Strip the Willow and Rip the Bodice

Because everyone needs a hobby …

So … what to write about … July 15, 2010

I find myself strangely stumped at what to write about with this book. I know I’ve set a question for myself – but I’m finding it hard to really … sink my teeth into this text. So, let’s see. I’m going to draw an outline for myself for the next few posts.

Today: The idea of control and power, how it is approached in this novel

Tomorrow: Sexuality and how it is treated through clothing, manners, etc. (this one’s interesting in someways … it will probably also contain ‘gingers!’)

And since tomorrow will be a double post or shoved off to Saturday: The overall structure and does the reader get the same thing out of this book that they do others – and, what is that ‘thing’.

Okay. I feel better now – I have a little more direction.

Oh yeah! Oh yeah! By the way! Finished 'North and South'! Finally!

I should be in a good mood after all – I had my first phone interview today for an actual job and I also get to start a Dickens later (The Old Curiosity Shop – I finished North and South so be on the look out for a mini-review at … some point). So … Yay!

Anyway – power and control … I guess we could stash this under ‘rank and title,’ but I’m not so quick to do so. Why? Because Powder and Patch is more period-ly realistic. It’s not something I’ve ever really talked about before – but since the structure of this novel is different, since the period in which it was written is different, it’s something worth dwelling on.

Yes, title and rank does give leeway to characters in these novels – but it’s not really realistic, is it? I mean, sure there are exceptions – but come on – are you fooled?

Still, though, it’s annoying to read something ‘realistic’ – that’s something I have to admit.

“‘You think that Clo is reasonable-minded, and able to care for herself, needing no master?’

‘I – no, I don’t!’

‘That’s what I say. Goodness me, how blind you are! If you didn’t consider that you had to care for Cleone and guard her from everyone else and herself, you wouldn’t love her. Now don’t be foolish!'” p. 155-6

“‘Take that girl and shake her. Tell her you’ll not be flouted. Tell her she’s a little fool, and kiss her. And if she protests, go on kissing her. Dear me, what things I do say!'” p.156

The second quote is funny – I’ll give Heyer that, but the first is … well, realistic for the 18th century. A woman was to be owned/controlled by her husband, she was property. And, in this novel where the characters are blatantly two dimensional, one cannot see that aspect of the period any clearer.

Cleone is a woman and that is all. Sure, she plots some – but that is with the help of Philip’s father. And her plot falls in on itself for she discovers that what she wants isn’t really what she expected.

Cleone is the epitome of damsel in distress. She does nothing to help herself but faint, cry, and kiss when needed. Her title is simply the country bumpkin. And that’s about as dimensional as Cleone gets.

And, even when she kisses, it’s Philip who goes around and makes things right (meaning, he gets different men (rivals, somewhat) to release her from her engagement.

“Cleone could not speak. She stood where she was, trembling uncontrollably.

‘I have the honour of informing you, mademoiselle, that you are released from your engagements.’

Was there a note of laughter in the prim voice?

‘I – thank you – sir,’ whispered Cleone. Her teeth clenched in an effort to keep back the tears. She was blinded by them, and her bosom was heaving.

There was a slight pause. Why did he not go? DId he wish to see her still more humiliated?

‘I have also to offer, on Sir Deryk’s behalf, his apologies for the happenings of last night, mademoiselle.’

‘Th-thank – you, sir.’

Again the nerve-killing silence. If only he would go before she broke down!

‘Cleone …’ said Philip gently.

The tears were running down her cheeks, but she kept her head turned away.

‘Please – go!’ she begged huskily.

He was coming around the room towards her … Cleone gripped her hands.

‘Cleone … dearest!'” p.180

Now, you’re probably thinking – god, Cleone is the most annoying little thing with no backbone like the other women blah blah blah …

Blah ...

But let’s back up because we can’t really throw Cleone into the same group as Harriet or even – though I’m loath to mention her – Alethea. Cleone is from a whole different school of the ‘Romance’ novel.

