The Runaway Princess by Christina Dodd
Avon, 1st printing, 1999
Genre: Historical romance, Regency romance, nonsense
Jacket Copy: Masquerade
English orphan Miss Evangeline Scoffield has spent her life contenting herself with dreams. But with an unforseen inheritance, she can afford one perfect summer–a summer she will spend the rest of her life remembering. She buys herself expensive clothes, travels abroad, and presents herself as a lady of mystery.
But she quickly discovers her mistake, for a darkly handsome man appears at her bedroom door, claiming to be a Crown Prince–and her fiance.
Or the Ever After of Her Dreams?
One look into her eyes, and the prince recognizes her. She is his betrothed, the runaway Princess of Serephinia. All her denials cannot change that, or alter the passion that burgeons between them. To fullfil their destinies, the prince will do anything–abduct her, coerce her, or, best of all seduce his reluctant bride into his royal world of peril, promise and passion.
Book Report: Some of the earliest adult books I read were trashy romance novels. For some reason, I found them endlessly fascinating in elementary school, perhaps in part due to the displeasure expressed by adults who caught me reading them. Forbidden fruit, and all that sort of thing. When my sister Malia would take me to work with her at Jelly’s, I’d hang out at the book counter helping out Shirley the Book Lady–and reading trashy romances (Captive Bride was one of those I read at Jelly’s!). I eventually lost interest in them, until just after high school, when I had a sort of nervous breakdown. Not that being mental was a requirement for reading romance novels, those were just my circumstances. My eldest sister Heather introduced me to Jude Deveraux, who she read voraciously, as well as Catherine Coulter, Amanda Quick, Judith McNaught, and others, and I found them pretty entertaining. But again, I pretty much lost interest again after a year or so, and went on to other things. But hey, every once in a while, I’ll feel like reading one; the trick, though, is to find one that I’ll enjoy. But the same goes for any book, really. Why does any of that matter? Because I want you to understand when I call a romance novel total crap, it’s not because I dislike romance novels in general, or think that they’re total crap, or that I think their readers are total idiots, but that that particular romance novel is in fact, total crap. And that’s pretty much how I feel about The Runaway Princess. Read the rest of this entry »
The Valley of Horses by Jean M. Auel
Bantam, 17th printing, 1985
Genre: Alternate history, pre-historical fiction, fantasy
Jacket copy: HERE IS AN UNFORGETTABLE ODYSSEY INTO A WORLD OF AWESOME MYSTERIES, into a distant past made vividly real, a novel that carries us back to the exotic, primeval world we experienced in The Clan of the Cave Bear–and to the beautiful Ayla, the bold woman who captivates us with her fierce courage and questing heart. Cruelly cast out by the ancient Clan that adopted her as a child, Ayla now travels alone in a land og=f glacial cold and terrifying beasts. She is searching for the Others, a race as tall, blond, and blue-eyed as she. But Ayla finds only a hidden valley, where a herd of hardy steppe horses roams. Here, she is granted a unique kinship with animals enabling her to learn the secrets of fire and raw survival–but still, her need for human companionship and love remain unfulfilled. Then fate brings her a stranger, handsome Jondalar, and Ayla is torn between fear and hope–and carried to an awakening of desire that would shape the future of mankind.
Book report: Are you fucking serious? No, for reals, as not good as this book is, that jacket copy is absolutely terrible. Someone ought to be ashamed of themselves. I mean, Ayla wasn’t cruelly cast out by the Clan, it was Broud. They had no choice in the matter. And, well, nevermind. The whole thing is just silly. The important thing here is that Jean Auel goes off the proverbial deep end in the book, which is unfortunate, because it’s only the second (and weakest) of the series.
Don’t get me wrong, I was all about the Earth’s Children series in seventh and eighth grade. One of my friends, either Tina or Kym, was way into it, too, and we would make snide jokes about Jondalar’s prowess. That was right when The Plains of Passage came out, and more than any of the others, that book is all about fucking. Excuse me, I mean Pleasures. Yeah, that’s right, that’s what Auel calls sexing, Pleasures with a capital pee. If that doesn’t drive you batty, though, the novel itself will.
