Book Review

The Dump: The Code of Love by Cheryl Sawyer


Title: The Code of Love
Author: Cheryl Sawyer
Genre: Historical: Other

Update! On July 5, Cheryl Sawyer dropped by and clarified her use of de rigueur in the comments and very politely pointed out that I was, in fact, talking out of my ass, for which I apologize. My statements about how stilted the book came across to me still stands, however.

Mark Twain once said that an author should “say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it,” and as far as a rule of writing goes, that’s a good ‘un to keep in mind. It certainly was what sprang to mind when I attempted to read Cheryl Sawyer’s The Code of Love recently.

Here’s the setup:

In 1810, some English soldier dude escaped from a Mauritian prison, but was betrayed, recaptured and brought back. Now, let’s play “spot the strange word usage” with me in this excerpt, hmmmm?

Only Delphine Delgaish knew who had betrayed him to the legion, and she told just one other person, so no one else knew what to think. Which made a visit to the Garden Prison de rigueur at the earliest opportunity.

That particular use of de rigueur stopped me cold and had me running for my dictionary. It was somehow proper etiquette—in fact, socially necessary—for a genteelly-raised unmarried young woman to visit a dangerous, recently-escaped prisoner of war? WHAT?

De rigueur carries very strong connotations, most of them pertaining to fashion and social etiquette, and any uses outside of these contexts are usually deeply ironic or meant to provide comic contrast (e.g., “Genital torture and ritual humiliation were de rigueur at Abu Ghraib”). In this particular book’s case, visiting a prisoner to find out what exactly had gone wrong was perhaps necessary, perhaps even vital, but unless the visit was an attempt to, I don’t know, ascertain the color of his breeches or inspect the state of his Hessians, nothing about it was by any means de rigueur.

The use of this phrase made the book come across as trying too damn hard—an impression that was sustained across what bits of the book I managed to read. It wasn’t necessarily F-grade bad, or even D-grade bad, but it was tedious as hell, and made for a very stilted read. After ramming through a few more pages, I decided to give up on it. For the bits I managed to read, I’d give it a D+. It may have improved later, but I honestly didn’t want to wade through the rest of it. It made me a very sad panda, because it seemed like such a waste of an interesting premise.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    CM says:

    The part that made me double-take was:  “Only Delphine Delgaish knew who had betrayed him to the legion, and she told just one other person.”

    That would be only Delphine and the person she told knew who betrayed him, right?  Unless she told Pheldine, her alter ego.

  2. 2
    skapusniak says:

    That would be only Delphine and the person she told knew who betrayed him, right?  Unless she told Pheldine, her alter ego.

    Oh Lord, somehow those couple of sentences have somehow generated the concept of Multiple-Personality Disorder Secret Baby Romance into my diseased mind.


  3. 3
    Kaite says:

    Multiple-Personality Disorder Secret Baby Romance

    At least it would explain how the baby could be truly secret. If even the mother doesn’t know at the time, how can anyone else know?

  4. 4
    TeddyPig says:

    OH god make it stop no body use that please!

  5. 5
    Najida says:

    I’m going to drink another cup of coffee and eat a donut before I try to unscramble all this.

  6. 6
    bookworm says:

    A multiple personality heroine would be an improvement on the amount of heroines who have no personality at all. Oh, excuse me, I forgot. When you’re “feisty” you don’t really need to have any other personality traits.
    Or maybe the baby has multiple personalities, and that’s why it’s been kept a secret.

  7. 7
    Kalen Hughes says:

    Only Delphine Delgaish knew who had betrayed him to the legion, and she told just one other person, so no one else knew what to think.

    Only Delphine knew.

    Except that she told someone else, so in fact, we have no idea how many people might really be in the know.

    And somehow everyone else is at a loss as to what happened, because they all know that only Delphine knew?

    I’m very, very, very lost.

  8. 8
    Najida says:


    The more I read this, the less sense it makes.  Maybe after lunch—- 2010.

  9. 9
    canadacole says:

    You mean, only Delphine and the person who betrayed him knew, right?  Or, oh, that would make her the betrayer? 

    Mystery solved.  End of novel.

  10. 10
    dl says:

    IMO tedious usually equates into a wallbanger…wise of you to cut your losses.  No sense wasting your valuable time, time that could be better spent reading a really good book!!

    After years of reading, I no longer feel any obligation to continue reading crap.  Writers can write it, some publisher may publish it, but I do not feel obligated to finish reading garbage.

    The new Lora Leigh is call me…

  11. 11
    teddy pig says:

    DL! I love Lora Leigh. She is the literary equivalent of 7/11 nachos with extra cheese sauce and hot peppers.

    You know it is not food, you know you will pay for it the next day, but you still want some after you have finished the six pack of Bud Light by yourself.

  12. 12
    cara says:

    I think I’m gonna have to go to 7-11 for lunch today. Dammit!

