I received the following book rant from Nali, and it’s totally over The Top and back down the other side of The Top and climbing back up again. But this time – there is book rant challenge! I challenge you to guess which book this is? I’ll give you a hint: it was published in the late 70s, and when I read this, I remembered reading it, and remembered the highfalutin’ hilarity therein. Hang on, folks. It’s wild.
I am so glad I found your site this week. The timing, it was Serendipitous, falling into place with the convenient ease and grace of a pregnant amnesiac stumbling into the exact worse assumptions on the part of the nearest hot man. Because, otherwise, I would RIGHT THIS MOMENT be interrupting Mr. Man’s weekend-gaming-relaxation-time to rant and scream about the complete and utter, aneurysm-bursting RIDICULOUSNESS of the book I picked up at the thrift store today. Since that would mean he had to take his headphones out, and they are the only things drowning out the fact that the cat is in heat again, it would probably not bode well for domestic bliss in this household. He gets twitchy when I decide to read passages aloud to help him understand just how AWFUL something is. I don’t know what that’s all about; I guess some men are just weird like that.
But… Book Rage, I has it. OMFG. Seriously. I have already been WTF-ing so much that I have resorted to coming up with phrases in languages other than English, just to keep from boring myself…
AND I AM ON PAGE 50.
I *needed* to share this. With someone. Anyone. Usually, I rant at the cat, but right now her response to my paying any attention to her is almost as disturbing as some of the stuff in the book. I thought that you might understand, though. (About the book, not the cat)
To be really honest… I did this to myself. I knew it was going to be bad in certain ways. I have been reading these things for… Oh, god. Over 30 years. Really? Ugh. No wonder I hate math. I started reading them waaaay before I was “allowed” to, sneaking them from the shopping bags my mother, aunts and grandmother always brought to family gatherings to trade back and forth, and being a precocious, compulsive speed-reader… I read every single one that came my way. This means I jumped into this genre at the height of the R&R (Rape and Redemption) Historicals.
So. When I pick up something (description redacted because you have to guess) I know what I am getting into. I don’t need to read the back, even. Some chit, far too spirited for her own good (but likely indulged by some male guardian), is going to be determined to shape her own destiny and/or defy convention, and then she will stumble her feisty arse right into some situation wherein she gets raped, whether it is just by the hero or by random foul-smelling bad-guys or both. There is going to be a lot of hating on both sides, probably some epic hate-fucking, levels of bitterness piling up like geological strata, vows for revenge, more hate-fucking and/or rape, and then (bizarrely) they profess some form of True Love and ride/sail off into a happy – if tolerantly tempestuous – future together. I know. I get it. (Actually, I find they make complete sense in view of just where feminism was at the time, but that is a whole other thing for some day when the “I r b smrt” part of my brain is working. Three days of sinus headaches say “that is not this day.”)
Knowing it was a snake when I picked it up, I can hardly be surprised if it bites me, right? I mean, to stand out and bother me at this point, the Stupid would have to be so very stupid that one of the characters in the book would practically have to turn to another and say “Um, really? You’re going with that? Because that makes *no* logical sense.”
AND THAT’S PRETTY MUCH WHAT ALREADY HAPPENED.
Yes. I know. Really, I did know it was going to be bad in SO many ways. I mean, the cover, it is a banner for “this is bad”. There is a middle-aged looking man all dressed up like the Little Dutch Boy in his Sunday best, along with a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader dressed as a (redacted).
It opens as expected, in some suitably tropical-but-perfectly-well-explained setting. The hero is having some raunchily rough sex – in the Prologue – with the Insatiable Scheming Ho With Aspirations. During this encounter, we discover that she really *likes* it rough, she likes to *be* rough, that her inability to control the hero with her Insatiable Hoo-Ha of Much Scheming frustrates her, and that his response is generally just to hush her up with his Lusty But Indifferent Manhood. Nothing new or novel, here. We also discover that she is a Widow In Exile and sees him as her ticket out, which the hero is Indifferently Aware Of, but he finds her useful enough to ignore her foolish ideas of marrying him (not to mention her truly unpleasant personality). Somehow, while they are demonstrating how he can deftly avoid her manipulations and use her own needs against her during their two bouts of Sexual Power Play, and along with showing us that the author has a tendency to describe sex in ways that make you stop and go “wait, the what was where?”, we also discover
A) that he was married to a local woman (R.I.P. Simple But Good-Hearted Native Woman) and had a son (and that this is a Touchy Subject),
B) that the Insatiable Scheming Ho was brought to this particular backwater by her much older husband due to her own inappropriate behavior back in Civilization,
C) that there is a ship on the way bringing his Intended and Promised Bride Who He Has Never Met, but who he must marry due to a deal made by his father (and she’s *Spanish*!),
D) that she (Insatiable Scheming Ho) will take the bag of gold he throws at her so that she has something to hold onto while she schemes to Have Her Own Way (and that she will use her Scheming Hoo-ha – along with a whip, apparently – on more a susceptible man to get the information she needs for this) .
