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Tag: historical romance

READING THE TBR, DAY 284: The Sherbrooke Bride (1992) by Catherine Coulter

I stopped reading this one as soon as the hateful Earl of Northcliffe called sex with his teenage virgin bride a “ploughing” not very many chapters in. I should have stopped earlier, when the horrible men of his horrible family start detailing their tribe of illegitimate children, not all of whom were birthed by entirely willing maidens.

Call me a prude, but I prefer my historical romance heroes to be at least remotely honourable specimens of manhood. Honestly, I prefer all of my romance heroes to be honourable, regardless of time period. 

In fact, I just like that in people.

It’s a shame, because one of my favourite romance novels ever — which I first read at sixteen, and still read semi-annually — was written by Catherine Coulter. But I don’t think I will ever again be able to look at that book on my shelf without remembering this trauma.

“Ploughing.” I just will never get over it.

Asshole.

SCORECARD

TBR DAY 284: The Sherbrooke Bride (Brides #1) by Catherine Coulter
GENRE: Romance, Historical Romance
PUBLISHED: 1992
TIME ON THE TBR: ~15 years.  
PURCHASED FROM: Op shop.
KEEP: No!

READING THE TBR, DAY 232: A Lady of Quality (1896) by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The last thing I expected was for this book to be set in the 1600s, and to basically be a full-on melodrama. Having read Burnett’s kid-centric books multiple times and her contemporary 1901 romance Emily Fox-Seton earlier this year, I guess I figured that A Lady of Quality — especially given the cover of this 2014 edition that I picked up in the 50c basket a couple of years back — would at least take place in relatively modern times, and not be quite so histrionic.

But this story of two very different daughters born to an improvident, uncaring feudal lord, treated shabbily until the youngest of them turns out to be a tomboy beauty, and the assorted beaux who enter their lives — not to mention, MURDER! — surprised me completely, and not in a good way.

To best encapsulate my feelings about this book, let me tell you that I’m not a hundred percent sure it isn’t a parody—and a failed parody, at that.

I… did not care for it.

SCORECARD

TBR DAY 232: A Lady of Quality by Frances Hodgson Burnett
GENRE: Historical Romance, Historical Fiction
PUBLISHED: 1896
TIME ON THE TBR: 2 years.  
PURCHASED FROM: Op shop.
KEEP: If I do it will only be because the cover is unintentionally hilarious.

READING THE TBR, DAY 225: Another Chance to Dream (1998) by Lynn Kurland

Long before I heard of Lynn Kurland as a writer of Romantic Fantasy — of which I have read two volumes this year, and both of which I really enjoyed — she had been on my radar as a writer of Historical Romance, a particular favourite genre of mine. But I never tackled them because her chosen period is often Medieval, and, well… that is not a favourite of mine.

This book did not change my mind.

The frustrating starcrossed lovers story of Rhys and Gwen, who are kept apart by their stations and her arranged marriage, this book is just so long, so boring, and so ultimately unsatisfying. Had it been half the length, and with a quarter of the insurmountable impediments to True Love, I would doubtless be less bitter. But as it stands, I feel like I spent HOURS being tortured for no good reason, even the constant angst (which I usually live for) not being enough to make up for all the too, too many words.

I have another book in this generation-spanning series on my TBR, and I’m a bit interested in it, because its hero is a ghost. If it weren’t for that, it would get discarded alongside this one, and as quickly as I could manage it. Because I never want to see this book ever again.  

SCORECARD

TBR DAY 225: Another Chance to Dream (de Piaget #1; de Piaget/MacLeod #5) by Lynn Kurland
GENRE: Historical Romance
PUBLISHED: 1998
TIME ON THE TBR: 2 years.  
PURCHASED FROM: Op shop.
KEEP: Nope.

READING THE TBR, DAY 206: Maulever Hall (1963) by Jane Aitken Hodge

About a quarter of the way into this book, I knew exactly where it was going. Our heroine has amnesia, and there is much mystery as to where she came from, who she is, why she was running away and who is the little boy she had with her, but who does not seem to be hers? When I tell you that she does not regain her memory until the novel’s overblown conclusion, hundreds of pages later, and that in the meantime she is proposed to multiple times by no less than three men, becomes engaged (halfway through the book!), is told that she is already married, survives multiple attempts on her life, and relies on the kindness of so many strangers she should be dead many times over even without the assassin on her trail, you will scarce credit it, nor should you.