She’s just … there. There as a plot device. She is the object our real focus is working towards. The subject doesn’t seem to be Cleone, but change – what can be done to achieve love or realize love. Cleone doesn’t have to gut a pig. She doesn’t have to kill a man. She just has to be in love with Philip for the story to work.

And that’s what she does.

She’s less annoying when you see her through that perspective – yes, this is a Romance novel of sorts – but the romance is in the actions rather than the characters themselves. So – no actual sex either – we don’t need that for this sort of romance.

And I like the change – a good, funny romance novel with obvious characters … that’s light reading to me.

But here’s Betty Draper slapping someone just to give  a little Spice Girls ‘girl power’ to this post (and to remind you that Mad Men returns in 10 days!):

Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Price!

PALATE CLEANSER! CLICK ME!

(and that Palate Cleanser better be epic ’cause it looks like a fantastic cross between Deadwood and Carnivàle … oh god Carnivàle! Why! HBO! Why did you cancel that show!)

Reference

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

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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.

 

‘If He’s Wild’ … isn’t really wild … June 2, 2010

So – a sexy sex post. As you can see by the title, Howell’s If He’s Wild actually fails to be … well … wild. Maybe it’s because last week’s book had sex practically on every page – but there was something different in this book.

The sex was uncomfortable.

And not in that ‘omg this is so raunchy!’ way that I have to fan myself and buy one of these Vera Bradley book covers:

$15? WTF?!?

But first – have a dancing cyberman (click for more dance-y dance):

Weeeeeeee!!

Yeah, don’t ask me why I felt that was needed.

Anyway.

The strange sexuality in this novel begins with a completely random kiss – and I mean random. Out of the blue. What is going on?

“‘There is one other thing that may help in your search.’ Suddenly aware of how she grabbed hold of his hands, Alethea subtly tried to pull away from him, but he ever so slightly tightened his grip., and it was enough of an invitation that she stopped. ‘Germaine was dressed as a boy.’ She nodded at his look of astonishment, ‘Her father must have thought it safer for her to do so. Even her hair was cut short, like a boy’s.’

Hartley stared at her in shock for a moment, then abruptly yanked her into his arms and kissed her. He had the fleeting thought that this was unwise, before he lost himself in the sweetness of her kiss. It was not a gentle kiss either. Startled by his action, she had gasped, and he had taken swift advantage of that, plunging his tongue into her mouth and savoring the heat of her, the taste of her. She tasted like more. He wanted to feel her soft pale skin rub against his and her body wrapped tightly around him.” p.79

My marginal note: Kiss (WHAT?)

First – just look at the language itself. He ‘plunges’ his tongue into her mouth (I’m actually laughing as I type this) and there’s this dangling sentence that I can’t even make sense of: “She tasted like more.”

What does that even mean?

It gets better – after a paragraph trying to explain the kiss (the information she gave him was just so compelling), the first thing Hartley actually says to Alethea is:

“‘I was so transfixed by her face, I missed seeing how short her hair was. I feel certain that Germaine would contrive to continue that disguise,’ he said, breaking the heavy silence that surrounded them.” p.79

Um … what? What what?

It’s like the definition of awkwardness right there. And not in a cutesy way. It’s as if the Howell was like: oh shit! Gotta have them kiss … okay … here! Here’s a good place!

At least with Isa and Robbie and Breanne and Caedmon, their first kisses were expected. They didn’t feel forced or added in. This kiss between Hartley and Alethea, though, seems ill-fit.

And that’s just the kiss.

The sex is even more awkwardly written – clunky and strange and very much of the realm of poorly written fanfiction.

“A squeak escaped her when he grabbed her, picked her up, and carried her to bed. Surprise stole her breath when he tossed her down on it. When he sprawled on top of her, she feared she would never regain that much-needed breath. A heady warmth flowed through her as his hard, strong body pressed against hers …

‘What do you think you are doing?’ she asked, unable to keep all of her sudden breathlessness out of her voice.

‘I am about to show you why you cannot leave.'” p.149

You know, just rereading this to type it is making me giggle. And it just keeps going!

