Strip the Willow and Rip the Bodice

Because everyone needs a hobby …

Time and the Narrator July 13, 2010

My Initial Reaction to the Narrator

Now, my overall question is still: why is this a romance novel?

I think starting with the narrator, though, and the narrator’s pace is an important. After all, it’s the narrator who decides how we ‘get’ the story. My initial reaction was – eh. I like when narrators become characters themselves (this happens once and a while – the narrator gets all meta-fiction-y on us and addresses the reader). But, I had written ‘show don’t tell’ in the margins a lot but, in the end, I sort of … understood the narration style.

It was hard to get used to the time jumps:

“He had gone; now he had come back, the business details settled to his satisfaction, but with not wig.” p. 16

“That night he gave a card-party. The play was high and the bottles numerous. He lost some money, won a little, and was put to bed by his valet long after dawn. He awake later with a splitting headache, but he considered himself a man. That was in September.” p.59

Not to mention a play-by-play of a duel stretched over three pages in the form of a sort of soliloquy (pages 90-92).

I was a bit annoyed with the pace. Especially since the exposition was given dialogue, but the real meat of the book was brushed over and just told to the reader in short paragraphs with a little free indirect discourse once in a while when the characters met up. I found myself skipping a lot of the dialogue for it was taken up with talk of fashion and very little scheming – plus, there was little to scheme since the two protagonists were already in love from the beginning (but more on that in another post).

It was hard to adapt to reading this sort of style – but by the end I had an appreciation for it. The story wasn’t a complicated one – so why complicate it with unneeded description and whatnot? The book gives you exactly what it tells you – there are no surprises … at all.

The narrator is straight forward – just like the story.

So how does this lead into the whole ‘why is this in the romance section’? Well, the narrator, in her/his straightforwardness, makes it just about that. It’s the story of a man reforming (or at least pretending to reform to show the woman what she really does want she had all along) for a woman and the silliness that comes with it. There’s no side plot – it’s just that.

While I said in the last post there is very little ‘romance’ itself – that’s true. There’s no need for wooing – we get very very little of it. The girl is wooed from the start – this is more of a story about Philip than Cleone, so to say: Philip becoming a man who wears Powder and Patches.

And, wears them for love of Cleone.

Okay – there’s our romance … I guess. Again, I’m confused. I liked the wittiness of Philip trying to become why Cleone thinks she wants but it didn’t fit ‘romance’ in my mind. It was a comedy of manners, as I’ve said, and, if given the choice, I would have put this novel in just plain ‘fiction’ before ‘romance.’

The narrator revolves around society, not around love. The narrator goes in depth into fashion, into customs, into everything but ‘romance’ – yet, the characters deal with all of these because of romance.

So – is that creaky sentence the reason this novel is considered ‘romance’?

Absolutely no idea. But, I think it may be some sort of a start.

Yay!

Anyway, I think – in keeping with the length of this novel, I’ll follow it in the posts. Concise and quick – plus, the kids were over today and I had twins following me around for a few hours.

And that’s another thing … children … there are no children at the end of this novel. In this novel … but I think that’s for another post, too. The … ‘breaking of structure’ or just ‘a different structure.’

Maybe that’s really why I liked it – it wasn’t like everything else …

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Reference

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

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Oh Blah, Eloisa James, Very Blah On You! June 29, 2010

Yep – I decided that, for this week, I would do another novel by Eloisa James – more specifically the ‘next’ novel that follows Duchess by Night to see what a ‘continuation’ was like. And that novel is … slight drumroll …

'When the Duke Returns' - Eloisa James

I have to admit – I was a bit excited. Out of all the novels I’ve so far read, Duchess by Night has really been my favorite. Obviously, I had high expectations for the next novel, even if it dealt with the whiny Isidore and her husband, who returns to take her away from Lord Strange’s house (revisit the Duchess by Night posts if you need a refresher). Anyway – here’s where we last left Isidore in the green book:

“It was as if everything was happening in slow motion. The greatcoat was gone, and the hat was gone. Harriet had hardly time to see a great tumble of inky black hair, un-powdered and not even tied back, before he turned …

…There was a moment of utter silence in the anteroom. The duke was looking only at Isidore.

