This Week, I Read… (2017 #6)

17-trial-by-desire

#17 – Trial by Desire, by Courtney Milan

I don’t read a lot of historical romances, but I’ve been trying to branch out by picking them up at book sales, especially when I see one by an author who’s been recommended to me several times, or has come to my attention elsewhere.

In Courtney Milan’s case, I’d heard of her in passing, but she joined my to-read list with an entry in her current contemporary series that features LGBTQIA+ characters. I was excited about that before, and now that I’ve read her work, I’m even more excited.

I can’t put my finger on why, exactly, I liked this more than other period pieces I’ve read. Maybe because it was emotionally honest in a way that didn’t truly depend on the trappings of High Society to cause conflict–there’s only so many times you can read about a heroine Breaking the Rules™ before it gets old.

And yet, this heroine does break the rules, in most spectacular fashion, but she does it in secret, for a good cause, and not because she’s bored or attention-seeking. And the hero? Aside from some cheesiness in the repeated theme of “taming the dragon,” used to refer to his inner struggles, I found him charming and quite different. While I don’t suffer from major depressive episodes myself, I found the depiction of them in his case realistic (feel free, readers, to disagree if you know better, I’m always willing to be educated) and while fiction in general still has a long way to go in not romanticizing OR stigmatizing mental illness, I felt like this was presented fairly. The hero’s depression was something he didn’t like about himself and something he worked hard to rein in, so clearly he felt negatively about it (ie, it wasn’t romanticized) but the heroine didn’t shun him for it, in fact coming to a realization about herself and how to support him through it (not stigmatized.)

And as I do know myself, a supportive partner makes all the difference on bad mental health days. So kudos, Courtney Milan, I look forward to reading more of your work.

18-get-a-clue

#18 – Get A Clue, by Jill Shalvis

My first DNF of the year, which is richly deserved. Where do I start?

The hero is an entitled jerk who repeatedly causes the heroine to feel stressed, harassed, or physically uncomfortable.

The heroine, however, does more than a little to invite this behavior by being scared one minute (of him, or of the “creepy” house–more on that later) then wanting to jump his bones the next, because gosh darnit he’s just so HOT.

So that’s two of her three possible emotional states–the other one is annoyed. She is relentlessly negative about everything. Yeah, yeah, she had a shitty day, that’s the whole premise, but I definitely see why three different men have all left her at the altar.

(Which is, in and of itself, somewhat preposterous. Sure, she could have been engaged three times, but not one of them broke it off before the big day? Seriously?)

Then let’s talk about the murder mystery. Because there is one, apparently. The power goes out at the luxury rental house early on, and we the reader are constantly told how frightened the heroine is (even though there’s very little but darkness, and occasionally the advances of the hero, to unnerve her) but I never felt it. It just seemed ridiculous, because the description of the setting was basic and flat.

Oh, and racial stereotyping alert: the butler looked like “a thug” and also looked “Cuban.” Because he had tattoos, I think, but honestly I’m not even sure. This was published in 2005, and I realize thug didn’t become a highly politicized, racially-charged word in the collective social consciousness until after that, so I can sort of let that slide; but there are constant references to how dangerous he looks, and for no obvious reason, because none of his actions on the page tally with that assessment. So the heroine is racist, which wasn’t appealing to read.

And it should be noted, this is WELL before the body shows up and any actual danger manifests. In fact, I didn’t even get that far–in a 309-page book, the dead guy doesn’t make an appearance until almost halfway through, on page 137. I skimmed ahead when I decided to stop reading, because I was curious about just how long that plot would take to get going.

This book is just laughably bad.

19-drums-of-autumn

#19 – Drums of Autumn, by Diana Gabaldon

This wordy ramble started so slow I wondered if I would even have it done this week, hence the quickie paperback romances I shoehorned in.

Once I hit the middle, where the action picked up with some characters time-traveling back to see our beloved Jamie and Claire–ill-advisedly, I might add–things got interesting, and I was quite pleased to sit down for three hours and chug right along toward the end.

But the last quarter of the book, and the ending? Seriously disappointing. A) How many characters have to get raped, because that’s beyond overused as a plot point in this series, and B) how does the end manage to feel like a letdown and a cliffhanger at the same time? Very little is actually resolved, beyond the new romance story line, and even that’s not exactly a happy ending, or even a Happy For Now.

I realize there’s four more published works in the series, and it’s not even done yet, but just how long can we keep these plates spinning?

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