Posts tagged ‘mary balogh’

November 1, 2012

Being a man in a man’s world

Mary Balogh’s More Than A Mistress just didn’t work for me. I don’t think I’ll read Mary Balogh anymore or I’ll have to be really desperate because I have Ferdinand’s story (No Man’s Mistress) too as this is a “two novels in one volume” book. Anyway, the plot wasn’t that interesting and her characters didn’t grow on me. You know the latter matters more for me. The conflict didn’t constitute a dilemma unlike in Sherry Thomas’ Private Arrangements. Jocelyn and Jane’s incessant bickering towards the end didn’t help me either. And I noticed that I don’t like Balogh’s Hollywood sort of endings where the hero and the heroine are surrounded by a crowd in awe of their love while they just beam at each other and in this case waltz and share a scandalous kiss in public. Also Balogh’s sensuality rate is Warm whereas I would prefer Hot, though in this case this is the least of my concerns.

The only bits I liked were the ones with Jocelyn and Jane’s den. It was adorable how they spent time in each other’s company in a very domestic way, which included reading Mansfield Park!!! Fictional characters reading real fiction! 9GAG had a meme for this but for TV series instead of books: “That awesome moment when you favorite series make a reference to your other favorite series” or something like that. Except here More Than A Mistress is certainly not my favorite piece of fiction.

Though it’s worthy to mention the books criticism of masculinity stripped off of any regard for human emotions. Jocelyn shares a private (a very private) memory with Jane. It is so horribly disgusting that I can’t bring myself to repeat it here. But anyway, this horrible scheme that was intended to turn him into a man when he was sixteen simply kills the human side of Jocelyn.

You are yourself. You were a sensitive, artistic, romantic boy, who had been repressed and was finally cruelly seduced. That is all, Jocelyn. You have allowed your life to be stunted by those events. But there is much life left to you. Forgive yourself.

After this Jocelyn finds himself weeping in Jane’s arms. Now, does that make him emasculated?

friend of mine, who’s from the US, once told me that he had a male friend who was an activist campaigning against society’s pressure on men to be emotionless. It was something I had never heard or considered before. I felt like I had discovered the atom or something. It was a revelation for me. And after that day I started pitying men for they are not so better off than women after all…

Just as society has certain demeaning expectations of women such as being quiet, not too clever, motherly, ladylike and passive, the same goes for men too. They are considered man if they have a good job, an obedient wife, a son and a commanding, strict posture which must at all times be devoid of any emotion. “Men don’t cry…” How many times a movie or book has included this particular line in every living language? Personally, I love men who cry which makes me even more partial to anime (*cough* Rose of Versailles *cough*) because it shows crying men while still managing to make female fans swoon over their virility.

And of course this post calls for this piece of news (click here for the English version) on a certain initiative entitled “We Are Not Men” which emerged after the rape and murder of the artist and peace promoter Pippa Bacca back in 2008. This particular initiative is still and will always be very memorable to me.

October 3, 2012

Thoughts on some historical romance novels #1

One Night for Love by Mary Balogh

The following review contains spoilers. Click here to read the spoiler-free version.

I loved the first half of this book. A rebel aristocrat besotted with an illiterate girl he met at war? I would definitely fall for that and I did :) My only complaint while reading the first half was that Neville keeps calling Lily’s name in return Lily keeps saying “yes.” After a while it became too repetitive. Has anyone else noticed this?

Lily is the daughter of a poor sergeant. After her mother’s death, she spent all her life with her father at battle fronts, tending soldiers and seeing horrible things. But despite all, her soul remained pure. She has the ability to shut herself down to her surroundings and disappear into her own world. It’s as if she has understood that the only way to keep her sanity is to try and find beauty in all things. I found this Pollyanna quality in her simply fascinating. And she keeps this personal shelter covered when she first comes back to Kilbourne estate as his “accidental” Countess. She is fully aware that her life has been completely different from those of Neville’s and her ignorance knows no limits compared to her in-laws. But she meets every challenge head on no matter how uncomfortable she feels on the inside.

What a heroine, huh? Half-way through the book, I was frenzied. I was telling myself, “This is it! This tops Madeline Hunter’s The Romantic!” But it didn’t. The second half of the book (starting precisely with Chapter 15), unfortunately, broke all the charm of this gem of a character. Lily finds out that her marriage isn’t valid and she breaks free from Neville, telling him that she didn’t belong in his world anyway and leaving him (and herself) heartbroken. Then Neville’s aunt Elizabeth (who should totally have her own book telling her and Duke of Portfrey’s story!) offers her to become her companion. When Lily accepts, Elizabeth starts training her in the genteel arts and at the end Lily emerges as this utterly perfect lady (though she still has trouble reading fast. Thank God!) that Neville deserved as his Countess in the first place. Everybody adores her in this really unrealistic way! Finally, it is revealed that she is in fact the long lost daughter of the Duke of Portfrey, which was the last straw for me. What was until then a perfectly story of an impossible love between two characters of utterly different backgrounds, lost its appeal which was the harmony of contrast. This is my golden rule for a perfect story (*cough* Rose of Versailles! *cough*)

Still there are many things about this book to enjoy, mainly the main character. Lily is a very well-developed heroine. I like Neville too (he is head over heels in love with Lily, what more can I ask?) but the focal point of the story was how extraordinary Lily was basically. I felt as if the author didn’t pay much attention to the hero (which is most of the time the other way around in historical romance novels, so this one gains points for breaking that rule :) Nevertheless, Neville is a hero who knows the right thing to say at the right moment. I promise he won’t keep you hanging!

Finally, despite all its shortcomings, I greatly enjoyed this book. The way Neville and Lily fall apart and get reunited again is worthy of becoming a legend. I recommend One Night for Love to everyone who digs a story of love overcoming all extraordinary circumstances.

Sensuality rating: Warm (according to All About Romance)