A Willful Woman…

Thoughts and reviews from a romance addict.

So Sick of This in Romance

“Marriage comes before babies in my family,’ he enlightened. [Why yes, this is Michelle Reid -- why do you ask?]

Marriage–? “Oh for goodness’ sake.” It made her feel sick to her stomach to say it, but — “I’ll take one of those m-morning after pills that–“

“No, you will not,” he cut in.

She stood up. “That is not your decision.”

His silver eyes speared her. “So you are happy to see off a fragile life before it has been given the chance to exist?”

“God, not,” She even shuddered. “But I think it would be–“

“Well, don’t think,” he said coldly.

Yes, God forbid you should think, or get information, so you can make an informed decision about one of the most life-changing situations you could be in.

 

ETA: OMG, now there’s this:

She felt the muscles of her womb clench tightly as if it was acknowledging that it already belonged to him.

No. NO. Turns out I do have a line and THAT CROSSES IT.

 

 

 

8 Comments »

It’s the Little Things

I’m reading Half a Crown by Jo Walton, which is dystopian alternate reality rather than romance, but does feature a queer relationship. (At least one. I have some suspicions about a second.) In the chapter I just read, the main character Carmichael has taken his “manservant” to what we would now call a gay bar — the only place they can be reasonably safe in public. It’s really not Carmichael’s scene, but he puts up with it to make his lover happy. At the end of the evening, we discover that it’s their anniversary.

Such a sad chapter. The series is a chilling one, but nothing terrible happens here; for Carmichael it’s just boring. As a high ranking member of what’s basically the English Gestapo — working with an underground to rescue Jews when he can — his life is filled with excruciating compromises. Not being able to take his lover out for a nice dinner is probably one of the smallest. But it’s not unimportant.

Leave a comment »

My Extremely Firm Stand. (At This Moment. Subject to Change Without Notice)

blackout

 

I’m putting up the image to show solidarity with my fellow bloggers. But I’ve decided it would make no sense to stop writing for Heroes and Heartbreakers in an attempt to show that bloggers should be valued and respected, because they’ve always made me feel valued and respected as a blogger.

And it makes little sense to stop blogging/reviewing just for fun, because that’s how I express myself and connect with other readers.  So basically I’m going to do what I always do… review when I’ve made a commitment, and when it simply takes my fancy.

I will definitely be thinking long and hard about future reviewing commitments though, and what authors and publishers I want to support.  Which is messed up in itself, because I don’t want that to be part of what I’m doing. I want it to be about the book and my reaction to the book, not the author or the publisher. I don’t want to be a part of the financial equation.

Maybe reviewing only dead authors is the way to go.

 

7 Comments »

To Blog or Not to Blog

In response to a staggering amount of scary bullshit, many book bloggers are putting on a Blogger Blackout. (I figure anyone who reads this already has read all the commentary, so I’m not bothering to find more links.)

I’m not entirely sure if I’m participating or not. It would be the easiest thing in the world to do it here, since I mostly review old books anyway, but I’ve taken on responsibilities elsewhere.  And I would feel hypocritical claiming to be a part of the blackout while my work is appearing elsewhere.

And I’m still not sure how I feel about this whole thing. (Other than disgusted with Kathleen Hale and those who admire/support her.) My first feeling after the halestorm hit was shamefaced relief at having accepted more work that’s more promo than reviewing. But though pretty much every industry person I’ve ever worked with has been nothing but awesome, what Sonomalas wrote still struck a chord:

“I have some ARCs that I have read or planned to read of books being released in the next couple of months; I haven’t decided yet what to do about those. Mostly they are books by authors whom I admire and respect, as writers and as people, so I’ll be thinking about how to support them without feeling like I’m shilling for an industry that by and large does not respect me or what I do.”

