August 1st, 2011


Review! Nine Rules to Break When playing Georgette Heyer Bingo

I have a backlog of book reviews that I wrote while I was on hiatus! So I am going to go in random order and they will basically be nonsensical. Also now that I'm back I'm going to start writing more reviews on a regular basis, so be forewarned. Also, kindly note the ~new book review~ format. I am cleaning up my act! It is musty and full of cobwebs.

Title: Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake
Author: Sarah MacLean
Genre: Regency Romance
How I got it: personal purchase
Where to buy it: From your local indie bookstore; from Powells; from the Book Depository.
In a nutshell: Our Hero's family gains an extra member when a spirited long-lost sister comes to town; his only hope for introducing her into good society and making her the belle of the haut ton is to rely on the patronage of Our Heroine, whose good breeding and spotless reputation will smooth over any scandal.

Little does he know that, armed with her new list of Nine Ways To Become a Spunky Heroine In A Sexist Society, she's chosen just this moment to throw off her bonnet and have a little fun!


Do the characters make you want to rip your own face off? No! At least not until well into the book, and then it's just the hero, mainly, which I will talk about!

Does the plot make sense? Yes! - but there's a bit of a trade-off in pacing due to the hero and heroine's reluctance to get together at the defiance of general logic.

Is the prose abysmal? Not at all! It's charming and light and quite well-written, very much in the best Regency romance pastiche style-- until you get to the any of the numerous sex scenes, wherein the writing suddenly becomes quite flowery, overly euphemistic, and very heavy on the heaving bosoms. But those sections were all very tongue-in-cheek, so it didn't really bother me. (To be fair, the internet and the intended audience will tell you that Sarah MacLean's sex scenes are smoking hot, so I am in the minority here.)

Does it end on a cliffhanger only designed to make you buy more books? No, but it did make me want to read the sequels. There is a definite setup for a plot that doesn't show up again til the third book in the series, I believe, and that's the one you'll want to get your mits on.


The Verdict: I really enjoyed this book. I found all of the characters, bar the hero, to be exceptionally engaging and endearing, and not in the odious way where the author keeps trying to show you family bonds by way of having the peripheral characters constantly telling the heroine and hero how they need to get together. This book had a lot of family conflict that felt very natural and well-handled, and by the end of it I really wanted to read the rest of the books in the series to find out what happens next to all of the other members of the cast.

Wanting to follow the family is almost unheard of for me regarding romances--in fact I generally tend to stay away from series romances for just this reason. But Nine Rules is perfectly fine as a standalone, and it's testament to the light, humorous, warm qualities of MacLean's writing and characterization that I was left wanting more.

However, I did have a ton of problems with the progression of the relationship between the two main characters, specifically with the fact that our hero more or less becomes an insensitive prick as the novel progresses.

Quibbles: Warning: book spoilers below the cut. semi-adult language ahead as well!

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I am making it sound like I hated this book. I actually really enjoyed it, apart from the sex scenes, which were far better than a lot of romance writing but still ridiculously cheesily euphemistic, with lots of "stroking tongues" and the like.

I think my biggest problem overall, especially regarding the hero and the tropes off which MacLean is building, is that this feels like a much better, but equally self-indulgent, version of the novel I wrote when I was 17 and voraciously reading every Georgette Heyer I could get my hands on. This novel doesn't even try not to go straight down the list of Heyer Hero attributes.

