The Marsh King’s Daughter by Elizabeth Chadwick
St Martin’s Press, 1st US edition, 2000
Genre: historical fiction, romance
Synopsis & Review: Miriel Weaver is driven from her home by an unpleasant stepfather and her complaisant mother. Rather than deal with the headstrong girl, she is sent to the convent of St Catherine’s as an oblate, and there she will stay until she takes vows. Miserable and chafing under the convent’s strict rules, Miriel plots escape. Meanwhile, young Nicholas de Caen is a rebel prisoner attached to King John’s baggage train as it makes its way to Lincoln. After a delay in crossing the causeway across the marshes, the baggage train is swept away by the incoming tide. Nicholas manages to save both a chest of riches and himself from drowning, but is quickly lost in the marshlands. It is there that Miriel stumbles across him, and he is removed to St Catherine’s to recover under Miriel’s care.
When Nicholas leaves, Miriel goes with him, determined to escape convent life. Following him through the marshlands, she discovers his secret hoard and demands a share for her help in saving his life. The two strike an agreement and travel together—until Miriel absconds with some of the monies and a priceless treasure.
The monies she uses to establish herself as a young widow, and Miriel soon has a thriving business in the cloth trade. She soon finds herself married to an old gentleman for protection, and upon his death marries another—though this one is only twenty years her senior. Largely unhappy in her marriages, and certainly emotionally unfulfilled, Miriel makes do until Nicholas de Caen, now a wealthy boat master, re-enters her life. It is only a matter of time before Miriel and Nicholas must confront their shared pasts–and the realization that they are bound together. Only Miriel’s husband Robert Willoughbuy stands in their way, and they will soon discover that he brooks no interference in his life, and will do anything to have his own way, even murder.
I’m really quite astonished that I never before happened upon one of Elizabeth Chadwick’s books. Looking over her titles, I don’t see any that ring a bell, but it’s such a surprise that someone who has been reading historical fiction and romance as long as I have wouldn’t have ever encountered her. I’ve seen her and her books referenced numerous times on various blogs, and after reading Sharon Kay Penman’s high opinion of Chadwick, decided it was time to check her out for myself. Read the rest of this entry »
Once is Not Enough by Jacqueline Susann
Morrow, 1st edition, 1973
Genre: romance, chick lit, trashy novel
Synopsis & Review: Mike Wayne was a gambler, and he was lucky. When he left the Army after WWII, he had money in his pockets from card games and craps, and he had his eyes on the two biggest crapshoots of them all: the stock market and show business. The preponderance of beautiful women in the latter decided him, and he began trying his luck. Mike made it to the top, directing and producing on Broadway and in Hollywood, with hit after hit to his credit, a beautiful wife, awards and acclaim, and a corner suite at the Plaza. When his wife produced a daughter, called January for the month she was born, Mike fell in love for the first time, and vowed that even if his luck ran out, he’d give her the world. After his wife’s suicide, he sent January to an exclusive girls’ boarding school in the Northeast, but always made sure to spend special days and her birthday with her. On her weekend trips to New York City, they’d go out, father and daughter, seeing all the glitter and glamour of Broadway, and sharing Dom Perignon and caviar. Upon her graduation, January joined Mike in Italy on the set of his latest film, and it was in Italy that Mike’s luck ran out.
After three years of intensive surgery and rehabilitation in Switzerland’s exclusive Clinique, January Wayne was ready to be reunited with her beloved father, showbiz mogul Mike Wayne. For the past three years, the only thing keeping her spirits from sinking into a morass of pain and depression had been her love for Mike Wayne, her Superman, her everything. She’d been consumed by her desire to reunite with him, thought constantly about how it would be when they could be together again, out in the great, wide world. And she was utterly unprepared for what it’s like out there. Mike wa married now, to the sixth richest woman in the world, Dee Milford Granger. After a series of flops and misses following January’s accident, Mike swallowed his pride and became Dee’s consort at hourse parties and backgammon tournaments, all so that he’d have something to offer January when she came out of the Clinique. Suddenly, not only has the world changed around her, but the great playboy, the man’s man she’d looked up to her whole life is neutered. And so January begins trying to find out just who she was, bewildered and beguiled by popular culture circa 1971.
