July 30, 2009
Time-travelling? Romanian masseur spouting words of wisdom in pidgin- English? Brooding hero/literature professor that sneers at Austenmania? Contrary to the title, Darcy enticing heroine to a romp in a temple for all to see? Win!
While i was reading the first few chapters of Seducing Mr Darcy, i was pretty sure the author had unashamedly lifted the plot from an ITV (UK) mini-series called Lost in Austen. Dissatisfied heroine longs to be transported to another time and via a quirky plot device sees her wish fulfilled. She ends up in Pride and Prejudice and wreaks havoc re Elizabeth and Darcy’s budding relationship.
Though they were both released at around the same time, I doubt Cready riffed Lost in Austen. In the mini-series Jemima is enticed via a boarded-up door in her bathroom by Lizzie Bennett into the Pride and Prejudicesetting. She ends up capturing Mr Darcy’s heart while Lizzy lives it up as an Au-pair in present-day London. Jemima finds that while she longed for the long lost chivalry in her own world, Austenland isn’t all it is cracked up to be. It’s a well written, witty series, which managed to overcome the miscasting of a rather flat Mr Darcy.
While the premise is the same, Gwyn Cready takes a very different route than Lost in Austen. To relieve her back pain, Flip, resident ornithologist at Pittsburgh university, goes to visit Madame K’s massage parlour, who offers not only a deep massage but a trip to your favourite book. While Flip idly daydreams about some Harlequin Venetian adonis, she suddenly remembers she has to finish Pride and Prejudice in time for her book club meeting. When she drifts off into her dream, she finds herself in a regency setting as Lady Quillan, the frustrated wife of an errant Earl who accepts a very seductive proposition by none other than Mr Darcy myself. After Flip wakes up she finds out that her misadventures with Darcy have been recorded in the first edition Of Pride and Prejudice. If she doesn’t go back and reunite Lizzie Bennet and Darcy her porntastic romp with mr Darcy will segue into every single copy of Pride in circulation. Aiding her is Magnus, a brooding literature proffesor who wants to save his beloved masterpiece from pornolicious ruin.
While the book was engaging, I walked into work a few days with bleary eyes after staying up late, saying to myself ‘one more chapter.. Just one.’ Seducing mr Darcy did have its fair share of flaws.
The Names! I know that in novels like these, the chances of the lead characters being called things like Pete and Jane are remote, yet there are limits. The heroine is called Flip. This is to show she’s a spunkier version of the regular gal, yet I found her name rather off-putting. Maybe because the only person i have ever met in real life that was called Flip was the boy who sat next to me in primary school. He chewed his lip and hid behind the supply cupboard whenever anyone looked at him. The hero is called Magnus. Only in American novels would you find an Englishman named Magnus. Needless to say he’s sulky, brutish and, worst of all, British.
Another annoying aspect was the unconvincing coupling. While he was certainly handsome, it was hard to warm to the hero, which is an absolute necessity. He’s an unappealing pedant that doesn’t seem to be able to have much respect for Flip and it was hard to believe that their coming together was anything other than carnal.
My biggest peeve is reserved for the character in the novel that makes it all possible. Madame K was a missed opportunity. The introduction of a Romanian gipsy that can transport people to the book of their dreams are the raison d’etre of this blog. Yet her backstory was crammed into a couple of sentences and she was woefully underused. Her ‘Vat eef ai vould teel you..’ language was laughable. Maybe i shouldn’t be expecting anything else from a pulpy romance novel, yet i do wish writers would back away from hackneyed phonetics. Stating that your protagonist is of Romanian origin and that she has a thick accent should be enough. Phonetic language just makes her sound like a cardboard stereotype, rather than an interesting character.
Having said all of this, within its genre, Seducing Mr Darcy isn’t a bad read. Flip’s friends are appealing and they manage to get their own moments in the spotlight rather than be reduced to colourless foils for the heroine. While its a romance novel and you could bet the farm on the ending it does manage to harbour some surprises. The romancing left me cold i read it to the end, just to see what was going to happen next. All in all, not a bad contribution to the long list of Jane Austen sequels.
May 23, 2009
Diva at sunset:
Bluestocking at sunrise
or rather, if the discussion during class becomes too heated,
For the past few days i have been living a double life. By day i am wrapping up my Bachelor’s degree, by night starring in a play. Between swearing at my computer screen and greeting my public there hardly seems to be enough time to breathe, never mind blog about the trials and tribulations of our favourite Orthodox Jew heroine, the lady Chatterley lovin’ luminous Batsheva. Though I’m sure you cannot wait to get to know this winning combination of Pollyana and the more lascivious type of Jackie Collins heroine, I’m afraid it will take me a few more days to post properly.
Bear with me, because in a few days my life will go back to normal. Not only will you get to know Batsheva and her literature tutor/Marilyn Monroe doppelganger. I’ve also got a Bollywood film lined up, that’s kinda feminist. Well, sorta. Bollywood heroine is apple of father’s eye until she falls in love with the town Lothario and becomes, OMG, pregnant! Is she cast aside as the town ride and left to wander to the nearest cliff? Hell no! Well, sorta. In fact she… Oh, why spoil the fun?! Just stay tuned for the recap. Until then i will leave you with the truly craptascular movie poster
Which hints at the marvelous cheese and snark gold that the finest of Bollywood can offer.