“Hartley removed her shift and caught his breath so quickly he nearly choked. He had suspected that Alethea dressed in a way that disguised most of her curves, but his imagination had not come close to the reality. Her breasts were full and round, almost too much for her otherwise slim shape to hold, and they were tipped with large, dark rose aureoles, her nipples already hard and inviting. Her hips flared out …” p.150

The description of Alethea’s body literally goes on and on, crossing over to the next page. It’s a little much. Not in for it being explicit, but for it being unbelievable.

We’re supposed to believe this seducer is so taken that he chokes on his own breath? I mean, we’ve seen the guys be ‘startled’ but that sentence makes him sound wimpy. And the rest of the description is just poor – ‘his imagination had not come close to reality’? Pardon me while I roll my eyes.

The actual act of sex itself is at this same, poorly written level.

“Hartley kissed her as he began to join their bodies, her tight heat making him so eager and hungry that he had to grit his teeth to stop himself from moving too quickly. The moment he reached her maidenhead, he grasped her by the hips and thrust home. He groaned with relief to discover the shield of her innocence was a thin one, easily breeched, and eliciting inky one soft gasp from her. She quickly arched her body up toward his, helping him to sink even deeper into her heat.” p.153

In the last sexy sex post (sexy sex is a phrase I picked up from Black Books – I mention that because, funny enough, when Fran is having this conversation with her landlord, her landlord is played by the same actor who plays Krook in Bleak House – but that’s a tangent) – anyway, in the last sexy sex post, I talked a lot about the dialogue that this genre seems to create with the reader. A dialogue or discourse of pornography.

But, when I read this scene, I could not find that same connection. I felt put off by Howell’s use of language – he ‘thrust home’? – and her pacing. Notice how long it takes to get to the actual act of sex from the description of Alethea’s naked body: 3 pages. I mean, it’s not that long but it’s separated by pages just filled with incredibly purple prose. The pace of the dialogue is thrown off, the reader is interrupted, and by the time that ‘the moment’ comes, it’s a let down – not only in the way it’s written, but in the way it is presented.

It’s why I can’t stop laughing. Sure, during the previous too books I chuckled, but reading Howell’s novel, I’ve come to appreciate their talents more – I never thought about the pacing of one of these scenes and how critical it could really be, and how easily it is ruined.

So – pacing is something that’s going to come into play now in these sexy sex posts (now the official name of this type of serial post).

But, to make up for all of that – here’s some fantastic prose from Gaskell – god, I am adoring North and South.

“[Thornton] shook hands with Margaret. He knew it was the first time their hands had met, though she was perfectly unconscious of the fact.” p.214

Gah! Just that once sentence is amazing.

And because we always need a little MGoode and Mr. Whishaw in our lives:

So the movie was kinda sucky - but I'll watch it for the actors. The above is pretty good pacing, I'd say.

I think I just feel so bad for subjecting everyone to the above scenes from If He’s Wild. I’m going .gif crazy. Okay. Tomorrow: probably something to do with sentimentality but I haven’t completely decided. Be surprised.

PALATE CLEANSER! CLICK ME!

References

Gaskell, Elizabeth. North and South. New York: Penguin Books, 1986.

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

 

For I Have Crossed the Rubicon! May 31, 2010

Barnes and Noble - My Mecca

Yes, I’ve done it. I went to the ‘Romance’ section in Barnes & Noble. Purchased two books. And had enough courage to go up and buy them.

Of course – I also bought Eliot’s Middlemarch and Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop so maybe I cheated (punishment being my new Dickens has no footnotes … again).

I can't just walk into that store and buy two trashy novels! Come on!

And to turn into a fashion blog for a mo’ – here’s the link where you can buy the dress I’m wearing. I am kind of obsessed with it – it’s all … flow-y and fun. (And yes, the room I share with mom in NY is covered with my LOTR posters from my high school years. Slowly, they’ve been falling off the walls but I haven’t made the actual attempt to actually take them down). Nostalgia, I guess.

Anyway. New week. New book. And oh god how I hated this one. I forced myself to read it in a day because I couldn’t imagine reading it longer (plus, I’m absolutely in love with North and South at the moment). Was it the romance? No. Was it too crude? No.

