A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

TBR Challenge: Forget Me Not (Mnevermind 2) by Jordan Castillo Price

The theme: Something “different.”

Why this one: I broke my “print books only” rule this month, because my print tbr is 99% historical romance, and .99% contemporary or paranormal romance. I decided to go truly out of my comfort zone with science fiction. As it turned out, most of the science fiction in this trilogy (of the two books I’ve read) was in the first book; the second is almost all romance and character study. So not really all that different; don’t tell the Theme Police.

Forget Me Not is narrated by Elijah Crowe, the autistic man who started mysteriously appearing in Daniel’s mnems in book one. (Mnems, pronounced “neems,” are a bit like programmed dreams– a simplification, but it will do for the purposes of this review.) I was not in love with how Elijah’s autism was perceived by Daniel in The Persistence of Memory, so what a relief and joy it was to discover that he’s not only a beautifully drawn character, but his own narrative is not self-hating.

“‘I see the way you treat Big Dan,’ he said, as the elevator settled and the first floor light went off. ‘Like a regular person.’

Although his use of the word “regular” was problematically inexact, I had a sense of what he meant. Big Dan [Daniel’s father] wasn’t neurotypical, but neither was I. Being neurotypical was overrated, in my opinion — plenty of people like Tod and Ryan were about as ‘regular’ as you could get, and as far as I was concerned, it didn’t make them any more appealing.”

The story is mainly about Elijah’s navigating his newfound interest in another man, something which is difficult for him because the dating rules he’s learned so carefully may not apply. There are a lot of roadblocks in the way, including Daniel’s prejudices, a therapist who believes Elijah may be the victim of a predatory Daniel, a scarily homophobic bully at Elijah’s work, and Elijah’s sensory issues. Not all of these are fully resolved, though I suppose they may be in the third book. (From the reviews, it doesn’t look like they are. I would love to see him find a new therapist who really supports him, doesn’t infantilize him, and for God’s sake, helps him find a non obtrusive stim instead of having him fight it all the time.)

I appreciated that Elijah has neither cute quirky romance novel autism nor cliched lit fic aloof autism. He’s genuinely disabled, but not helpless, and he’s a fully realized, sympathetic, and lovable person. His anxieties strongly resonated with me, and I was saddened by how much he feels the need to change himself for others, even answering the classic “top or bottom” question by deciding,

“I would force myself to be whatever would go best with him. After all, he’d had several years in which to develop his preferences. I was new at being gay. I would adapt.”

Thankfully, Daniel is patient and not at all pushy.

As with the first book, the ending kind of fades away, so it’s really not a complete story. But it’s completely worth reading anyway.

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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.

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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.

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Recent Listening: Marie Lu

I’m currently listening to Prodigy, the sequel to Legend. Not liking it as much as the first book — I hate the fact that the ubiquitous love triangle in YA has made me react negatively to teen characters having perfectly normal and developmentally appropriate physical feelings towards more than one person!

But anyway, in the first book I most loved the fact that the heroine, June, is supposed to be brilliant and really is brilliant. In the second book, I’m noticing that this dystopian future — brought about by a natural disaster — seems to have largely discarded sexism and homophobia. I say largely because I wasn’t really looking out for it in the first book and I may have missed stuff, but women are in positions of power in the military and government (which are pretty much the same thing, here.) And June becomes aware that her beloved brother was in love with his male best friend and only thinks about it as problematic because they were both in the same unit.

Races seem largely mixed in this future. (The fact that the hero’s ethnicity is primarily Mongolian is noted as unusual.) Poverty and classism, alas, are alive and well, but that’s a big part of what makes it a dystopia.

I think it’s very cool that someone is writing a dystopia without automatically undoing all social progress that’s been made, and even showing that more may be made in the future.

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