The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan

A white woman with brown hair wearing a huge royal blue ball gown looks over her shoulder at the viewer in one of Courtney Milan's signature cover stylesFile under: Finished at 4 a.m. because OMG. The Suffragette Scandal is a new Courtney Milan book and therefore the reviewers of Romanceland are swooning like Directioners at a meet and greet. Let’s not pretend I’m above that. Do we even need a review? Can we go now? Ok, fine! Free has replaced Smite as my new favorite Courtney Milan character. (She didn’t do much for me in her earlier appearances.) I really, truly, deeply wanted her to be a lesbian because in my head she was perfect for Violet Waterfield. Stupid writers and their stupid visions. Fine Courtney, write YOUR story. God.

Free is kind of awesome, actually. She’s the sort of self sacrificing activist that I roll my eyes at in everyday life. I mean, yea, sure, she’s right but her entire world is focused on her beliefs. She self harms to give a voice to the voiceless. She’s like, Wendy Davis or something. (Well, if Wendy Davis was a romance heroine and not a complex human with all the messy turns that a human life requires.) Free grinds out her daily newspaper on a press she cares for more than her own life. She knows she’s fighting a war she can’t win, but ceding the battle is unthinkable.

Edward is well versed in defeat. Where Free charged into trauma a willing volunteer, Edward was drafted and detained. He’s come out of it determined to lead a fully examined pragmatic life. Edward knows anyone is capable of anything, given the proper inducements. If he was a college student today he’d be reading Camus in the original French and walking directly through the center of the protest circles on his way to class. He’s absolutely lovely. He’s a whimsical cynic. Edward falls for Free because she has something he’s lost, a faith that she will prevail over all obstacles. Edward is so defeated he can’t imagine anything better than peace. Free still sees victories on her horizon. This is the rare romance that creates a whole from two imperfect halves without filing the edges off either.

As always Milan’s leads exist in a community. Surrounding Free and Edward are his brother, her brother, and all of their friends. Edward’s brother is the villain of the piece. I found his motivation believable. Free is a threat to his entire sense of the world. Without a rigid social order his self justifications collapse. If Free is the book’s Wendy Davis then Edward’s brother is its Fox News. One of The Suffragette Scandal’s best scenes is between Free and her brother’s brother. Robert has always been a fragile character. His imprisonment in the world of his birth is illustrated again here. Robert is afraid to reach for the things he wants. He is so self contained that his desires can’t even be seen by those desired. (Robert makes me think Milan could do wonders with a troubled marriage book.)

Milan’s gift for writing beautifully broken people slips in a subplot involving Amanda, Free’s best friend. Amanda’s scenes feel tentative, with more off the page than on it. The careful pace of her tale feels different than the assurance Milan brings to the rest of the book. I felt like Amanda’s life needed more room to expand, that she was better suited to novella length than a secondary character. A surprise reunion (one of my absolute least favorite tropes) added to my Amanda sad. That said, the pairing she’s offered is one she’s well suited to and one that improves her life as much as Edward and Free improve each others. My other quibble with The Suffragette Scandal involves a late book grand romantic gesture. I’m not a fan of these in real life and I’m rarely a fan of the fictional variety so that’s not terribly surprising. It’s a minor, tiny point in a big swoony stay up all night read. Let’s spoiler tag it.

Won't Someone Think Of The Tailors?

Final Assessment: A heroine in firm control of her Big Girl Pants makes this a must read. A+

Source: Copy provided for review or squandering

 

 

Links: Monday, July 21st

Tall platform heels covered in thumbnail-sized romaance novel covers and glittery pink tape around the toes.Twinkle Toes: Bookish Shoes for Literary Feet

  • Romance covers … what’s wrong with them – Author Joanna Bourne wrote this a while ago but I just saw it today and it’s still relevant, sadly.

    Now let us look at Historical Romance, 32 romance books, shall we? These are all well-regarded popular books. Picking out some random covers… And we have a passel of women with their clothes falling off. Sometimes, men with their clothes falling off. Sometimes both.

    Forgettable covers. Essentially these are the same cover decked out in different colors.

    Don’t get me started on the trite, interchangeable, forgettable titles.

    What does this say to the world about Historical Romance?
    It says, “One Romance book is like another.” It says, “No story inside this book, Ma’m. Just pick one at random.”

    This is so much lack of respect.

  • Not Your Sassy Black Sidekick – I saw this on Dear Author and thought I’d link it here too. It might be preaching to the choir, but wevs.

    Though the sassy sidekick trope negatively affects all black women, the target group is usually dark-skinned black women. Used as the go-to “homegirls” for shock value, the popularity of white pop stars using these black women as accessories in their performances is one of the most recently done forms of the trope. Performers such as Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry are notoriously problematic in their performances as they only interact with the black women performing in their shows by reducing them to caricatures of what they think black women act like. The women are reduced to body parts and exaggerated gestures while said pop stars enjoy the spotlight and immunity from cultural stigma while being lauded by mainstream media as having inside knowledge on facets of black culture.

    We are not your accessories, and we are not your token black friend. Our feelings do not come second to yours and we are not your personal encyclopedia for all things black culture. The emotions and actions of black women are legitimate and should be treated as such.

  • Weird Al’s “Word Crimes” Video – It’s been kind of frustrating to see this song going around to uncritical praise. Not only is mean prescriptivism no way to teach people about language, but it makes a number of nasty, disablist inferences. As a “spastic” who often drools, I’m not super amused by being the butt of the song’s joke.

    But just as I’m thinking “Maybe I could love this,” he heads back into negative territory, beating on how he wants to kill people who use literally to mean “figuratively,” and generally insulting people. This is where he completely loses me:

    You write like a spastic.