Just as Harriet was about to say something – some sort of introduction! – he swept into a extraordinarily deep bow. Her eyes fixed on his face, Isidore sank into a deep curtsy. Still without saying a word, she held out her hand.

‘My duchess, I presume,’ he said, carrying the hand up to his lips. His voice was dark and foreign, like that of a man used to speaking strange languages.” p.282

And it goes on for a bit, Isidore leaves with Cosway (the Duke) and that’s that for Duchess by Night. Now, the pink book.

“‘My duchess, I presume,’ he said catching her hand and kissing it,

Isidore managed to pull herself together enough to introduce him to Harriet, but her mind was reeling, Somehow in all her imaginings, she’d forgotten to imagine – a man.” p.9

This also goes on, but obviously we’re in Isidore’s pov, not Harriet’s anymore. I thought it was fun, the intertwining of the stories – so I really was eager to read this – just to see how that unfolded, but also the build up for the next book.

So – little did I know I wasn’t going to be a big fan of the subject of the next book. Or really a subject of this book in itself.

The obvious question is – why?

(and before I go on – I’m keeping this short – my mouth is making me really uncomfortable so I plan on sleeping most of the day away until it goes back to normal)

Anyway – why.

1. I didn’t like the relationship between Isidore and Cosway (also known as Simeon). Maybe it was because she was whiney. Maybe it because he was rather … simple. And controlling. Granted, Cosway was interesting in other ways – he himself was a virgin so new stuff there. But I wasn’t really a fan of their relationship – even in the usual happy ending.

2. It seems like the author wasn’t a huge fan either. About a third of the book doesn’t concern Isidore and Cosway at all – but instead Jemma, Elijah, and Villiers. Oh yeah – Villiers – I was really excited about seeing him again.

3. More tension was built up in the side characters, than the main characters. That is, Jemma and Villiers and Jemma and Elijah (her husband who cheated on her early in their marriage). And here’s the aspect where I really started disliking the books.

4. The subject of marriage. I’m going to make a marriage post this week, I think. While reading this book, I paid the most attention to Jemma and Villiers since there was little plot actually happening with Isidore and Cosway – there was no real ‘impediment’ to keep them apart but I’ll get to that in structure. But the subject of marriage … humph. See, when I started the book, I was very surprised to see that I was rooting for Jemma and Villiers – they had a real connection. I loved it. But then, there was this about face where Jemma decided she was falling in love with her husband Elijah (the cheater – granted, Villiers has bastard children, but there’s something charming about him). Really, I was like huh? That makes no sense. So, I pulled up the summary of the next book and found out … well, she goes get back with Elijah.

Crap.

So – is this the sanctity of marriage suddenly appearing in these novels? And why am I’m more invested in this side characters (even when talking about Duchess by Night, I remember saying that I was drawn more to Villiers than most of the characters)? Did my high expectations ruin everything?

Is there something in the formula I’m missing when it comes to marriage?

Needless to say, I was putt-off when I finished this book. I’m glad I chose it so I could talk about why I was put-off, but also disappointed that it didn’t match the craft (and it really didn’t) that was it’s predecessor.

So – things that will be talked about (in no specific order): craft and structure, the idea of marriage, the idea of impediments, and canon with ending. Believe me – it will (hopefully) all make sense once I get to it.

But – as for right now, I’m going to go get a pillow and blanket, make myself comfy and watch a film or something.

If you've never watched 'Spaced' - I completely recommend that you do.

Tomorrow … maybe two posts? Maybe one – we’ll see!

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References

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

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

 

One Woman to Rule Them All June 22, 2010

Yes, I realize that yesterday, my title had a typo in it. I fixed it without someone having to tell me – but I’m still, nonetheless, mortified. Just saying.

Anyway, because of the epic-ness that was the first part of the season finale of Doctor Who I’ve decided to double up on posts each day so I give myself some time to re-watch the series in preparation for part two. Yes – it is really that epic. Of course, it could go the way of bombing in part two but I trust Moffat. I like what he’s done so far with the series.

