I’m not dead! I am tired, so this will be a quick placeholder.

The comics conference was a great success. I enjoyed being support system–helping hang art, making airport runs, having a couple of houseguests. Then I actually had to do my own work (and, on the weekend, be art class/soccer mom, chief dogwalker, etc.) so I did not make it to any of the panels or workshops.

This past Monday, I chaired my last academic governance council meeting. Then, as often happens after a busy spell, I got some vague mild illness. All I want to do is sleep. I’ve been reading very little (too tired), and listening to old favorite audiobooks because I can doze off, wake up, and know where I am. Lots of Jayne Ann Krentz and Georgette Heyer.

Dabney tweeted about having a Courtney Milan re-read glom (she posted about her Sherry Thomas glom here), and suddenly I felt the desire to read some historical romance:

I really enjoyed Rose Lerner’s Lily Among Thorns, though I found it a bit overstuffed with plot. It’s familiar in the sense that it’s a Regency with a spy plot. But the spying is much less romanticized than is typical; I found its exploration of the betrayals and moral compromises involved thoughtful and moving, and its nose-tweaking of a famous literary spy amusing. While both the hero and heroine have aristocratic connections, she’s running an inn and he’s a chemist who makes dyes for his tailor uncle. She’s tough and prickly (afraid to let down her defenses for very good reasons) and he’s sweet and honorable. As in her previous book, I liked how they had to work together as a team. The book isn’t available right now because it was caught in the demise of Dorchester, but Lerner announced earlier this month that she has a publisher for her next book and the rights back for this one and the fabulous In for a Penny, so they will be available again soon. I’m happy to hear this news. I think she could have a great career (and deserves to) and was sad that it was derailed by her publisher’s troubles. I really look forward to seeing what she does next. Update, 24/6/13: Lerner tweeted today that Samhain will be re-releasing her older books as well as publishing her next. They’ll appear in June and September 2014, so there’s a wait, but I don’t feel as neener-neener about reviewing this!

I also enjoyed Alyssa Everett’s Lord of Secrets. This book, too, had a lot of familiar elements: a marriage of convenience (or is it?) between an innocent young orphan and a lord with . . . well, secrets. David’s secret is pretty obvious early on, and I think it’s meant to be. The tension comes in how/when he will bring himself to reveal it and how they will make their marriage work. I thought the book had pacing issues–it dragged out the secret too long, and then wrapped everything up too fast. But I loved Everett’s voice. Reading this made me think about just how important voice/style is to a reader’s enjoyment. This book had tropes that would normally send me running: he’s got a dark secret, he feels he’s too tainted and dirty to be worthy of his innocent wife, he’s broken, she just wants to fix him with her motherly caretaking love, blah blah blah. But it’s all told in the emotionally restrained style of a traditional Regency romance, and the hero is not too mopey most of the time, and not alpha at all, and the heroine’s not too much of a self-sacrificing doormat but gets mad about his behavior and says so. And so I enjoyed it. I’m definitely going to try another of Everett’s, with a plot that’s more up my alley.

While I’ve been off doing other things, my two-year blogiversary passed unmarked. Thanks for being part of a great two years. I promise I’m not quitting yet! I actually have ideas for some less half-assed posts. I just have to take a few naps first.

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13 Responses to Update

  1. SonomaLass says:

    I’m the last one to look askance at infrequent blogging. I am woefully behind on reviews I mean to write! I’ve even read some of the books. But I’m glad you’re not stopping; my blog roll is getting shorter these days, and I’d miss yours.

  2. Sunita says:

    Nice to see this pop up in my rss feed! I figured between the conference and the end of the term you were pretty slammed, but it’s still good to get to read a new post and catch up.

    I also bought Lord of Secrets after a friend recommended it, and it looks good so far. As you say, it’s not a new story but I like the execution. I’m having so little luck with the new-new-thing books that it’s a pleasure to find one that works for me, whether it’s flying under the radar or not. And I hear you on emotionally restrained. I recently finished the 2nd and 3rd mysteries in the Dave Brandstetter series by Joseph Hansen (Open Road has digitized them from #3 onward, and #1 and #2 were already out there). Dave is nothing if not restrained, but there’s a lot of emotion and intensity under the surface. That’s my favorite combination.