    I hate these word crimes.

    ..

    Get out of the gene pool.

    Try your best to not drool.

    I could easily overlook the lack of subtlety in his grammar lessons. I don’t expect a music video to get into the details, but what I see is that he’s appealing to the base instincts that I’m tired to the bone of seeing: The call to feel superior and to put other people down for writing errors. Prescriptivism sells. Encouraging people to rant against the “morons who can’t spell” sells.

  • No more Mr Nice Guy: When disabled people get nasty – Comedian Laurence Clark (who, as someone with cerebral palsy, would be one of the “spastics” Word Crimes refers to so disparagingly) shares some of the times strangers’ attempts at “helping” without first asking what he needs and listening to his reply have sorely tried his patience.

    Although I’m a wheelchair user, I can walk up steps if I take my time and use a handrail. It may look like a horrific accident waiting to happen, but I’m actually quite steady. What gets in my way, however, is someone being spontaneously nice by grabbing my arm to give me support which can cause me to lose my balance and fall.

    If a total stranger accosted you and made you tumble down a flight of steps, you’d be justified in telling them where to shove it. But when they act nicely, with the best of intentions, supporting me because they’re worried I might fall. You can’t shout at them and feel good about it. Perversely, in some ways I find open hostility easier to deal with.

  • How My Social Justice Failed My Family – A black sociologist shares his feelings on not going into a higher-paying field and the guilt he feels for not being able to help his family financially.

    I was on track to accomplish all of the things everyone had set out for me. I was on track to save us, to end our struggles. But somehow along the line something happened. I failed to meet my end of the bargain.

    I didn’t lose my way in the kind of extravagant fashion that would make a good movie. I didn’t lose my scholarship because of a drug conviction. I didn’t even get anyone pregnant. My deviation was much more subtle. Rather than going to school to be an engineer or a pharmacist, or even a zoologist as I dreamed in high school, I chose to be a sociologist.

  • Red Wings Generously Agree To Accept Huge Sums Of Money From Public – So Detroit, where about half of the city’s residents have been threatened with having their water shut off, is giving hundreds of millions of dollars to the multi-billionaire owner of the Red Wings to build a new arena. Just FYI.

    You might remember the uproar over the arena deal—which includes $284.5 million in public investment—when it was originally announced last summer. Isn’t this a terrible idea for a city wading through bankruptcy proceedings, people asked? (Yes, it is.) Couldn’t those tax dollars be better spent on other infrastructure improvements in the area instead of lining the pockets of a wealthy pizza magnate? (Yes, they could have.)

    The arena itself is estimated at $450 million, of which the city is paying $262 million—by way of tax increment financing (TIF)—for construction costs. That’s 58 percent, not including any cost overruns. The entire project, including the mysterious promise of ancillary investment within five years of the first puck drop, is pegged at $650 million, with $284.5 million of that coming from the TIF.

The Merits of Ethnic Tagging

Earlier this week I asked how we should tag books where both leads are considered white. (I say considered because race is a social construct.) Ridley and Rameau find the tags useful for finding non-white reads. (Beks didn’t weigh in as she was off doing productive things that will pay her.) Ridley followed up on Twitter. I soon wondered if I was asking the wrong question. Should we be tagging books with ethnicity at all? Is this the blog equal to the bricks and mortar African American Fiction shelf in the far back corner of the store?

Goals

  • Do not contribute to white as the default ethnicity in romance fiction.
  • Do not treat books with non white characters as other. 
  • Maintain useful search markers for the site. 

 

Options

  • Make no change.
  • Stop ethnic tagging.
  • Use a snarky tag for white leads, such as All White
  • Ignore supremacy overtones and tag White Romance.

On Twitter it appeared that authors don’t care for ethnic tagging but reviewers do. For the authors the issue seemed to be the same one that made me uncomfortable with not tagging white books in the first place. Why do we need to make a different area? Why is a contemporary romance either a contemporary romance or a contemporary romance featuring people who are not white? Does the tagging engage the reader who would not ordinarily step outside the white default or does it drive them away? Would the readers who want to seek out non white characters find the books just as easily if they were not placed at that remove from the other reviews?

Countering that, we don’t tag a book with ethnicity alone. We tag them the same way a default white book is tagged and add an ethnic tag to the list. By that measure adding a white tag does nothing, as readers are unlikely to use it as a sorting method. What does it mean when we add an ethnic tag? Our intentions may be good but do we inadvertently participate in the normalization of white as the correct ethnicity for a love story? (Well that was pompous of me. But no, really, do we?) Is part of rejecting white only as the standard definition for mainstream romance to stop tagging non white leads? Or should we be tagging white ones as well?

I’m still not sure what the answer is. I am sure that I don’t want to use the suggested tags Mainstream or Monocultural. Both of those contribute heavily to the concept that white is a default for both. What would a story about Cee-Lo Green and Andre Benjamin be if not both mainstream and monocultural? They’re famous black singers of a similar age from Georgia. There’s nothing white about Mainstream or Monocultural unless we accept the supremacist notion that either one should be. I could talk in circles about this all day so let me pass it over to the comments. Maybe we can figure it out there.

Links: Friday, July 18th

A group of unsmiling people of varying ages, genders and ethnicity all raise their left arms up and give the middle finger.The perfect reaction gif for your files.

  • This Month in Multicultural Romance – Alyssa Cole is at Romance at Random with mini-reviews for a half-dozen novellas that feature POC protagonists.

    Just about everyone I know has been crazy busy lately. Whether it’s dealing with work, family, weddings, or new additions to the family, time seems to be a precious commodity lately. But just because you’re swamped doesn’t mean you have to stop reading. Here are a few multicultural novellas that sate your craving for a well-told romance without the commitment of a full-length book.