It was simply: boring.

Boring to the point where I would fall asleep. Boring to the point where I wondered why on earth this wasn’t just on FanFiction.net where one could be reading some crazy slash story, instead – that would probably be more entertaining to pick apart.

But I’ll get to the specifics in a moment. This week the book is – dun dun dun dun:

Hannah Howell's 'If He's Wild'

I picked out this book (at Walmart – the B&N books are for the next two weeks) for one reason: there was only a guy on the cover. Even under the sale sticker where that little lighted window is, there is no woman (if you don’t believe me, click on the picture where B&N will show you an unmarked cover). I wanted to sort of run a test – how important was the cover, first of all, to the novel. Also, would a redhead pop up? Would she be the heroine? The answer to the first two questions is – yes. The third, though, is no.

The heroine, for the first time, was not a redhead. I was a little surprised, but happy at the same time because it gave me more to question. A ginger is in the novel itself (and of course, it will make for a good ginger post), but she is not a main character. And, if the heroine isn’t a ginger – how will she be portrayed? The same way? Differently?

Does hair color really make that much of a difference?

Okay – this isn’t the ginger post. I want to start off, as usual, talking about the narrative voice because I think it really is important to situate where the narrator stands before getting further into the novel.

The narrative voice is very similar to what we have encountered before. It’s third-person limited with moments of free-indirect discourse. What I did like about this narrative was the use of practically no italicized thoughts. Everything was set in ‘regular’ save a few little things.

What I did not like about this narrative voice, though, was the way the story was told, the exposition, the way the characters were portrayed – and some of this actually ties back to the cover.

So what do I mean by the way the story is told? First of all, this is another series book, much like Mayhue’s. Apparently Howell’s written several ‘If He’s <insert sultry adjective here>’ and has also written about the families used in this novel. There’s a canon – which is easy enough to catch on to.

In a nutshell: Alethea (the dark-haired protagonist) is a virgin widow living with her uncle Iago (can’t make these names up). She has visions of this man named Hartley and of his possible death so they try to warn him. He’s known as a rake but surprise surprise, he’s only bedding women for information for the government. Really, that has nothing to do with anything. For some reason, his niece and nephew were almost killed so Alethea helps him find them, he marries her oddly (we’ll get to the oddly sometime later – in the sexy sex post), then they go back to the original plot and everything tries to resolve itself (with the help of some deus ex machinas), and Hartley and Aletha live happily ever after.

Convenience dominants this novel – especially in the beginning. The narrator fails to portray human doubt. Things are just … accepted. Alethea’s gift to see these visions? Sure, they’re questioned, but she’s trusted pretty much off the bat once she shakily convinces Hartley and his gang of her powers.

“‘I have no wonderfully logical or scientific explanation got my gift. It just is … Since it was given to me, I feel it is my duty to heed it. It told me that you were going to be kidnapped, tortured, and murdered. From what little I have learned this night, I still believe in what I saw. Since, I suspect, you know more than we do, I would think you would at least consider the possibility that I am right, If you will not, it does not signify. If you do nothing, it is still my responsibility to try to ensure that my vision does not prove to be an accurate prophesy.’

‘Makes sense to me,’ said Aldus as he and Gifford retook their seats.” p.45

Yeah, I wasn’t too fond of – Yay! We all believe her! She makes total sense! Look at those convulsions she goes into when she has ‘visions’! Ooooo! Ahhhh!

The narrator quickly whisks over any conflict that believing in this ‘gift’ of Althea’s could cause. It’s so quickly taken as fact, I swore from the first twenty or so pages I really was reading fanfiction. It was self-indulgent – the heroine had this great amazing gift, she was also too perfect, then of course twice she finds herself almost getting killed then being saved by Hartley.

Hello Miss Mary Sue.

