1. What I just finished reading?
[As an aside, someone on Good Reads tried to quiz me on a romance novel that I reviewed in 2013. Seriously you think I'm going to remember the details of a romance novel I read back in 2013? I'm lucky if I can remember reading it. That's why I write reviews of these books, so I can keep track of the fact that I read them and don't accidentally by them again or re-read. My mother and I joke about this, neither of us can remember the book six months after we read it. It's actually part of the appeal. Romance novels are really hard to remember...they are so interchangeable and the writing style tends for the most part to be rather non-distinct. I actually like reading them for that reason at times...it's a nice light story, resolved by love, and caring, little to no violence, lots of sex (well sometimes depends), and I can delete from the memory banks. Got too much to remember as it is.)Marry in Haste (Marriage for Convenience #1) by Anne Gracie
What works here, is the writer managed to subvert an incredibly annoying romance novel trope, aka the catastrophic misunderstanding, usually caused by the protagonists' stupidity.
The set-up? The heroine was disowned by her father because he believed some vicious rumors about her. Apparently she'd had an affair with a twenty-six year old stable hand when she was just seventeen. So when a neighbor who was after her inheritance found out, he decided to pass a nasty rumor about how she'd slept around with various stable hands and groomsmen, to everyone in town to convince her father to marry her off to him, to save her reputation. The father believed him. She took off to be a school-mistress. And eventually ends up married to our hero as a business arrangement to chaperon his sisters and niece through a season. He's adorable. They fall in love. But never say the words. And both doubt the other's feelings because they are too dense to realize actions matter not silly words. Even though everyone else can obviously tell.
So, of course throughout the entire book, I'm waiting for the hero to find out about the rumors and do the same thing her father did. Believe the vicious rumors and treat her horribly. They'll have a big melodramatic argument. She'll run off. Maybe gets hurt. He realizes he loves her, etc. Thinking, he'll probably find out from a friend or overhear it. (Because that's what always happens in these books or at least most of them.)
But that's not what happened. Instead, surprise surprise ...she tells him. He trusts her, doesn't believe a word of the rumor. Her friends and his family team up to kick the nasty gossip to the curb. And it all plays out the way it should. Zero misunderstandings.
Subverts the trope completely. Yay.
My only quibble about the story is...the author clearly doesn't like confrontations or conflict, because most of that happens off page, as does a lot of family scenes. There's a lot of paraphrasing and summarizing in the book. So I felt it was...rather passive at times.
That said, there is good, light banter. The hero is in a word, adorable. And incredibly kind. Not a jerk. And the heroine is equally adorable and kind. Actually with the exception of maybe two characters, which we barely even see...everyone is rather kind and likable.
Overall, an enjoyable read. It takes place just after the War with Napolean. So pre-Victorian period.
As an aside about historical romance -- weirdly the historical accuracy doesn't bother me the way it does in straight historical novels like Hillary Mantel's Wolf Hall. (Which I haven't been able to get into for various reasons but one of the sticking points is I know she made stuff up for dramatic effect. And people bought it as real. My problem with the more literary or straight historicals is often people read those for history, when they aren't accurate. I just read post on FB by a social friend a while back which stated this problem - Students take Hilary Mantels Tudor Novels As Fact
Guy recalled being out for the day after Mantel won the Booker prize for Wolf Hall in 2009 and returning home to find a stack of requests to write 1,000 words on how historically accurate the book was. He was also invited on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. He declined all the offers.
“It is a novel. It is just silly. When you are in a world of the novel, a world of theatre, you tell a lie to tell the truth.
“Let us get this straight, the genius of Mantel is that she is aiming to summon up ghosts and if you look at some of that dialogue, it is absolutely remarkable.”
But what makes for great drama may not make for good history. And, in fact, “Wolf Hall” has stirred considerable controversy among historians and critics, many of whom have wondered what responsibility novelists who write about the past have toward history.
- How Wolf Hall Will Entertain Millions and Threaten to Distort History in the Process
That's the problem I have always had with straight historical novels in a nutshell. It's not just Mantel, it's basically all of them. They lie to you and it's not always clear how, and a lot of people get their history from fictionalized historical novels, where the writer has done a lot research then embellished and reinterpreted it to make a good story or fit their worldview.
So, I actually prefer genre - mystery, fantasy, sci-fi, romance historical hybrids, because it's pretty clear upfront that none of this is real. The history is not accurate.
The writer probably did a little research but not that much. So it's unlikely any reader will read genre for historical information or quote it.
That said, I have read historical novels and do like the genre on occasion, but prefer it when the characters in the historical are "fictional" and not based on real people.
2. What I'm reading now?
Still reading Let's Develop! by Fred Newman
who is a somewhat controversial philosopher, political activist, psychotherapist, and teacher, that developed a new type of therapy -- social group therapy. He got into a bit of trouble with the political left, because while Marxist in some respects - more philosophy than economically, he's not anti-capitalism and supported Mayor Bloomberg's bid for Mayor and Ralph Nader.
Anyhow the latest chapter that I read discusses how therapy is not about problem solving or problem, solution, explanation. And states how too much emphasis has been placed on diagnosis. Or explaining dreams or why people act a certain way. And how this gets in the way of developing as a person and creating. I'm paraphrasing, because to be honest I'm still trying to wrap my brain around it.
The exercise at the end of the chapter is...the next time you hit a huge problem that you can't figure out how to solve or is making you crazy. Don't try to solve it. Write a poem about it instead. So I guess that's a poetry challenge. Fortune Favors the Wicked by Theresa Romain
which is about a blind navel officer and a courtesan who go hunting for treasure. I have no idea which historical period we are in. It feels post Napolean, possibly Victorian. All I know is it is pre-1900s.Sous Chef - 24 Hours on the Line by Michael Gibney
- this is told in second person close, which is not the easiest point of view in the world to read. I find jarring.
He's putting "you" as in the "reader" in the shoes of a Sous Chef. "You have these knives, etc". And it's rather detailed. But the voice and point of view are rough going.
Anthony Bourdain, who had a rather distinctive voice, and made the wise decision of writing in first person, was a lot easier and more entertaining.