  • Discussion #7: Warning Flags and Turn-Offs – This repost at Disability in KidLit is a great collection of things to avoid when writing about disability, especially when writing jacket copy.

    What kinds of words, phrases, or situations used in book or character descriptions send up warning flags for you? We’re thinking of clichés, ableist language–anything related to disability that may be a turn-off.

    s.e. smith: Well, magical cure narratives, obviously. But if I’m casually looking at jacket copy, things I tend to look out for are ‘despite her disability’ or ‘overcoming adversity’ or ‘brilliant but [disabled]‘ or something along those lines, where characters are separated out from their disabilities. I’m also leery of anything that talks about disabled characters as inspirational, courageous, or amazing just because they’re disabled. Language like ‘wheelchair bound’ also makes me very uncomfortable, as it suggests the publisher isn’t in tune with disabled people, and that the target market for the book is nondisabled people, not people like me.

  • Nordstrom’s Features Wheelchair-Bound Model in New Campaign – Everything about the headline and lead paragraph is straight out of How Not To Write About Disability (which I had a nice chat about with the author last night) but I’ve always liked Mercado and I’m happy to see her in the spotlight.

    Nordstrom’s anniversary sale can often be enough to create some buzz around the Seattle-based retailer, but this time, one of their models is coming close to trumping the news. Wheelchair-bound blogger and editor Jillian Mercado is one of the faces of the July 2014 catalog. The 26-year-old Fashion Institute of Technology grad, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, is featured wearing a black leather jacket with Aquatalia by Marvin K moto boots and a spiky lavender-hued shag.

  • Prosecutors dismiss charges against Shanesha Taylor – While I don’t agree with forcing her to participate in a “diversion program”, I am super glad to hear the charges have been dropped and that she can be reunited with her children. I hope things look up for her from here on.

    The job-seeking Phoenix mother whose tearful mugshot spawned worldwide support after she was arrested for leaving her children in the car in Scottsdale will have her case dismissed if she successfully completes a diversion program, according to a statement from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

    Shanesha Taylor was arrested in March after police said she left her children in her Dodge Durango for 45 minutes while in a Farmers Insurance office in Scottsdale. Taylor told police she was jobless, without child care that day and had occasionally been homeless.

  • I Don’t Care If You Like It – Rebecca Traister goes in on the idea that women should be grateful for male approval or that their attention legitimizes what women have been doing.

    Last week, I got into a fight on Twitter with New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, whose work I respect, and it wasn’t about anything that either of us had written; rather, we were tussling over the merits of a piece written by Tom Junod, for Esquire, about how today’s 42-year-old women are hotter than ever before.

    There’s no need to linger over our differences: I thought the article was a piece of sexist tripe, celebrating a handful of Pilates-toned, famous, white-plus-Maya-Rudolph women as having improved on the apparently dismal aesthetics of previous generations; my primary objections to the piece have been ably laid out by other critics. Chait tweeted that he viewed the piece as a “mostly laudable” sign of progress: a critique not of earlier iterations of 42-year-old womanhood, but rather of the old sexist beauty standards that did not celebrate those women; he saw it as an acknowledgment of maturing male attitudes toward women’s value.

  • Lowe’s Employees Decided To Fix This Veteran’s Wheelchair After The VA Wouldn’t – I’m really not surprised by this story at all. Cheap-ass insurers do the least they can get away with and random people fall over themselves to try to help when they see with their own eyes someone who needs help. Disability is a societal problem, not an individual one. At least the VA was shamed into sending him a new chair.

    On the evening of July 7, my wheelchair fell apart again, while shopping at Lowe’s Home Improvement Center in on Forest Avenue in Mariners Harbor.

    Three employees, David, Marcus and Souleyman jumped to my assistance immediately. They placed me in another chair while they went to work. They took the wheelchair apart and replaced the broken parts and told me, “We’re going to make this chair like new.”
    I left 45 minutes after closing hours in my wheelchair that was like new.

    I kept thanking them and all they could say was, “It was our honor.”

Seduction’s Canvas by K.M. Jackson

A dimly lit scene focuses on the muscular torso of a black man wight he title in cursive across it.I’m giving up on K.M. Jackson books for now. Two DNF reviews in a row feels less like reviewing and more like piling on. I picked up Seduction’s Canvas because it’s in the third person. Jackson’s Bounce has a lot of strong reviews, but the first person didn’t work for me. Seduction’s Canvas didn’t either. I’m not connecting with her voice. The set up was perfect – wealthy artist from a prominent family looks for one last adventure before picking up the weight of her responsibilities. She’s had her eye on a bad boy biker and security specialist but been too shy to make her move. I made it to just over 33% in before bailing.

Samara is a teller, not a shower. The book opens with her trapped in her family’s limo while they discuss how her recent street brawl will affect business. Samara is vaguely ashamed the tabloids caught her in the act but also defiant. We learn that she doesn’t trust men, that her father dominates her, that she’s really into the biker next door, that her mother is submissive and nervous and that at least two events in her past have shaped her. The phrases “after what happened with Julian” and “what happened with Charles” are only a few lines apart. There was far too much information to sort out. Samara was dumping all this baggage on me before I cared that she had it.

Apparently something happened on an island because of Julian that led to Charles, who appears to be her brother, dying? IDEK. That might just have been the last bit of X-Men: First Class. I felt trapped and stifled by the opening section of the book in the same way that Samara feels trapped and stifled by her parents. Once she exits the limo she runs into Mark, the biker next door. I’m not sure why Mark becomes interested in her. Samara is 30 but she still relies on her parent’s money while also resenting that she does. She’s made life choices that treat her vocation as a hobby which gives her an air of arrested development. At 30, her parents should not be treating her life as a phase she means to move out of, nor should she be accepting their view of her career as her own.