Another fanfiction quality of this story was really the amount of times Alethea’s character suffered. She is this innocent girl, early twenties, and gets beaten, shot, etc. It’s common for a lot of fanfic writers to torture their characters – I don’t know why but there it is. Don’t believe me? Look it up. It gives not only a chance to gain sympathy for the character, but also bedside scenes were the hero of the novel can sit beside her and whimper while the other characters make whispered remarks on how much he must love her.

It’s annoying.

And I felt like that was what the whole novel was – someone getting hurt, someone sitting by their bedside, promising retribution. Blah.

And then there is the exposition. While I didn’t have trouble catching on to the canon – I sort of like stories that begin in medias res, so I didn’t feel as though I was lacking too much so far as series canon – I actually had trouble catching on to the time period. We were never told when the story takes place – pretty much just that it’s in London.

Whoop.

So me being the awful time period freak I am, I just had to pay hopeful attention that something would give me a clue. I figured since they used the word rake so much it was around the 18th and 19th century and since when the danced it seemed to be more of a couple-ly thing (rather than line dancing), that would be more 19th century, I think (waltzing, if I’m not mistaken, became popular then – but I read that a long while ago and I don’t write ballroom scenes often so I could be wrong). Anyway, I guessed this was probably the 19th century (especially with what Alethea got from her husband’s death). So, maybe I liked solving the puzzle (okay, I did) but what does that say about the narrator? The setup? Why don’t we know this simple fact?

This leaves us with the characters. Beyond the self-indulgent female protagonist, the passionless male protagonist Hartley is just boring – and he isn’t the ‘rake’ everyone thinks he is. That’s why the cover confuses me – it’s not as though he is running around sleeping with everyone and needs to be tamed or she needs to be – both of them are level headed (beyond the supernatural gift Alethea has) and just flat characters. As are the rest of the lot. There is so much explaining of the gifts (I mean, pages of just ‘this works this way, he has this gift she has this one) and cooing over being rescued that the characters sort of self-destruct into boredom.

Mix with that a plot that I think the narrator wants the reader to take incredibly seriously – I mean, the book feels heavy-handed on a rather non-existant plot by explaining all these gifts and how they’ll work – the characters beyond the Mary Sue Alethea take a backseat.

I once called Twilight a self-indulgent mess of a book. While If He’s Wild isn’t in that league of horribleness, it is still poorly written and incredibly self-indulgent mini-mess.

Once I started - I had to finish it. Pencil in hand.

And so no one asks me again, North and South is NOT about the Civil War, but about industry vs. the country in England (ie: the north and the south of England).

PALATE CLEANSER! CLICK ME!

Reference

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

 

We are (a very strange) family! May 28, 2010

First, and most importantly, look what grocery day brought:

PG Tips (aka TEA OF THE GODS)

To borrow the sayings from Viking in Love: Thank Thor!

So – final post on the mullet sporting Caedmon and the Viking princess Breanne. And, like last time, this is the family post.

Summation: Caedmon – The Captain VonTrapp of Sexy Vikings and Breanne – the nun (well, princess but you get the metaphor) who gives up her virginity and agrees to sleep with Caedmon for ten days so he will let her sisters stay at his house longer.

Didn’t make that last part up … any of it up, actually. The children, by the end, respond to a whistle, even. And, yes, the girls figure that, to protect themselves, they need to stay at Caedmon’s longer so that means one of them has to seduce him. OF COURSE they choose Breanne and OF COURSE Caedmon turns the tables on her and gives her that ten night offer.

What does this have to do with family then?

Well, remember Robbie from the last book? He was very invested in the idea of soulmates. He was happy to have children, yadda yadda yadda and that’s what he gets in the end.

Caedmon already has a herd of children – some of whom may not actually be his but he takes care of anyway … as best as a man with a mullet can.

Here’s one of the summaries of these children:

“‘Pfff! There were ten last time I counted, but God only knows how many are really mine. And, yea, I am certain there will be more by now.’ Caedmon had wed and buried two wives, leaving behind three legitimate children, the nine-year-old Beth and six-year-old twins Alfred and Aidan, but he had also had his fair share of unfortunately fertile mistresses and bedmates over the years. He was, after all, thirty and four. He grinned at them. ‘Can I kept it if I am a virile man?’ And dumb as dirt when it comes to keeping my cock in my breeches.” p.17-18

To be completely honest, I lose track of who is who with the children (though, can Caedmon make it through a page without referring to his penis?) – but I don’t think it really matters. What does matter is that they are, not surprisingly, all very fond of their father … or ‘father.’