But I’m rambling. Back to The Seduction.

Expect lots of 'Doctor Who' .gifs - here's the Ninth Doctor & Rose

Checking back with my last post, I went through what I ‘definitely’ wanted to talk about with this book. The first being: the male protagonist.

As I mentioned, it’s a different opening. Unlike the other males we’ve encountered before, we actually see Damien’s rakish behaviour first hand – not through rumour. The entire prologue is made up of his jaunt with an actress (who, coincidentally, is the actress that Vanessa’s husband lost his life for in a duel – insert sad face here I guess, but at least it was more plausible than dying over a chess game *coughDuchessbyNightcough*.

Here are the opening lines of the prologue:

“The silken bonds bit into his wrists with exquisite pressure, heightening the sense of pleasure. A willing captive, Damien Sinclair lay defenseless, his bare arms fastened to the bedposts with scarves of scarlet silk.

He couuld see his reflection in the gilt-framed mirror overhead: his naked, muscled body juxtaposed against the snowy sheets; the full, hard length of his arousal jutting from the curling ebony hair of his groin.” p.1

Yeah, needless to say – not what you expect on page one. Or, at least, not what I expected. I grew used to the ‘pretend rake’ or the ‘rake on a break’ – but Damien is one in full force.

So … yay?

The prologue continues in this way a bracelet in involved at some point and there’s a blonde in the mix (the actress), too. The actress is trying to get Damien to take her on as a mistress since he’s currently without one (though, rake that he is, would he really only be satisfied with one woman? (at this moment?)). The scene ends, as I’ve mentioned before: Damien’s sister is in an accident and he lives the actress in bed.

Through the usual turn of events called ‘coincidence’ – Vanessa’s late husband traveled in the same circles as Damien and she gets him to notice her. Why? Because – also by coincidence – Vanessa’s brother lost the family estate to Damien during a game. And, again by coincidence, her brother happens to be the cause of Damien’s sister’s accident.

Vanessa tries to figure out how she can get her family’s estate back and first offers to be a companion to Damien’s now crippled sister. Damien is against that at first, but then agrees under a condition.

I’ll give you a mo’ to guess that condition.

“‘Well, you are in luck, sweeting. You find me in an indulgent mood. But I have in mind a more intimate arrangement than the one you envision. I shall make a bargain with you. I will offer you the position of companion – but not to my sister. To me.’

‘I … don’t understand.’

‘Then I shall put it more plainly. I will cancel your brother’s debt if you become my mistress.'” p.37

No need to raise your hand if you saw it coming – but hey, did you see it coming in Chapter Two? That’s what surprised me. My marginal note reads: what the heck happens in the rest of this book?

In Chapter Three, we even get their first kiss (yes, I pay attention to chapters and page numbers – usually sex happens around the 200 range, the kiss is debatable but Chapter Three is a bit surprising – especially at the pace this particular novel moves at in terms of sexuality) – and it’s incredibly sexually charged, as one expects.

“His thumb stroked her jaw, his touch lingering and provocative. She wanted to move, to flee his disturbing nearness, yet she was held captive by the intensity of his gaze, by the raw, powerful sexuality emanating from him.

His knuckles brushed over her moist, parted lips. A frisson of fiery sensation sparked from his fingers to her skin.

‘Your answer, sweet Vanessa?’ He tilted her face up to his. ‘Will you kiss me?’

His voice stroked her senses like velvet, weakening her defenses. The need to protect herself from this man was strong. And yet … she didn’t want him to stop touching her.

‘Yes …’ she murmured, her voice a whisper of sound.

It was enough. His palm cradled her face gently, with infinite tenderness. Vanessa watched, spellbound, as his ebony lashes lower to shadow his sensual eyes. His breath fanned warm against her lips, before his mouth settled on hers with slow, sure pressure of experience.” p.46

And with that: One Woman to Rule Them All.

Surprised?

“What the devil had he gotten himself into? He hadn’t meant for events to unfold as they had. The last thing he needed just now was a mistress to complicate his life. Certainly not the determined, defensive elder sister of the man he’d sworn to destroy.