I gave up. But because this is a second DNF in a row for me, I sought out a positive review for you. Little Black Dress Reviews appears to be on hiatus, but they enjoyed Seduction’s Canvas quite a bit.

Final Assessment: Early info dump kept me from caring when the action started. DNF

Source: Purchased copy.

Links: Wednesday, July 16th

A page from a comic book where a young Asian man argues with his mother about the green and gold superhero costume she made for him.On Illustrating Asian Characters

  • Why Race Matters When We Write – Nancy Arroyo Ruffin is at For Harriet talking about how an author’s race is anything but irrelevant when she sits down to tell a story.

    Not talking about race and dismissing the topic altogether is the same as saying that cultural perspective as it relates to creative writing is irrelevant. When in fact, more often than not, writers pull from the human experience. Some of the best stories written are those that reflect emotional truths; stories that are representative of our realities either directly or indirectly. To not talk about how our cultural experiences affect our writing would be a disservice to literary integrity. Even in the genres of fiction or speculative fiction therein exists some universal human themes. Take Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis for example, on the surface the story is about a salesman who wakes up one morning and realizes that he has transformed into a huge insect, but in fact the story is full of metaphors and symbolism about the human experience.

  • Blogger Email Addresses Are Being Sold Without Our Consent – I get enough spam through our contact form, if I’d also made our email available and it was getting sold like this? I’d wave the white flag and give up.

    I clicked the link, and ended up on a website consisting of password-protected pages, but I didn’t need to look at them; I’d seen the homepage and a preview of some of the password-protected pages, and that was enough.

    The website in question is unprofessional. There are spelling and grammar mistakes everywhere, not to mention the design makes me want to stab my own eyes out. What else? It guarantees that authors paying for the ‘service’ will sell more than 1,000 books a month.

    I was already rolling my eyes, but then I scrolled down… and saw that the owner of the website was selling a list of 1,200 email addresses. Email addresses of book bloggers, to be exact. And did we consent to this? Were any of us even asked? I don’t think so. I certainly wasn’t, but maybe others were. Yet there’s a list of all of our email addresses – no blog link, blog name or genre preferences, might I add, just our full names and addresses – and the list is being sold to each author for $40.

  • I’m sorry for coining the phrase “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” – I don’t understand this post, honestly. It reads to me like he’s seeing works he likes and doesn’t see as sexist described as featuring a MPDG and that means the term is bad.

    At the film site the Dissolve, where I am a staff writer, my editor has gently discouraged me from using the phrase “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” in my writing, less because using a phrase I coined reeks of self-congratulation, but because in 2014 calling a character a Manic Pixie Dream Girl is nearly as much of a cliché as the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope.

    And I don’t need much discouraging, even when writing about a fairly clear-cut instance of a Manic Pixie, like Charlize Theron’s impossibly perfect, sexy, supportive gun-slinger in “A Million Ways to Die in the West.” As is often the case in conversations about gender, or race, or class, or sexuality, things get cloudy and murky really quickly. I coined the phrase to call out cultural sexism and to make it harder for male writers to posit reductive, condescending male fantasies of ideal women as realistic characters. But I looked on queasily as the phrase was increasingly accused of being sexist itself.

  • On Public Speaking While Fat – Kameron Hurley has a great post about finding the courage to attend cons and speak in public and be a fat woman at the same time.

    I have done a lot of broken things trying to get back to that 220, including calorie counting, which ended disastrously. I lost 25lbs, sure, but the minute I stopped, I gained it all back plus 30 lbs, which is what’s put me over the edge with those airplane seats; my time at the treadmill desk and indoor bike desk is all about fighting to keep me under the weight at which I can no longer fly. I knew better than to calorie count like that, but was feeling the societal pressure to punch back down a size. That was a mistake.

    When people come to me about fears of public speaking while fat, about heckling, about online harassment, I feel it necessary to remind people that I got the same amount of harassment for being “fat” at 220 as I do at being “fat” at 290. As a woman, you are always going to be fat. People are always going to trot that one out to try and insult you, like taking up more space in the world, as a woman, is the absolute worst thing you can do.

  • Marketing, Social Media, Books and Me – Liz’s post about the ways books are marketed on social media takes the words right out of my mouth. (Only, not really, since she’s much better with words than I am.)

    Here is what I think is missing in talk about social media and discovery. Knowing a book exists is a very small part of discovery. I mean, obviously it matters as a first step. But I will not click through to find out more based on a “TITLE is out today! [buy links]” tweet. Or a “The fab AUTHOR’S latest is out today! Buy it!” tweet. I see tons of these, despite pruning my feed. I don’t have time to click them all, even if I were minded to. (I do not get why readers do these tweets. Did you write a review that tells me why it’s great? Tweet that. Otherwise, your opinion has no value to me). I have to discover something about the book to make me click through and see if I want to buy it.

  • Boston radio bros have unsurprisingly terrible opinions on Erin Andrews – While I’m glad to see Boston sports radio’s Dennis & Callahan attract national attention for being terrible, I’m also frustrated that insulting a blond white woman, and not over a decade of naked racism, is what finally does it.

    It’s no surprise to me that Erin Andrews’ involvement in the Adam Wainwright/Derek Jeter controversy, and her interview with the Cardinals pitcher, has drawn the ire. Of course, the reasoned take on this is that Andrews — while obviously thrown in another terrible situation — should’ve challenged Wainwright on his backtracking. But then again, it his the MLB All-Star Game so who really cares? Andrews could’ve done better, but it’s not really a black mark on her career.