    I also listened to the audio of HelenKay Dimon’s 4th Hanover series book. I’d given the 2nd and 3rd high marks and I was looking forward to this one, when I found it dirt cheap at audible. It’s a novella, so it was a fairly quick listen. The narrator appears to be new, and she wasn’t perfect, but I liked her well enough and I liked the story a lot. The heroine is a plus-sized woman (for real) AND older than the hero by almost a decade. Both issues are important but not beaten to death and the way the main characters overcome their baggage to get to their HEA felt like the way real people would do it. Dimon has become one of my auto-buy authors because she takes a familiar story and keeps it out of Major Stereotype Land, and she’s a skilled writer.

  3. “This book had tropes that would normally send me running…”

    This book’s plot, or perhaps what I should say is the hero’s backstory, is something that if done right (big if) is super appealing to me. I couldn’t tell you exactly why. On the other hand, it’s in no way a bulletproof kink, because it’s easy for such a trope/backstory to be done in such a way that I feel like I’m reading The Worst Book Ever. I seem to react strongly one way or the other.

    So, anyway, that this is in fact a trope that’s not up your alley and appealed to you as well is interesting to me! I too would like to try another Everett. I did also like what she did with the heroine, that her trying to please people was shown by the narrative to be in fact problematic and motivated by her backstory. It made it feel like the author was exploring the caretaker heroine in a way that was a bit more complex than I sometimes see.

    “Dave is nothing if not restrained, but there’s a lot of emotion and intensity under the surface.”

    Oooh, this description really appeals to me

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      I thought David’s backstory, when he tells it, seemed quite realistic, and that the way he responds to it as an adult was pretty believable as well. Not sure how someone who shared that experience would feel. And I agree about the caretaker heroine. I loved that she had her own arc, and learned that she didn’t have to be a caretaker or be needed to be “worthy” of love.

  4. victoriajanssen says:

    I’ve read a couple of Alyssa Everetts now, and have enjoyed both, mostly because they are so full of restrained emotion. For me, that really keeps the tension going because I am waiting for the moment when it breaks.

  5. Liz Mc2 says:

    Like a number of you, I have a taste for characters who are repressing/have trouble expressing emotion. I think I really identify with the emotionally restrained hero (who’s got all kinds of things bubbling under the surface). I’m not sure why it’s heroes rather than heroines who get me–but maybe it’s not, maybe it’s just that emotionally restrained/repressed heroines of this type are much rarer in romance.

    When this type of character goes along with an emotionally restrained narrative, it’s my catnip. I often find that this kind of book packs a much bigger emotional punch for me then when with more overt drama. It’s definitely partly in the build-up of tension: when is this person going to break? And partly in the subtlety, where you can “read” emotions that aren’t directly expressed, and often watch the heroine learning to “read” them too. I like doing that work. It’s a bit like older romances that don’t have hero POV, where the reader can still tell what he’s feeling. It takes a lot of skill.

    • Sunita says:

      And partly in the subtlety, where you can “read” emotions that aren’t directly expressed, and often watch the heroine learning to “read” them too. I like doing that work. It’s a bit like older romances that don’t have hero POV, where the reader can still tell what he’s feeling. It takes a lot of skill.

      Yes! It’s this exactly that I want to read, not exclusively, but more than I’m seeing now. You’re right that it takes a really skillful author, because in the right hands you get both the heroine’s POV and these little hints that the heroine might not pick up on right away, so the reader learns faster than the heroine. It feels indirectly like the hero’s POV.

      In a lot of the books today, I feel as if I’m being told too much, too obviously. I don’t want to be told how to feel, or exactly what to think. I want subtlety and ambiguity. I want to learn/feel what *I* want, not necessarily what the author wants me to (although obviously they can overlap quite a bit).

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