Sunday, October 26, 2008

OOPS, I Did It Again

I can’t believe I just made a Britney Spears reference. Anyway, I don’t have a review up because I made a big mistake- I bought this book, loved the blurb, loved the first few pages, and loved the ending. Yes, I peeked. Sue me. So I thought it would be perfect to review today.

Except, the book was ultimately a disappointment. Not exactly a wall-chucker, but a frustrating near miss. I won’t go into detail, because it’s just unique enough that you would recognize it and I don’t want to slam anyone. I will tell you that it is a historical, with one of my favorite plots. I must marry Bachelor #1, but I love Bachelor #2…or do I?

The characters were engaging and different, and the storyline was interesting, but it fell where I find a lot of historicals go plop. The, you know, intimate scenes. Tea and crumpets. Regency hula.

If the characters are married, and learning to love each other while consummating, fine. Love it. Got no problem with it. Even if our heroine is a widow who knows very well what she’s about, I can at least understand that. But a virginal young miss who knows very well that her reputation is truly all she has? You just lost me.

Historical writers have to walk a fine line- you have to do enough research to make it believable, but there will always be some reader screeching that those kind of wine glasses weren’t used until 20 years later, moron! I understand the frustrations of appealing to modern readers while staying true to history, but this one thing I can’t take.

How, precisely, does a typical sheltered young girl, who has been protected from the exact details of sex, who has probably at some point been told to “lie back and think of England,” decide that hiking up her skirt OUTSIDE ON THE GRASS is perfectly fine? I can accept that said young miss got carried away, and can straighten her dress with nary a stain and go back to the house unseen. What I can’t accept is that, without benefit of marriage or instruction beyond a gossiping servant, is that she can on second tryst become a skilled and enthusiastic…er, performer of certain type of crumpet-making, if you catch my drift.

And so lies my frustration with a lot of historicals. In the zeal to make them requisitely hawt, they’ve become unbelievable.

ETA: Kimber runs a fairly family-friendly place, so if I've confused you with my euphemisms feel free to email me and I'll clear it up!

I’ll do better next time, I promise! I’ve read the next one all the way through, and you’ll like it. Kimber An, there’s even a diaper-changing Viking! Check ya Nov. 16.


Jill Sorenson said...

You lost me at crumpets. Is this a sexual reference I'm not familiar with, or have you just invented a new one?

I don't have any trouble believing a young, sheltered woman could be sexually adventurous. More often, historical heroines are clueless. They have places on their own bodies that "they never dared touch." Is this more realistic?

I'll be honest--I didn't need a manual, or a man, to teach me how my body worked.

Now, if this character went from an innocent miss to a seasoned harlot in one chapter, that would strain credulity. But an imaginative virgin sounds plausible to me.

(Of course, I like hawt, so I'm biased!) ;)

Robyn said...

Yes, Jill, tea and crumpets is from my hubby's role-playing days as a euphemism for sex. The writers of that game were trying for a cleaner term for younger players, I think. ;)

A woman learning the power of her own body wouldn't bother me, nor would a sheltered girl timidly trying something with a man who fascinated her. But this girl went from proper miss to incredibly skilled in one night, and I didn't buy it. There's imaginative and adventurous, and there's professional grade, you know? I don't mind hawt, even slightly shocking hawt, if it fits the character.

Kimber An said...

I got the euphemism, Robyn, and I know what you mean. It's what I call 'Sex By the Numbers.' Graphic sex boosts sale numbers so its stuck in the story whether it belongs there or not, whether the author is any good at writing sex scenes or not. The thing is it backfires! The reader will be hesitant to try another book by such an author. For the Biggest Marketing Backfire I See, pop over to Romancing the Blog. They posted my column there today.

A diaper-changing Viking? My husband's a diaper-changing Viking. Okay, I'm sold.

Tia Nevitt said...

I'm with you, Robin. I did a post on this at Fantasy Debut a while back. It was inspired by Naomi Novik's His Majesty's Dragon, where the main character has a lover who doesn't seem to worry about getting pregnant, even though she has proven fertile in the past.

Here's the post.

I don't mind sex if babies result. Of if there's some means of birth control, magical or medical. Or if the character is not fertile. But don't put modern sexual attitudes in a novel where the specter of pregnancy would loom like a cloud over every encounter.

Kimber An said...

Maybe they're going for the fantasy factor, the fantasy of not having to worry about contraception. However, it's such a huge issue for the core audience that not mentioning any form of contraception or pregnancy is just too unreal. I cannot suspend my disbelief for it.

And why not have the Heroine get pregnant? (my personal pet peeve) Happens all the time in real life and real women adjust their lives to accomadate. Mommies kick butt, make hot love, and work outside the home...

Tia Nevitt said...

It happened in BLACK SHIPS. In fact, the heroine got pregnant several times. That's one of the reasons I liked it so much.

In THE DEED OF PAKESNARRION, the mercenary company provided free contraceptive herbs (unnamed) for all female soldiers.

Kimber An said...

BLACK SHIPS? I remember you reviewed that, but I can't remember what it was about. I'll go check it out.

Robyn said...

Interesting post, Tia.

And Kimber, it just felt forced and out of place.

Jill Sorenson said...

I thought "having tea and crumpets" might be a euphemism for a specific sexual act, you see. I was trying to figure out which one...

I guess I'll take my dirty mind elsewhere!

Thanks for an interesting discussion. :D

Mfitz said...

Me too.

Couldn't figure out what exactly Tea and crumpets would be, and I have a good imagination.

Mfitz said...

I thought Jane Rolland in His Majesty's Dragon was supposed to be some years older than Laurence. I had assumed she was just beyond worring about getting pregnent. Early on in their relationship doesen't she even tell him he should consider one of the yonger female captains because he will need an heir for Temeraire and she can't give him one?

Kimber Chin said...

Ahhh... the quota.
One NYT Bestselling historical author told me there's a quota of 2.5 crumpet scenes per book.

That's why I write small press.
I'm not too good at following the rules.
My couples do enjoy crumpets
(sometimes, sometimes they have bad crumpets as happens in real life) but only when they're hungry.