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The Heart Has its Wednesdays

What I've Finished Reading

Sargasso of Space was not bad! As previously noted, it has zero female characters. But the characters are so flat that you could just as easily pretend they were all women and it wouldn't make a bit of difference. I didn't mind that. The plucky Free Traders bid for trading rights to a newly discovered planet; when they get there they discover a lot of crashed ships, and a group of unscrupulous human looters who are using ancient "Forerunner" technology to lure in ships and crash them so that they can steal stuff. Nothing spectacular, but lots of cool by-the-way descriptions of eerily inhuman ancient space architecture and weird extraterrestrial life forms.

True Pretenses was all right in the end and so was The Heiress Effect (by Courtney Milan), but I think I'm going to have to conclude that I'm just not the audience for this kind of romance novel, whatever the subgenre is called that has shirtless but not headless covers. I think it really is a "not for me" issue and not the fault of the authors. But it's been fun to investigate just the same, and now I can stop feeling guilty for not giving them a chance.

True Pretenses is a marriage-of-convenience story with some tragic social-history backstory lurking awkwardly around the edges. The Heiress Effect has a smart, rich "natural daughter" deliberately alienating everyone in the world in order to put off marriage long enough for her half-sister to be of age, in order to protect her from their overbearing guardian and his crank epilepsy treatments. It displays Courtney Milan's penchant for mild preachiness and overlong one-sided apologies, and also for snappy dialogue.

I enjoyed about 90% of each book's plot, before the last-minute misunderstandings came rushing in (Hold Me had them too). I have pedantic things to say about POV and writing style and its deleterious effect on the sex scenes, but it would be beside the point for me to talk about sex scenes: the core of the problem here is that I am that guy from SNL's "Tales of Ribaldry:" give me innuendos by the bucketload, but for God's sake shut the door.

One complaint that has nothing to do with the writing: the heroine of The Heiress Effect is described as large, thick and curvy, and the main guy is attracted to her because of it. That's nice to see! Unfortunately, the cover designer has completely ignored this detail.

All three of these books (Hold Me, The Heiress Effect, and True Pretenses) are apparently part of ongoing series in which a lot of interconnected characters each get their own romance plot. I've been trying to figure out why I'm taken aback by this marketing trend, and I think it's just plain cynicism: I'm perfectly happy to believe in one happy couple, for the duration of one book, but five in the same social circle? come on.

What I'm Reading Now

Cotillion by Georgette Heyer. Thanks to the encouragement of lost_spook and wordsofastory, I am giving Heyer another try!

Like The Grand Sophy, this one begins with an Exposition Dinner and picks up immediately once the main character appears. Here, it's a surly old miser's adopted daughter, whom he has decided should marry one of his nephews, an assortment of upper-class twits. He has resolved to settle his money on her if she marries one of them, and to give it all to charity and leave her penniless if she doesn't. This is about equally awkward for Kitty, who just wants to get hold of the money, buy a decent dress or two, and throw herself a couple of dozen parties, and for the nephews. Kitty has a brilliant plan to get out of the house and meet some real suitors: she'll get her cousin Freddy to pretend to be engaged to her so that the miser will stop harping on it, then use her freedom as a newly-engaged woman to visit Freddy's family in London and go to as many parties as she can stand!

The real star of this book, at least for now, is Freddy, who is not the brightest tool in the shed but who is willing to lend his help to Kitty for her sake, even if he doesn't completely understand the plan. Freddy loves waistcoats, sentence fragments, and incomprehensible argot:

"Devilish!" agreed Freddy. "Know what he said to me the last time he took a bolt to the village? Why, just because he saw me coming away from the Great-Go, he started to moralize about the evils of gaming! Seemed to think I was a regular leg, which, as I told him, is a dashed silly thing to think, because for one thing it ain't at all the thing, and for another you have to be a curst clever fellow to be a leg!"

WHAT IS A LEG? I don't know, but I can tell you FOR SURE that Freddy is not one. Freddy wouldn't dream of doing anything that is not the thing, and he certainly doesn't try to do things you have to be a curst clever fellow to do. All of that takes valuable time away not only from waistcoats, but also from boots and from handkerchiefs of different colors and cufflinks and doing your hair up in a big pomade peak and who knows what else. I like Freddy. He is a man who knows what his priorities are and sticks to them.

