Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: humiliation-of-heroine
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2013-10-07 02:12
I Kinda Wanna Be Courtney Milan When I Grow Up (except I think I might already be older than she is...)
Unveiled - Courtney Milan

Courtney Milan is easily, far and away, my favorite author of historical romance. She has a graduate degree in theoretical physical chemistry from UC Berkeley and graduated summa cum laude from law school at the University of Michigan, and after clerking for important judges and teaching law for awhile, she now spends her time writing the smartest, beautifully-plotted, emotionally-rich, gorgeously-written historical romance I've ever read. I live in wait for her books, and in between new releases, I re-read what she's written before. This week, I re-read Unveiled for the third time, and if you've never read it, get it and put it right at the top of your TBR pile right now.


Unveiled is the first book of the Turner trilogy, which tell the stories of the Turner brothers, three brilliant men who have risen from modest beginnings to the top of Victorian English society despite a tortured childhood. After the death of their father, their pious-to-the-point-of-insanity mother gave everything the family had to the Church, leaving herself and her four children with nothing. When the only daughter, Hope, became sickened after a rat bite, the oldest child, Ash, walked twenty miles in order to beg the Duke of Parford (a distant relation) for enough money to hire a doctor to treat her. Parford only gave him a coin with which to buy himself a bath, the sister died, and Ash grew up determined to avenge this injustice.


When Unveiled begins, Ash is on the cusp of accomplishing that revenge. He has discovered that Parford secretly married his mistress before he married the mother of his children. By unveiling (note this word: it's the book title for a reason) the duke's bigamy, Ash has had that second marriage nullified, Parford's children declared bastards and stripped of their inheritance, and himself installed as heir-apparent to the ailing duke. Parford's grown children, the Dalrymples, will lose everything unless they can convince Parliament to pass a rare act re-legitimizing them and restoring their inheritance.


Ash and his youngest brother, Mark, go to Parford Manor to examine the estate. Ash believes that the Dalrymples are not in residence, but in fact the duke's daughter, Margaret, is posing as a lowly servant in order to keep an eye on the Turners and report back to her absent brothers.


At its core, this is a book about the layers of loyalty (and disloyalty), trust (and mistrust), and love (and enmity) that make up relationships and the way these layers obscure the characters' ability to see one another and, sometimes, themselves. Over and over again, characters mistake one another. Ash mistakes Margaret for a servant because she masquerades as a servant, but many of the mistakes are not as straight-forward. For example, Ash's brothers don't understand him because they are men of learning while Ash is a man of instinct and charisma; they don't realize that Ash doesn't mean to be dismissive of their intellectual pursuits, but being dyslexic, he can't read Mark's book or share Smite's study of the law. In another instance, Ash is stung (and Margaret is offended on his behalf), when Smite comes to Parford Manor and seems to snub Ash, but it turns out that, though he and Ash can't show each other their true feelings, Smite is motivated by love and concern for Ash rather than malice.


Although Ash and Margaret are set up as antagonists (in that Ash's success is literally Margaret's ruin), they bond because they are the same: both fiercely loyal to and devoted to their families, even though that devotion isn't requited (or in Ash's case, doesn't appear to be requited). Margaret's father is cruelly dismissive of her; her brothers are, at best, benignly inattentive to her situation, and at worst, cravenly unconcerned. Similarly, everything Ash does is motivated by love for his brothers, but Mark and Smite lived through childhood tragedies while Ash was in India (making a fortune in order to save them from poverty) and share a love of learning, and the two younger brothers share a bond that, intentionally or not, sets Ash forever apart.


"You see?" Ash said in his cheeriest tone. "My brothers are both here. What could I possibly have to grieve over?"


"You're not grieving," Margaret said. "I know that look on your face."


"Do you then?" He asked the question out of genuine interest. He'd not been faced with both his brothers before this moment. How could she possibly have seen it?


"Intimately." Her voice was low. "I know what it's like to stand on the outside and look in, believing I will never be accepted. I know what it's like to yearn to be a part of something, and yet to know that it will never come. Trust me, Ash. I know."


(p. 214) Ultimately, it is this sense of being outsiders to all others that allows Ash and Margaret to come together when all rational thought should keep them apart: they each crave acceptance and find it, not with their families, but with each other.

