Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Submitted "The Middle Child" Strange Horizons. I got some very positive comments from one of their editors in their rejection of "House Hunting," so they were first on the list when I decided to submit "The Middle Child."

I personally think "The Middle Child" is one of the best things I've written (along with "House Hunting"), so I hope they like it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"It Happened One Autumn," by Lisa Kleypas

The Chick: Lillian Bowman - the second-oldest of Lisa Kleypas' Wallflowers. She's richer than God, not bad looking, and smart as a whip - so why is she overlooked? Because she's a crass, sass-talkin' American, that's why. She and her younger sister Daisy desparately need a noble sponser to instruct them enough in proper English manners for them to land husbands, but so far, Lillian's hellfire temper sets her apart from her British competitors.
Shady Past: She and her sister invited their Wallflower friends to play Rounders (essentially baseball) with them in the previous novel. In their undergarments. Outside. On Lord Westcliff's estate. On which they were discovered in said undergarments by Lord Westcliff.

The Dude: Despite being a dyed-in-the-wool-aristocrat with ancestry going back practically to the Middle Ages, Lord Marcus Westcliff already knows that the power of the aristocracy is dwindling so he spends most of his time shoring up his noble fortune with actual industries and investments (with the help of Simon Hunt from the previous novel). Despite his liberal policies, he has frankly misguided ideas about sex ("One doesn't need it more than once a week" - words he eventually eats) and very traditional ideas about marriage (both his sisters married Americans, so he's under pressure to produce a proper English bride to continue the family name).
Shady Past: His mean ol' daddy abused him and his mean ol' mummy's a witch.

The Plot:
Lillian: I hate you because you're arrogant and conceited!

Westcliff: I hate you because you're uncultured and chaotic! *sniffs* You smell nice. *gropes*

Lillian: Okay, you're not so bad.

Westcliff: Argh! I'm too full of angst for us to have a happy relationship! I must leave!

Lord St. Vincent, Rake-For-Hire: Hey, if you don't want her, can I have her?

Westcliff: Wha...?

St. Vincent: Too late! *steals*


St. Vincent: *RECEIVES HEARTY SERVING FROM THE ULTIMATE CAN OF PAIN* Ow...guess I'll just limp my way into the sequel, then...

Westcliff: I was wrong - let's get married.

Westcliff and Lillian: *elope*

Romantic Convention Checklist:
1 Interclass Romance
1 Unscrupulous Sexual Rival
2 Very Bad Parents
2 Very Accepting Siblings
1 Obvious Sequel Setup (St. Vincent + Evie)
1 Ether-soaked Handkerchief
1 Victorian Equivalent of a Vegas Wedding

The Word: Now, I like all the books in this charming quartet, but my favourite by far has to be It Happened One Autumn. It's probably because of all the couples in these novels, Westcliff and Lillian are the most tempestuously matched, to the point where their attractions run far ahead of their own brains. Westcliff seems so surprised and appalled to find himself suddenly making out with Lillian, that it's a terrific scene and one of my all-time favourites. Westcliff and Lillian are both very extreme characters - Lillian is almost anachronistially, violently feminist, and Westcliff is such a strict adherent to the aristocratic code that it sometimes overshades his perception of reality. Lillian hates hates HATES being dominated in any way, shape, or form, but Westcliff is so used to being obeyed that he gives her orders without realizing that's the perfect way to get her to do the exact opposite of what he's ordered. So naturally, when they get together their meetings are destructive.

The story is once again chock-full of wonderful Kleypas details of the scenery, cutlery, food, and humour. Despite the ending which smacks of Pride and Prejudice crossed with Without a Trace, the characters for the most part are fun to read about - especially St. Vincent, who after his disastrous mistake in this book gets a chance to redeem himself in the next one (The Devil in Winter). Basically, the greatness behind It Happened One Autumn lies in how Kleypas creates two vivid, very opposing characters and realistically shows how they could come to be the perfect match - which is what romances are supposed to do, aren't they? A-.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Submitted "House Hunting"

...To Weird Tales magazine. I thought it an appropriate last hurrah for Reading Week before I become too busy to do any writing.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

"Secrets of a Summer Night," Lisa Kleypas

The Chick: Annabelle Peyton. One of the four "wallflowers" who decide to combine their feminine wiles to find husbands for each other, her excuse for her dreadful luck with the menfolk is that despite being gentry, her family's dirt poor, and there's a whole flock of unscrupulous noblemen waiting for her to sink low enough to consent to being a mistress, rather than a wife.
Shady Past: Annabelle's mother consented to an affair with a repulsive lord in order to pay the bills, and that same lord's got eyes for Annabelle...

