Gorham sexy

December 19, 2009

Continuing my explorations into the digital holdings of the Seattle Public Library, I borrowed The Edge of Impropriety, by Pam Rosenthal, and gulped it down over the course of one late night (a terrible, terrible habit). The Adobe pdf version of the print copy sadly has no cover art (how is this possible? It’s digital! It could sparkle and dance if the publisher put the slightest effort in) and does not re-paginate itself to fit my screen, but it does have a functional table of contents, unlike some of the other pdf ebooks I have sampled, and clean, distinct text. Unlike your average pdf file, ebook pdf’s restrict any copying, making quoting from the digital text as tedious as print. Le sigh.

The Edge of Impropriety is a romance without a typically lurid romance cover, going instead for the zoomed-in nineteenth century portraiture with cut-off head look. The marketing department may have targeted more of a mass-market fiction than romance audience; readers who like light romantic fiction but don’t shop the romance aisles. The design reminds me of Lauren Willig’s The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, which I usually see shelved in “Fiction”. The prose of Edge flows smoothly and elegantly, developing the characters without recourse to fits of descriptive detail, backstory dumpage, or excessive reliance on stereotyped romance tropes. And the sexxoring, when they get down to it (chapter 7), is HOT. Hawt even. Which I do not find to be typical. Did I hold the story to higher standards because the aforementioned elements were good? Perhaps, for the plot bored me, though in summary, it does not appear more boring than the average historical romance.

To wit: Marina, Countess of Gorham, having been cast off by the heirs of her late husband, gets by in tony Mayfair on the proceeds of her wit, sophistication and notoriety. That is, she writes society novels and “puffs” them with parties, rumors and well-managed affairs. Insert mildly tetchy authorial commentary on popular novels that may not be intellectual but tell a good story, e.g.:

“A scholar, a stickler for old-fashioned family honor…too high-minded to read anything penned during the last two millennia. Which would seem to leave out such popular entertainments as she was paid to write for strivers, mushrooms, and lord knew whom else. And which—she reminded herself defiantly—she wrote with all the wit and intelligence she could muster.”

The heroine-as-authoress romance type always says or thinks some version of this, and I must say. It annoys me. Anyway—Marina had been the second wife of Gorham, his plaything really, and is not quite respectable (if the Earl is dead, is she still a Countess? Hmmm…I don’t care to look it up). Mr. Jasper Hedges, classicist and former adventurer, spends his days caring for his beloved, orphaned niece, and managing his rakish nephew’s debt-ridden estate. The nephew—who is actually Jasper’s son, but let’s not confuse the issue—Baronet of somewhere, pretends to be Marina’s lover for the further puffery of her novel (the protagonist is drawn in his image) and for his own amusement. Marina’s publisher requests an introduction to Mr. Hedges in order to commission a book on Greek antiquities, and a meeting at one of Marina’s puffery parties is engineered. However, Marina and Jasper first espy each other anonymously wandering among the Elgin marbles. Sparks, mad longings, wild animal sex, and love, of course, ensue.

Ms. Rosenthal: kudos for creating a mature, ink-stained hero who is not the duke of anything! And a heroine who is also all grown up. No kudos for the evil villain, whose point of view we get to share briefly. Why? Why bother with the villain P.O.V.? If not to build the villain into an actual human-like character? You don’t have to do it just because Jayne, J.R. and Le Nora do. This is a time for the august words of Elmore Leonard (rule #10): “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip“.

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2 Responses to “Gorham sexy”

  1. bridgid Says:

    I am intrigued. Do your eyes get tired reading eBooks? Great book review, by the way. I’ll have to check it out.

    • revdrliz Says:

      Not as much as I expected, but my eyes do sting more if I am already tired. I’m not ready to throw down for one of the new fancy schmancy eInk readers. I still favor paper books with paper pages and ink-ink.


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