Like Reblog Comment
review 2013-10-07 01:03
Douchenozzle Hero Didn't Grovel Hard Enough
Naughty & Nice: Three Holiday Treats - Ruthie Knox,Molly O'Keefe,Stefanie Sloane

I read this for Ruthie Knox's Room at the Inn, a variation on Frank Capra's Christmas classic, It's a Wonderful Life. Ruthie Knox is one of my favorite authors, but I found this novella deeply unsatisfying. The hero's unbelievable self absorption pissed me off from the first chapter.


Carson's mother has died, and when his grieving father's health begins to deteriorate as well, Carson resentfully returns to his small hometown to take care of him...telling himself, and anyone who will listen, that he's not going to stick around once his dad is on his feet again. The reader's first impression of Carson is that he's an arrogant git who thinks his big, important, jet-setting career as an architect is more important than taking care of a grieving, ailing parent.


Things don't improve. Soon we learn that he didn't bother coming home for his mother's funeral, or indeed for the last two years of her life, though he knew she was dying. Then we learn that his college girlfriend gave his mother a fucking kidney to buy her another fifteen years to live, and took care of his parents and pretty much everyone in town, and Carson thanks her by ignoring her for long stretches of time while coming home every few years for booty calls. (Julie is perfectly lovely, but the fact that she puts up with this for 16 years makes her a total doormat.)


With a premise like that, I knew I was going to need an epic grovel to end all grovels from Carson. I mean, he needed to choke down the biggest steaming hot serving of humble pie EVER in the history of Romanceland in order to earn my forgiveness, and he didn't. His epiphany, when it comes, is uninspired, and his grand gesture isn't nearly grand enough to make up for nearly two decades of being a totally selfish bastard. Julie could have done better. I wish she knew that.

Like Reblog Comment
review 2013-10-07 00:57
Courtney Milan Rarely Disappoints
The Heiress Effect - Courtney Milan

I started reading this book at 2:00 AM while nursing my son, and I couldn't put it down in order to go back to bed. It was a really uncomfortable read, in some ways, but by the time I reached the end, I loved this book. I need some time to reflect on it to be sure, but right now I think it might even displace Unraveled as my favorite Courtney Milan story.


This is an opposites attract story, but not the kind where the hero and heroine are at each other's throats before they suddenly fall into bed together. Jane Fairchild is a social misfit--by design. She knows her immense fortune makes her attractive to suitors, but she is determined not to marry until her epileptic younger sister comes of age and can leave the clutches of her misguided guardian, who allows quack doctors to perform heinous and painful "treatments" on the girl in hopes of curing her convulsions. If she married, Jane could no longer be with her sister, and more importantly, she would no longer control her own fortune (as a husband controls his bride's property in Victorian England), and Jane relies on that money to bribe doctors to leave her sister alone. Therefore, she staves off would-be-suitors by being deliberately gauche: her clothing is obscenely gaudy, her manners are atrocious, her voice is too loud.


Oliver Marshall, by contrast, is the bastard son of the former Duke of Clermont (his origins are explained in the novella The Governess Affair, which I also recommend). Although raised in a loving, secure family of his mother, adoptive father, and younger siblings, Oliver has grown into an insecure adult, too conscious that his illegitimacy means he will never fit in the social circles to which he aspires. He wants to be the Prime Minister someday, so his behaviour is as proper as Jane's is crude. He is attracted to Jane immediately, but he cannot act on the attraction because she would make a terrible wife for a man of his ambitions.


The plot of this novel was not as tight as Ms. Milan's previous novels, but that made this story less predictible. There were times when the odds against the couple seemed insurmountable, and the dramatic tension was strong enough to actually give me a stomach ache. (I told you this was an uncomfortable read.) Several of my favorite scenes actually had very little to do with the main plot and might have been left on the cutting room floor in a more rigidly-crafted novel: there is an early scene wherein Oliver goes fishing with his father which was just delightful--funny, emotional, and so full of insight into Oliver's family dynamic; a similar scene in which Oliver goes to rescue his youngest sister (a budding suffragette) from a rowdy political rally only to have her shame him into staying;and a scene between Jane's sister and her paramour, a law student, in which they are puzzling over the arcane property law precept, the Rule Against Perpetuities, just as every law student has since the dawn of time (myself included). On the other hand, sometimes the plot moves at a whirlwind pace and the reader just has to roll her eyes and hang on tight.