I don’t want to be an asshole by comparing this protest to something like Ferguson, where people are putting their lives on the line for justice, but I do think that, in a small way, this is an example of the less powerful asking for what they need  — which are very simple, reasonable things really, mainly assurance from publishers that they will protect our privacy and don’t support stalking or doxxing of book reviewers — and having the powers-that-be are act as if they’re the ones under attack.  Deborah Smith, a writer who’s also very involved with Belle Bridge Books — an imprint I loved, sob  — went so far as to call us “the book reviewer Taliban.” (Which is offensive on just SO many levels.)

No decision here… just thinking aloud.

13 Comments »

The Probably Not-So-Big Harlequin Presents Read #186

 

 

 

 

Trigger warning: Extreme fat shaming.

 

9783374

Harlequin Presents #186: A Bitter Loving by Lilian Peake

Best line: “Karen looked at Charles, who, at that moment, was contemplating the rising mound of his stomach as if it were a tumulus of great archaeological importance.”

Notes of interest: Implied unmarried sex.

***

I’m going completely out of reading order here, but I just had to reread this one when I found it. It’s one of the three HPs that I remember vividly from my adolescence — even the blurb was instantly familiar to me when I saw it. The book probably stuck with me because I was intrigued by a heroine who was fat as a child. On the other hand, it’s also a hell of a blurb:

 

Karen went toward the painting of Glenn like someone sleepwalking. Then, in a spasm of violent, uncontrollable anger, she plunged the points of the scissors into the canvas and ripped it open.

When she saw the results of her action and her brain started to spell out just what she’d done, she was appalled.

“Well,” Glenn asked, “have you got me out of your system?”

Out of her system? “Dear heaven,” Karen thought, “I’ve got you so much into my system that you’re part of the very blood running through my veins.”

 

Since I started reading Harlequin Presents again and keeping records, I’ve tried 4 Lilian Peake books. One I rated one star, two were DNFs, and one I hated so much I gave it one star even though it was also a DNF. But even without the nostalgia factor, I might have continued this one. It’s very odd, and oddly compelling.

Although the term isn’t used, Karen was — or is — clearly anorexic. She’s undergone treatment but I don’t think she could be considered cured, because her relationship with food and weight is still very fucked up. The book is filled with ugly fat shaming, and yet in a way it almost didn’t bother me, because much of it is clearly part of the heroine’s messed up psyche, and she’s aware of that herself. She also points out Glenn’s weight prejudice to him:

“I suppose,” she persisted, “you think that because Jerome’s fat, his mind is therefore stodgy and dull, which is how you described mine. But,” she pressed on in spite of the sharp gesture of annoyance which Glenn made, “he’s passionately fond of music, which means that deep down he’s sensitive and maybe even artistic.” Glenn Earl was silent, so she went on, consciously inciting him. “Which you, as his art teacher, should have discovered. And encouraged.”

It’s miles far from an enlightened book as far as body acceptance goes, so be wary, but there is a little nuance.

Glenn was Karen’s high school art teacher. (And how weird is that for a Harlequin Presents hero profession? But he’s also a very successful artist, so it’s okay.) Karen’s memories of being a fat child in high school are unsurprisingly dismal, and many of them center around Glenn, who mocked her when she was his student.

That was hard for me to get past. Blackmailing rapist heroes sure… or at least maybe. A hero who is cruel to a 13 year old child? Especially a poor child who is already the subject of persecution? Especially when the basis is his own prejudice? Yeech.

I’ve had cruel teachers and 30 years later, would still happily kick them in the giblets. Karen loves and hates Glenn, and she focuses most of her remembered misery on him. It’s not exactly clear why she’s come back to live in her old home and work at her old school — she seems to think she’s seeking revenge, but all she wants is to avoid him. She’s definitely far too depressed and aimless to have a plan.