The Dude: Simon Hunt - who, despite being a butcher's son, has managed to climb out of the middle class and become an insanely wealthy industrialist. Despite doling out priceless financial favours and investment advice to the economically-challenged aristocracy, he's only invited to the fancy parties out of condescending gratitude and is still seen as little more than a peasant. In response to constant snubbing, he does away with tact and tradition altogether, which makes him come off as something of a boor to the ladies.
Shady Past: Despite being rich enough to purchase a thousand butcher shops the equal of his father's, his parents still sniff about him abandoning the family business and working with intangible things like investments and stocks.

The Plot:
Annabelle: I need money!
Simon: What a coincidence! I have money!
Annabelle: You willing to buy the whole cow, or do you just want some milk?
Simon: Milk would be nice.
Annabelle: Wrong answer!
Simon: Only a matter of time.
Lord Hodgeham: *various inappropriate sexual advances*
Simon: Alright, I give! I drink your milkshake! I DRINK IT UP!
Annabelle: Huzzah!

Romance Convention Checklist:
1 Interclass Romance
1 Unscrupulous Sexual Rival
1 Harmless but Boring Sexual Rival
1 Life-saving (or at least comfort-saving) Act On the Part of the Hero
1 Obvious Sequel Set-Up (Earl Westcliff + half naked Lillian Bowman = Romance?)
2 Inappropriately Public Groping Sessions

The Word: People in the romance blogger community have called Lisa Kleypas' books "romantic novel crack," and HOLY CRAP ARE THEY RIGHT. I picked up this book during Reading Week since I figured I was far enough ahead in my university reading to do some fun reading of my own, and I kept picking this novel up to read more ("just one more chapter - ONE more chapter? Then I'll get started on my essays, yeah...").
Lisa Kleypas builds strong, interesting characters and infuses her Victorian settings with a wealth of colourful detail, particularly on fashions and food. I also like the idea of four girls teaming up to find husbands for each other one by one -- I mean, we've had what, fifty years of ninja movies and the ninjas never think to attack the hero all at once instead of one at a time, only to lose each time? This is progress! The ending is also fairly realistic -- Simon Hunt's social problems don't all blow away in the wind just because he marries Annabelle. Annabelle has to come to terms with the snubbing she receives from both side of the class line -- the nobles think she's married down, and Simon's folks think she's a gold-digging aristo. Still, despite all the "reality" that seeps into this novel, it's still a terrifically fun read. B+

Friday, February 15, 2008

"The Care and Feeding of Unmarried Men," By Christie Ridgway

The Chick: Eve Caruso, the sexually-aggressive Party Girl who keeps the Palm Springs gossip mills running with her spicy society columns. She's sexy, she knows it, and she's also the granddaughter of a mob boss. Unfortunately, now she's also broke and being investigated by the SEC for taking an illegal insider trading tip from a vindictive ex-boyfriend.
Shady Past: She's the product of the mob boss' son and his mistress - but spent her formative years being raised by his wife. Was abused by a former boyfriend (also with Mob connections) and retains a terrifying claustrophobia from a traumatic encounter with the FBI in her childhood.

The Dude: Nash Cargill, a monster truck driver (for reals) who comes to Eve's Palm Springs resort to keep an eye on his movie-star sister when a former stalker disappears from the radar. His nickname is "The Preacher," after his admirable moral restraint. Has a soft spot for damsels in distress that he repeatedly tries to ignore.
Shady Past: His father hit him as a child, and after one of his white-knighting antics lands a man in the hospital, he's terrified that he'll turn out to be a violent man, too.

The Plot:

Nash: I like morals and responsible living!

Eve: I like sex!

Nash: That, too! Hey, now I like you...

Eve: Oh no you don't! *doffs clothes*

Nash: Holy Conversation Deflection, Batman!

Various Evil, Scheming Men: Hey, Eve, watch as we act on the expectation that since you're hot, you're a slut!

Nash: Now I want to hit something just like my mean ol' dad!

Eve: Oh no you don't! *doffs clothes*

Nash: I'm cured!

Romantic Convention Checklist:

3 Precocious Siblings

1 Romantic Subsplot Not Involving Protagonists

2 Romantically Lacklustre Exes

1 Relationship-Aiding Pet

1 Inconvenient Phobia

1 Catholic Schoolgirl Outfit
3 (at least!) Wonderfully Accepting Relatives

The Word:
Wow - I wasn't expecting this novel to be good. I literally just picked this book out at random to use up a $25 gift card I'd received for my birthday. I was expecting this novel to be sudsy and cheesy and guilty pleasure fun - instead, while not quite as enjoyable as my favourite romances, it was unexpectedly complex and very well-written.

First of all, this is the second book in a series, which I didn't know -- and it doesn't really matter. The characters from the first book appear here (as their wedding is being planned), and they're given their due, but they're still totally scenery which is just what they should be in a story that isn't theirs.