He had given the lady every chance to refuse his offer, expecting her back down from his outrageous proposal. Yet he had to confess pleasure at the prospect of her fulfilling the wager. Intense pleasure.

Damien shook his head in bemusement. When was the last time he had felt such anticipation? The last time his pulse race at the mere thought of having a woman a woman in his arms, the way it did for Vanessa Wyndham?” p. 54

From this point on, we get back into the usual territory. Damien’s world becomes Vanessa. He becomes possessive, even dueling over her towards the end of the novel (which she leaves him over but then accepts him back, as we also expect).

I think what I found most interesting about Damien is that we do see him change. We see the other guys change, yeah – but Damien goes from having an actress put her bracelet on his penis (yes, that happens in the prologue) to:

“Eighteen was his own sister’s age, Damnien realized grimly as the girl settled on his lap with a dreamlike smile.

When she parted the diaphanous robe and lifted her peaked nipples to his mouth, his host politely rose. ‘I shall leave you to your pleasures then.’

The beauty rubbed the taut buds teasingly against Damien’s mouth. She tasted sweetly of wine, yet rather than becoming around, he had to steel himself against a strange and sudden aversion.

Instead of showing his distaste, though, or denouncing Clune for being a less than satisfactory host, Damien came to an abrupt decision and lifted the girl in his arms leaving the entertainment behind, he carried her upstairs to his bedchamber.

She was half-asleep even before he laid her on the bed, yet she roused herself to give him a confused look when he covered her near nakedness with a quilt and stepped back …

… ‘Go to sleep, sweetheart,’ Damien murmured, keenly aware of the irony in his action: Lord Sin made an unlikely savior of feminine virtue.” p.203

And of course he proposes marriage to Vanessa – once and she rejects him, twice at the end and she accepts – done deal.

I liked this sort of insight into the male world though. For so many of these novels, free indirect discourse is the most we see of the men’s world. Sure, we get glimpses here and there, but this, I think, is the first that really stood out to me as going: wait, there’s another world out there and let’s just take a jaunt into that for a bit.

As for male protagonists as a whole, I can’t say Damien was my favorite. He was cheesy, used awful pet names, and blah blah – but he did give the men their due, in a way. We got to see a little more of that side through him – even if it involved a very misplaced bracelet.

Told you - whole lotta 'Doctor Who' - this one mixed with a little 'Hitchhicker's'

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Reference

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

 

Ginger Post: Part 4 June 16, 2010

"Vincent and the Doctor"

Okay – I’m totally shilling right now, but I sort of did that in my last post as well. Even if you’re not a Doctor Who fan like myself – try to watch “Vincent and the Doctor” – it’s written by the same writer as Love Actually and, though the monster is really rubbish, it completely worth it for everything else in the episode.

So why totally promote that episode in this post? Gingers!

As I’ve mentioned about a million times by now, in Duchess by Night we are confronted with a blonde – or as Sarah said I say it ‘blooooonnnnndddeee’ (see vlog). I have absolutely nothing against blondes, for the record.

I’m not Stephenie Meyer.

Anyway, Harriet the heroine or rather the ‘Duchess of Berrow’ isn’t so much described as blonde but as so:

“‘What about your hair?’ Isidore asked. ‘If you cut your hair now, you’ll enver be able to wear it high again.’

Harriet smiled. ‘I don’t wear it high now.’ She gestured toward her modest arrangement of curls and puffs. ‘Most of this was added by my maid this morning. My own hair barely reaches my shoulders.’

‘Very clever,’ Jemma said. ‘I keep meaning to try a hair piece.’

‘I doubt you could do it successfully,’ Harriet said. ‘Your hair is such a beautiful gold color. But mine is dull brown, and it’s easy to match.’

‘Your hair is not dull!’

Harriet shrugged. ‘Who would know, what with the hot iron and crimping and powdering? I shall positively relish being male if it means I could stop trying to straighten my hair.'” p.41-42

Did the cover lie to us? Her hair is mousy brown?