It begins well enough, with Ayla heading for the mainland beyond the Clan’s peninsula, and for the Others who might be there. Unable to find anyone, she settles in a valley for the winter, figuring to stay alive until the next year, when she can try seeking out her own kind again. As Ayla settles in to her new abode and goes into full survival mode, across a continent two young men leave their home to go on a pre-historic Grand Tour. Jondalar (OMG, he’s got violet eyes, blonde hair, and is like catnip to women–and did I mention his massive tool? because Jean M. will until you want to barf). Jondalar and Thonolan (love these names) encounter new cultures of people not all that much unlike themselves, and along the way, Jondalar not only Pleasures hordes of women, but also is exposed to flatheads, aka Neanderthals, or Clan. This is significant because later he will meet up with Ayal, and will need to learn a Very Important Lesson about humanity. Read the rest of this entry »
An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon
Delacorte Press, 4th printing, 2009
Genre: Historical fiction, romance
Jacket copy: Diana Gabaldon’s brilliant storytelling has captivated millions of readers in her bestselling and award-winning Outlander saga. Now, in An Echo in the Bone, the enormously anticipated seventh volume, Gabaldon continues the extraordinary story of the eighteenth-century Scotsman Jamie Fraser and his twentieth-century time-traveling wife, Claire Randall.
Jamie Fraser, former Jacobite and reluctant rebel, is already certain of three things about the American rebellion: The Americans will win, fighting on the side of victory is no guarantee of survival, and he’d rather die than have to face his illegitimate son–a young lieutenant in the British army–across the barrel of a gun.
Claire Randall knows that the Americans will win, too, but not what the ultimate price may be. That price won’t include Jamie’s life or his happiness, though–not if she has anything to say about it.
Meanwhile, in the relative safety of the twentieth century, Jamie and Claire’s daughter, Brianna, and her husband, Roger MacKenzie, have resettled in a historic Scottish home where, across a chasm of two centuries, the unfolding drama of Brianna’s parents’ story comes to life through Claire’s letters. The fragile pages reveal Claire’s love for battle-scarred Jamie Fraser and their flight from North Carolina to the high seas, where they encounter privateers and ocean battles–as Brianna and Roger search for clues not only to Claire’s fate but to their own. Because the future of the MacKenzie family in the Highlands is mysteriously, irrevocably, and intimately entwined with life and death in war-torn colonial America.
With stunning cameos of historical characters from Benedict Arnold to Benjamin Franklin, An Echo in the Bone is a soaring masterpiece of imagination, insight, character, and adventure–a novel that echoes in the mind long after the last page is turned.
Book Report: Upon reading the last page of this latest installment in the Outlander series, the adventures of a WWII nurse in the eighteenth century, my first response was “You’ve GOT to be kidding me!” For whatever reason–I have no idea why–I was convinced that this would be the seventh and FINAL installment.–and it isn’t. Bugger that for a lark. Read the rest of this entry »
The Hearth and Eagle
originally published 1948
Chicago Review Press, 1st edition, 2008
Genre: Historical fiction, romance, family saga
Book Report: Hesper Honeywood is the sole scion of one of Marblehead, Massachusetts’ oldest families. Phebe and Mark Honeywood came over from England with John Winthrop, but left the Salem settlement to help found Marblehead, contrary from its very beginnings. Hesper has been raised on tales of their bravery and strength, as well as those of many other Honeywood and Marblehead folk. Young and passionate, Hesper is also heedless, caring more for love and romance than quiet strength or courage. But it is the vigor inherited from her forebears that will carry Hesper through the tragedy and fulfillment in her very long life, one that spans from the tumultuous antebellum years, through the rise and fall of Marblehead’s various industries, to gentrification and the Great War. Hesper will know love and passion, hatred and despair, and she, like her people before her, will endure.