January’s old friend Linda Riggs from Miss Haddon’s is now editor for Gloss, a fashion and women’s magazine, and Linda begins shepherding January through the changes in the world. Mike and Dee both encourage January to date Dee’s nephew David, and up and coming broker, so he takes her on dates to Maxwell’s Plum and Le Club. Meanwhile, David is seeing Karla, a stunning actress in retirement, but Dee is desperate to keep David from Karla, as she is also Karla’s lover. So she dangles January before David, inheritance strings attached. Meanwhile, January is falling for Tom Colt, another man’s man, but a writer, and one even older than her father to boot. Everyone’s desperately scrabbling for happiness, and if all these rich, talented, beautiful people can’t find it, then what chance does poor, sheltered January stand?
Before VC Andrews but after Forever Amber and Peyton Place, there was Valley of the Dolls and Jackie Susann. I was fortunate to stumble upon the then-out of print Once is Not Enough (along with Dolores–also in hardcover–and a paperback copy of The Love Machine) at a St Vincent dePaul bookstore. Read the rest of this entry »
After all the work I did to get caught up on my reviews from last week, I slacked off like crazy this week. I posted no book reports at all until tonight, when I just had to get Hunger of the Beast out there! I’m just awful.
The problem is, I got stuck writing up Once is Not Enough by Jackie Susann, the first book I finished this week. There’s a lot I want to say about the book and her, and it’s hard; i want to do them both justice, so I wimp out on my entries. That’s when I have to shake myself and shout, “Schatzi! It’s not a term paper! Twelve hundred words is too many! You’re not being graded!” I’ve got issues.
My ambition is to have both Once is Not Enough and Elizabeth Chadwick’s The Marsh King’s Daughter done tomorrow; I read the latter Saturday when I was home sick, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
I also have some fresh books from the library, plus The Unbearable Lightness of Being, to take care of, but I also picked up The Historian last night, and plowed through the first hundred pages in nothing flat. I think I found something for my RIP IV challenge! I am seriously enjoying this book.
Speaking of which, I need to go check out the Multnomah County Library site; I think those swine are deleting some of my requests! I put a hold on my ghost story books before I ever requested The Historian, and they’re still nowhere in site. Bugger all. Well, I better go check that out. The weather has been awfully autumnal, and I need to curl up with some spooky books.
Hunger of the Beast by John Driver
Jove, 1st edition, 1991
Genre: horror, total crap, trashy novel
Back cover copy:
It was the perfect hideaway for Dianna’s country weekend.
A place she could be alone.
So private … so secluded …
No one would ever find her there.
Except for Esau.
He lives in the cellar.
And Esau is developing an appetite.
For something soft … something warm …
Now the Wilkinsons have a present for him.
Pleasant dreams, Dianna.
Synopsis & Review: Dianna LaBianca is a theatre producer in New York City. Dissatisfied by her career and a break up with her married lover, she decides to get away from it all by staying in a remote New England inn for a few weeks. After nearly crashing her car on the way, the place where she had reservations is a smoldering ruin when she arrives. She finally finds accommodation at the unprepossessing Wilkinson Inn: four rooms, extensive grounds, stables, and a very unpleasant staff. And then there’s Esau.
Dianna’s stay begins pleasantly; though there is one other guest, he’s affable and attractive, and he and Dianna soon hit it off, quickly becoming lovers. Dianna begins riding again, something she gave up in her youth after a traumatic jump gone awry. And she spends time being alone, exercising her understanding of Zen. Then one morning she wakes up to see a startling confrontation between the inn’s dog Launcelot and a monstrosity.
The monstrosity is Esau, scion of the Wilkinson family. Born hunchbacked, deformed, and colossally retarded, his birth killed his mother, and at age nine he beat his father to death with a baseball bat. But Esau just wants to be booteful, and to love bootefuls and be loved by them. And now Dianna is his chosen booteful.
I found this squalid tome at Kapiolani Hospital when I was waiting for my mother to get off from work sometime during my seventh grade year. (Hospitals are great repositories of shitty books; people waiting there are captives to racks of the worst mass market paperbacks. When my mother was dying, I read a lot of Smithsonians and a singularly awful book called Neanderthal.) Years later all I could really recall were the nipples (oh god, the nipples!), the killer retard, and the climax wherein SPOILER ALERT Read the rest of this entry »