I had trouble with numerous aspects of this story. The portrayal of the Evil Other Woman is particularly virulent, and Karen’s so-called friends laughingly betray her at every turn. Karen makes herself into a doormat for someone, threatening her health and well being. (She could be the subject of an interesting fictional “why she stayed” discussion.) The approach to an attempted rape is simply infuriating. Glenn comes off as something of an idiot as well as an unreformed asshole — his ex-wife threatens to destroy all his work if he visits Karen, and he still continues to share studio space with her?  And this is where he draws his ethical line:

“By God,” he muttered, “I can’t do it. I have some standards after all. I can’t take another man’s woman…”

Finally, after all that, the resolution is abrupt and unsatisfying. But it’s an interesting book, if you can read it with some detachment.

3 Comments »

TBR Challenge: Shadow Touch by Marjorie M. Liu

The theme: Romantic suspense or paranormal romance.

Why this one: It’s both! I seem to have a knack for finding those. And the second in the series I started last month, so I’m moving along. Though still not entirely sure I want to be.

I thought Shadow Touch was better than Tiger Eye. Unfortunately, it’s quite a good book of the sort I kind of hate now. Serials killers, sadists, torture out the wazoo. The villains in the story are, appropriately enough, like a Russian nesting doll — every time you think you’ve met the worst bad guy, boooing, another, even more horrific one appears.

Our hero and heroine meet while they’re both being tortured by an Evil Organization. Both are psychic — Artur sees the history of people and objects when he touches them, Elena can psychically heal. Their minds come together to help each other. The romance itself is very sweet, as uncertain as a romance between two psychics can be — Artur in particular has little experience with love or sex, because of the problem of touching people — and I liked the mutuality of it. There’s some time spent on a series arc, which is intriguing, and the suspense is effective.

I just personally don’t have much tolerance for stories about serial killers and torture these days. Life is scary enough. So I’m not going to grade this, but if you’re a tough reader who likes a soft romance, go for it.

Leave a comment »

Alphabet Challenge Update

The very cool and hungry-making blog “Cooking Up Romance” has joined Miss Bates and me (I?) in the “Alphabet Challenge” with a review of Composing Love by Audra North.

My next read is planned to be Think of England by K.J. Charles. I read her story in Another Place in Time and just loved it.

1 Comment »

B is for Beguiled, G is for Gimme the Next Book!

Trigger warning for mentions of violence against women. (Not graphic.)

Book reviewed from an ARC supplied by the author. This review contains spoilers for Provoked.

****

Yeah, yeah, I know I said I was going to read a Bujold for B. I’ve come to the conclusion that, at least for now, I really just don’t want to. And the idea is to read books I want to read; I have enough reading homework. Also, October is Queer Romance Month, which is an excellent excuse.

Set in Edinburgh in 1822, Beguiled is the second in a literal trilogy — that is, you need to read all three installments to get the full book. It’s a historical love story between two men who couldn’t be less alike. A farmer’s son who’s risen in the world as a lawyer, David Lauriston is very uncomfortable with his homosexuality and tries to suppress it, yet is far too ethical to hide behind the sweet woman who loves him; the hedonistic Lord Murdo Balfour sees nothing wrong either with having male lovers or with marrying and continuing to have male lovers. (Although he has yet to take his own advice to David and get married himself.) They parted in anger at the end of the first book.

Beguiled opens with them reunited after two years and quickly discovering the main thing they have in common: neither could forget their first experience of sex that was more than merely slacking a need.

“I just–never knew it could be like that, between two men.”

“Neither did I.”

While David and Murdo are getting reacquainted, several threads from the previous book are progressing. David is very concerned about Elizabeth, his mentor’s daughter, who married in haste when David rejected her and is clearly being abused by her new husband. Hotheaded Euan MacLennan, now a radical journalist, is also very concerned, and determined to help Elizabeth escape — a challenging proposition in a time when wives were literally property, and Elizabeth is guarded like a prisoner. Of course the caring and noble David has to help, no matter how dangerous a task it might be.

