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.
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 …
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!):
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!)