I have to say, I ship them already, and will be extremely disappointed if Heyer tries to wrangle Kitty into the arms of some smug curled-lip wrist-grabber who is too manly to care about fashion. Everyone knows that manliness is just a hoax created by dandies to relieve pressure on the waistcoat market.

What I Plan to Read Next

A Fox Under My Cloak finally arrived, so maybe that. Maybe something Australian.


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 15th, 2017 04:03 pm (UTC)
Everyone knows that manliness is just a hoax created by dandies to relieve pressure on the waistcoat market. I would totally have this on a T-shirt:) The most amusing thing about Heyer for me is that a lot of her books are read by Hordriss the Confuser (Clifford Norgate) from 'Knightmare', an old fantasy quest show for kids.
Mar. 15th, 2017 09:03 pm (UTC)
A hoax that succeeded all too well, alas.

I have never seen 'Knightmare,' but "Hordriss the Confuser" is a great fantasy quest character name. Did he use his powers of confusion for good or for evil?
Mar. 16th, 2017 03:58 pm (UTC)
Frederica is his fave
At first he was a neutral character, neither allied to Good or Bad. However, if you gave him the wrong answer he could blast you off a walkway or withhold important information. 'Knightmare' was very unforgiving few teams made it to the end. Then he became a good guy complete with dippy daughter, Sidress. He lost power as the series continued and Lord Fear kept trapping him in a wet paper bag every other quest, bah.

Mar. 15th, 2017 05:36 pm (UTC)
WHAT IS A LEG? I don't know, but I can tell you FOR SURE that Freddy is not one.

I think it's a card-sharper or similar? I'm glad you're enjoying the start! Heyer has some lovely set-pieces and "Kitty's awful cousins all propose to her one after the other" has to be pretty much up there. (Although the best proposal is Horry proposing to Rule in The Convenient Marriage, but I'm not sure the rest of the book lives up to it after, fun as it is (Horry = ♥) whereas (for me anyway) that's certainly not the case with Cotillion.)

The trouble with romance novels is where can you find something that's that fluffy/light only isn't a romance novel? Because clearly I need something along those lines and so I keep reading romance novels and unfairly grumbling at the authors for writing other people's sexual fantasies.
Mar. 15th, 2017 07:42 pm (UTC)
This one reason I try a lot of middle grade fantasy/SF books. It's far from a sure thing, but the odds are better.
Mar. 15th, 2017 08:37 pm (UTC)
Is that also the case in middle grade (or equivalent) SFF books from 1955? I'd expect the 50s juveniles to have roughly the same problem as Norton, though maybe that's just me having an overly flattened picture of the 50s SF landscape. Actually, I'm not clear on who the intended audience was for this one - it's not complexly written and it's certainly sexless, though there are no characters younger than about 20.


Ignore the above; I just realized you were replying to lost_spook and so odds probably meant "odds of reading something fluffy and fun" rather than "odds of having more than zero female characters".

Edited at 2017-03-15 08:38 pm (UTC)
Mar. 15th, 2017 11:34 pm (UTC)
Ah. Makes sense.

Later Norton books do include female characters, first as side characters and later as main characters. I'm not sure what was published when, so I can't say exactly when the transitions happened. Ice Crown, Dread Companion, and The Wraiths of Time all feature female protagonists. Moon of Three Rings, Key Out of Time, and Defiant Agents have important supporting female characters but are male POV (and the female character in Moon of Three Rings is an alien).
Mar. 15th, 2017 08:59 pm (UTC)
From context, I figured it was either card-sharping or a dude who makes his money at the races (either through systematic betting or by tricking other people into using his fool-proof betting system). Neither one a good choice for Freddy, who needs to be secure in his income so he can be secure in his clothes.

This book has definitely satisfied my love of terrible proposals in an admirably short time.

where can you find something that's that fluffy/light only isn't a romance novel?

This is the craving that for me gets filled by murder mysteries more often than not, but that only goes so far, murder being what it is. I'd love to have more things that were just the book equivalent of a 30s rom-com, or The Thin Man, but the contemporary historical romance is probably not going to be that.