But the story is more romance focused than the first book, less about David’s coming of age and more about him falling in love. Two years of separation have made a huge difference in his heart, where he’s been both tormented and comforted by his memories of Murdo and what he offered:

The possibility of tenderness and affection. The possibility of being known by another. Things he’d ruled out for himself. Things that were too painful to hope for.

David’s essential character doesn’t change, but he no longer feels damned for his desires. And Murdo too is becoming aware of David as more important than a pleasurable fling. Although David is more obviously the character being “enlightened,” there should be interesting growth coming for both of them in the third book.

The background of the story is King George’s visit to Scotland, the first visit of a British king in over two centuries. It was an opulent, ridiculous pageant organized by Sir Walter Scott, and the excitement of the Scottish people, often bordering on riotous, is palpable. The unfolding of the character driven love story against the rich, authentic-feeling historical setting — not to mention some very hot, emotional sexytimes — is just about everything I could ask for in historical romance.

Leave a comment »

Love by the Morning Star by Laura L. Sullivan

This comedy of manners read like the author was channeling Eva Ibbotson, and Shakespeare frequently popped by to give plotting advice.  The style is slightly more modern in tone than Ibbotson — not because this is set before World War II, rather than World War I, but because the mild-mannered hero doesn’t indulge in old skool jealous rages, as virtually all Ibbotson heroes do. Other than that, the characters bear a striking similarity to those of A Countess Below Stairs (reprinted as The Secret Countess) and Magic Flutes.

It’s often funny and charming, in a deliberately mannered and utterly ridiculous way, but the mistaken identities and tangled plots lead me to an expectation of romantic angst that wasn’t fulfilled. Consequently the ending fell flat and the romance seemed ultimately disappointing. I also thought the author came across as a little self-conscious about the many silly misunderstandings, by explaining them too much. But it’s definitely worth a read if you enjoy this sort of thing.

Leave a comment »

The Game and the Governess by Kate Noble

I loved Revealed so much, and every other Noble book I’ve tried has been a sad disappointment to me. Until now.

It’s not that I think this is a great book. I’d have to read it in print to feel like I could properly evaluate it, but it definitely had its fair share of historical cliches and commonplace writing. Still, what an interesting concept and characters!  The hero Ned is challenging in an unusual way, yet one extremely suited to a Regency-set historical: he’s privileged, and selfish, and has no idea of how much of his much vaunted “luck” is due to his circumstances. That’s the premise: his former friend, now turned highly resentful secretary, bets him that Ned won’t be able to attract a woman without his rank and wealth. To test it, they switch places on a visit to relative strangers. Ned, of course, gets a thorough comeuppance as he learns how invisible (and even offensive) he is without his trappings of wealth and rank.

The audiobook was also “challenging.” Accents are very well done, always a plus, but Ned’s voice is so high-pitched and foolish sounding that I was considerably bemused as it started to become clear he was the book’s hero! After a while though, I started to approve of it — it seemed like just the sort of voice a hearty, amiable, unenlightened lord would have, and the fact that it wasn’t  at all attractive made it kind of cooler when Phoebe (a governess who’s not supposed to be outwardly attractive herself) fell in love with him. So the audiobook narrative stopped me from finding the book sexy, but in some ways made it more interesting.

And the romance did work. In Revealed, there’s a phrase — “it’s just me” — that became integral to the blossoming relationship. Here the special phrase was “your Mr. Turner.” Phoebe is flabbergasted when the servants start referring to Ned as “your Mr. Turner” as if there’s something between them, yet it starts to seem more and more appropriate. Eventually she starts to hug the phrase to herself; “my Mr. Turner.” It’s very sweet and resonant.

4 Comments »

dabwaha

64 books. 1 Champion. Get your game on.

Stop the STGRB Bullies

Your hypocrisy is showing

Blue Moon

Audiobook reviews and book reviews. Occasional opining.

Miss Bates Reads Romance

Miss Bates is the loquacious spinster from Austen's Emma. No doubt she read romances ... here's what she would have thought of them.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 38 other followers