The ending is even more nutty, in which our dismayingly foolish heroine a) believes a proven liar again, b) puts herself in harm’s way again and c) gives her psychopathic would-be murderer exactly what he always wanted, simply because he only decided to murder her and a child for the sake of love.  

This book is ridiculous.

Of course, Gothic fiction is ridiculous; it’s supposed to be outlandish and near-farcical. It’s also supposed to be creepy, though this one misses that mark almost entirely. I haven’t read a lot of Gothics — most of my experience is drawn from Northanger Abbey and Georgette Heyer’s The Reluctant Widow, both of which are gentle but merciless parodies of the genre — but I have read enough to know that this attempt is… less than stellar. 

Speaking of Heyer, I originally bought this book because Jane Aiken Hodge was her first biographer, and while that effort was not nearly as successful as Jennifer Kloester’s more recent chronicle of that elusive genius, I nevertheless was very curious about the quality of Hodge’s own historical fiction, and kind of ashamed of myself that I hadn’t even known such existed, let alone had read it.

If this is any indication of her general standard, though, I really haven’t been missing much.  

SCORECARD

TBR DAY 206: Maulever Hall by Joan Aiken Hodge
GENRE: Gothic Romance
PUBLISHED: 1963
TIME ON THE TBR: 3 years.  
PURCHASED FROM: Op shop.
KEEP: Maybe, but only for Heyerian reasons.

READING THE TBR, DAY 35: The Duchess (1991) by Jude Devereaux

I have never read any Jude Deveraux before, which is a weird thing for an avowed lover of romance novels to admit — and I am the Editor in Chief of Romantic Intentions Quarterly, after all — but there it is. I guess it’s just that I was always vaguely aware that her take on historical fiction was more along the Kathleen Woodiwiss lines than, say, Georgette Heyer, and so I have avoided what I have always believed to be her bodice-ripper-y, forced seduction-y tales entirely.

But when I saw The Duchess on a sale table for 50c at a school fete, I felt like I shouldn’t pass it by. Deveraux does have a place in the firmament of historical romance authors, after all, and surely she deserved a chance?

I wish I had stuck to my guns, now.

At first? Oh, at first I was so into this book! Claire, a bookish American heiress, gets engaged to an oblivious Duke who quite likes her, and travels to his decrepit Scottish castle to meet the family and prepare for the wedding. There, she meets the enigmatic Trevelyan, whom she at first mistakes for an elderly invalid, but it turns out he is actually a) the intrepid explorer and writer of travel tales she has long adored and b) the rightful Duke, whose death had been greatly exaggerated, leading to his brother’s inheritance in the first place.

The second part, actually, Claire doesn’t discover for a long time. But she does find out the part about Trevelyan being her beloved Captain. She also discovers he’s been lampooning her in all kinds of nasty, mean-spirited cartoons, even as she’s been caring for him during an onset of his malaria symptoms.

Then she has all kinds of sex with him, when he sneaks into her room — for, by the way, the second time! — and takes total advantage of her half-asleep, tear-stained state, after she’s had a fight with her fiance about trophy hunting. But let’s not forget, she’s still engaged to his brother.

So, in the 1880s, a time when a woman’s virtue is important and when, again, she is ENGAGED TO HIS BROTHER, this jerk of a guy, whom she hasn’t seen in two weeks since she discovered he’s been writing down their conversations and LAMPOONING HER IN CARTOONS while pretending to be her friend, decides to break into her room and get all happy naked with her, because he wants to. And he doesn’t even want to marry her himself and be, like faithful or anything, though.

I FUCKING HATE TREVELYAN.

For most of the book, I quite loved Claire. She knew her own mind, and that mind was open. Then, not only did she basically let Trevelyan slide for all of his assholery, she then did this total about face when it came to morality and decent Christian values, and she became pretty hateful, too.

I don’t understand how so many people love this book. I checked Goodreads, where I also learned that it is the second book in a series, with the first one set in Medieval times, and I don’t even care that I read them out of order — it has a super-high rating and dozens of 5-star reviews. How is this so? WHY?

I have no idea. All I do know is that Jude Deveraux is one hundred percent OFF my reading list forever, from now on.  

And Trevelyan is a dick.

SCORECARD

TBR DAY 35: The Duchess by Jude Deveraux
GENRE: Historical Romance
PUBLISHED: 1991
TIME ON THE TBR: ~ 5 years.  
PURCHASED FROM: School fete.
KEEP: NO!