I love that Jane and Oliver are both sympathetic, moral people trying to hold on to their principles while doing what's best for others, even if doing what's right means they can't be together. Jane can't let herself be swept away by love, because doing so would leave her sister unprotected. Even when her sister's situation is happily resolved, Jane isn't willing to sell herself short by becoming the meek, mannerly "wren" of woman Oliver thinks he needs. Oliver's desire for a proper wife is fueled by his political ambition, yes, but he is not ambitious for his own sake: he is driven by the injustice inherent in the fact that the best, most ethical man he knows, his father, can't vote because he doesn't own property. Because Oliver identifies the cause with his father, he sees anything that hurts his chances for political success--including an alliance with Jane--as a betrayal of the man who gave up his own ambitions to raise a boy who was not even his own son. Often times, the barriers that keep lovers apart in romance novels seem contrived or overblown, but this conflict feel real and heartrending, and I loved the way it finally resolved.

Like Reblog Comment
review 2013-10-07 00:43
Gorgeous Prose, but Too Rape-y and Old Skool For My Tastes
To Have and To Hold (Wyckerley Trilogy #2) - Patricia Gaffney

This is a beautifully written, terrible, infuriating story. I knew this was a controversial book when I picked it up, but it's also an influential book in the "romance canon," so I wanted to read it. There are a lot of blogs and articles out there hashing out the merits and moral failings of this book in a lot more detail than I have time to match here. The controversy stems from the fact that--(spoiler alert, though I think every reader should be forewarned at least this much, because here there be triggers)--the hero rapes the heroine, in a harrowing, gut churning scene that spans twenty pages.


Then the hero and heroine both undergo dramatic transformations as characters, which are compelling and emotionally satisfying if you are the kind of person who can get past the whole he-raped-her bit. I am not that kind of person.


I loved Patricia Gaffney's prose. I will read more of her--just nothing quite so rapetastic next time.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2013-10-07 00:35
This Shit is NOT Entertainment, People!
Captive in the Dark - C.J. Roberts

I only made it about 20% in before knowing for sure this was not for me. I skimmed a bit farther ( maybe 50%) to see if it got better, but if anything, it seemed to be getting worse.


This is the most icky-squicky thing I've ever read. I knew the basic premise going in, so I should have been prepared, but I thought with all the five star squee reviews there must be something redeeming here. No. No, there isn't.


The publisher's blurb warns of "dubious" consent. Let's not sugarcoat this: consent in this story isn't doubtful, it's nonexistent. Caleb kidnapped Olivia with the intent to train her as a sex slave and sell her at auction to his worst enemy. I'm okay with BDSM, even pretty hardcore stuff involving total power exchange--so long as the sub agrees in advance to give up his/her (although it's almost always her, right?) agency. Livvie doesn't even get that initial choice. No, she is kidnapped from the bus stop as she waits to go to school (because she's a fucking high school student, as if things weren't squicky enough!!!), then controlled by violence, drugs, hunger, and sheer mindfuckery... And to me, nothing that happens in that context is sexy or entertaining or compelling. She's fucking terrified, and I don't find it arousing or interesting at all-- and the fact that so many people apparently do (note the five star squee) makes me fear for the future of humanity.


See, shit like this actually does happen to people. Little girls get stolen and imprisoned, and horrifying things happen to them--those poor girls in Cleveland, Elizabeth Smart, Jaycee Dugard, Colleen Stan, and the many, many more whose names we never know because they wind up dead. Books like this--that package that nightmare as entertainment and make it palatable by making the victim fall for the villain despite all reason, and make the villain gorgeous and sexy and damaged in a poor-tortured-baby way--do violence to those real victims' plight and memory. Sex trafficking is not entertainment, people! You've seen the men who do shit like this on the news: Ariel Castro, Phillip Garrido--these men are not sexy! They're monsters, and so is Caleb.


And then, don't even get me started on the crimes against grammar. Sentence fragments, inexplicable punctuation, your vs. you're (why is that so hard?!), using verb phrases that have nothing to do with speaking to set off dialogue ("He picked up his rum and coke, 'You will be.'") Small potatoes in light of my bigger, philosophical objections to this book, but still inexcusable.


Don't be sucked in by the hype!

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?