Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It Seemed Like Such a Good Idea When We Were Drunk...

Title: An Indecent Proposition
Author: Emma Wildes
Genre: Regency-set historical
Grade: a gentleman's C
How Hot is it?: 4 chili peppers

How about that title? It reminded me of the movie "Indecent Proposal," where Robert Redford offers Woody Harrelson $1 million to sleep with Demi Moore, and gets stuck in a sort of rut exploring what a great idea it is to pimp out your wife. The kind of great idea that some of us get while we are drunk (more about this later). Well, An Indecent Proposition is a better book than "Indecent Proposal" is a movie. Not that that particular movie sets the bar very high.

In an fit of what I can only call testosterone poisoning exacerbated by alcohol, 2 noblemen engage in the kind of trash-talking that only drunken stupid people can, and end up making one of those written, public bets as to which of them is actually better in bed. Upon sobriety, they more or less felt like letting the whole thing drop, but hey, they are guys, so they didn't. Enter the heroine, a beautiful widow whose late husband was not only horrible in bed, but also abusive. She is curious and attracted enough to the men to want to give love(making) a second chance and upon their agreement to complete discretion, offers to judge their bet. Sounds like the lead-in to an interesting erotic novel about a menage a trois, doesn't it? Kind of disappointing that it wasn't, but it is a romance and there are traditions like 1:1 pairings we need to uphold here as well as happy ever after So this is a story of two romances--the formerly-abused widow and the man she falls in love with in the first tryst of the book (the second gets canceled due to lack of interest), and the man who was supposed to have the second tryst and the young woman he loves but is about to marry another. And, you know what? This book was pretty, well, decent. The romances are charmingly executed, the writing is smooth, and there are no jarring anachronisms.

One thing I did find disappointing is that the villain was (IMO) insufficiently punished for being a villain. He should have been slain in a duel (I'm bloodthirsty when it comes to villains ) but he just gets roughed up a bit. One of the heroes calls this roughing-up "barbaric" which was probably the only anachronism in the book because a REAL Regency duke would have slain this villain in a duel, sent him to Australia, or at least sicced a Navy press gang on him--and not thought such an act barbaric at all.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What Wicked? What Sin?

Title: Wicked as Sin
Author: Jillian Hunter
Genre: Regency-era historical
Grade: D, but edible.
How Hot Is It? 3 chili peppers

What does this title mean? The hero--so not wicked. But maybe "wicked" is a code word for heroes who live hard and have some sexual experience. By THAT measure the hero is wicked. Or maybe the wicked is for the villain, who does sound like a piece of work; but the true villain of the piece dies before the story actually begins, which is disappointing, because I would have liked to see him slain in a duel. And sin? It must be a code word for another 3-letter word that begins with "s" (and ends in "x") because the book does have that. The main characters here and the development of their relationship is fine, but other parts of the story are kind of jarringly awful, like huge infodumps of emotionally charged information at the beginning, flashbacks that are hard to tell from the present-time scenes, a horrible sense of the Regency milieu (especially for aristocrats), plot threads that appear out of nowhere near the end of the book (it is a book in a series which may explain, if not excuse, some of this; but I've seen tie-ins done much more smoothly), and characters believing and acting on things that just don't make sense. Like at one point, the hero is given a Big Misunderstanding due to eavesdropping that the heroine may have been a prostitute at some time in the past, and because he loves her, talks himself into thinking he can forgive her if she needed to do it to survive. But she's the sister of a rich earl who has wanted for nothing in her life and he already knows this because he's known her since childhood. So, I can't actually recommend this one. Hunter gets a D and not an F because for some reason I liked the hero and heroine despite the clunky storytelling. I gather from other reviews that she has done better, but this book didn't leave me wanting more from the same author.

One of the questions I want to explore a little more is why a lot of these titles (and the content of far fewer) of these books attempt to describe the hero as "Wicked" or "Dangerous" when in fact someone really wicked or dangerous would be the villain of the piece, someone the heroine should and would run screaming away from. It seems to be some kind of code-word for a person who is not accepted by the really high sticklers of society because of a tendency to drink or gamble too much, get into brawls, or womanize. It's "wicked' in the sense that (to quote a commercial), "the concert was wicked hardcore" or "girl you are wicked awesome." Someone a little edgy, but not really a stalker/rapist/blackmailer/extortionist. You know, not really wicked wicked.

Welcome to Dukes of Earl

I'm starting this blog because I like to read romances. I read a lot of romances. I read a lot of other kinds of books as well, but it's really easy to read too many romances because it's a genre where a good (or even middling) book will go fast, riding you to the climax as it were.

Last year I started keeping track of the books I read. This year I started reviewing them. And this blog is to share these reviews with the world at large, or, at least, the portion of it on the Internet that finds out about this blog.

There is a particular kind of romance I like to read. Just like some romance readers enjoy reading about Greek tycoons or vampires or Navy SEALs, I like reading romances set in 18th and early 19th century England. This encompasses the Regency and Georgian sub-genres. And in these books, there are a lot of dukes. And earls. Viscounts, barons, baronets, and marquesses, as well. There are, I say (fabricating wildy), more titled men and women in Romanceland than there ever were in real life! I don't, actually, have a particular fetish for dukes--I'm happy to read about a baronet or even just a plain mister! But Dukes of Earl seemed like a good title for a blog about this genre.

Along the way I will be exploring romance tropes (how did I get to read 2 books in a row about redheaded amnesiacs kept by the men who found them for fondling purposes? or 2 books in a row about the long-lost heir to a dukedom?), book titles that have nothing to do with the content of the book, back-of-the-book blurbs that get it wrong, the good and bad points of each book consumed and the tragic demise of Signet Regencies, as well as other topics as they occur to me.

I'll be trickling out some reviews from earlier this year and then catching up with more recent reads. Because I get many of my romances from the library (I buy a fair amount too, but the library provides me with a trial run for many authors), a recent read may not be a recent release.

I hope you enjoy this blog and I welcome you to comment about the book (if you've read it) or anything else in the post.