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.

 

Rank & Title & Family – Oh My! June 24, 2010

It's. Almost. HERE!

If you’ve been living on another planet … or just not reading my blog, which I couldn’t blame you for, you know that the Doctor Who season finale is coming up – which is also why the final post for The Seduction is coming on a Thursday instead of the usual Friday.

I’m getting into complete Doctor Who mode.

Exhibit A - Fourth Doctor Scarf is unpacked and being worn around the house

I just have to unpack my sonic screwdriver … wherever it is – a sentence that worries me. No thank you, college packing. Then put on my TARDIS t-shirt that I got at the Doctor Who exhibit in Glasgow, then maybe get out my little TARDIS and little dalek and make myself comfy.

None of that you needed to know – but only goes to prove my absolute geek-ness when it comes to Doctor Who. A season finale is an event – one that needs preparation and proper stanning (stanning: being a huge fan of something).

Anyway! Putting Doctor Who to the side at the moment – let’s get back to The Seduction but also back to the subject of Rank, Title, and, of course, Family.

So you’re not shocked, guess what Vanessa and Damien decide to do come the end of the novel?

I’ll give you a moment to guess. Here’s the quote once you’re finished – which you should be.

“His lips grazed her temple as his hand slid lower to caress her abdomen. ‘We should find something to keep you from being lonely while I’m occupied with mundane governmental affairs.’

‘You don’t find them mundane in the least,’ she replied with amusement. ‘I know very well that you relish your new challenge, spinning gold from dross for the good of the country.’

‘Quite so. But perhaps you need a new challenge as well, now that you’ve succeeded in taming a wicked rake. Would a child or two fit the bill, I wonder?’

Her heart welling at the thought, Vanessa turned to gaze up at Damien. Moonlight poured through the window, highlighting the sculpted contours of his face. ‘Having your child is the only thing that could make me happier than I am at this moment.'” p.345

I know. You’re surprised, aren’t you?

S0 – let’s just take the family bit as a given. Everything ends happily ever after. Olivia marries Vanessa’s brother. Vanessa obviously marries Damien. The end.

But back to title and rank … if WordPress will be so kind to let me make a post about this. In the past five books I have read, we have encountered female protagonists that have two things 1. they are period (that is, they’re in period fiction) and 2. they have some sort of rank and title that plays very much into their role in the novel.

The first is important because I plan on, soon, embarking on reading texts that take place in a more contemporary setting – that was my main focus in my last B&N trip beyond two … other … things that will remain to be seen in this blog. But know – something contemporary is coming in a few weeks (probably 2 in terms of blog, 3 in terms of actual time). But, anyway, using historical fiction, authors are able to give these characters titles like Duchess and Princess that set them – most of the time – in a place above their male counterpart.

This isn’t always the case though. In fact, in The Seduction, Vanessa’s title/rank is equal, if not a little lower than Damien’s – but it is enough to provide her cover.

What do I mean by cover?

Well, take you Duchess and Princess as hyperbolic examples: they have their title to protect them from huge scandal. That is, they have a looser lead. You may not think so – but if it was a simply country farm girl, situations could be different. The farm girl doesn’t have the power to say ‘this didn’t happen’ or brush something under the table. Sure, the ones in power don’t escape rumour – but they have rumour rather on their side. It’s not great, but unless they’re caught – let ’em talk.

In Vanessa’s case, it’s similar. She just needs to concoct a cover rather than having one already. That cover – or rather title/rank – is companion to Damien’s sister Olivia. There’s her out. She’s not there as his mistress, or there because she running from a murder she and her sisters committed, or there because she’s helping out a friend bring her husband home – nope, she’s just there as a companion (previous examples from other books, of course).

I’m not saying title can be something that excuses everything – of course it isn’t – look at Breanne and Caedmon – when they’re caught ‘in the act’ – Breanne’s father pretty much makes them marry (though neither really have complaints about that). Title just gives a little extra protect to the female – not to mention sometimes a step above the men – especially with the Duchess … but probably more on her later.

Now – for the more … metaphorical side of title and rank. I know I addressed this before in my nutshell ‘title and rank’ post last week – but it’s still relevant like I thought it would be here.

Vanessa’s other title includes ‘inexperience’ and let’s just throw ‘virgin’ in there as well because – even though she’s had sex – she’s still a ‘virgin’ to the experience of pleasure, which is what Damien’s out to do.