All in all, it has been an eventful five-and-a-half pages.
So far, in the book, I’m fine. I have no feelings what-so-ever about the hero, because – as we all know about in this era of writing- nothing the hero does in any context before he meets the heroine really means anything about what kind of person we will be expected to believe he is. Right now, it is just all about trying to imagine something sexy that has NOTHING to do with the grown-up Little Dutch Boy on the cover… because please-to-the-God-or-Gods-of-your-choice, none of us want that in our heads when things get hot’n’heavy. (Except, you know… those that do.)
After a suitably callous leave-taking, the hero saddles up his faithful steed, Introspective Musing, to traverse the six page trip home down the Info-Dump Highway. Luckily, the horse knows the way home, which we know because he quickens his pace as they get close. Probably for the same reason I would have: I know this particular species of snake that I have picked up, and I know that I can simply skim the details of the backstory… since we will be reminded of them. Every. Single. Time. [Any Of The Key] Characters. Appear[s].
Somewhere, I believe, there are forgotten filing cabinets filled with publishing contracts from the 70’s agreeing to this, signed in blood. It is a Known Danger of reading one of these books.
So, honestly, I skimmed the ride down BackStory Way. I got the gist. Dutch East India Company. Following in father’s footsteps. Irish mother, died en route to Java (aka Backwater Central). No love for Spaniards. Not thrilled about marriage, will only bed wife is she’s attractive; suspects not + thinks all Spanish women overly pious. Knows Insatiable Psycho Ho is going to cause trouble for new wife, abstractedly sympathetic. Sucked into marriage by honor, since now-dead father promised in order to get him out of Spanish prison. In Spanish prison only because of unfortunate circumstances following Tragic Event in which Good-Hearted Native Wife was killed by pirates. Son went missing in same Tragic Event. A whole bunch of blah blah blah about people we’re going to get waaaaaay too much reminder about, later. At that point, I started thinking about the trip down And This Is My Life Story Boulevard from the horse’s perspective. (“Oh… geez. There he goes again. WTF? Every time he comes out of that Scheming Ho’s place, he stinks to high heaven and then drifts off in thought, ‘unconsciously clenching’ and muttering to himself as he thinks of something unpleasant. Sure, sure. No problem. I know the way. I’ll drive. So kind of you to notice. Oh. Wait. You didn’t.” )
(Dammit. Now I am picturing the OverAge Little Dutch Boy riding Eeyore. Reboot needed.)
And so here we are on page 13… and we meet the heroine! She’s plucky, by golly! Her hair, it is Unruly! She’s got flashing green eyes, which we know because every other time they are mentioned, just how green they are needs to be reiterated! (And sometimes, they “spew flames”. Which. Okay… you know what? Whatever.)
She’s had an Unconventional Upbringing! Her poor mother died in childbirth, of course, so she and her sister were sent to be raise by nuns. Her sister… fit in perfectly. But our heroine… she was too much for the nuns! “Come take her back!” the nuns cried, forcing her father to raise her himself, with her upbringing being all about Being Educated In Everything By Her Father’s Faithful Men – Including Swordplay and Being The Most Awesomest Sailor Ever! (Though… apparently she’s trained in “the cutlass, the rapier, the scabbard -” Because being trained in “the scabbard” is a Thing? And I had half a second of wondering if that was another “sheath” metaphor/euphemism… but then she grabbed a hold of his and used it against him? And now I HAVE TO KNOW if there is a whole combat training technique based on the carrying case for your sword, that I have somehow *never heard of*. Which would be weird. But as a “I have no idea what I am talking about” author-goof? Meh. Okay. Whatever. I get it… she knows how to point pointy, cut-y thing at people. Though, it did provide me with a couple of minutes of chuckling at the idea of outlaws who were the “Fastest Holster in the West”.)