    That was not the take the bros of the Dennis and Callahan Show on WEEI and NESN gave this story. In their minds, Erin Andrews is “a gutless bitch” for not asking The Serious Questions to Adam Wainwright if his joke about pitching during a fake game was a lie or night. For the crime of not continuing to pursue this asinine story, Erin Andrews is “a gutless bitch” according to the show, particularly co-host Kirk Minihane.

  • When Leaning In Lands You In Jail: On the Criminalization of Being a Poor, Working Mother – This country, you guys.

    The truth is that the driving force behind these arrests and others like them goes beyond a concern for the safety of children (because seriously, if a child’s welfare is the main concern, then maybe don’t arrest that child’s mother and force the child into foster care?) and actually has more to do with the contempt that our society shows its most struggling members, as well as exposing the lack of choices that poor mothers—usually single—face every day. These are women who have been told time and time again that their difficult situations are nobody’s fault but their own and that all they need to do to succeed is find work and be diligent—lean in—and they will be ok. But the truth is that it’s impossible to lean in if you don’t know that there isn’t some protection guaranteed lest you fall flat on your face. For so many women around the country, there are no easy choices—sometimes there aren’t even choices at all—so they take their kids with them to work and hope that they sit quietly, or they leave them in the car for 20 minutes in hopes that they will get a job that can better all their lives.

  • In Touch: Blindness and bereavement – An interesting post from a blind man who recently lost his mother on how blindness colored his experience.

    Sighted people are able to look at old photos and letters to help the grieving process. My photography skills leave a bit to be desired, and Mum could see so didn’t write to me in Braille.

    I have ended up with: some old crockery, a couple of sound recordings and lots of memories. It doesn’t feel enough. Can my sighted friends and colleagues tell from my face when I am thinking of Mum, I wonder?

Trapped At The Altar by Jane Feather

A white woman with brown hair is fleeing the viewer, her bare legs kicking up a full white skirt that billows out behind her. Trapped At The Altar has a street date of July 22nd but I can’t wait. (Sorry, kids.) Jane Feather was highlighted in June by NetGalley. While the synopsis didn’t grab me, the advance chatter did. This is an awful, terrible, no good book with a slut heroine whore? TELL ME MORE! (Well done, NetGalley publicity peeps!)

Ariadne fits a lot of standard genre checkboxes. She’s super skinny, athletic, defiant and irresistible to most. This means she’s going to have at least one family member who can’t see the back of her fast enough. Gabriel is the man she loves, a kindler, gentler version of masculinity. Ivor is the emotionally fractured best friend her family wants her to marry. Readers, we have a triangle. Unlike most triangles, this one involves Ariadne making pragmatic choices based on her realistic options and immediate desires.

Minor Spoiler Within - Bacon Makin'

Ivor, Gabriel and Ariadne are of different social classes (although the differences are slight) and faiths. Faith is used more as a political tool in this Late Restoration era tale than it is a motivation. Belief in oneself is primary, in one’s family secondary, and one’s church not even a distant third. It was lovely to read a book set in the Restoration again. While Feather’s sense of place can be imperfect, she adds enough appropriate details to remind the reader that this is an unsettled time with different perils than we’re used to our historical heroines facing. Treacherous self interest was a feature, not a bug.

Feather spares us the slut shaming and moralizing – Ariadne is allowed to be a person. She’s a little too perfect, but I forgave her. What I didn’t forgive was the obsessive service of her employee. Tilly is a Siri commercial. Need something done? Tilly is on it, happy to do it, expertly inclined and way ahead of you, boss. (One day she’s going to murder them all in their beds.)

“The petticoats are very stiff, and the stomachers are so tight.” Ariadne examined the picture and grimaced. “How could anyone breathe in that? Well, I, for one, will not wear anything like it.” “Fortunately, Miss Ari, the gown will sit well enough on you without such tight lacing,” Tilly declared, divesting her mistress of her jerkin and busily unfastening the waistband of her skirt. - Trapped At The Altar by Jane Feather

Ariadne doesn’t even need arms with the ever adoring Tilly around. Sure, Ariadne occasionally pitches in, but let’s face it – Tilly would get more assistance from your average toddler. Tilly is always telling Ariadne that Ariadne can go without various undergarments. If Tilly was a modern day assistant she’d be asking for Pants Free Fridays.

Ivor and Gabriel both get impatient with Ariadne but neither is abusive. She’s forced to consider their emotions and modify her own impulses in a way that doesn’t feel like either is controlling her. A subplot about fertility comes late enough that it also illustrates how her perceptions are changing. As she leaves her childish ways behind she learns to think ahead and plan accordingly. Ariadne is not shamed for her actions but she is shamed for not fully considering all aspects of them. It’s an interesting slant on the topic that could have easily gone wrong.

The final third of the book feels rushed. Ariadne decides where her future lies and bam, we’re done. Her time at court comes too easily, the complicated conflicts driving the period (and her destiny) are pushed aside. I think this is the reason I dropped Jane Feather a few years back. She doesn’t shy from complicated lives but she does pull back from complicated times. On the positive side, Ariadne’s journey from self involvement to partnership is well executed. This is a story of an adolescent figuring out where she wants life to take her. Ariadne has to evaluate how her goals fit into the world she inhabits, prioritize her options and move forward into adulthood. I kind of loved her.

Thoughts On The Cover Art

Final Assessment: A bingo card of cliches with a polarizing heroine ultimately delivers. B

Source: Copy provided for review.