Secondly - I loved the characters. Flat-out, well-drawn, three-dimensional characters. Especially Eve - she's got so many skeletons in her closet it could double as a Tim Burton movie set. On paper it sounds like she has so many personal problems that it seems impossible she isn't a raving nutjob, but somehow Ridgway pulls it all together. Eve's a pretty interesting woman -- she responds to her relationship insecurities by being very sexually aggressive, by taking up the traditional man's role in a relationship. She's not afraid to use her smokin' body to get control of a situation (which involves some outlandishly seductive situations, some of which are hilarious), and she's always the one to break off the relationship before it threatens anything resembling intimacy. She responds to requests for intimacy with sexual temptation - a "if-he's-looking-at-my-breasts-he's-not-looking-at-my-heart" kinda deal.

She has several problems all going on at once that she has to juggle but she can't ask anyone for help - she has a wonderful, loving family with her father's wife and her half-sisters, but she can never forget that she's the daughter of her father's mistress. She's the illegitimate brat that the wife had to raise and she figures she's brought enough shame into the family without bothering them with her petty problems.

Nash, as well, is intriguing -- a white knight who's tired of being a white knight. He's had too many girlfriends who just used him as a means to fend off a nasty ex or help their kids or pay their Visa bills (all of which could fuel a romantic novel of their own), that he just wants a "normal" woman, one who's not a total basketcase, which I feel is a funny quirk on a lot of romantic cliches. He's also, you know, "The Preacher," so is a little disturbed by Eve's "sex first, probing questions later, or better yet, never" approach.
Given Eve's phobias and problems you'd think Nash would be the absolute worst person for her, but the way they finally come together and find areas that complement each other, I felt was very insightful and entertaining. The only thing I had trouble figuring out about this novel was the title, which really has no bearing on the characters or the plot of this story at all. A-.

"An Offer from a Gentleman" by Julia Quinn

The Chick: Sophie Beckett, the "ward" of an Earl who dies and leaves her in the care of his shrewish new wife and her two daughters, who promptly turn her into an unpaid servant in return for room and board.
Shady Past: Uh, by "ward," I mean illegitimate by-blow -- which makes the Countess her Wicked Stepmother, natch.
The Dude: Benedict Bridgerton, second son of the fabulously wealthy, liberal, and all-round respected Bridgerton family. Yet, despite being wealthy, liberal, and all-round respected, he is mysteriously unfulfilled.
Shady Past: Enterprising ladies and their marriage-hunting mamas are so focused on his money and family name that they don't bother learning his given name, which results in him being relegated to nicknames like "Number Two."
The Plot:
Benedict: Marry me!
Sophie-in-Cinderella-disguise: No.
Benedict: Be my mistress!
Sophie-years-later-as-servant: HELL no!
Benedict: NOW marry me!
Sophie-returned-to-solvency: Okay.
Romantic Convention Checklist:
1 Interclass Romance
1 Vicious Romantic Rival
1 Very Bad (Step-)Parent
9 (!) Anachronistically Wonderful and Accepting Relatives
1 False Accusation
1 Previously Undiscovered Inheritence
1 Obvious Sequel Setup (look out, Colin Bridgerton)
The Word
This was my first foray into the Bridgerton series. I didn't read it under very pleasant circumstances - I was in the hospital over two days just before holidays, which was why I'd had my exams deffered. Anyway, I'd heard a lot of good things about the Bridgerton series, and I'm a sucker for Regencies, so I thought I'd give it a try.
First of all, while the Cinderella setup of the first chunk of the novel was cute, the actual Fairy Godmother part was too abrupt for me. The author did a great job setting up the situation with the stepmother and the stepsisters and Sophie's rotten situation, but the helpful housekeeper and the servants who all drop what they're doing to suddenly drape Sophie in glamour came right out of the blue. The fairy godmother character was never explained nor really given a proper motive for her actions which really weakened the opening act for me. Honestly, I felt it could have had a bit more lead-in.
That said, Sophie's character is tough and practical without being totally anachronistic. She has a realistic knowledge of her place and an understandable reluctance to leave it and risk everything. Benedict is interesting in much the same way - when he meets Sophie again when she's a servant (instead of disguised as a noble at the start of the novel), he's fully aware of the social implications of his desire for her, which is why he asks her to be his mistress and not his wife. It's also equally well-written why Sophie refuses. I thought Benedict's social malaise ("boo hoo, true love doesn't exist, women are only out for my money") was a bit whiny, but thankfully he gets over it soon enough. As well, his family members are all loving and affectionate, and don't totally take over the story, although their total acceptance of Sophie is either incredibly naive and anachronistic or else they must be REALLY rich not to care, in which case, way to go Sophie!
In any case, It was an enjoyable read and it kept the fairy-tale ending without completely doing away with actual Regency social norms. B.

Friday, February 08, 2008


By Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show for "House Hunting." *Sigh*

I wish I could post more, but I seriously have no time.