(back to the Heroine…)
And she’s standing on the deck of *her* ship.
We know, because of the conversation she has with Plot Prop Indulgent Uncle, that her father has died and left her this ship and his business interests. (Which… in the early 1600’s, Totally Happens. I mean… Wait. You know what? Whatever. That’s fine.) (Oh, and the ship, we are Casually But Pointedly Informed, is named for a Greek goddess of the sea. Who never existed. Because the name is actually… You know what? Nevermind. Whatever.)
Indulgent-but-Conventional Plot Prop Uncle is worried about her. She will never get married! Her sister, she is taken care of, since their father arranged this marriage to the Random Dutch Hero. But what of her, and her Unconventional Ways! The heroine, she is just mad because what of her Poor Sister? She wanted to be Nun! Her father, though, thought she needed to be married, and arranged it before he died. Oh, but her father knew the heroine would marry only of her own choosing, and so gave her the business and a means to independence. Because… you know… if you can give one daughter an independent, fairly well-off way to support themselves… there is *no way* she could also make sure her sister was taken care of, or anything. (But… okay. What. Ever.) Her sister, praying resolutely and serenely below decks, says only that her God will assure this marriage does not take place. The heroine, she is more inclined to ask Indulgent Plot Prop Uncle to buy off the intended groom, and allow her sister to return to take her Nunly Vows, because she wants nothing more than for her sister to be happy.
And again, I have to say… at this point, I am still fine. There is no rage. Meh. Whatever. I knew it was a snake when I picked it up. None of the inaccuracies or conventions or what-have-you have really pushed my buttons. I was expecting this level of Stupid. It’s written into the formula. My Suspension Of Disbelief and my Tolerance For Tropes are actually akin to Superpowers. I mean… I read my first formula romance at 8. This is comfort food. You’d have to *really* hit one of my few deal-breaker buttons to make me start to pick apart even the stuff I expect to see there…
Hey… wait. What’s that, on the horizon and gaining on the ship?
Oh, it’s the harbinger of the Deal-Breaker!
Look! A ship with no flag! It could be Pirates!
“Do some really specific because-I-know-what-I’m-talking-about stuff with the sails and get us the fuck out of here!” says the plucky heroine, having no idea she’s stumbled into Inconveniently Right territory.
“Do the opposite of what the plucky little female says!” says the “grog-soaked” captain that Plot Prop Uncle hired to pilot her ship.
“Make the stupid people listen to me, since I own this ship!” the heroine feistily implores her Uncle.
“Now, now. Be a good little chit and go below and wait for the Inevitable – I mean, let the men take care of everything,” says the Indulgent Uncle, who has read the back of the book and knows his time to give way to the Plot is fast approaching.
So, somewhere around page 20 or so, pirates attack the ship. They have an evil English captain. Nasty pirates, killin’ everyone. The heroine, she starts killin’ pirates right back. Arms are flying off people and rolling across the deck, blood is running in some appropriate liquidy-running-type-metaphor, pretty much all of the crew and the Indulgent Uncle end up dead, yadda yadda yadda. The heroine, she is wounded on the arm, but left alive. They say everyone else will be/has been killed! They find her sister, below decks. Of course, it is rape-a-palooza, because this is a 1977 historical. The heroine is raped by pretty much everyone. Her sister is raped by pretty much everyone. Luckily for the heroine and for the reader, she’s not really even conscious for a lot of it. She is aware long enough, though, to see the “Meet You Later In The Plot” pirate with a hook cruelly cut her sister open.
Later, she comes to and finds the one person of her crew to be left alive is the Conveniently Aged And Curiously Mature Young Boy who she always liked. He is Appropriately Noble and Earnest enough to confirm that he is, indeed, the Plot Point we were looking for. He helps her, the crew rapes her some more, he makes sure her arm doesn’t fester to the point of killing her because his superpower is Intuitive Medical Knowledge (involving “powders” and “vials” he found in her old cabin). The Evil Pirate, Captain Halitosis, takes exception to the fact that Plot Boy has taken steps to keep their plaything alive, and orders lashes for them both. They each receive said lashes with Heroic Stoicism. The captain decides she will be his personal plaything, only…
Pushed beyond her limits by this Noble Young Boy being whipped, our heroine decides it is time to invoke my personal Deal-Breaker…
The completely asinine, totally illogical, utterly ridiculous Acrobatic Leap Of Logic.