Tagging Note: I feel odd ethnicity tagging books only when the racial makeup of the leads is not the default white. This book is super white but a White Romance tag feels as wrong as keeping a silent White Default status going. If you’ve got thoughts, let me know.

Links: Monday, July 14th

Side-by-side images of an Asian man with black hair. In the left pic he is unsmiling and his eyes are fully open. In the right pic he has a faint, closed-mouth smile and is "squinching" his eyes to just short of a squint.Always Be Squinching And Other Tricks From A Portrait Photographer

  • The Problem With Buzzfeed Books – Ceilidh goes in on BuzzFeed Books and why it disappoints her. I’m pretty bored with the whole site, myself.

    Buzzfeed has massive influence over internet discourse, and yet they seem to be taking that potential and pushing it to the side while they pander to a false idea that thoughtless regurgitation equals positivity. It’s disappointing but it’s not the be all and end all of book blogging. Opinions seldom vary, if there are any opinions at all, and the voices of the writers are indistinguishable. It’s a section void of charm, of personality or any distinctive term beyond relentlessly and blandly optimistic. As a result of this, there’s very little space given over to one of the driving debates in the book blogging community – diversity. Fitzgerald claims to understand what drives bloggers and book lovers, yet this very obvious omission betrays that. Sites like The Rumpus, The Toast and The Hairpin bring new and diverse voices to the forefront that open up intersectional discourse with some much needed variety and analytical thought.

  • Imagining a New Way to Read, One 3D-Printed Book at a Time – This sounds interesting, but I’d be curious to hear from blind readers about how feeling the outlines of an illustration works for them.

    Blind and visually impaired children will now be able to experience classic picture books like Goodnight Moon and Harold and the Purple Crayon with the help of 3D printing technology.

    Researchers at the University of Colorado have created a new project that can convert standard picture books into 3D-printed pages, letting children with visual impairments follow the raised illustrations by touch as the stories are read aloud.

    Tom Yeh, an assistant professor in the university’s Department of Computer Science who directed the project, said the goal of The Tactile Picture Books Project is to use computer science to better people’s lives.

    “I realized we could do something meaningful by interpreting pictures from these children’s books using mathematical diagrams,” he said. “This project is much more difficult than I envisioned, but it also is much more rewarding.”

  • ‘Constantine’ team on why NBC character isn’t bisexual, smoking cigarettes – This week in bi-erasure brings us this tortured bit of straightwashing logic.

    Ever since NBC announced it was taking on DC Comics’ character of snarky John Constantine, aka Hellblazer, some fans have wondered: Will the broadcast TV version played by Matt Ryan this fall be bisexual like in the comics? When asked about this at the Television Critics Association’s semi-annual press tour Sunday, executive producer Daniel Cerone ran down the various editions of the character that have existed since the demon fighter was introduced in 1985 to suggest his sexuality is not a crucial aspect of the character (nearly all of the character’s relationships in the comics have been with women). “In those comic books, John Constantine aged in real time,” he said. “Within this tome of three decades [of comics] there might have been one or two issues where he’s seen getting out of bed with a man. So [maybe] 20 years from now? But there are no immediate plans.”

  • Heathcliff, For Why? – If you’re at all familiar with the syndicated comic strip Heathcliff, you may enjoy this blog that tries to make sense of what happens in the strip.

    We have another update to the Heathcliff Helmet Canon: the HEY helmet.

    I have many things to say about this.

    Why is he wearing the helmet in this scenario? Heathcliff normally wears a helmet when he’s about to attack something. This helmet seems inconsistent with his agenda of socializing with people at the party. Also, who are these people at the party? The Nutmegs don’t seem to have that many young friends. And why is grandpa a waiter at his own party?

    Pat, a friend of mine, pointed out that Heathcliff probably just told a racist joke. He’s probably not wrong. Also: are there any non-white people in Westfinster?

  • Making Warrior Accountable: A social media campaign – If any of you are in the market for soccer, lacrosse or hockey gear, here’s your reminder that Warrior is disgustingly misogynist and unapologetic about it.

    #Seriously? Warrior has clearly tapped into the shallow well of “sex sells”. But #CrossTheLine and “there’s more than one way to score” is crossing over from the land of generic objectification to overt promotion of rape culture. It’s not clever. It’s not provocative. It’s just plain misogynistic.

  • Why You Should Tip More Than You Do Now – I always tip generously, but I don’t like the suggestion that everyone should because people are underpaid. Employers should stop paying starvation wages and government should raise minimum wage to something people working full-time can live on without needing food stamps.

    Small gestures can make a cumulative big difference. Take an average housekeeper who earns $9 an hour before taxes. If 10 guests each left that housekeeper a $5 tip, her earnings (and it is usually a woman) would increase by more than 50 percent, or significantly above the poverty line for full-time work.

    The same is true in any number of situations we all encounter. Think about buying a meal at a fast food restaurant. Imagine that you regularly left a tip of 50 cents or $1, and 100 other customers did the same each day. Even splitting that total of $50 to $100 between two or three workers at a given restaurant would significantly increase each of their incomes.

Links: Friday, July 11th

A three panel drawing of eggs fried medium well, toast cooked golden brown and bacon fried extra crispy with the text "Just the way I liked it"Trigger Warning: Breakfast

  • Dear School Boards of America: Have a Backbone. Also, Read Books. – I’m sure you’re all going to be quite shocked to hear that school boards rarely read a challenged book before voting to ban it. I know I could hardly believe it.

    None of the school board members of Cape Henlopen read Cameron Post, although president Spencer Brittingham boasted that after browsing it, he knew in “less than three minutes” that it wasn’t appropriate. Such a stellar example for children of thinking deeply about important issues! Considering that Pasco dropped Paper Towns the Monday after they received the complaint on a Friday, it seems doubtful that any of them read that one, either.