“First, nine-year-old Beth launched herself at him. He caught her about her tiny waist, and she clung to him with her skinny legs wrapped half-way around his hips … One of the six-year-old twins, Alfred, or was it Aidan, clutched his thigh and held on tight, cutting off blood flow to an important region of his body.” p.29

Again with the penis. But more on that in a second.

Like Robbie, Caedmon is a teddy bear when it comes to family. Not surprisingly, he doesn’t want any more children, but with the ones he has, he’s rather sweet with. They even like to burt through the bedroom door:

“Beth blinked at him through tear-filled eyes. What? Did she want to be a princess, too? ‘Aunt Alys wants ye to wed again, Father.’

‘That is so she can flit off and ignore her responsibilities.’ Really this was a ludicrous situation. ‘And you, Hugh, what do you think?’

Hugh’s pale face turned paler, with rosy patches on his cheeks. Hugh did not like to call attention to himself, this son of his. ‘I like the Lady Breanne,’ he said, as if that had been the question.

‘Well, I am not in the market for a wife, and neither are the princesses wanting to wed.’ Leastways, he did not think so.

All their little shoulders drooped.

‘Why is there a tent behind Piers’s bottom?” Joanna inquired, cocking her head to the side to see better.

Everyone else, except for Piers, also looked to the section of the sheet over his [Caedmon’s] manpart. Oh my God! He immediately raised his knees to hide his ‘tent.’

‘Do you know nothing, Joanna?’ Oslac commented. ‘We men have morning thickenings to deal with.'” p.154

For some reason, the children also talk about sex. I guess like father like … well all ten children. It’s a bit disturbing … my reaction:

But, stepping away from the fact that these children are kinda disturbed (I mean, kids say the weirdest things but given the context of this book … does the children’s dialogue need to contain sexual stuff?) – I think they are mere plot devices.

So – not really children: plot devices.

Why? Well, it’s their little trick in the end that gets Caedmon and Breanne married. The children, first off, are very fond of Breanne. Above you can see Hugh express this and they continue to – straight to the end where it is assumed she is leaving.

“‘I like to sit on her lap.’ Six-year-old Alfred sighed.

‘Me, too.’ This from his twin Aidan.

‘She smells good.’ Mina sniffed the air as if she could actually smelly [sic] Breanne’s rose-scented soap.

‘And father wants her, too, I am convinced of that, or I would not have been involved in this.’ Hugh was the oldest and most responsible. He would be the one to suffer if the plan did not work.” p.335

Breanne also protects from bullies, gets them in order, the usual. So the kids’ plan? Sex of course!

“‘Yea, we must give Father plenty of time to tup Breanne silly so that she will want to stay with him forever.’ Kendrick thought hr knew everything about grown-up things.” p.336.

Again, the kids are plot devices: they make Caedmon from the start look like a family man, and they come in as a deus ex machina when Hill sort of traps herself in the corner of a plot. That is, all the conflicts of the novel (though again, in terms of an actual plot, we care very little) are solved, Breanne is going home, so how does one get her to stay?

The kids! On a chariot driven by dragons! Rawr!

I made that last part up.

But the kids really are a deus ex machina here. They do trap the adults, the adults do ‘tup,’ and they get caught by … well, everyone, and thus have to marry.

And what about Caedmon’s whole ‘never want to get married or have more kids’ shtick (and Breanne does feel bad because she knows the whole … shtick, of course)?

“I love you, Breanne. You are probably going to turn my home into a madhouse. You are probably never going to be biddable. You are probably going to have five daughters, just to plague me. But I live you and am proud to be your husband.” p.358

And what do we have at the end of this novel? A happy family. The parents are happy. The kids are happy. And the readers satisfied. Everything ended as it should –  just as in the previous text.

