An indomitable ingenue, nursing back to health, AMNESIA, and icky cold vampires taken down by the Power of the Vajayjay.
Because of Miss Bridgerton
Author: Julia Quinn
Series: Rokesbys #1
Tags: historical romance, Napoleonic wars, stick in the mud, spirited woman, woman wearing brees, childhood enemies-to-friends
Okay, I give in. I admit that I have been avoiding Julia Quinn this whole time with undeserved prejudice. I think I was being a bit of a contrarian, since my mom and my sister like Quinn so much.
Damnit! I do, too!
This is a great book to start off a series. Billie Bridgerton sparkles as an artless tomboy constantly getting herself into trouble. George, her stick-in-the-mud opposite, was almost as fun. It was great watching them dance around each other.
I know Billie is a character type that makes up a good chunk of romance, and I struggle to find a succinct way to describe her. I have somewhat settled on The Indomitable Ingenue.
Indomitable and ingenue are both words I recently had to look up. Ingenue is mentioned in the second season theme song of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The history of the word seems similar, but not exact to characters like Billie. Ingenue is that sickeningly sweet, innocent character, who’s high ideals and utter lack of experience either get her in trouble or land her a hottie, depending on the mood of the story.
She listens to her parents. She feeds the poor. She is almost ruined by a cad, and somehow manages to escape him with her naivete intact.
The wikipedia article suggests that ingenue is from the silent film era, but this sort of female character has been around for much longer. You can point to some of the earliest English novels, such as Richardson’s Pamela. If women were smart and crafty, such as Becky from Vanity Fair, or Moll from Moll Flanders, they were met with hardship, lowlifes, and the enduring message that humankind is basically selfish and cruel. If they were an ingenue, like Evelina in Evelina, they suffered a brief period of hardship until they found their upstanding husband.
The only author who seemed to break the mold at this time was Jane Austen.
Elizabeth Bennett stands out from the female characters from this era. She has her own mind. She sees her parents as fallible humans and doesn’t follow them blindly. She speaks candidly to her societal betters. She has cynical views. She has selfish moments and blind spots. And, most importantly, she has wit, charisma, and charm that outstrips any of the soft, sweet faced main character contemporaries.
Elizabeth’s spirit, good humor, and charm are not crushed by any hardship. She doesn’t learn to hold her tongue. She is indomitable.
I mean, that’s one of the biggest problems of the ingenue, right? She is SO BORING. I love Frances Burney, but Evelina was one of the most boring people in her own novel. There was a witty female secondary character that made that book so much better.
Modern romance paperbacks follow in the tradition of both Austen and traditional romantic tropes. Enter the Indomitable Ingenue. Because innocence is needed, encouraged, and cared for, especially in the historical romance category…but we don’t want her to be boring. So she also is a tomboy, rides horses astride, and wears trousers. Gets stuck in trees trying to rescue kittens. Accidentally sets a woman’s dress on fire at her debut.
The Indomitable Ingenue is the modern day ingenue. Trouser wearing heroines are the norm, not the exception. The author has to find the right balance of sweet and spirited to please the reader.
This hits on one of the reasons I think Austen is hard for people to read today. As mentioned before, Elizabeth Bennett was a revolutionary character in her day. Now she is the standard. It is not unusual to women act the way Elizabeth does without repercussion. Historical fiction has the strange ability to romanticize and hate on the time period it is based on, so it is not surprising that a character would rail against the norms of that day.
The 1999 adaptation of Mansfield Park completely rewrote Fanny Price as a character, injecting Austen’s wit and spirit into the Austen character that most fit the role of ingenue. If you think about it, it really doesn’t make sense. I understand the decision, though, because Fanny Price is totally not palatable to today’s audience. Do a bunch of Americans want to watch Fanny Price faint all the time? Hell to the no.
Anyway, the book was great! I will be reading more Julia Quinn in the near future.
The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband
Author: Julia Quinn
Series: Rokesbys #2
Tags: Napoleonic Wars, historical romance, The Colonies!, officer, amnesia, fake husband, nursing back to health
He’s such a nice guy. He wakes up and thinks she is his wife, and he’s a gentleman about it, dammit.
And then he finds out they never consummated the marriage, and he wants to get it on, but he wants to be a gentleman about it, dammit.
Everything was very sweet.
I got a little bit tired of the heroine, though. Keeping a secret for so long is one of those plot tropes that makes progressively less sense the longer it is drawn out. Just tell him already!
Aw man, I am just a sucker for nursing back to health stories.