I’m not talking convenient plot spackling. I don’t mean those “wait… that’s not how they did things” inaccuracies. This is not about even those “I am just going to assume the worst!” moments that doom so many pregnant-with-your-dead-brother’s-baby women to chapters and chapters of stupid behavior on the part of the hero, in so many books. No, I am talking about great over-the-Grand-Canyon-sideways-and-backwards leaps of logic that are so boneheaded that even other characters turn to them and say “WTF?” and yet they still manage to twist their heads about to somehow avoid being confused with the actual facts.
This pirate captain has destroyed her world. He attacked her ship, his crew killed her uncle, they raped and killed her sister, and she has been raped innumerable times under his say-so. The very first thing she noticed about him was that he was English.
So, what does she decide needs to be done?
Why, she swears revenge against them AND ALL THE DUTCH EVER.
Of course she does.
What the fuckity fucking fuck?!?!?!
Even the Helpfully Mature 12 Year Old Plot Boy looks at her at that point and says o.0?
To his helpfully trying to point out that they didn’t get attacked and raped/taken/beaten/whatever by the Dutch, she says “But they were on a Dutch-made ship. And most of their weapons were of Dutch design.”
Because, you know, that same group of Pirates aren’t now sailing your Spanish-made ship. And the Dutch, who you say rule trade at this point, don’t… you know… lose ships to pirates. Or guns. Or, you know, trade guns – as *trade goods* – with everyone and anyone they aren’t pointing them at (and even then, sometimes…).
Yes. Absolutely. That makes complete fucking sense. So does taking that “evidence” and deciding that not only the Dutch, but your sisters intended specifically must have been in control of whether or not her ship was attacked, since there is no chance, ever, that there could be a *ROUGE* band of pirates in Dutch-dominated waters. They *must* have been privateers, and they *must* have been acting on the part of the Dutch.
Whatever. You’ve now drugged the entire crew and thrown them overboard, though the Plot Boy convinces you to throw them into a dinghy, because feeding them to the sharks wouldn’t be sporting. *That’s* never going to bite anyone on the ass, ever.
Oh… and OF COURSE the fact that some of the maps the Evil Pirate Captain had have Dutch writing mean all your extra-fucking-incredibly stupid theories are true. I mean… just because the pirates stole *your* ship and everything on it doesn’t mean they’ve every done that before, ever.
That was about where I threw the book, decided I had to tell *someone*, tried to tell Mr. Man and sent him scurrying to buy me wine just to avoid it (that helped), and contemplated writing you.
I picked the book back up.
Just in time for the heroine to decide that she should find something else to wear, besides the rough shirt she’s been wearing-when-not-naked for the last 20 pages.
That cheesy cover?
Actually… pretty much completely accurate.
Scarf “to hold her hair back”? Check.
Scarlet blouse-y top, inexplicably tied up like this is a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader audition? Check.
(Not shown on cover) Mid-calf, soft leather boots? Check.
And OF COURSE a skirt would be too cumbersome for our Feisty Heroine Who Has Vowed Revenge, so she goes and finds some pants belonging to our dearly departed Tito Plot Prop, who was obviously some bit taller than she was. Luckily, she’s good with blades (having even cut off some poor pirate’s arm, in the initial scuffle).
Oops! She was hasty and “accidentally” shortened the pants to the point where, and I directly quote, “Slipping the shortened trousers on and pulling them up over her hips, she regretted her impatience: they were very short — barely covering her lithe, muscled haunches.”
Yup. She went to trim off some extra length on the pants belonging to a tall man, and accidentally made herself a pair of Daisy Duke Pirate Hot Pants.
And decided she liked the outfit.
Way to rock the 1600’s, sister!
So far, that is as far as I have gone. I decided wine was a better choice right about then. However… I know I am going to finish, because… I paid $.49 for this? Or – more likely – because I am COMPULSIVE about having to finish books I start.
So there you have it: the first “Guess the Book” Book Rant. I’m betting most of you identified the book midway through, especially with the adolescent plot moppet wandering in. Which book is it? And have you read it? I did, and I loved every single insane minute.
Once someone guesses it, I’ll post a link up here – but in the mean time, enjoy the crazysauce. It’s at least 80 proof. (And thank you to BigStock.com for the image!)