Strip the Willow and Rip the Bodice

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The Mater and her Thoughts May 26, 2010

Me and the Mater

Above is my insanely awesome mother struggling to stand next to me in her heels on graduation. She was DETERMINED to wear heels.

Anyway – why am I talking about my fantastic mater when I’ve just started posting on this pretty juicy book – Viking in Love?

Well – it’s because mom and I had a very interesting discussion the other night about these novels. I was sitting on the sofa reading when she made some comment about the cover or asked if I was embarrassed to have been reading some of it while waiting for Gramma to come out of surgery (which, for the curious went fine – she’s doing great and has many a pain pill to make her incredibly goofy straight into next week). I don’t remember what I said about the cover – but you can be sure it had to do with that mullet Caedmon is sporting. I do remember what I said when she asked about my reading in the hospital’s waiting room.

No. I wasn’t embarrassed. Mostly because I had been reading Villette for about two hours before I picked the Hill novel up. And also because I took out my ‘work’ with it. That is, pencil came out, notepad, too – clearly, I was taking notes. Had I not had Villette or my notes … maybe the situation would be different. I’ll have to test that one out. But hey – I just bought the third book for this blog at Walmart and went through the actual human check-out.

Moving up in the world … and down in price, I should add.

Anyway. The mater went on to tell me that when she was younger she used to read these sorts of novels, but they became too formulaic for her – the plots were the same, the characters the same. So she just stopped reading them (except for the occasional slip – which I do make fun of her for – it’s only human).

Okay – cool story, bro. Right?

She gets more interesting – promise.

After those remarks she went on to say she hated reading ‘contemporary’ novels – that is, romantic novels that were set in the present day. When she said this, I set down my book, crossed my arms on the tray table in front of me, and started grilling her.

First – I just asked: Why?

She started to tell me that she didn’t like the ‘businessman.’ Men, to her in these books, were more romantic when set in a past time period.

Again: Why?

They were more gentlemanly. There’s something more attractive about them.

I couldn’t disagree with that. I’m known for my love of a guy in 1930s tweed or a 19th century frock coat. But I’m also a ‘budding’ Victorianist and I tend to set the novels I write in the 1930s – I’ve never been attracted to the contemporary (in fact, I have trouble reading contemporary fiction itself – I’m very particular – my mater is different though – she loves biographies, true crime – contemporary stuff).

So – sexiness is made up in large part due to the past. Recalling each time I chose a novel for this blog – there were, if I recall correctly, more historical fiction than contemporary. But that’s almost expected.

Next question: What – beyond the ‘gentlemen-like’ behavior of these male characters did you like?

Mom said it was because it was just him and he had his eyes only for one girl. There was no ‘other woman’ – you knew they were made for each other from the start.

I asked what she thought about the female protagonist – I brought up Viking in Love and said that, like the previous book, I had a heroine who was independent, wanted her own land and, in this case, her own business. What about the independence?

Mom said she really didn’t think about that. And I can see why. Having finished two novels – I don’t think ‘independence’ is something that’s called into question. Mom and I did discuss the idea of taming – obviously there is the usual woman taming the man, but these books also have the man taming the woman a bit. They … let’s call it from this point on – balance each other in some way.

But she doesn’t loose her independence – she doesn’t end up – like I said before – barefoot and preggers.

The reader is satisfied with a happy ending – even if it means Breanne may not get her own shop – you know Caedmon’s going to let her carve and make things (that’s what she does by the way – she’s also good with kids – shocking, I know but this isn’t the family post).

The mater and I (mater – mother in Latin, I call her that to be obnoxious but it’s fun) have extremely different tastes in books (and in music for the most part but that’s irrelevant) but this was a great moment – she had more experience in this genre than myself so getting her opinion was insightful. Especially with Viking in Love.

It gave me a new perspective. I’m going to pay more attention to the … historicalness of the novel (not just the ways it isn’t in keeping with the period – but the way the period may enhance the novel’s formula).

As for Viking in Love, you can see this come in to play a lot. In clothing (the manipulation of how it clings to character’s bodies). In bedding (the figurative and literal meaning). In positions in society of different characters –

SIDE NOTE: I just totally beat down my uncle with my Latin skills (I’m a Latin minor – I know some stuff) – it was awesome.

– anyway, the positions and societal status of different characters – all lend somehow to this formula. Originally talking about the historical aspect of these novels, I got picky – but I’m starting to see this other side.

Breanne is a princess.

Caedmon is a … knight? I don’t know if they’re ever really clear on that.

But Breanne’s position does play a role in how Caedmon reacts to her and how the reader reacts as well – not in a ‘omg that’s not period way’ anymore – but a ‘huh, she’s a princess’ way.

I know – it’s shocking for me to be saying this. I’m so picky when it comes to period pieces but talking to mom made me see this other side. So it’s not period correct – that sucks – but the period of the book does have a reason. I’m starting to think it almost makes up for lack of a substantial plot – but that’s too big of an assumption.

But – for now – the idea of historical fiction takes on a new meaning, I think.

It’ll still irk the hell out of me though.

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Reference

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