But … but the cover!

It's not perfect quality, but, even if you look it up online, the girl on the cover is blonde

Okay – let’s just check out how her hair is described in the rest of the book – after all, that was Harriet speaking. Harriet is self-depreciating – what calling herself a ‘dumpy widow’ and whatnot (but that’ll be addressed in the sexy sex post).

And before I jump into the quote, Harriet is disguising herself as a male named Mr. Cope (which will be addressed in the gender post I’m going to make later this week – I know – it seems like I’m skipping things but if I started talking about gender this post would never end – easier to take it all clump by clump). So – quote:

“There was only one word for Mr. Cope: adorable. He had curly brown hair, pulled into a simple pigtail at his neck, with just a dusting of powder.” p.51

And that’s a mix of the narrator with Jem – but mostly the narrator, I’d venture to say. So: Harriet is a brunette. Then why on the cover is she blonde?

But more importantly: how is she different from the other heroines?

First question: I have no idea. Creative license? The old adage ‘Blondes have more fun?’ I’m not really that sure. Your guess is as good as mine. For all we know, the cover could have just been chosen and slapped on – after all, Harriet is never actually in a dress like that until the very last chapters when she isn’t pretending to be male.

And to back up to If He’s Wild remember how the guy on the cover was shirtless? But the character inside was anything but ‘wild’ like that?

I’ve never really dwelled on covers for a long period of time, but I think this is a moment to do so. Obviously, there’s that other old adage ‘never judge a book by its cover.’

Does that apply to romance novels? Bodice Rippers? Fabio covers?

It just might. If I think of how I picked out the novels for this blog, a lot had to do with the covers. I remember picking out If He’s Wild because there was only a man on the cover. I picked out Duchess by Night because there was only a woman, and she was blonde (on the cover). The book I have for next week was also picked out based on the cover.

But I’m writing a blog. I’m obviously picking these out with that on my mind.

But what about the casual reader? The fan of the genre? Obviously, the summary has something to do with it. It would be silly to say not. But the cover has to mean something. How sensual is the cover? What does the cover tell us?

Do we still care about the cover once we start reading the book?

These questions just kept popping up as I read – if she’s brunette, why not make her a brunette on the cover? I’ve seen other books with brown haired girls on the cover that were just as ‘sexual’ – so why make this one blonde?

Is it just a simple gaffe? Or are we even supposed to care?

I have none of the answers to these questions – but they’re worth thinking about.

Next question: Why not a ginger?

Harriet is an odd heroine. Why is she odd, now you’re asking. She’s independent, as usual. She has a high rank – a rank that’s actually above Jem like some of the other heroines – so, she has power (a power that she actually puts to use in her duchy’s court).

But Harriet has to dress as a male to get into the party at Lord Strange. She needs to be disguised. As I mentioned before, Harriet is also self-depreciating. Some of the other characters have had qualms with themselves – but none perhaps more than Harriet. She basks in the freedom of being a man – she doesn’t feel as ‘beautiful’ as a girl.

There a question of confidence about Harriet. She’s not out helping birth sheep or killing an abusive brother-in-law. But she is taking a risk dressing as a man – but she feels more confident in that state. While those two previous heroines were doing ‘men’s work’ while obviously women – Harriet must ‘become’ a man to do so.

I’m not saying hair color alone decided this. In fact, I think that’s far from the case – James (the author, if you’ve forgotten) is an obvious fan of Shakespeare (if you look at the other titles by her, some of them are twists on Shakespeare). And this woman dressing as male is very Shakespeare – and also very Restoration (thinking Aphra Behn’s The Rover). My profs would probably murder me if I didn’t use the word carnivalesque here.

And it is carnivalesque. At Jem’s, social order is upset. A Duchess is pretending to be a male youth but order is restored by the end (when Jem comes to her at her duchy – but the way, on a personal note – I hate the word ‘duchy’). Yay.

I don’t think hair color at all has anything to do with this dressing up – but it is funny to see how the books I read keep putting redheads as these fiery, passionate girls in power while other hair colors are either protected by an uncle or dressed up as a male. It’s probably just some sort of strange pattern – I’m almost hoping the next book upsets it.