Are all of Anya Seton’s books back in print now? When I first started reading her in 2005, it seemed like there there were just a couple, so I had to scour libraries and used bookshops looking for antiquated hardcover books and pulp paperbacks. But now there are all these sleek trade paperbacks with lovely covers! (It’s kind of funny, because in Olivia Goldsmith’s The Bestseller, there’s a lonely, half-senile old woman who wrote blockbuster historical fiction in the Forties and Fifties, only to be long out of print when the novel was written, and an editor at one of the publishing houses has to keep soothing her. I have a feeling Goldsmith based Anna Morrison on Anya Seton, but who had the last laugh there? Ooh, burn!) Unusually this edition of The Hearth and Eagle features only a short Author’s Note prefacing the novel, rather than the Forwards that have accompanied most of the others I’ve read form the Chicago Review Press. Is that because it was a less popular work, or have they just gotten lazy in the Windy City? Read the rest of this entry »
The Village Bride of Beverly Hills
GP Putnam’s Sons, 1st printing, 2004
Genre: Chick lit
Book Report: Following an arranged marriage in India, Priya relocates to California, where her new husband’s family has made a life for themselves. They are an oasis of traditional values and practices in the hustle of LA, though Priya begins to suspect that her new sister-in-law may be rebelling. After a year with the Sohnis, Priya is astonished when her mother-in-law tells her that she must get a job since she hasn’t yet conceived. No woman in Priya’s family has ever worked before, but she dutifully obeys Mummy and goes job hunting. Laxmi is with Priya that day, for she walks into the Hollywood Insider offices just as the receptionist goes into labor. Priya’s responsible and hardworking air—as well as her lack of ambition to be an actress—makes her a natural for the position.
Soon Priya is working harder than ever, still doing all the cooking and housework at home for her husband in in-laws, and working at the Hollywood Insider. But she also must juggle her appearance and behavior, as her traditional costumes or the homely hand-me-downs approved by her in-laws look outlandish at work. Luckily, Shanisse, assistant to the movie coverage editor, soon takes Priya under her wing, helping her buy more work appropriate clothes and suggesting she change into them at the gym on her way to and from work.
To return the favor, Priya steps in for Shanisse in an important interview, and attracts the attention of several power players, including a Hollywood star, a powerful publicist, and the editor-in-chief and publisher of Hollywood Insider. When offered the chance of a lifetime as a special interviewer, Priya battles her conscience, but her ambition wins out, and soon she is interviewing stars and attending premieres. The influence she wields at work begins to make up for the lack of autonomy she has at home, but she also becomes more aware of the imbalances within her marriage. Her husband Sanjay is torn between his parents and his wife, and Priya always seems to come out the loser. Fed up with juggling tradition and ambition in hopes of achieving balance, Priya must choose whether to make peace or rebel.
This was an unusual find for me, because I actually found it browsing in the library. Like, in person. Most of the time, I read either books already in my own personal library, or I simply order books from the MCL, and Eli picks them up for me. (I love deliveries.) But we had to stop to pick up some books on hold while running errands one afternoon, so I went in and did a little browsing, coming out with a historical novel and some chick lit. Not bad. Read the rest of this entry »
The Morland Dynasty: The Emperor
originally published 1988
Warner Books, 2000
The Morland Dynasty: The Victory
originally published 1989
Warner Books, 2000
Genre: Historical fiction, romance, family saga
Book Report: 1795 – The shadow of Bonaparte has fallen across Europe and touches each member of the far-flung Morland family.
As the century draws to a close, Jemima Morland wearily acknowledges that her life is also nearing its end, but she has scant peace as her unpredictable children behave ever more incomprehensibly: James’ marriage to Mary Ann is close to falling apart; Lucy’s marriage de convenance to Chetwyn is in the balance—her affair with Lieutenant Weston an open scandal; Mary bears a daughter on board her husband’s ship during the battle of the Nile; and William supports a mistress whose marriage cannot be dissolved.
Jemima’s death appears to unite the family but, as ever with the Morlands, the future holds more peril than hope.
The jacket copy for these books is getting ever cheesier, in direct proportion to the ratio of history to romance included in the books, modified by the length of time each book covers. The first book, The Founding, spanned what? Sixty, eighty years? The Emperor spans eight. It’s a pity. Read the rest of this entry »