Family seems to be an important element to the end of a romance novel. And, as I’ve said many times before, I have only read two so far, but the thread of family – children, a home, etc. – is always present (even in this porno).

So, even with the crazy deus ex machina children – we get the expected ending.

Caedmon’s every present penis throbbingly thanks you for your time.

And now I am going to fix myself another cup of tea, settle in with North and South (yeah, I’ve already started reading it – so much for waiting until the weekend) or maybe give my eyes a break and watch the Bleak House mini-series. I started it again last night because – without a doubt – I am in love with Sergeant George.

I mean, come on! Look at him! How awesome is he? And a heart of freakin' gold!

Plus, I’ve watched Little Dorrit so much I think my computer will, at some point, turn against me.

PALATE CLEANSER! CLICK ME!

Reference

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

 

Serendipity … May 7, 2010

Well, I’ve been in this position before.

Starting a blog. Looking at the book I’m going to be ripping apart. Thinking “Oh Dear God What If I Run Out Of Things To Talk About?”

But I doubt that will be the case.

A few weeks ago, over a three or four day span, I chronicled my reading of the first Twilight book – chapter by chapter. You can find that here. My professor and I both agreed (though he voiced it and I did the agreeing) that it was beneficial. I explored the question: Why on earth is this crap so popular? And I ended up without really finding an answer, but exploring structure, theory, and whatnot. In a nutshell – no answer, but a fun exercise (even though I still maintain my detestation of Twilight). I like tearing apart texts – even bad ones.

So I had a thought.

I’m graduating. My summer is in flux – mom’s getting a divorce, where we’re living may change and that will involve A LOT of packing and arranging, I’ll probably be learning how to drive … Anyway, there isn’t much I can do besides read and write.

Not that I’m complaining.

I’d love to chronicle my experiences reading Dickens and Brontë and Gaskell and rinse and repeat – but that would just be a gushy blog of me lauding Dickens for his structure, admiring C. Brontë for her semi-sort-of biographical work, and finally reaching Gaskell, who I’ve been waiting to reading for ages. But – like I said – that would be self-indulgent and a complete bore for you to read.

So I decided to take a note from Twilight. I’d read some more bad literature – but of a different kind.

Yep. I’m going to read those trashy, bodice ripping, romance novels.

Let me make a quick disclaimer though – these novels are not the only books I’ll be reading over the summer. My plate is full with the authors I mentioned above (though I’ll probably finish reading Little Dorrit before I graduate) and a new Lit theory book coming in the mail (not to mention my own writing, subscribing to a lit journal and whatnot). Just making that clear …

A Visual: Me Reading "Little Dorrit"

Okay – so that’s done. Back to the bodice ripping.

What makes these novels different from Twilight is pretty much obvious: they aren’t works of fiction that people are venerating like a bible, unless it’s Lifetime and you’re Nora Roberts, the book will probably never be adapted into a screenplay. But – more importantly – the novels are taken more as is: trashy, gushy romance. And that is why I have more respect for these books than I ever will for Twilight. They don’t pretend to be something they’re not.

Bodice rippers are full-blown escapist books – I hardly expect to find characterization, plausible plot – anything that makes up the novels I usually read. People – women mostly, of course – read these not for the thrill of the structure or the narrative, but pretty much the thrill of the sex: the guy getting the girl and vise versa.

In no way in this blog am I planning to demean these books. In fact, I want to take a different approach than the one I took with Twilight. I’m not going to go chapter by chapter, character by character blah and blah and blah. Instead, I’m taking a book a week and subjecting it to theory and whatever else comes to mind in the … I don’t know … ‘literary realm.’ I’m not looking to answer a question like I was with the other blog – there’s no thesis, no problem to solve. I’m just … looking.

And probably over-reading – but there’s a bit of fun in that, isn’t there?

Of course, don’t worry: I’ve heard a lot of people liked the snark of my Twilight blog – that certainly won’t be missing here. When I say ‘respect,’ I don’t meant I’m going to treat these texts any less critically. (Come on – I mean, my mode of selecting these books boiled down to word choice – but more on that in a second).

