RedHeadedGirl is back, this time with a book reviewed by request: Bertrice Small’s 1981 book, Adora. Small is one of my absolute favorite old-skool authors. I have a soft spot for “Blaze Wyndham” like you wouldn’t believe. But I’ve never read this one.
I tried, you guys. I really tried. It doesn’t help that the copy I got smells to high heaven (It must have been owned by a smoker and it is moldy) and I have an aversion to bad smells, especially in books. (Seriously, the first time I read Watchmen, the copy I borrowed was ever so slightly moldy, and the mold smell while reading the Tales of the Black Freighter? I can’t even read that part now, in my new, ink-y smelling copy. The associations are just so intense and gag-inducing.)
Anyway, this is the second Small book I’ve read and I’m not too terribly inclined to read more. I know this is “I read this shit so you don’t have to” but honestly. Limits, I has them.
Adora is Theadora C-something, the daughter of the Arch Duke/Chamberlain/Grand Vizier (I don’t remember the exact title, but the idea is the same- guy behind the Emperor) of Byzantium. She’s very smart and educated and stuff. Her father takes over and becomes Emperor of a dying Empire; in the process he married her off at the age of 10 to the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.
The sultan ignores her and she grows up in a convent, completely innocent of the world of men, until the Sultan’s son (the theoretical hero, though what he does that is heroic I never found out) sees her in the orchard, and they fall madly, deeply, passionately in lust with each other. They call it love, but they don’t talk, they don’t do anything but make out and play around a bit with mutual masturbation (of course, she’s totally in love with the bringer of the first orgasm) while she says that the marriage was never consummated (the sultan was waiting for her to grow up, but then forgot about her and never really intended to go through with it in the first place) and Murad comes up with this plan to marry her after his father dies.
Because that isn’t creepy or weird or anything.
But of course, plans do not survive contact with the enemy. Someone puts the idea in the Sultan’s head that he needs to consummate the marriage and get her knocked up in order to get the rest of her dowry. The sultan isn’t thrilled about this- he likes deflowering virgins, but not before they’ve been exquisitely trained in the arts of pleasing men.
…. Okay then.
So he has Adora hauled in on her most fertile days, has her aroused by his slavewomen and has her opened with a wooden dildo (did they even know that word in 1980?) (I KNOW THEY DID LEAVE ME WITH MY ILLUSIONS PLEASE) because he couldn’t be bothered with dealing with her maidenhead. And then he “breeds her like a horse.”
But there’s still pleasure in it for her and she’s like “WTF I was in love with Murad, and now I’m having these same feelings for his father, what the hell is this.”
She says this breeding thing is crap, and if he insists on fucking her, he should do it right. So he does, she gets pregnant and presents him with a son. Murad is ripshit at this- he thinks it was HER idea to go through with the whole consummation, and she did it just to fuck with him.
So Adora (they call her Adora because Theadora is just too damn much of a mouthful, and because she’s just so damn adorable. NEVERMIND that adorable in Old Ottoman Turkish is not…well, “adorable.”) (Potato rage.) and her son go on a sea journey somewhere to get healing for the kid, and they get set upon by pirates. (Of course they did.) The main pirate, Alexander the Great (not THE Alexander the Great, he was 1600 years before all this shit went down, he’s just Alexander the Pirate With Aspirations), is immediately taken with her, but ransoms her back to the sultan.
But not before drugging her and fucking her like a stallion. She doesn’t remember it, of course. And the plot point isn’t brought up again.
So Murad is sent with the ransom to go get her and kid, sees that Alexander the Great is all infatuated, accuses her of acting the whore, drags her back to the sultan where….they never speak of it again.
Turns out, the pirate was hired by Adora’s sister, the current empress of Byzantium, who hates Adora because she’s so pretty and perfect and who wants to be the sister of a Mary Sue complete with purple eyes? (Did I mention? SHE HAS GODDAMN PURPLE EYES. OF COURSE SHE DOES.) So she hires Alexander the Great to kill her, but Alexander the Great knows that Byzantium is bankrupt, so he does the capitalist thing and holds out for the actual money.
So the sultan finally croaks, and Murad is like “Now we will be together, you will rule over my harem” and Adora’s like “Harem WHUT” and they hate-fuck each other. She runs away to Constantinople (not Istanbul) where her sister is like “I will fucking end you” and who should show up but….
…Alexander the Pirate With Aspirations, who is really the despot of some city or other (he only did piracy for a little extra cash). He asks for Adora’s hand in marriage, she eventually accepts (after he shows up in her room one night) and they go off to rule their city.
Doesn’t end there, of course. The sister-empress blackmails a slave into killing Alexander the Pirate With Aspirations, has Adora taken home to Constantinople (still not Istanbul) and sells her to Murad. So legally, she is Murad’s slave.
And they hate-fuck each other for a while, and that’s the point where I gave up. Because the point, as I see it, of a romance novel is the relationship between hero and heroine. These two don’t have a relationship- he made her feel all tingly in her ladybits and they get mad and they hate-fuck, and that’s about it. There’s no love, there’s not even like, there’s just lust. Sure, she shows off her intellectual side, and he (and every other man in this book) will make patronizing comments about how she’s such a “proud little creature.”
Well whoop de-fucking-do. Why don’t you pat her on the head and say, “the men are talking”? Oh wait. They pretty much do.
See, near as I can tell (and the decline of the Byzantine Empire is not my area- it’s a little late for me) the general historical research wasn’t bad. Most of the people in Adora are real people who I guess died when they were supposed to. I think Alexander the Pirate With Aspirations was made up, but maybe not (nothing in Wikipedia on him, (though plenty on the REAL Alexander the Great) and I just don’t care enough to go digging for more). Theadora herself does not have a Wikipedia page, so I don’t have anything on her except which men she was associated with. But she was a real person, daughter of John VI, who was married off to the Sultan, and had a son by him who was captured by pirates. I did not see anything about a relationship between her and Murad.
I suppose, with more likable characters, the story could have been good. But between two people who have nothing in common but lust and hate-fucking, a hero who lacks any redeeming quality (or really, any quality other then being able to bang away for hours) and heroine who is just too good to be true (Seriously, Ayla would feel inadequate next to Adora), I really didn’t care.
It doesn’t help that the prose is so purple it’s ultraviolet.
If my copy were less stinky, I might soldier through. But the book is both off-putting in content and character.