    In Grants Pass, though, a month after the board had banned Part-Time Indian from the 10th grade curriculum, every single board member read the whole thing. And wouldn’t you know, all but one “found the subject matter not nearly as objectionable as they had been led to believe.” They overturned their decision.

  • Why Readers, Scientifically, Are The Best People To Fall In Love With – Confirmation bias and correlation is not causation are the major themes behind this post. Some of the biggest assholes I know were big readers and some of my favorite people haven’t read anything since they were in school.

    It’s no surprise that readers are better people. Having experienced someone else’s life through abstract eyes, they’ve learned what it’s like to leave their bodies and see the world through other frames of reference.

    They have access to hundreds of souls, and the collected wisdom of all them. They have seen things you’ll never understand and have experienced deaths of people you’ll never know.

    They’ve learned what it’s like to be a woman, and a man. They know what it’s like to watch someone suffer. They are wise beyond their years.

  • Peddling Visions of Beauty – I missed this AAR post last week about the narrow definitions of beauty and fashion and how it seems to limit who gets to star in a romance and get an HEA.

    That’s a curious thing to realize, because until that day I hadn’t realized exactly how limited my choices were. But unfortunately ready-to-wear fashion (whose trickle-down effect was succinctly detailed in “The Devil Wears Prada”) generally only ever caters to a very specific minority that skews small and skinny, and that offers very limited selections based on completely arbitrary trend-setters. Do retailers and designers actually realize how diverse the population is, and how different our tastes and needs are? “Nude” may be nude-like for a portion of the population, but for another group (like me) nude is, like, you know, just another colour. So I love designers that are normalizing difference and diversity, like the IZ Adaptive line designed solely for seated customers (first in the world, designed by a Canadian), or Louboutin’s nude pumps ranging in colour from “fair blush to rich chestnut”.

  • Prince Fielder’s Naked ESPN Cover Is Sexy As Hell – I saw a bunch of guys snarking Fielder the other day and I really wasn’t having it. Prince Fielder is a treasure.

    So what’s behind this mock-revulsion? Is it that we have all so deeply internalized the old message about thinness and worth that when we see something close to what our own mirrors show us—something with dimension and heft—we reject it out of habit, recognizing it as flawed and wanting? This isn’t the tight, sparse body of the romantic leading man, perfectly calibrated to be just lean enough to reveal the twin crevices leading from his hips to inside his perfectly tailored pants. And yet, Fielder has the audacity to suffer no apparent distress due to his size, and even goes so far as to seem smugly pleased with himself.

  • Teefury Thinks Adult Women Should Have Children’s Bodies – According to Teefury’s size chart, their M size would be too small for me, and I wear an XS pretty much everywhere. I wear an XS, mind, because I am literally down to skin and bones thanks to muscle atrophy, so their sizes are a problem. (The CEO responds with a great comment below the post.)

    Notice a pattern? Maybe that they’re all only a quarter of an inch off in most places, and a whopping three quarters of an inch off in the XL category? Apparently Teefury thinks fully grown adult women should only be one fourth of an inch wider than children. This is actually a pretty prevalent issue when it comes to women and body image; there are all kinds of signs that we’re sent telling us we are supposed to eternally look like pre-teens. We’re supposed to shave off all our body hair, we’re definitely not supposed to talk about anything related to sex or puberty, and aside from an increase in boob size we’re expected to keep our bodies looking exactly the same as they were when we crawled out of the cesspool that is middle school.

  • I need some white privilege! – This may be the best crowdfunding campaign ever. The rewards are top notch.

    Hello Everyone!

    I am writing you today to ask that you assist me in acquiring some white privilege. Although I have layered oppressions that have affected my ability to access my slice of the American Pie™, no issue has affected me more readily than my lack of white privilege. From being assumed to have “cheated” my way into programs for gifted children AND college (via affirmative action), to having my natural hair viewed as unprofessional amongst professional peers, to having people make negative assumptions about my competency level, interests, and job knowledge, to being viewed as naturally dangerous or threatening, my lack of white privilege has created numerous obstacles as I’ve struggled to successfully compete in a white dominated workforce. I am hoping that, through this campaign, I will begin to make some headway towards closing the gap that white privilege has created in my life.

    In return for paying for my white privilege, I would love to give you some “black privilege” in return! Yes, it is difficult being a black person but there are some neat perks, as you will discover if you donate!

A Romantic Christmas in July

I’ve been terrible at reading books lately. Or books have been terrible at reading me. Yeah, that’s it. It’s the books’ fault. Yeah.

Instead of reading I’ve been doing weird stuff like spending time with my life mate and my friends, and spending way too much time on tumblr. And I’ve been catching up on shows and movies. I logged into the good old Netflix last week and quickly figured out that I’d pretty much watched every single rom com their streaming service has to offer…except…the ones…that were Christmas themed. So I watched, and watched, and watched and then I realized it was July. AND then I realized that other romance minded folk might want to share this amazing experience, sponsored by ABC Family, with me. Here’s are the movies I was able to make it through, in the order I watched them. Side note: I really need Netflix to actually keep up with the fact that its subscribers are binge watching shit and need more content. MORE CONTENT DAMN IT!