  13. 13
    Teddy Pig says:

    I would recommend a nice Lora Leigh Elizabeth’s Wolf to go with your nachos.

  14. 14
    sandra says:

    Judging from that example of her deathless prose, Cheryl Sawyer cannot write her way out of a wet paper bag.  How does somebody like that get published in the first place.  Thanks for the warning, I’ll avoid her in future.

  15. 15
    wendy says:

    Delphine Delgaish? Just rolls off the tongue and bangs straight into the wall.

  16. 16
    Bron says:

    Which made a visit to the Garden Prison de rigueur at the earliest opportunity.

    Because it is the fashion, the style, in fact de rigeur for heroines in this type of historical novel to do TSTL things, of course.

    (Oops. I think I just had a BronBitch moment.)

  17. 17
    Qadesh says:

    I’m with Wendy on this one, I just can’t get beyond the name.  Delphine Delgaish?  That is just awful. 

    Which brings up a good opportunity, an awful names snarkfest perhaps?  We’ve got cover snark, why not name snark?

  18. 18
    Ann Bruce says:

    Writers can write it, some publisher may publish it, but I do not feel obligated to finish reading garbage.

    You are stronger than I will ever be.  Once I start something, I…must…finish…it…no…matter…how…long…it…takes.

    One day, God willing, I will break this nasty habit.

  19. 19
    Gennita Low says:

    So Delphine knew.

    The betrayed knew.

    The person she told it to knew.

    The betrayer knew (of course).

    The omniscient POV voice knew.

    Everyone else knew.

    So the only person who doesn’t know who betrayed “him” is me, the reader.

    Gah. De Rigor Mortis.

    verification word: general85 *Ha! I bet HE knew who betrayed whom too*

  20. 20
    kate r says:

    You sure it wasn’t a clever little word play? ha ha? If she took her time deciding which bonnet and pelisse would be best for the visit, if she tried to decide if her calling cards should be left with the edge folded, yowza! it would be a great sort of line. Something Loretta Chase might come up with.

  21. 21
    Alecto says:

    I need to stop reading without my glasses, ‘cause I read “Delgaish” as “Delgash.” Sigh.

  22. 22

    Candy – I’m so glad to know that you do give up on bad books sometimes – I was beginning to think you were some sort of masochist ;D

    Ann – I used to finish even really bad books but then I finally came to the decision that my time was more valuable so unless it’s entertainingly bad I just put them in the discard pile and move on.

  23. 23
    Estelle says:

    First time for everything: I’ve never disagreed so much about a grade with you bitches before.

    IIRC, I think I gave The Code of Love a strong B+ or even an A-.

    I’ve always loved Cheryl Swayer’s style and I never got the impression she was trying too hard. IMO she’s miles above 90% of the romance writers currently published. But then I also think that Judith Ivory *does* try too hard and her books are painful to read and I’m in the minority there it seems. Looks like I’m in the minority when it comes to Cheryl Sawyer too.

    Re-De Rigueur, I don’t know if its use and meaning has changed since it became part of the english vocabulary, but, in French, you do not use it only for etiquette and fashion. That’s why I saw nothing wrong in the passage you quoted.

  24. 24
    Lauren says:

    Can we entirely blame the author though? I mean the editor actually looked at it and said it was okay. Sometimes I wonder if authors actually have editors or just pretend.

  25. 25
    Candy says:

    Estelle: It may very well be that de rigueur may not have the same connotations in English as in French—or, frankly, in 19th-century English-speaking territories. (My friend Sebastien got a nasty surprise when he learned what “douche” actually means in English, for example, and was mortified at all the times he’d told his friends at the dorm that he was going to have a quick douche.)  My nitpick may be badly off-base; I’ll gladly be shown the light if people want to offer up examples of period usage and the like.

    But that still doesn’t change the fact that I really, really didn’t like the prose style in the rest of the book, and thought it was clumsily-written.

  26. 26
    Estelle says:

    lol Candy, I also learned recently what ‘Douche’ meant in English. Luckily I did not use the name when I spoke English so there was no embarassing moment.

    Hey, to each their own when it comes to taste. I still love to read all the snark you dish out. It’s always good to have a laugh before leaving my house in the morning :o)

  27. 27
    Bella says:


    Um. What did your friend think douche meant? :

  28. 28
    Bella says:

    nm. i put it into google translator. that’s pretty funny… poor guy, i would’ve liked to have seen his friends’ faces the first time he popped off with “gonna go have a quick douche”!

  29. 29
    Teddy Pig says:

    The term “Douche” now a days can simply be short for calling someone a “Douche Bag”.

    I have also heard “Douche” used in the Navy to mean you are going to take a shower and get cleaned up.

    I think it’s “supposed” to be shocking like some old Sailor asking some young recruit “Have you gotten your red wings yet” etc etc.

  30. 30
    Charlene says:

    Not if you’re francophone like Sebastien almost certainly is, Teddy Pig. It’s French for “shower”.

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