Strip the Willow and Rip the Bodice

Because everyone needs a hobby …

My Week Off: Vlog 2 July 11, 2010

Filed under: Vlog — Liz @ 5:05 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I included a surprise in the video (hint – it’s a video … in a video!)

Advertisements
 

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 ...

PALATE CLEANSER! CLICK ME!

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 –

PALATE CLEANSER! CLICK ME!

Reference

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

 

Ginger Post: Part 6 July 1, 2010

I just watched the last ten or so minutes of The Assassination of Jessie James and now I want to watch the whole thing. There’s always something about period pieces that get me – but this one looks well filmed … I love really well done cinematography.

But anyway. Ginger Post!

Amy Pond = Awesome

Except not.

There aren’t any – at all – gingers in this novel. Instead – there’s a ‘dark’ woman. What do I mean by a ‘dark’ woman … well, it’s usually the character that’s paired with the light, virtuous woman.

Easy enough to understand. ‘Light’ is what Cosway was going for anyway – he had in his mind some docile and biddable (thanks to this mother who lied and said Isidore was in her letters) girl waiting for him in England. He didn’t expect the ‘dark’ woman he got – the independent, temperamental, gets her own way when she has her mind set on it one.

And, since their both virgins, lest we forget, is there really passion in Isidore to fuel the fire (oh, that was bad, I know – i take full responsibility for that).

As the novels supposed main plot centers around Isidore and Cosway, it seems only right that she’s one of the opposites – a ‘dark’ woman instead of a ‘light’ one. Before anyone cries foul at what particularly makes a woman ‘dark’ or ‘light’ here’s a description of Isidore that should clear it up:

“Isidore glanced at herself in Jemma’s glass. Men had lusted for her ever since she turned sixteen, and the particulars hadn’t changed: black hair, pale skin, generous bosom. In short, something short of Venus, but delectable enough to send most men into a lustful frenzy.” p.12

So – dark haired and curvy is aka the ‘dark’ woman. A ‘light’ woman would have blonde hair, blue eyes – look pretty much fragile. The ‘light’ woman, as I also mentioned, is obedient (in my seminar last semester, we read a lot of period texts that dealt with the light woman in contrast to the disobedient dark woman).

Really, gingers have no place in this novel. The duality alone of a docile ‘light’ woman that Cosway thought awaited him and the ‘dark’ woman that was Isidore that he found, is enough to make a ‘hair color’ post on.

Mind you, a short one.

I don’t know what it is about this book. I should really be jumping at the whole sexuality in it … maybe I’ll do that tomorrow. Sexuality and family then go on to talk about Jemma and Villiers because they’re really the ones I want to focus on.

I’m hardly trying to be lazy but nothing in this novel made me really consider anything new. I was more annoyed. I didn’t very much care that Cosway was a virgin – though it’s a big deal with the woman, it’s not so much with him. When he has sex, he has it. That’s … really it.

Maybe I’m just over-shocked from the epic-ness of the past few days: first the awesome Doctor Who finale … then the new Harry Potter trailer … too much for my brain to handle.

What I’m going to do is re-read parts for when I post again. I don’t want to gip myself out of some good critical thinking. The posts on this book are so short …

Okay: tomorrow definitely dealing with sexuality and the ending with family. Then maybe a sort of mega post on Jemma and Villiers and structure in these novels. That will all make sense … hopefully.

And hopefully this post made sense, too.

At least I passed the 500 words mark ...

Anyway:

PALATE CLEANSER! CLICK ME!

Reference

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

 

A Ginger Post: Part 5 June 22, 2010

And let us start with the lovely Amy Pond …

from the episode 'Vampires of Venice' - I WANT HER HAIR!

Speaking of vampires though – just really quick side note – I will not be reading any vampire romance fiction. Yes, that may sound like I’m leaving out something that’s really ‘in’ in our culture at the moment, but after suffering through Twilight – I just can’t. Any other supernatural things, though, I’m up for.

Even werewolves – thankfully, I only read the first book for class so I didn’t get to see how Meyer botched them (then turned them in to shape-shifters, if I recall correctly from many a funny recap I have read).

Anyway – yes, it’s the ginger post. Have I read the ginger post yet? No – but I will. I have to order it still (which I should have done at B&N while I was there today replenishing my stock – but, as usual, forgot).

But I’m going to talk about us gingers anyway because – we matter. Have you hugged a ginger lately? If you haven’t – you’re cruel. Get to it.

So – Vanessa is not ginger – but it is incredibly interesting how her hair color is described.

“Those dark eyes of hers were luminous enough to drown in, while her hair was a lustrous sherry color, shimmering with the gold and russets of autumn.” p.33

“His fingers toyed absently with a curl of her darkly burnished hair. Even after sating himself so fiercely, need for her still ran like flame-warmed brandy through his body.” p.194

Vanessa isn’t quite ginger – she has dark hair with bits of fire in it, it’s polished, it shines. There’s gold and russets – but she’s not all ginger.

And you can see that in her demeanor. She doesn’t take on the usual ‘ginger’ role – she falls into the category of ‘inexperienced’ and there’s a bit of fear in her character until Isa or Breanne.

But, her hair plays rather significant roles in terms of sexuality in the book – Damien often focuses on it in an attracted way – not like: oh, she’s a ginger! but, instead, it’s like he’s uncovering the fire hidden in her hair.

Bad metaphor, I know.

“An easy, contented silence settled between them. Some moments later Damien broke the quiet spell by asking, ‘Do you always plait your hair before sleeping?’

‘Usually.’ She looked wary. ‘Why?’

‘You have lovely hair. I want to see it loose and fanning across my pillow.'” p.101

“Her midnight eyes were huge and questioning as he reached to lift a curling tress from her breast. His fingers rubbed lightly, feeling the rich, silken texture.

‘Your hair is exquisite. I’ve dreamed of having it wrapped around me.'” p.143

“Weakly Damien nuzzled his face in Vanessa’s hair. The bliss that had convulsed his senses was as powerful as anything he’d ever felt, but the fierce emotion that flowed through him was stronger still.” p.345

So what is it about the hair? Is it the fire that’s hidden in the gold and russets? I really like to think so. I really like to think Vanessa’s hair is a metaphor for herself – she’s polished yet complex. She’s skittish but also passionate.

If we look at every ginger post before, there’s a pattern in them. The darker hair (the non-gingers) have a skittishness about them, something to hide or something to fear. But the gingers – they’ll raise hell and high-water and are, or become, very passionate. And – of course – we get all the comments from the men about redheads.

I’m going to leave this ginger post on that note – The Seduction creates a female protagonist that has hair not only portraying her outward fear she needs to overcome, but the passion that Damien is intent on releasing within her. And he does, of course, do that – and he nuzzles (see quote above) in that hair after he does so.

Job well done, I suppose, in Damien’s case.

How could I forget this HBIC??? Fierce.

PALATE CLEANSER! CLICK ME!

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 …

PALATE CLEANSER! CLICK ME!

Reference

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

 

My Week Off: Vlog 1 June 12, 2010

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

I don’t know why. I just am.