Of course, he just thinks he has the power in this situation – the power to teach Vanessa ‘pleasure.’ In fact, some of the novel is just that – Damien teaching her how to please a man because Vanessa is convinced that after she leaves Damien when the summer is up, that the only way to support her family will be through becoming a whore. Why this is – I really don’t know. I think it was just an excuse for more sex to throw in the book because really, I couldn’t make much sense of it. Seeing that Damien’s promise was to give back the land, if she was his mistress for the summer – why she would need to sell herself is beyond me still.

Then again, I read it on Sunday and it’s Thursday now – not that I forget things that easily, but these novels’ particulars don’t stick in the mind – especially if it’s the secondary plot that’s pretending it’s the main plot when … not one really cares about it.

What am I missing?

Anyway – Damien thinks he’s teaching her. That’s where most of the sex scenes lie, in fact. I didn’t actually make a ‘sex post’ for this book since it’s unneeded (but I’ll tag this as a sex post nonetheless) – there’s nothing really stand-out about them – beyond this idea of ‘teaching.’

Damien is giving her these tools – he thinks he’s in control. But looking again at Vanessa’s unsaid ‘title’ of ‘virgin’ and ‘inexperienced’ – he’s not in control, he’s handing the control over to her more so. She already has that power over him in her inexperience that she can dangle over him (since he said he wouldn’t take her until she agreed to share his bed – blah blah – Damien’s dialogue was really just … blah). But now, Damien has upped her title from ‘inexperienced’ to ‘experienced’ – which now she can really dangle over him.

She’s experienced and is going to go out and find another man, who will care for her financially in return for her favours. Now she has tricks up her sleeve to make Damien want her even more – she’s holding even more power now – power that he inadvertently gave her. Sure, he may have given her financial freedom at the end of the book – but that’s all monetary.

This is very much ‘in the mind’ – so to say. Damien now knows her knew ‘rank’ in the … I guess, let’s call it the ‘sexual world.’ And that rank is tempting to him. That rank also gives Vanessa another cover like Princess and Duchess – this is now her apparent or wanted (well, unwanted) occupation. There’s her cover – she’s just a whore.

Rank and title play huge roles in these novels – metaphorical and literal. But what’s always interesting is that the ball always seems to end up or even start in the woman’s court.

But then … are we surprised?

WordPress, you better not erase this post … I’ll … well, I’ll be very angry if you do.

So off to eat lunch then dig out my sonic screwdriver.

Bits and bobs and I CAN'T WAIT FOR THE SEASON FINALE!

Until next week – where there’s a pretty decent surprise waiting in terms of what I’m reading. I maybe hinted at it … once. Somewhere. I forget.

But – until next week!

PALATE CLEANSER! CLICK ME!

Reference

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

 

Rank and Title and Why They’re Important June 17, 2010

Irrelevant .gif is irrelevant …

Found this yesterday and there was no real context to use it in so ... here it is anyway.

Okay. Rank and Title. Obviously we’re dealing with a ‘Duchess’ (duh) but we’ve also dealt with Viking princesses and other women who hold positions that are above their male counterpart. It doesn’t all rest in the strict definitions of ‘rank’ and ‘title,’ but also in what they have.

What the hell do I mean?

First – the title of ‘Virgin’

In …

Okay – WordPress just completely lost my post after this point. Needless to say – I’m sort of pissed, but here are my main points that I did make in over 1000 words in less than 300 words:

1. ‘Virginity’ and ‘Inexperience’ are titles that the women use as power

2. They also use their rank (duchess, princess, etc.) to move around easier and have a bit of power over the men. As you can see – not all guys take this well. Caedmon is pretty much forced into marrying Breanne (even though he loves her) and Jem freaks out when he finds out that Harriet is a duchess.

“‘You lied to me. I thought you were the widow of a farmer -‘ He spat the word. ‘-and all along you were merely playing with the hoi polloi. Amusing yourself with me.'” p.326

3. Harriet is a little different because she is looking for pleasure – and she is not an actual virgin (but she is inexperienced) – she falls in love with Jem as he falls in love with her. But she does give him her ‘inexperience’ that is expressed like virginity:

“‘Let me put it this way,’ he said. ‘If you’re not a virgin, Harry, you sure as hell haven’t had much experience kissing.'” p.219

So – different sorts of power winning over the male protagonist – but all have to do with some sort of inexperience. Whether that’s attractive is moot – what is important is the power that the title of virgin has.

4. There was some RDJ up in this post but you can thank WordPress for screwing that up. I’ll save the .gif for another post.

And I’m not being lazy by not retyping everything – this is a subject I plan to revisit in books to come so I can go more in depth then. I would do this one over but I have proofing to do and my blog is the last thing I want to fall behind.

Such a good post too … now to go grumble in the corner …

Here’s a PALATE CLEANSER anyway – CLICK ME.

Reference

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