Anyway…

109752012 Dates of Christmasstarring Amy Smart, Mark- Paul Gosselaar

12 Dates of Christmas is a romantic comedy that follows Kate, a young woman who re-lives the same first date on Christmas Eve over and over again. In an attempt to win back her ex-boyfriend on Christmas Eve, Kate ends up ruining her blind date with Miles (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), a handsome guy she’s been set up with. In a strange twist of fate, Kate is given the chance to re-live Christmas Eve twelve times! Kate decides to embrace what Christmas Eve has given her — a loving family, great friends and Miles, who turns out to be a great guy! However, just as she seems to think she has gotten it right, the clock strikes midnight and Kate must live Christmas Eve once again. Under these weird new circumstances, Kate learns to take risks and enjoy what she’s been given. Thanks to the gift of Christmas Eve, Kate finds happiness by finally trusting fate.

This is the one that started it all. I was a little hesitant when this one started for two reason. One, even for an ABC Family movie the beginning is really clunky. The script seems to just skim things in the hopes that actor/director will make up for them, but that doesn’t happen. Two, Amy Smart is not a strong lead. She’s great as the girlfriend (Varsity Blues) and the best friend (Shameless), but she is pretty one note and that note gets stale quickly. What saved this movie was the actual plot, and Mark-Paul Gosselaar. It’s basically Groundhog Day meets Christmas. It quickly become apparent that Kate could fix things with this dude, Miles, in one day, but in order to break the curse she actually has to help the people around her. This part of the movie was downright adorable. She gets to know her neighbors, forms a bond with her dad’s new girlfriend and rescues a foster kid AND a puppy. I mean, they went for big heart melty air with this one. Also, Mark-Paul Gosselaar is still really fucking hot. - B+

 

MV5BMTQ1NTQ1NjQ5Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTQwNjU0MDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_Christmas Bounty (2013) starring, Francia Raisa, Mike “The Miz”

A former bounty hunter turns into an elementary schoolteacher. Determined to have a normal life and keep her bounty hunter past a secret, she reluctantly returns home for Christmas to help save the family business by catching the one bounty that got away. But when her fiancé follows her home for the holiday, she struggles to hide her wild family business and a bounty hunter ex-boyfriend she thought she’d left behind.

I am a WWE fan so when I saw that the MIZ was starring as a love interest in an ABC Family holiday flick I had to jump at the chance to watch this crapfest. Unfortunately it was too much of a crapfest. Francia Raisa, best known from The Secret Life of the American Teenager, was actually pretty good. She embraces the cheese, but the plot and the action (I quit after a scene where her and her bounty hunter family accost four “bad guys” in a crowded mall and literally no one notices) were just too cheesy for me. - DNF about 30 mins in

 

2490F4_ABC_XmasCupid_keyart_People.inddChristmas Cupid (2010) starring Christina Milian, Chad Michael Murray

Sloane is a beautiful, stylish woman on the fast track to success in her public relations firm when a starlet client, Caitlin, dies. Caitlin immediately becomes Sloane’s own personal “Jacob Marley” (the Christmas Carol ghost) ushering in the spirits of Christmas past, present, and future – all in the guises of Sloane’s former boyfriends. Sloane finds out first hand that her unethical ways and workaholic habits need to change and that reuniting with one of the past lovers whom she jilted may be the answer for a happy-ever-after life.

I’ll just say it. I loved this fucking movie. I’m still in love with Chad Michael Murray from his One Tree Hill days and Christina Milian is downright gorgeous. I appreciated that this movie featured a woman of color with a string of super hot boyfriends. Plus her mom is played by Jackée Harry. I loves me some Jackée. The best part though was the chemistry between Milian and Murray. They didn’t just seem in love. Chad seemed like he was settled in long term and comfy with his boo-thang. I wonder if they did an smooching off screen. Hmmmmm. - A-

 

Desperately-Seeking-SantaDesperately Seeking Santa (2011) starring Laura Vandervoort, Nick Zano

Jennifer, a young, ambitious executive running promotions at a failing Boston mall comes up with a genius promotional gimmick to save her workplace and position herself for advancement: hold a “Hunky Santa” contest to replace the old Mall Santa. David, a local man trying to save his family’s pizzeria, ultimately wins the contest and sparks fly between him and Jennifer. However, complications ensue when it comes to light that the company Jennifer works for is the same one trying to run David’s family out of business.

DSS had a so much potential, with it appealing to the female gaze and all, but I knew I wasn’t going to get along with this movie from the start. It starred Nick Zano who I love but I didn’t even get to his scenes because the leading lady, Laura Vandervoort , is dryer than bread crust left out in the desert sun. I actually stopped watching Bitten after one episode because she’s such a bad actress. And that’s saying a lot, because I will put up with all sorts of shit to watch some werewolves on my screen, especially after Being Human was cancelled. Anywho, she sucked the air right out of this film. Couldn’t do it. – DNF after 10 minutes.

 

HHHoliday in Handcuffs (2007) starring Melissa Joan Hart, Mario Lopez

A struggling artist working as waitress kidnaps one of her customers to bring home and meet her parents at Christmas.

I liked this movie mostly because you get to see Mario Lopez with his shirt off and then you’re also reminded that Mario Lopez is still capable of that panty dropping smolder he perfected while wooing Jessie Spano. HOWEVER, they intentionally make such a mess of Melissa Joan Hart that she’s just difficult to look at and the two of them have no chemistry at all. Also the end makes no sense. It’s an enjoyable flick, for sure, but, no.  Watch it and then come find me and we can talk about the end and how it makes no fucking sense.- B-/C+

For the sake of this post I had the following movies on tap, but I’m all Christmas’d out. But please do check out,  Holidaze with Jenny Garth, Santa Baby and Santa Baby 2 with Jenny McCarthy, Christmas in Boston with Marla Sokoloff.

PS. I’m always looking for rom coms to watch. Have an favorites you think I need to see? Hit me in the comments!