Strip the Willow and Rip the Bodice

Because everyone needs a hobby …

I never really did like 18th Century Style July 17, 2010

Yesterday, I saw Inception. And yesterday, my mind was blown. So, I took the day to sit around, contemplating how awesome that film was and how on earth I can get someone to take me to see it again.

And again.

I love movies that make you think and are sort of puzzles in themselves. And that fight scene? You know the one I’m talking about if you’ve scene the film. I’m adding that to my list of best moments of cinematography.

Don’t ask me what the others are because I’m already wasting too much time blabbing on about this fabulous fantastic movie. But one of them is the chase in the woods from The Piano. There.

Oh, and –

Okay - I'm finished but I want my imagination to think of things like this! (no, the picture doesn't move so don't wait for it to)

Anyway – yesterday I planned on talking about the style that men take on in Powder and Patch. It’s a fair enough topic because, really, the dress that is popular is made to sound incredibly feminine in the book. And before you make the whole ‘that’s period’ argument – I realize that, but the way that it was written, the attention that is brought to the clothing is interesting.

My hypothesis – in a nutshell – is that Philip is more like the romantic hero ‘man’ in the beginning, goes through the transformation into a French … I don’t know what, those were the parts you could skip the dialogue because pages would be spent on stockings and ribbons and fabric … and Cleone realizes that she doesn’t want a little French doll, but the Philip that she knew before – the ‘romantic hero’ with un-powdered hair and what not.

While it’s clear from the beginning (there’s even a proposal of marriage met with the fact that Philip isn’t proper – not that Cleone doesn’t love him), that Philip and Cleone are in love and what not – there is a rival. This rival, Bancroft, represents the ‘change’ that Philip must undergo to have Cleone – hopefully – realize he is fit to marry.

“The Apparition [Bancroft] wore a coat of palest apricot cloth, with a flowered vest of fine brocade, and startling white small-clothes. Red-heeled shoes were on his feet, and his stockings were adorned by sprawling golden clocks. He carried an amber-clouded can and a jewelled snuff-box, while ever and anon he raised a cobwebby handkerchief to his aristocratic nose. He minced down the street towards the market-place, followed by the awe-stricken glances of an amazed population.” p. 23

In contrast – this is Philip:

“Philip’s coat was made for comfort; he would have scored the stockings of Matthew Trelawney. He even refused to buy a wig, but wore his ownbrown hair brushed back from his face and tied loosely at his neck with a piece of black ribbon. No powder, no curls, unpolished nails, and unpainted face – guiltless, too, of even the smallest patch – it was, thought Cleone, enough to make one weep. Nevertheless, she did not weep, because, for one thing, it would have made her eyes red, and another, it would be of very little use. Philip must be reformed, since she – well, since she did not dislike him.” p. 15

Heh – I like the last line there. It makes the narrator endearing – and the character of Cleone easy to understand. I like clever little lines like that.

Anyway, you can obviously see the contrast between the two men. Bancroft, is, as we will learn with Philip, educated in French design. Philip ends up, after all, going to France to get his … ‘education’ I guess we’ll call it.

Oh, and for reference – a patch was a bit of fabric used to hide pock marks on the face and whatnot – if my research is somewhat reliable. See – this is why I like my 19th century. Sure, they were crazy in themselves … all those hair broaches and such … but patches? Huh.

Anyway – Philip’s aim is pretty much to become Bancroft. So he goes to France, learns how to dress and talk in a really very annoying manner and returns. Of course, inside, Philip hasn’t changed – he just wants to make Cleone ‘realize’ what she’s asking of him and what she really does want.

Here’s a bit of Philip’s transformation:

“Under his deft hands Philip squirmed and screwed up his face. He complained that the haresfoot tickled him, and he winced when the Marquis pressed two patched on his face. When Francois dusted his cheeks with powder he sneezed, and when a single sapphire ear-ring was placed in his left ear he scowled and muttered direfully.” p. 55

Yeah … give me the other male protagonists any day. We, as readers, are let in to what Cleone’s gotten wrong. I think that’s key into how this fashion is portrayed. Sure, it’s the rage, but it doesn’t fit Philip – and it doesn’t fit Cleone.

And how to we know this? The final ‘revelation’ so to say – the locket Cleone keeps (that we learn of only in the last two chapters of course) contain something:

“‘Is it not? Ah, Cleone! Tell me, my dearest, what is in your locket?’

‘Something I meant to burn,’ she murmured.

‘But did not?’

‘No – I could not.’ She fumbled at her bosom and drew out the trinket. ‘See for yourself, Philip.’

He opened it. A rolled lock of brown hair fell out and a town scrap of parchment. Philip turned it over.

‘Yours till death, Philip,’ he read. ‘Cleone, my love.’