But wait! There is a ginger in this book – and guess what? She’s fiery and sexual! Ah!!

“‘Come on.’ He strode off, and she followed, to find herself bowing before the young shepherdess a moment later. She had strawberry red hair and breasts that burst from her costume. In fact, she was just the kind of woman who normally made Harriet feel miserably inconspicuous.” p.77

Oy. The constant digs at the gingers – even when they’re completely inconsequential to the plot. Like the last book – the main villain’s friend is … drumroll … ginger! So – when not the main character – we gingers really get the shaft, don’t we?

But … to quote “Vincent and the Doctor” (because I’ve been waiting to for about two weeks!):

The Ultimate Ginge ... brighter than Sunflowers ...

Yeah – I know some of you are wanting to kill me now. I’M STILL NOT OVER THE EPISODE!

Anyway. Some day this week will be a double post. Yesterday I was busy helping my aunt with her classroom and also proofing my mss (the mss THAT NEVER ENDS!) so I got a little distracted. But I’ll be back on course.

A bit of bad news? I am probably getting ill. My ears have been funky for the past few days and today I woke up congested and extremely achy (I actually brought my duvet down instead of just a blanket). I’m crossing my fingers it’s just sinuses – but I’m going to take it easy today and not double post – but expect a double post sometime this week … think of it as … a surprise. Woot.

Oh and …

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Reference

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

 

We’re totally not going to talk about how awful the Tonys were … June 14, 2010

If I started talking about last night – aka Tony Night – I would fly into a tangent that would never end. To sum it up: Worst. Tonys. Ever.

But moving on – Eloisa James’ Duchess By Night.

The one with just the girl on the cover.

The girl that’s a blonde.

La de da de da …

la de da de da ...

I read Duchess by Night just this afternoon (since last night I was occupied … but we aren’t talking about that) and decided, what the heck, I’d read it in a day. And I will say that, by far, I think this is the best one of the bunch. Not for snark or anything like that – it was actually not too bad of a book.

It, of course, followed the usual structure and there are a lot of things I want to talk about – gender, specifically – but just in terms of storytelling, James surprised me. I suppose I shouldn’t say ‘surprised’ as if I expect these books to always be lazily written – but James really does surpass her predecessors in this blog by miles.

So – why?

First of all, there was no real secondary plot that pretended to be the plot. There was no random chapters or random breakaways to remind you: oh yeah and this is what’s happening here – don’t forget about that because it’s the reason ‘a’ and ‘b’ meet. If there was a secondary plot, I suppose you could say it belonged to the character Isidore, but it was so simple that it only served as set up and not really consequential to the rest of the story.

Secondly, you actually gave a damn about the secondary characters. Now, while I had a hard time with the male protagonist’s daughter Euegina (think Little Father Time but crazy happy and obsessed with math), I liked hearing from the other characters. They weren’t fodder. In fact, I found myself liking the character Villiers (the friend of the female protagonist – Harriet). One of my marginal notes reads “He’s too good for her.” I liked his dry wit – and his lack of over sentimentality (is that proper grammar? Whatever – I’m still reeling from … you know).

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, this book gave me a lot to think about. Not just about structure or hair color – no, I felt almost like this book had a little more depth. It played with gender and gender roles – and, this taking place in the 1780s, you can tell that the author was invested in the period (down to the books her characters were reading). The period wasn’t just this backdrop to throw two attractive people against – it was interactive. And the secondary characters added to that. Also, I know I’ve spoken about the idea of position and rank in these novels and this text is no different – in fact, that is the main point the novel revolves around: gender and rank.

But I have to say – the male protagonist’s name – Justinian Strange? Yeah … no. And his nick name?

Jem (I kid you not)

Obviously – ‘Jem’ was a bit of a downside. And obviously no novel is perfect – this novel had it’s flaws. But I couldn’t deny that it was well written.

