnected parts that obey certain rules of operation. A structure is both like a skeleton and like a genetic code in that it is the principle of stability and coherence in any cultural system, while also being the principle of action that alows the culture to exist in time as a living thing.” p.54

Okay cool – so how does this apply to literature? Let’s move into John Culler’s The Linguistic Foundation.

“Structuralism is thus based, in the first instance, on the realization that if human actions or productions have a meaning there must be an underlying system of distinctions and conventions which makes this meaning possible.” p.56

I don’t want to override anyone with lit theory but breaking down Culler and applying it to literature – we pretty much have this: there are those ‘system of distinctions and conventions’ that make ‘meaning possible’ – ie: the system of distinctions and conventions are the rules that this genre follows and the meaning possible is the assigned ‘genre’ of these texts.

Every little plot device in these novels seem to support this ‘underlying system’ – a system that creates the bodice-ripper, the romance novel.

So – turning to If He’s Wild – what’s the structure? (briefly)

  1. We meet the two protagonists – Hartley is the supposed ‘rake’ (though his actions are excused by his work for the government – nah, that never really is cleared up) and Alethea, the virgin widow
  2. Hartley is taken with Alethea’s beauty, Alethea’s always felt a connection with Hartley since she’s had visions of him – they become the central focus of each other’s affections
  3. Enter impediments – Alethea and Hartley are almost killed several times, they struggle with their feelings, they realize, after these impediments, they love each other
  4. Enter family – Hartley and Alethea live happily ever after (married) with a son who has ‘healing powers’ and Hartley’s nephew and niece

I know a lot of these posts have pitted this third book against the past two – but let’s look at the structure of those past two novels in comparison.

A Highlander’s Homecoming

  1. Protagonists introduced: Robbie, time-travelling duty-bound guy and Isa, the strong willed redhead who lives on her own farm
  2. Robbie is not quick to like Isa but unwittingly does (let’s say it’s because of her spunk) and Isa, of course, takes to him eventually giving into her desires and sleeping with him – they become the focus of each other’s affections
  3. Enter impediments: there’s a land fued, Isa’s tricked into marrying some other dude, she and Robbie wrestle with their feelings but love prevails and she saves him – they go on the run and to save Robbie from dying (and Isa from a bad marriage) they go forward in time
  4. They live happily ever after in the future (married) with their new family

Viking in Love

  1. Protagonists introduced: Caedmon, a sort-of family guy and walking penis, who just wants to stop bedding girls because he gets them all pregnant, and Breanne, another strong-willed redhead that helped her sisters kill their brother-in-law
  2. Caedmon is reluctant to like Breanne as is she, and their sexual relationship starts as more of a pact, but they soon fall in love and they soon become the only object of each other’s affections
  3. Enter impediments: people wonder what happened to the murdered brother-in-law, some people come to visit Caedmon, some really random things happen that really make no sense but are still ‘impediments’ and just before her father can whisk her away from Caedmon, Breanne and Caedmon are trapped by the children and are caught ‘tupping’
  4. Caedmon and Breanne live happily ever (married) after with his kids from previous ‘tupping’ sessions and the strong probability of more children to come

So. I’ll let you put two and two together with that. There is a very strong structure that underlies all three of these novels – the only difference lays in how they are written. All of these ‘events’ or ‘signs’ as Culler would call them make up this genre (and let’s just use that word lightly).

There seems to be always two protagonists with eyes only for each other.

There seems to always be some impediment in the way that almost keeps them apart.

Somehow they overcome the impediment and live happily ever after.

Married. With a family.

“Hartley propped himself up on his elbows and stared at her ‘Alethea?’

She took his hand and placed it low on her belly. ‘Olympia told me there was a child the day we saved you, but I had no sign of it yet. Now I have. Yes, Hartley, you will become a father in seven or eight months.’

He stared at her belly, nearly completely cover by his hand, and then looked at her. It took a moment for the news to really sink into his mind, and then Hartley felt a stinging in his eyes. He blinked quickly and gently kissed the place where his child grew.” p.331-2

Always a family, always married – the endings don’t surprise me anymore but the first time I realized that this was a pattern, I was curious. Beyond the escapist sex scenes, the historical fiction, etc. – there was also this longing or wanted family at the end. It’s almost like a return to innocence or a promise that everything will be all right, everyone will be loved in the end.

It’s not so much curious as it is fascinating that all three of the novels ended this way.

So there – a post about If He’s Wild without the snark – and with a little bit of lit theory – a surprise element of structure: family, marriage – that is the happily ever after.

And passionate sex, of course – all three did end with that as well – but family ends up being the winner here – always having the last word.

So far, at least.

Now – lunch for me – and look what is waiting in the fridge!

BRIE!!!

Excitement.

Monday starts a new book – secret of course!

Have a fantastic weekend.

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References

Culler, Jonathan. “The Linguistic Foundation.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 1988, p.56-58.

Howell, Hannah. If He’s Wild. New York: Zebra Books, 2010.

Rivkin, Julie and Michael Ryan. “Introduction: The Implied Order: Structuralism.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 1988, p.53-55.