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review 2019-11-13 20:12
History and Historical Romance
It Started with a Scandal: Pennyroyal Green Series - Julie Anne Long

I tend to get all breathless and twitterpated when I discover a new historical romance writer I enjoy, sending out profligate hold requests at the library. That was the case with Julie Anne Long, whose Lady Derring Takes a Lover was so beautifully choleric on the ingrained sexism of the time, and features a found family plot and exquisitely rendered female relationships. I maybe don't need to say this, but I will anyway: as much I enjoy a historical, the baked in acceptance of social norms which are, to put mildly, antique, and to put more specifically, fucked beyond the telling of it, makes me often quite itchy while I read.


This is figleafed in ur average historical romance: industrialists are all, to a man, fair minded and generous, having acquired their fortunes without being the rapacious monsters they all, to a man, were. The aristocrats -- the dukes and earls and the like -- may have daddy issues, struggling under the injurious regard of their Old Testament fathers, but these paternal and paternalistic dinosaurs are emblematic of a outdated mode of lording over great swaths of land and hundreds, maybe thousands of people. These new sons are embodiments of a New Aristocracy, one that views its marriages as meritocracies, the perfect embodiment of noblesse oblige. 


I was just reading one recently where the industrialist romantic lead mentioned offhand his ownership of cotton mills, and my mind leapt right to tour of Lowell, MA I took some years ago. Lowell is a locus of both early American industrialization, and the inevitable labor movements that follow once people grow weary of being ground down by engines, spitted by the spearpoint of progress. Young women, girls really, worked 12 hour days six days a week until they coughed themselves into an early grave due to the cotton fibers they inhaled, the factory air muzzy with a fog of particulates. (It is also the hometown of Jack Kerouac.) That's the problem with historicals: they are inescapably based on history, which features a boot on a throat in one permutation or another for as far back as one can manage.  


So, the endgame of this little diatribe was some dissatisfaction with It Started With a Scandal. On every objective metric, this is a fine novel, with excellent characterization, smooth pacing, and well drawn sexual tension. Long is a smart, interesting writer, and I will continue to read the shit out of her back catalog. However, I was never quite able to get over the fact that our romantic lead was a prince of Burgundy or Bourbon or somesuch, a French aristocrat who fled France during the Revolution. He's very put out by the fact that his ancestral lands are not in his family's possession anymore, and spends much time glowering and throwing vases in fits of pique. The leading lady, his housekeeper, vouchsafes to feel bad for him quite prodigiously. She is herself just weeks from penury -- she and her child -- so she knows what it is to lose things. 


To which I say: bah. The French aristocracy deserved to have their heads separated from their necks. They were indolent, greedy, dissolute shits whose venality resulted in the abject poverty and misery of hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people. So boo fucking hoo about getting run out of the country where our hero was born into incredible wealth and privilege. (I may have my back up after seeing some billionaire -- there are only 600 or so in America, a listable group of people -- literally crying on television because someone might tax him commensurate with his wealth. Meanwhile millions of Americans go bankrupt or just fucking die due to a medical insurance system designed to maximize profits at a brutal human cost. Fuck, and I can't stress this enough, every single billionaire.) 


I am aware of, and engage in quite happily, the sort of historical blindness required to enjoy a historical romance. I am not going to nitpick inconsistencies unless they are egregious and/or not in service of the final resolution. But sometimes I'm in my own place in history, where I cannot unsee the parallels to current, ongoing, often fatal injustices in the world. I am not going to waste time feeling bad for people who have had everything and then some given to them by accident or birth who, just occasionally, feel thwarted in their every impulse. Our heroine's soft-heartedness looks soft-headed. 


I've said this before, but I'm going to repeat it: every romance has the echoes of a less satisfactory conclusion embedded within it. Without the invisible authorial hand, our housekeeper's life would end in brutal poverty, discarded by a "polite" society predicated on systematic exploitation. Mostly I'm satisfied with these romantic revisions -- that is the point of a historical romance novel, n'est-ce pas? I can and do acknowledge this freakout is largely on me -- I do not want to enbussen Long, who seems a very fine writer, because of a personal convergence of things. But sometimes I just can't. The romantic conclusion ends up seeming such a petty, priapic thing, the tumescence of love blotting out all impediments to our lovers, even the important, necessary, and structural ones. 


Probably I should just back way from historical romance for the time being, library holds notwithstanding, until some improbable time when our brutal history is less brutal. I'll be busy holding my breath. 

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review 2016-02-07 01:54
The Legend of Lyon Redmond: Pennyroyal Green Series - Julie Anne Long

"Whiskey in the Jar Likes to Read" wrote a great review of this book on Booklikes.  Nothing to add or take away from it! 