The narrative was steady – it moved nicely in and out of third person limited and free indirect discourse without the use of annoying italics at the start of paragraphs. There were rarely anachronisms in the narrative either – once and a while something would seem out of place, but otherwise it was consistent. It was something I appreciated. It didn’t seem self-indulgent as some of these novels *coughIfHesWildcough* have seemed *coughVikinginLovecough*.

It’s also important to note that this novel is also in a series like A Highlander’s Homecoming and If He’s Wild. There are more “duchess” books by James and – as with the other series novels, you get a preview of the next book at the end. And, surprisingly, I would be almost interested in reading it.

Shock. Awe. I know.

I’m going to make a note of it though, honestly. Why? Because I really haven’t explored the idea of the ‘series’ yet beyond canon. And why not explore it with a writer I happen to like? Plus, what James sort of craftily did was interweave the next story with this one – but very subtly (saving that for the sexy sex post). Also something I appreciated.

Oh sorry ... rage left over from last night ...

Anyway – I think this James’ novel will be interesting to take apart compared with the others because I think it’s one that brings to the front a lot that I have spent too much time on like gender itself (which is actually surprising) and I think I want to look more at independence in terms of power and rank – how that’s all connected.

See what a week off does?

It really refreshes the whole brain.

So – Yay! I’m back! And it’s time for …

PALATE CLEANSER! CLICK ME!

(you’re a soulless person if you didn’t find that episode moving … just saying … (obviously this pertains to the PALATE CLEANSER)).

Reference

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

 

Attack of the Mullet Italics! May 25, 2010

First off – I’ve finished decorating my little office space in my aunt’s room! Yay!

My temporary office space!

Two versions (that is, the same book with different illustrations) of Alice in Wonderland, my massive Norton, a book of Lear’s poems, Ebert’s Your Movie Sucks and one of Stephen Fry’s books – Moab is My Washpot – fit nicely to the left side. I’ve some of Charlotte Brontë’s and Lewis Carroll’s juvenilia under there too. On the chair you can see Villette. On the far left, most of my Lit Theory books along with some books on Dickens (I have too many to keep track – I realized this the other day, but I think I have more books on Jane Austen). On the far right, the annotated version of Alice with another Alice book. Then there’s my lovely lattice board with pictures of my friends and teachers and blah blah – same thing.

But – more importantly – onto the new book!

'Viking in Love' by Sandra Hill

Not only did I buy this just for the title and the fantastic mullet the dude on the cover is flaunting, but look at the back cover:

Summary? All it says: "What does it take to win the love of a Viking Princess?"

So, needless to say, I had not freaking clue what this book could be about. I mean, at least with Mayhue I was forewarned about the ‘Magic’ and the time travel. There’s none of that in this book (well, not intentionally) but I sort of had to just dive in.

Okay, when you open the book there is a … sort of summary. I wouldn’t call it so but I guess it suffices when the general reader is picking out this sort of book. I know I didn’t address this with Mayhue’s novel, but here’s the exact moment to mention it. On the back of her book, her summary was divided into two parts: the male and the female. So it is with this ‘summary’ – we get the female perspective, in the first person voice. And then we get the male in the same way. They don’t give us a summary – just a general idea of what is to come.

But it’s not reliable at all. I’m 200 pages in and can say that with easy certainty. Why? Because the voices we were on this page are far far far removed from what we encounter in the novel itself.

With the first book I read, I started talking about narrative voice – and I think that’s what I’m going to do with this novel. It’s especially important for this novel, I think since it is a different style from the last, and it’s also rather peculiar. The narrative takes on several of the aspects I talked about not only in narrative, but in dialect in the previous text.

So – let me break it down in parts like I did before – these are the things I noted when it came to the narrative of this particular text.

  • Crude sexuality
  • Free indirect discourse
  • Crisscrossing time
  • So many ‘What?’s written in my marginal notes I’ve lost count

First – Crude Sexuality.

To be blunt – I’m really sick of reading about the main male – Caedmon – and his penis. I am. We get some of the main female – Breanne – and her breasts (which, for the interested, are small compared with the rest of those at Caedmon’s house), but on every page there seems to be some sort of penis joke.

