Once upon a time, a long, long time ago (ok, it was January, but online that’s, like, nine years ago or some shit), DocTurtle read and blogged about his romance exploration, a readerly tour of romance 101 directed by recommendations from the Bitchery. First he read Sex, Straight Up, because he dismissed the category genre in an offhand remark and I challenged him to put his reading where is snark is. He agreed, discovered the Power of Lurrrrrrve™, and went on to read Heyer’s An Infamous Army. Then, he picked up Lord of Scoundrels, the book that drags people into romance whether they like it or not.
And then, behold, there was a semester, and as a math professor, DocTurtle was a busy busy turtle. He comes bearing apologies and a new appreciation for romance.
It’s been a long, long time since I last posted on this lovely blog. In the time that’s passed since my last contribution, I’ve had time to pop in and read the posts Sarah’s left, occasionally browse the comments, chuckle to myself, but do little else.
Shortly after I began reading and blogging about Loretta Chase’s wonderful Lord of Scoundrels, the spring semester, a heavy one filled to bursting with several time-consuming courses, came crashing down on my head. For the first time ever (and, I hope, the last time ever) I found myself teaching four different courses this past term. Add to that various conference and seminars, a few research projects, and a handful of committee commitments, and you’ve got one hell of a busy mathematician.
Bitch mewl moan gripe whine…I don’t mean it as an excuse so much as an explanation. I’ve offered my humble apologies to SB Sarah, and I hope she’s not given up on me. I’ve not given up on her, and I’ve not given up on my promise to work my way through a few more romance novels, starting with Chase’s LoS.
So here we are.
Three days ago, with every trace of the most hellacious semester in memory brushed back into my past, I picked up Lord of Scoundrels again (I was about 200 pages into it before), and just hours ago I finished rereading it.
As I know you’re all aware…It. Was. Marvelous.
I’d read the first several (eleven, I think?) chapters by January, and I blogged to y’all about my take on several of them. The journey through the last hundred and fifty pages was effortless. Pshaw.
Ms. Chase made it easy. The clever turns of phrase! the vivid metaphors! the sharp humor!
Lord Dain, on the pained look of virgin madonnas: “They look exceedingly ill-tempered. I suppose it’s on account of being virgins—of experiencing all the unpleasantness of breeding and birthing and none of the jolly parts.”
Jessica, on Dain’s taste in women: “When Bertie told me how much you paid, I thought it was their services which were so horrifically expensive. Now, however, I comprehend my error. Obviously you pay by volume.”
And the insults, oh, the insults! Henwit! Baconbrain! Ha’pennyworth of a chit! Thickheaded ox! Cocksure clodpole! Yeah, I always loves me some alliteration.
Leaving aside her knack for dialogue, there’s Chase’s exceptional eye for imagery, and for setting a scene. One can clearly see the lamppost against which Dain presses Jessica when they first kiss (a kiss lasting very nearly three pages). One can nearly feel the slightly salty water filling the air that hangs over the moors surrounding the Ballister family home. One can easily conjure up the candlelit tête-à-tête between the extortionists Charity Graves and Roland Vawtry.
None of this is to say that Chase’s work is all style and no substance. Every element of the carefully-crafted plot is subtly connected with every other, and every single thing that happens in furtherance of the plot, every conversation, every confrontation, every connivance, is believable. Dain and Jessica take turns in upping the ante on one another, calling each other’s bluffs with more bluffs, pulling aces from their sleeves until they’ve emptied out their shirts…but every move they make is the right move at the right time.
Jessica won’t give Dain the icon he desperately wants (though he can’t yet truly know why)?
Fine then, Dain will scandalize Jessica with a public disrobing.
Fine then, Jessica will have it known that the most roguish roué to ever stalk the Paris streets has fallen headlong for a well-bred spinster of thirty years.
Fine then, Dain will make love, in no uncertain terms, to said spinster in plain sight of several reliable witnesses.
Fine then, Jessica will shoot Dain, lest anyone think she’s bound to let her honor be besmirched.
Fine then, Dain will propose to marry Jessica in order to restore her honor for her.
Fine then, Jessica will accept his proposal, in order that she not be consigned to “a life of poverty and obscurity in a remote outpost of civilization.”
Fine then, neither of them will have to enjoy it.
Or will they?
The ensuing story of Dain’s redemption, and his son’s, is utterly engaging and told with perfect pace. Character? Check. Scene? Check. Plot? Check. And all of it is beautifully bundled together with various maternal metaphors: bits of Jessica, Lucia, Charity Graves, and the Virgin Mary herself are blended together to tell a story that’s ultimately one about these several mothers and their respective sons.
I’m sure it will shock no one to hear me agree with the bulk of the Bitchery that this isn’t simply a good romance novel, it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Brava, Ms. Chase! Brava!
I have to offer my apologies to those of you who’ve delighted in my chapter-by-chapter posts from the planet Mars (read: the male half of the species) and find something lacking in this one-shot post, something…episodic and acerbic? Episodic: I found it hard to put this book down long enough to jot down a blow-by-blow account that would make much sense. Acerbic: there was far too little to snark in this book for me to make a meal out of what little silliness I could scrape together.
I guess the book was just too damned good.
If you’d like, I can repeat a few of the complaints I made while reading Kathleen O’Reilly’s Sex, Straight Up: I’m sorry, but “he smelled like Male” (italics not mine) and “he was a man-man” are still silly phrases.
If you’d like, perhaps the next title I tackle can be a lousier one?
My long, long absence notwithstanding, I truly am eager to continue my romantic journey, if y’all (and SB Sarah) will still have me. The summer lies before me, offering many more hours for reading and reflecting.
So, my friends, what will it be? Another regency? Another contemporary category? Paranormal? [Gulp] NASCAR? I’m all yours, I await your next request.
Thank you, Sir Turtle!
So: you interested in more hilarity from DocTurtle? If so, any books to suggest? Shall we hit him with McCarthy’s Flat Out Sexy since he gulped at the Nascar? Or perhaps a Harlequin NASCAR anthology? What’s your thought?
And dude, is there anything LoS can’t do? I wonder if it makes breakfast.