Blood Shadows & Blood Roses
Author: Lindsay J. Pryor
Series: Blackthorn 1 & 2
Tags: vampires, non-consent-y, prophecy, segregated species, police officer, vampire hunter, stockholm syndromorama
There was a lot of sexy times, which helped me get through the first two of the series, but there was so much borderline non-consent-y times I had to stop.
The Blackthorn series is about an alternate world where humans, vampires, and werewolves all live separately, in separately governed areas of, I guess, England. Blackthorn is the name of the vampire territory. Vampires and werewolves are kind of second class citizens and are largely governed by a human police force. There’s some nonsense about humans being more compassionate so they have the right to govern the rest, but that sounds like propaganda bullshit to me.
The first book focuses on a human cop who is trying to take down a “master vampire” (rolls eyes) wanted for various crimes against humans and has been slipping through their fingers for decades. Of course, when regular ol’ detecting doesn’t bring him in, she tries the next best thing.
There’s some sort of demon possession/soul capturing/true love binding bullshit that goes along with her vajayjay. Basically, he has to make her fall in love with him to capture her soul for reasons.
Which means lots of sex, battles of wills, and “don’t tell her/him but I think I love him/her.”
He literally locks her up in a safe house of his for a couple of days. I guess Stockholm syndrome counts in the magic world as “love.”
The whole thing is dark, dirty, and kind of icky, raising red flags such as “your mouth says no but your body says yes.” Um, excuse me, the mouth is the part you’re supposed to listen to. Also all of this is kind of bullshit, because how can love come into play when there is SUCH an imbalance of power?
It reminds me of Whipping Man, a play I saw once about two former slaves and their former owner right after the Civil War ended. The white man had a dalliance with a female slave before/during the war, and the slave finally said to him, “you didn’t love her…you OWNED her!”
Great play. Not a great moment to emulate.
The second book is worse.
More of the same: Stockholm syndrome, battles of wills, not-so-consent-y sexy times, trying to not love the other person who is an asshole who they love anyway.
Add in the fact that she’s a virgin beforehand, something about sexual abuse and a rusty bed frame, and another goddamn prophecy, and I’ve just about had enough of this bullshit.
She’s a serran (sp?) or vampire slayer that (you guessed it) uses seduction to kill vampires. Her blood is poison to vampires…unless there’s a prophecy of some vampire rising to bring what essentially amounts to civil rights to all vampires.
Also she has a flighty, stupid sister who is beyond flat-character status.
I HATE hate HATE when there is a certain phrase that an author can’t stop themselves from using. Every dramatic moment (which was basically all of the book) was punctuated by one, two, or all three things: “her stomach flipped” “her heart lurched” and “her breathing stopped.” Her stomach flipped so much, I just had a mental image of her stomach on a hinge, going flippity floppity all the damn time. Sometimes her heart would lurch and her heart would pound. That seems a little like arrhythmia.
Okay, yes, you are trying to build tension, but can you build it a little differently next time? I don’t need arrhythmia or flapjack internal organs.
I’d also like to point out that in the first book, the hero is a walking romance novel cover. He wanders around shirtless, with tattoos, nursing a beer, working on motorcycles, languishing in a bath… Surprising that they went with the cover they did, because this book definitely deserve a glistening torso on it.
Also, blagh, cold vampires. Like, how cold? Sometimes I really try to imagine what a cold human would feel like. Squishy like skin, but not warm underneath? Would they develop condensation? Is it like hands in the winter cold? Or just mildly colder than humans, so like luke warm? Are they cold blooded?
The last thing I’m going to say about this series is that I have no idea what their game plan is for true love between a human that lives human years and a vampire that’s 300 years old. We’re just going to slide past that, huh? Her looks will fade, her body chemistry will change, her sex drive with fluctuate, and he will just be the same hot dude?
There is no mention of the aftermath at all in each book. Once the tension ends vampire and human look at each other and go, I guess we are a couple now. So, what does that mean in this world? You start picking out china? Cuz it doesn’t look like a human can change into a vampire in this world.
The only thing I know definitively is that a human and vampire can make a baby during an eclipse.
I guess if you want all tension, no sense, no niceness, and if you watched that part where Natalie Portman is captured in V for Vendetta and said, “like this but sexy x1000,” then you should read this series.
Not for other reasons, though.
On the Radar
The Mane Event by Shelly Laurenston
Kill or Be Kilt by Victoria Roberts
The Deed, The Chase, and Surrender to the Highlander by Lynsay Sands
The Scot Beds His Wife by Kerrigan Byrne
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn
Human Anatomy for Art Students by Ralph Thompson
Ask God’s Creatures and They Will Tell You by Shannon Skokos (a coffee table book pairing photos of South African wild animals with verses from the Bible…bought because they had great pictures of animals and I’d like to practice animals more)