Seriously, I could make a bingo card. The prototypical Heyer hero:

  • always wears polished Hessian boots
  • is ridiculously skilled at everything, especially curricle-driving and gambling
  • always has horses that are better than everybody else's in London's (except, presumably, the other Heyer heroes; I always wonder if there's a universe where they all meet each other and then implode because NONE OF THEM CAN BE THE BEST)
  • has a great and manly loathing for the poetry of Lord Byron
  • is always manfully attired in perfectly styled cravats
  • turns up his nose at anything foppish or dandyish, because fops are totally queer and he is a manfully restrained man's man, a diamond of the first water, a Corinthian of the ton

So, Sarah McLean totally has all of this down with her hero, he is a by-the-book Heyer standard, except for how he is also an asshole. He tries to apologize for much of his asshole behavior, but he does so in ways that seem to indicate he is just going to continue being an asshole, and isn't really going to change. So I keep being reminded of all the Heyer heroes (okay, really just Mr. Beaumaris from Arabella, because he is just dskj;j;s;sdkdfjasdjklssfsdfsad he is the Nonpareil, all right) and thinking:



P.S. The questions in my general run-down of the book were provided me by two_if_by_sea when asked what primary things she wanted to know about a book. (She also wanted to know, on a scale of one to Orson Scott Card, how many babies were in the book. Answer: none!) What primary things do you want to know about a book? Let me know!

Secrets & Lies.

One of the dilemmas of life on the internet is that all kinds of people have podiums and sources through which they can speak out and be heard. One of the ugly sides of this fact is that often when news goes viral, there isn't a lot of moderation in the dialogue as the word spreads--especially when the news is alarmist and seems destined to run through all the usual social media suspects like wildfire.

This puts us in an especially tricky situation when the subject at hand is something that ordinarily, without the word-of-mouth, did-you-hear echo chamber of the web, would have garnered no attention at all.

Do you speak out and attempt to shed clarity on the issue? Or by speaking at all, are you just drawing more attention to something that shouldn't even be considered real news?

In June, a German named Christoph Topitschnig, who owns a website called V-Generations, apparently wrote an article on Ellen Page and the politics of outing. Referring to her as "the tiny hypocrite," Topitschnig blamed the Oscar nominee for drawing rumors regarding her sexuality, by way of "questionable actions." In Topitschnig's opinion, these actions included her participation in suggestive photoshoots for her butch-friendly film Whip It in 2008, and her activism on behalf of GLBTQ and other progressive organizations, while supposedly keeping her own sexual identity a secret.

Yesterday, Topitschnig took his attack on Page a giant step further, posting an article called "Ellen Page - The Hypocrite." He begins by attacking Hollywood actors for "hiding in their closets," and then comes out with this extremely creepy statement:
I think I gave Ellen Page a decent chance to come out with the truth. Two months ago, I mentioned her in my LGBT article and made it pretty clear what she had to do. (Yes, she knows about this site.)

He then goes on to detail what he believes to be "the truth" about Ellen Page. I don't care what she does with her private life, so I'm not going to bore you with the details. But I was alarmed to see reports of this article surfacing across the web tonight, without anyone pointing out the obvious: Christoph Topitschnig is not a journalist, and in fact appears to have an unhealthy obsession with certain celebrities. As early as 2009, he published a series of articles claiming to "expose" celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Megan Fox, and Page, as so-called "fake humanitarians."

It should go without saying that outing somebody against their will is unethical journalism. That's why, just as an example, when journalist Tom Junod not so subtly implied that Kevin Spacey was gay in a cover story for Esquire in the 90's entitled "Kevin Spacey has a secret," he was roundly trounced and blacklisted in Hollywood for a while.

But it's harder on the internet, because all it takes is one inflammatory article, whether based on total hearsay or not, to spread around the web. Perez Hilton is not a journalist. He's just a guy with a blog who only has credence because we give him credence. This Christoph dude. Not a journalist. Just some guy with a blog.

It should go without say that assuming celebrities owe the public some debt of disclosure regarding their personal life is a rabidly unhealthy degree of obsession. It's the kind of mentality that creates fans who believe they have some kind of ownership over the actors and creators they laud, the kind of mentality that drives people further into their shelters of privacy. Like Spacey, actually.

Ellen has never been in or out of any closets. And why should she be? She's too busy being awesome, and keeping her personal life to herself.

Let's let her keep it that way, and not give this asshole any more credence by spreading his amateurish attempt at "news" around.