While having lunch with a friend a few days ago, i confessed my plans for this blog. On hearing the news, she unexpectedly gave such a loud squeal that everyone around us, including some rather raucous Spanish backpackers, were momentarily silenced. I hadn’t expected quite such an enthusiastic reaction ( The waitress at the cafe looked at us nervously, as if we were about to erupt into song-and-dance and scare all the rest of the clients away.) Yet it was good to know that at least one of my friends was going to give me encouragement instead of a blank look. She did have just one slight doubt:
“Surely you’re not going to diss Georgette Heyer.”
“Um, NO!” ( Waitress shuffles yet further away from our table.)
“Thank goodness, you can’t snark on the high priestess of Regency. Especially not These old shades.”
“Of course not! Thanks to Heyer i know that a man does not bow properly until he has ‘displayed a magnificent leg.’ ”
“And that a masterful hero can be manly and mince on red high heel shoes.”
“That he can wave his lavender chicken-skin fan towards dastardly villains and look convincingly threatening. You know. Like THIS” ( Waitress sighs audibly.)
“That the requisite silly-woman foil to over-excited heroine can be called Lady Fanny and that you should control your giggles. Only you can’t. Ha!”
” That a girl can pass as a boy for seven years when she is living in the Parisian gutter but a fine nobleman will detect her true sex and lineage within minutes.”
“He can then confidently assail his nemesis with the daughter he exchanged for a boy and heir to the title and bring him to his knees. I know, Heyer’s the business.”
“And where would we be without Heyer enrichening our vocabulary? ‘pon rep is cool.”
“Yes, people think you’re either drunk or Scandinavian. Pity Heyer thinks it vulgar to say lawks.”
“Oh go on, lets indulge, I’m sure she’s not looking. LAWKS”
“Hee. LAWKS! Now why is that waitress hiding behind the counter?”
Georgette Heyer is not only fantastic and impossible to truly snark at. You can actually be seen out in public with her! Here’s the cover for a recent edition:
Suitable for your commute to work, no?
My obsession with jumble sale finds does mean that i have a soft spot for rather tacky editions from the 70’s and 80’s.
Ah, Leonie may not be luminous, but she is at least a dazzling beauty.
Beyond dated and therefore beyond fabulous, even if the snobby part of you won’t be seen with it on your daily commute.
May 18, 2009
The upcoming post will focus on Jephte’s daughter by Naomi Ragen. Wherein the fascinating communities of Orthodox Jews in America and Israel provide a backdrop for a cast of a ‘luminously beautiful’ yet misunderstood heroine, a bubbly comparative literature tutor, the requisite cruel husband, evil aristocrats and sympathetic priests. Furthermore, it contains the required trans-continental jet-setting and a plot that demands the up most of your ability to suspend disbelief. What more could you possibly need?
Ever since i found this book at a carboot sale in ’04 it has become a yearly ritual. The first truly hot day of the year heralds the first trip to the park, a bottle of lemonade and yet another re-read of the extremely unlikely-and-therefore-awesome adventures of Batsheva Ha-Levi. Call me prejudiced, but the concept of a daughter of a prominent Haredi Jew being allowed to read novels by the author of Lady Chatterley’s lover has me floored, every single time. Still, it doesn’t stop this pulpy novel being an unintentional guilty pleasure and i hope you tune in next week for the first instalment of Jephte’s daughter: The recap!
May 17, 2009
In the past year my latest addiction became following blogs like Dairi Burger, that snark at the YA pulp that was foisted onto our impressionable teenage selves in the 80’s and 90’s. After looking at other people’s blogs for years i decided it was high time to act on my wishes and start one myself.
Ever since i was a teenager i have been addicted to the kind of sappy romance novels that make Gone with the wind look like a Dostoyevski classic. See it as an antidote to studying and living in a city where a snobbier-and-more cultured-than-thou attitude is a civic duty. As long as it is the type of escapist women’s fluff that satisfied the inner firstname.lastname@example.org in us, I’m game to blog about it.
For now, i am going to focus on snarkworthy women’s lit. Once i have found my feet, i would also like to blog about vintage tv series and films. On the waiting list are titles like Jephte’s daughter by Naomi Ragen and Flowers in the blood by Gay Coulter. A subsection will be devoted to the 80’s and early 90’s Bonkbuster phenomenon, otherwise known as ‘sex and shopping’ novels. Written by authors like Jilly Cooper, Judith Krantz and Jackie Collins, they often featured the glamorous lifestyle of poor misunderstood little rich girls. A typical excerpt would probably go along the lines of ‘Wearing nothing but diamonds and being attented by her personal masseuse Guido, Crystal Chiffon dreamt about the time she was just plainMary Sue, awaiting eagerly her first date with the boy that would turn out to be her only true love, Rock Blane.’ It was impossible to ever be seen out in public with any of these books, but the furtive joy of sneaking off to a dark corner in the library and enjoying the ongoing adventures of Crystal Chiffon and her ilk was never the less because of this slight handicap. In fact, it probably added to it. Other teenagers stole car radios, composed molotov cocktails and/or snogged the gardener in front of their parents. I read mind-numbing trash, go figure.
If you have any other suggestions for future posts, feel free to leave it in the comments below. Does it have age-old castles that are suddenly destroyed by an earthquake the minute our heroine runs away from her lord of the manor/cruel husband ? Is the heroine in question described in fantastical terms like ‘chaste yet luminous’ ( Have we ever in our lives met anyone that could be described in this manner? It makes her sound like a Mormon that was exposed to 1986 Tsjernobyl) and ‘ridiculously beautiful’ ? I would love to hear about it.
PS: Expect the first real entry to be up within a week.