She buried her face on his shoulder.

‘Your – hair – your poor hair!’ she said.” p.183

So – simple enough. She wants the old Philip back. He teases her of course saying that it is all cut off (yeah, but it will grow back the reader fills in) and that he’s going to write a sonnet about her eyes (that has to be a joke, too, since he’s back to being Philip-Philip).

So it’s pretty much – change for me, oh wait, I liked you better before, why did I ask you to change, that’s what I really wanted and was too blind to realize it.

But it’s also interesting to see that the change is a highly feminine one – one that could easily fit into the whole ‘Romance genre’ – the well built men and what not. Could you imagine someone like … the male protagonist of Viking in Love dressing up like this? No, of course not.

There’s some sort of male ideal at work here. One that’s not as prevalent in the other novels as much as it is here – it’s something we sort of take for granted in those books. The men are already built up as these paragons of masculinity, ready to ravish his love at any minute (I say his ‘love’ because I’m going on a search where the female role – or even the male role – is played by the same sex – plus, it will give me a good fuel to let me rant on about why we need to allow same sex marriage – the fact that it is only allowed in a few states is absolutely ridiculous – love is love be it between a man and a man or a woman and a woman – it’s no one’s place to say that’s wrong – ANYWAY! Save that for that time …).

So – Philip, we’re to assume I believe, goes back to his usual ‘country’ ways that make him more appealing to Cleone. He’s dipped into a sort of feminine sexuality but Cleone saw that damage that did – she wants a man and in the end – well, I think we should believe that that’s what she gets.

Just like every other heroine we’ve read so far.

Huh. Look at that.

So ... is this why it's a 'Romance Novel'

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Reference

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

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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!

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(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.

 

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.

 

Period Period Fiction July 12, 2010

As promised in the last vlog, a picture of this week’s book – Georgette Heyer’s Powder and Patch – on the shelf with the other novels of this genre:

see the difference?

There was a lot that that attracted me to this book beyond the difference in shape – the cover, as I also mentioned in my vlog, was different.

'Powder and Patch' by Georgette Heyer

There was no Fabio-type man clutching a woman on the cover. The length was odd. And, more importantly, when I flipped through Powder and Patches I found it missing.

‘It’ being sex.

The quick answer to the last point – the absence of sex – can be easily marked off by the ‘period period fiction.’ Powder and Patch was a novel originally published in 1930. Not that the time period is the excuse, but the Author’s bio provides more insight into why the ‘usual’ aspect of these types of novels was missing:

“Author of over fifty book, Georgette Heyer is one of the best-known and best-loved of all historical novelists, making the regency period her own Her first novel, The Black Moth, published in 1921, was written at the age of fifteen to amuse her convalescent brother; her last was My Lord John. Although famous for her historical novels, she also wrote twelve detective stories. Georgette Heyer died in 1974 at the age of seventy-one.” p.185

First of all, the author was still quite young when writing this novel but also – there was no formula yet – was there? Plus, if she continued to write from the air she took when writing for her brother – there’s no need for sex at all. Secondly (and this enforces the former, I suppose), her first novel was written for entertainment – I like that. Thus – Heyer seems to be writing to entertain – but in her way.

And then there’s that third thing: she’s a historical novelist. It’s stressed not only in the biography but throughout the book – this is historical fiction.

When I finished the novel I asked myself: why the heck was this in the romance section? As I predicted in my vlog, this was very much a comedy of manners. A … Wodehousian sort of romp of the mid-eighteenth century. In fact, so little is actual romance, that I’m still trying to figure out why it was marketed as such.

The story is insanely simple (I read the back cover in my vlog – and nothing at all strays) – the characters are two-dimensional, but in a good way, and there’s no fussing about anything other than the simple, black and white plot that had these little 2D characters tripping over each other and laughing about it.

As I said – I liked this novel (not the best thing I’ve ever written – especially since there was no translation to the French some of the characters speak – FOOTNOTES PLEASE!) – but why wasn’t it put in plain fiction?

My guess is that was what it was placed in when originally published (I’ll have to do a little research into that, of course – but it still brings up the question about Wodehouse … but more on Wodehouse later). Beyond that – I’m clueless. I certainly wouldn’t have placed it in the Romance section.

Now, it’s not because I’m biased – because I liked the novel, because it didn’t follow the formula, because it was a comedy of manners. It’s not like I want to ‘rescue’ this book from it’s place in B&N – I’m just wondering why it’s there.

So – this week, I’m going to try and figure that out … with the text. I think structure will be interesting to talk about as well – but looking at why this novel is sold under ‘Romance’ look be interesting to look at.

Breaking it down … nah – I’ll just surprise you in the next few days.

And if you couldn’t tell – yes, I’m quite drowsy. Enjoy this cat and dog .gif.