I’m not scandalized – hardly. No – to me it’s like bad, bland comedy. Poop jokes. It’s boring. That’s what makes me wonder what the desired effect of this tone is. Are we supposed to feel scandalized? Turned on? I know I’m uppity when it comes to the literature I read, but I, for some reason, cannot get caught up in this genre (yes, I know, I’ve only read two so far – but so far speaking …).

Here’s a few examples:

“‘Can I help it if I am a virile man?’ And dumb as dirt when it comes to keeping my cock in my breeches.

‘Methinks your virility is going to come back and bite you in the arse one of these days,’ Goeff said.” p.18

“Immediately her eyes fixed on a part of his naked body, which was displaying a powerful morning thickening, standing out like a flag-pole.” p.46

“And in that moment, they both realized that he had somehow landed betwixt her widespread thighs, and his favorite body part was planted smack dab up against his favorite woman’s part. And it was growing.” p.124

Seriously – the whole narrative has been like this. It hardly phases me to type it since I’ve been reading it for two days.

This is what I find intriguing though – the other novel, while in the same genre, didn’t have this crude sexuality throughout. Yes, when it came to the ‘sex scene’ it reached this sort of … intensity? But this whole novel has had this same type of sexuality throughout. It’s every page.

Caedmon’s penis is everywhere.

So now I feel like I’ve encountered two ends of the spectrum. A relatively tame narrative in A Highlander’s Homecoming and an out of control narrative in Viking in Love. The scale is, of course, able to be changed but for the moment – that is how I am going to view the sexuality in these books. It is almost as if Viking in Love needs no ‘sex scene’ – the pages are already ‘charged.’

Connecting to this idea of crude sexuality is the strange Free Indirect Discourse that occurs frequently within the novel. I spoke a lot about third-person limited in the Mayhue’s text. This isn’t written that way. Clearly, this third person narrator is … limited, but we don’t have so much access to any one character’s mind.

Until we get the Italics.

At first, I thought we were just hearing the internal voices of the two main characters. But that started to change when the words in Italics began to become … contemporary.

Look at the contrast:

“Mayhap I am getting the lung fever, too, if my tongue cannot control itself. Be still, tongue. Be still.” p.86

“And then the you-know what hit the medieval fan …” p.96

The first voice you hear is that of Caedmon – in italics, on the page. Whether I should call this free indirect discourse or just … discourse is up in the air. That is, it’s murky with the second voice (the second quote). That’s the voice that appears – in italics – of neither character.

Is it the narrator?

But if it is the narrator – why is time suddenly crisscrossing (enter here the third point)? There are points in the narrative where the single narrative voice does use words such as ”Tis’ and so on – so why sudden colloquialisms?

Doesn’t this throw the reader off?

Or are we supposed to get a chuckle?

After all – this is far from the only example. It pervades the book to the point where I’m confused as to how many narrators there are. One who sees into the characters mind and writes in italics and another who just tells the story? Or are they one in the same?

Or … is it just bad writing? Someone trying to be … clever?

Which leads me to the Whats.

I’ll admit. At times, I did laugh a little reading. Not because it has a strange narrative, but there are funny moments. Well – funny in that I really can’t believe any of it is plausible. This also brings back that idea of convenience – another note I made in the previous books.

Convenience.

What?

It all goes together – things need to fit into place – ridiculous things need to happen. Five Viking Princesses just have to kill the husband of one and flee to Caedmon’s even though he’s only a distant relative. And, of course, the only virgin in the group and the only redhead, becomes the love interest. And of course, for some reason, Caedmons has to protect them … or kick them out – I’m not that far yet but I think you can guess what happens.

Already though, things are starting to repeat. You’ll see more of that in further posts but in terms of narrative – there’s coincidence, there’s narrative changes, there’s strange time lapses. I don’t know if this will all mean anything in the end – but it’s nice to have them listed – it’s becoming a way to understand how these books are written. A bit of a glimpse into the formula of a romance novel.

And before I go to bed – PALATE CLEANSER! CLICK ME!

Reference

Hill, Sandra. Viking in Love. New York: Avon Books, 2010.