I could probably read quite a few books about Freddy's Non-violent Haberdashery Adventures, though. <3

Edited at 2017-03-15 09:00 pm (UTC)
Mar. 16th, 2017 10:08 am (UTC)
I'd love to have more things that were just the book equivalent of a 30s rom-com, or The Thin Man, but the contemporary historical romance is probably not going to be that.

Yes, it does seem to be pretty much Heyer alone, for me, but it feels as if there ought to be more book-form screwball comedies about, and preferably not all mid-20th C writers with mid-20th C hang-ups! Hmm... I suppose, it's hard even to find good film ones - everyone wants to be serious!
Mar. 15th, 2017 06:46 pm (UTC)
I have heard wonderful things about Freddy from many sources! Someday I ought to read Cotillion.
Mar. 15th, 2017 08:32 pm (UTC)
Freddy is the best ever. 1000% the thing.
Mar. 15th, 2017 11:34 pm (UTC)
Freddy sounds like a hoot!
Mar. 16th, 2017 02:13 am (UTC)
Freddy is a thing of beauty and a joy for at least ten minutes, possibly forever.
Mar. 16th, 2017 02:52 am (UTC)
I read Cotillion a few years ago after hearing it described as the book equivalent of a basket of kittens. And it is! I remember particularly enjoying Freddy's reaction to the Elgin Marbles (or some other antiquity).

Per my old slang dictionary, a black-leg was a rascal, swindler or card cheat, so called because sporting and turf men wore black top-boots. I'm guessing Freddy's taken that bit of slang and made it even slangier. :-)
Mar. 16th, 2017 03:14 am (UTC)
Makes sense! Freddy never passes up the opportunity to drop a word or cut a slang term in half; this leaves room for more total words per sentence. It's economical!

I remember particularly enjoying Freddy's reaction to the Elgin Marbles (or some other antiquity).

Not just the Elgin Marbles, but every attempt to swindle the public by putting a big lot of rubbishy things in a room that are two hundred years old if they're a day and some of them might not even have the arms on, and charging actual money for unsuspecting tourists to go look at them and be CHEATED. LONDON IS FULL OF SWINDLERS.
Mar. 16th, 2017 10:23 am (UTC)
freddy is my most favorite romance hero ever, and once upon a time he had singlehandedly re-opened the entire romance genre for me. he's just SO AWESOME and, most importantly, SO KIND.
Mar. 16th, 2017 04:04 pm (UTC)
Aww, I'm glad to hear it! <3 Freddy is a good egg.
Mar. 16th, 2017 11:10 am (UTC)
Either I abandoned or just skimmed True Pretenses - I read one Rose Lerner that I liked, but didn't care much for the others of hers that I tried. Since I don't even remember what my complaint about was True Pretenses, so it probably just was that I didn't... care.

I love Cotillion! So much fun.
Mar. 16th, 2017 04:33 pm (UTC)
I think the main complaint I'd make about True Pretenses other than "just not my thing" is that it wants to be a sexy romp through the Regency marriage-of-convenience holodeck program AND ALSO a serious tale of the author's research into 19th century social inequalities and parliamentary politics. It's possible to do both these things well at the same time, but it's difficult. For me the two parts tended to clash with one another instead of working together.

It also does exactly the same "random swearing in the internal monologue = Masculine Verisimilitude" thing as Hold Me only it's The Past so the guy is constantly saying "Dreck" instead of "Fuck me." That's just my pet peeve, though; I'm not sure if I can call it an actual flaw.

I'm enjoying Cotillion a lot so far!
Mar. 16th, 2017 08:53 pm (UTC)
Aw, I'm sorry romance novels are not your thing! I see your description of "Regency Holodeck", and that is so perfect – they are a weird mix of fantasy, modern feelings/behavior, and historical trappings. It's a mix that appeals deeply to me, but I can't really defend it; it is indeed a deeply weird combination.

Freddy is the best! :D I'm glad you're enjoying him.
Mar. 16th, 2017 11:12 pm (UTC)
It's all right! I think romance novels, at least the ones I've tried, are so close to being something I want to read in one way and so decidedly unappealing in others that the experience of being disappointed by one is entertaining in its own right.

I can't defend most of what appeals deeply to me, so I'm in no position to judge the holodeck. I don't even mind the holodeck in theory, I think - I'm just way too picky about the execution.

Freddy is a ray of well-dressed sunshine. <3
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )


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