So – there’s my plan. Once a week after I graduate (that is, starting the week of May 17th), one book – a few posts on the book and then a new book the next week for the whole of the summer.

Lucky for you – I’ve already got the first two week’s reading lined up – and here’s the story (no, I’m not going on a tangent – this is actually pretty interesting).

As a senior with all of her work done and graduation just … waiting to happen pretty much, my friends and I have been looking for things to do. Places to walk to, playing games out on our college green – little things, fun things. And one of these things was going to the fantastic used bookstore here in Lancaster Dogstar. It really is this great place – it’s like a little nook of wonderfulness with a great cafe across the street.

My friend Sarah and I decided to take a walk there on a particularly lovely day (meaning yesterday), when we had both finished work – everything handed in and done. My main goal: Find the trashiest book I could to kick this blog off with a good start.

Easier said than done. I think Dogstar is too classy for trashy romance (and I’m hardly going to say that’s a bad thing) and I ended up walking out with … yep, a Gaskell. North and South.

I once walked into an AT&T store for a Blackberry and came out with an iPhone so this has to be normal ...

$2 well spent.

Anyway, I thought after that experience that this was going to be hard. I mean, I knew where to find the darn genre, but to go into Barnes and Noble and pick one up? Just like that?

I need a bit thicker skin before I do that.

But today – today, Val, Caroline, Sarah and I went to Starbucks. And, thanks to a roommate who’s been eating my food, I’ve had to do a little bit of stocking up at Giant. So, I took my little cart and there was the beautiful revelation: while I couldn’t find what I was looking for in a used bookstore, there it was in multitudes – in Giant. A supermarket.

So – those words I mentioned before? I picked up a few and flipped through. I didn’t really know what to look for beyond a sort of Fabio, half-dressed cover so I made a list in my head of words. Throbbing. Bosoms. You get the picture. And, thankfully, in Giant there is self-checkout.

My first two bodice rippers were bought in complete anonymity – well, beyond the fact I whipped them out when I walked over to Starbucks for a good laugh with everyone (but I had Little Dorrit with me so I felt like I had enough ‘street lit cred’ to pull ’em out and joke).

So I named this post ‘Serendipity’ because the first book I chose just goes perfectly with the title of the blog. The title, for the curious, I came up with a few days ago. “Strip the Willow” was my favorite dance in Scotland. It’s pretty much a dance where you get swung around by big Scottish guys and get really dizzy and sometimes they spin you so fast (because they don’t realize you’re the human equivalent of an adult chihuahua) that your feet lift off the ground. Thus: Strip the Willow and Rip the Bodice. The second half should be self-explanitory by now.

And now, I introduce the first novel I will be reading:

A Highlander's Homecoming by Melissa Mayhue

Yes, those are REAL sparkles on the cover. I looked at that as a confirmation that this had to be the book I started with: Scottish (like the title) and it sparkles (like my last blog)? Perfect transition. Serendipity.

Downside? This blog doesn’t officially start until the week after I graduate so there’s some time to wait – but hey – I had to give a small preview of what’s to come.

But thinking back to how I stumbled upon this novel (and the other, which will remain a surprise, of course) is interesting. I found it not in a bookstore, but a supermarket. It’s like these books are at the ready – you don’t have to make a special trip to buy them. They’re just … there. Waiting.

And throbbing.

Okay – I’m going to take that as a sign I need to wrap this intro up.

A quick few things before I go to the midnight showing of Iron Man 2: the books I use will be cited, and if you click on the image of them (such as the one above) it will take you to the B&N order page (also summary page if you’re inclined to look it up before I tackle it). I’m completely open to comments, questions, and emails – suggestions even. I don’t want to be a bore so – if you’re reading this blog, following it, whatever – speak your mind! I’m sure I’ll think of a few other things that will come up from time to time but that’s it for now so …

Bookmark this page and check back starting the 17th!

(oh, and if you can’t read the captions of the pictures, just resize the page so the pictures fit better)

And, for those familiar with my Twilight blog – I offer a:

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