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text 2015-12-01 21:43
November's Reads
A Cold-Hearted Rake - Lisa Kleypas
Castle Hangnail - Ursula Vernon
Bryony And Roses - T. Kingfisher
Written in my Heart - Caroline Linden
Defiant: Towers Trilogy Book Two - Karina Sumner-Smith
The Legend of Lyon Redmond: Pennyroyal Green Series - Julie Anne Long
The Seventh Bride - T. Kingfisher

I wasn't able to do much reading in the past month, mainly because of work that sucks the life out of me. When I get home, the only thing I feel like doing is to go to sleep.

*I would just love to hibernate until Spring*

Also I need to get my anti-depressives prescription changed, because not only aren't they doing anything about the depression per se, but the warm and "insistent" feeling of having OCD has come back full force. That means, that my concentration has fled the building.

The only way for me to sit quietly while trying to read a book is if I have a cat napping on my lap: namely my little Sebastião.

For the first time in a long time, I no longer have the patience to write reviews.

Also it doesn't help the fact I seem to be picking a lot of mediocre books... or maybe that's just a side effect of the way I am feeling at the moment. I no longer know.


Well, all I know is that I read an embarassing small number of books this last month.


Books Read kind of : Seven Books.

1 DNF: Castle Hangnail- Middle Grade ( not even a bad book, I just lost the patience for it)


3 Historical Romances :


_Lisa Kleypas, Cold Hearted Rake _ 2.5 Stars


_Julie Anne Long, The Legend of Lyon Redmond- 2 Stars


_Caroline Linden, Written in My Heart, a Short Story ( or novella, but it was so badly developed, that I am just going to stick with the short-story definition)- 1.5 Stars



Dystopia / Post Apocalyptic/ Science Fiction:

1 Re-read ( I actually ended up liking it more this time around)- Defiant (Towers Trilogy #2 by Karina Sumner-Smith) - 4 Stars


2 Middle Grade/ Retelling:

_ T. Kingfisher, Bryony and The Roses- 4 Stars

_T. Kinfisher, Seventh Bride - 3 Stars


Currently Reading:

Mercedes Lackey, Beauty and the Werewolf ( Five Hundred Kingdoms #6)

I've just read about fifty pages of it, and I am already sick and tired of the main character.

Obnoxious, manipulative brat.

As a side note, this was one of the books I offered myself last Christmas. o_O


Karina Sumner-Smith, Towers Fall (#3)

Along with Susan Ee's Penryn series, this was the other series for which I had so many expectations. Thing is, with forty percent read a long couple of days ago, I just lost the patience for it. I was expecting it to explode with action, after the amazing first book, and instead it just keeps walking the more introspective road. I am tired of the character's monologues, and I just don't feel like picking it up any more.


Kelley Armstrong, Omens (Cainsville #1)

Because I needed a story I would be able to finish!


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review 2015-10-11 16:59
The Legend of Lyon Redmond
The Legend of Lyon Redmond: Pennyroyal Green Series - Julie Anne Long

Finally! And you know what? This wasn't a dud, although I was almost expecting it to be.  Something so highly anticipated couldn't help but be bad right? wrong!  YAY.

This actually did the legend of Lyon & Olivia justice. It reminded me that JAL does intense romantic connection well. And boy did Lyon and Olivia have that in droves.

While it doesn't quite reach the heights of my favorite book of the series, What I Did For a Duke - Julie Anne Long  it really was worth the wait.

One thing, it also raised a lot more questions about the relationship between the Eversea and Redmond parents, especially past romance of Isolde Eversea and Isaiah Redmond. The first book of the series drops a paternity bombshell that wasn't revisited very much throughout the series, but it resurfaces with a vengeance here. Kinda interested in that story now.

But on the whole this met my expectations for a book that was pretty highly anticipated.


Jury is still out on that epilogue, though.

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review 2015-10-06 13:07
It Started with a Scandal: Pennyroyal Green Series - Julie Anne Long

Yet another story in the long-running Pennyroyal Green series by Julie Anne Long. (Although apparently the one after this is the long-awaited finale to the series.)  It's not bad, but the character of the hero didn't really work for me. He's supposed to be a bad-tempered, uncontrollable, vase-throwing bastard who frightens and drives away all the servants of the house where he's staying, but this never materializes in his interactions with the heroine or the other servants in the house. In fact, he's a fairly standard-issue upper-class male of the time period throughout most of the story, with a tendency to dish out put-downs with sarcasm. The heroine is great and her son is very well characterized as a small boy.


The picture on the book's cover, unfortunately, has nothing to do with the book. The heroine is always dressed as a housekeeper, in old and extremely modest dresses, and never in a ball gown, she is very fair-skinned with a tendency to blush, and the story takes place in a country manor house, not a palace with a vast hall as pictured on the cover. Maybe the picture is supposed to represent the story's villain ...

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