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Reference

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

 

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.

 

I must really not have liked this book …

I ended up falling asleep again yesterday … yeah. And then I went to first night here and had some free wine so … things happen, ya know?

But I was thinking – I really must not like this book. It isn’t even bad in a ‘it’s so bad it’s good’ way. It’s just … blah. I really want not that much to do with it. I still have posts to do though and damn it all – I’m going to write them.

Plus, my reward will be my week off – yay!

Wahoo!

So – rereading what I wrote the other day, I’m supposed to talk about sexuality in the novel. I will say that I remember some time ago writing that the sex usually comes in around page 200 give or take – this book proved to be an exception. Not only in that it took place later with only ‘hot and heavy’ kisses leading up, but that the first ‘encounter’ was a dud.

“But he was kissing her, deep boneless kisses, the kind that made her wind her arms around the neck, and pull his body down onto hers.

Her hands slid down his back and onto his bottom, curved over warm muscles, slipped between his legs. ‘You -‘ His voice was pained. He arched his back. ‘Oh God, Isidore, that feels so good.’

She started laughing and his mouth came down on hers with desperation. And then he pressed against her. It was extremely odd. Like a door opening, Isidore though. First there was only herself, and then somehow there was room enough for him as well.

He made a rough sound, low in his throat and pressed deeper. Isidore waited for the pain that was supposed to come, but nothing happened.

Well, that was good.

He pulled back and then thrust forward again.

It felt good. It did. Well, perhaps it didn’t feel that good. There was a little fulling feeling that she didn’t care for all that much. Isidore tried to push away that disloyal though. He was supposed to do whatever, and she could just do what she wished …

… He did that thrusting thing.

The trust was, she really didn’t care for it that much.” p.262-263

It sounds like what the dentist told me when I was getting my tooth pulled – ‘you’ll feel the pulling, but you shouldn’t feel pain.’ Yeah yuck.

Afterwards, Isidore tells him that:

“‘It’s not something I would want to do every day,’ she continued, ‘but from what I hear, people don’t do it all that often anyway.'” p.266

Yeah …

Credit where credit is due though – this is the first ‘dud’ I’ve come across in six books. Granted, of course it all gets better. But in a strange way. Cosway (Simeon) is all ‘I want to show you how my body works’ and it’s just … blah. You pretty much know sex gets better once they figure it out. The whole book would be a dud in the genre if it didn’t. So that wasn’t shocking at all.

But, as I said, credit where credit’s due – we have a dud!

Wahoo.

Sure, there’s talk of an annulment because Isidore isn’t want Cosway thinks he wants, they get one but end up getting married again because their in ‘luv’ – shock shock, awe!

Why am I so bitter?

I really think I got myself all hyped up after enjoying Duchess by Night then feeling all blah with When the Duke Returns.

But then … then there was the side characters. Jemma and Villiers – perhaps the saving grace (or would be saving grace) of the novel. They’re pretty much fantastic.

Exhibits A & B of many:

“‘So what of our match?’ she asked, surprised by her own keen disappointment in his refusal of chess.

‘One move a day … that match?’

‘Yes, that match,’ she said. ‘Do you have so many outstanding matches that you don’t remember? To bring it to your recollection, I have won one game, and you have won one game. That leaves one game to break the tie.’

‘I do remember now,’ he said, watching her under his eyelids. ‘Let me see … if our match when into a third game, the last one was to be played blindfolded in bed.’

‘Precisely.’ Jemma folded her hands. ‘I’m so happy that’s it’s come back to do you. I have been training my maid, Brigitte, so she can stand next to the bed and move our pieces appropriately.’

‘I did not picture the bedchamber occupied by others than ourselves.’

‘Life is positively full of disappointments.'” p.74

“She looked up at him for a moment, and the edge of her mouth curled up. ‘You’ll play again.’

‘I will trust you to wait for me.’

‘I was never very good at waiting for men.’ Jemma was startled to hear the words come from her mouth. In one sense, she meant her husband. She waited three years for Elijah to fetch her from Paris when they were young, after she had flung herself across the Channel in a rage. He didn’t visit until the fourth year, and by then it was too late. She had found a lover, and put her marriage behind her.

Villiers’s heavy-lidded eyes dropped. ‘I on the other hand, am very good at waiting. For you, Jemma … I would wait quite a long time.'” p.75

Now come on – look at those fantastic conversations? It’s well disappointing that the next book … well, that’s the next post, isn’t it?

I think I’m finding an issue that I’ve never addressed until now in these books. Marriage is all fine and dandy for the main protagonists – but what about these side characters? What if a marriage simply doesn’t work?

Why can’t we have Jemma and Villiers?

Don Draper is waiting for your answer.

So –

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Reference

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

 

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.