I know I haven’t posted in a while, but I’m not so much of an exhibitionist that I feel compelled to inform the world of my every move (which is a reason why I’m not on Facebook or Myspace or Twitter, or any of the other sites that encourage such exhibitionism), so if I’m quiet it’s because I don’t have anything to say that would amaze the whole room. But today, I definitely do have something to say.
As you know, I’ve been reading Jane Eyre, but I put it aside for a bit because Julia Quinn’s latest novel, Just Like Heaven, came out on May 31 and, of course, I had to read it. Yes, I admit it. I read romance novels. I particularly love Julia Quinn, Lisa Kleypas, Laura Lee Guhrke and Loretta Chase. I have quite a few friends and acquaintances who, like me, read “good” books most of the time, but we’re also suckers for a good romance.
I grew up reading Georgette Heyer, who was well-known for her meticulous research. If she said that something happened, you can be sure that it did happen. I also read a lot of Anya Seton’s novels, and she, too, did a lot of research. If she did make a change to a real person or a real event, she let you know that she’d made the change and also why said change was made. Unfortunately, however, far too many of our modern romance novelists don’t appear to have done much, if any, research. I don’t mind some anachronisms, but I do mind blatant ones. I start to twitch when a character is supposedly speaking a foreign language and it’s incorrect. It’s the same when the characters use words that didn’t exist in the period in which the story takes place or when noble titles are messed up. In the days before the Internet, an author would have to visit the library and likely ask the librarian for assistance with the research. But now it’s so much easier; for example, I can find information about titles in mere seconds. It’s not hard. Honest! Anyway, I forgive some errors if the story is good, but if the story’s not good? Well then, fuhgeddaboutit.
In Julia Quinn’s first novel, Splendid, she referred to the Earl and Countess of Worth (Belle’s parents) as Lord Henry and Lady Caroline. Nope. They should be Lord and Lady Worth. I asked her about it at her message board (it’s been shut down now, so don’t bother looking) and she told me that she’d made the appropriate changes for the later editions. I was duly pleased that she’d taken the time to make sure that things were correct, but I still want to know how her editor allowed these mistakes to be put in print in the first place. In Lisa Kleypas’ Louisiana novels, some of the French used by the characters is a little off. But, as I said, for the most part I can live with some inaccuracies — especially if the story is good. She used an incorrect honorific in her book Lady Sophia’s Lover (a viscount’s daughter is a mere Miss, not a Lady) but, once again, I lived with it because I adored the book.
But the book that cured my writer’s block for the time being and inspired this post is A Lady Never Tells, by Candace Camp. I’ve only ever read one other book by Ms. Camp, and that was A Very Special Favor, which was published under a pseudonym, Kristin James. It’s a sweet little book about a lonely legal secretary who falls in love with her boss. I adore this book and have read it to death, so I picked up A Lady Never Tells when I was at Books-a-Million because I remembered that Candace Camp was Kristin James’s real name and the story sounded like fun. I figured anyone who’d written A Very Special Favor couldn’t possibly write something I wouldn’t like.
Boy, was I wrong.
All About Romance gives the book a “C.” They are usually tougher graders than I am, but this time I agree completely. The first thing I noticed is that Camp’s grasp of honorifics is very, very tenuous and it got annoying rather quickly. To wit: the late Earl of Stewkesbury is occasionally referred to as Lord Reginald. WRONG. The current earl is referred to as Lord Oliver. WRONG. The daughter of a country vicar who married a duke’s brother is referred to as Lady Sabrina. WRONG. The only one she got right is Lady Vivian, who is the daughter of a duke. I had to flip back and forth constantly to figure out who she was talking about.
The plot itself had potential, but it wasn’t well executed. The main character, Mary, is an American who, with her 3 younger sisters, flees an evil stepfather and goes to London to find her mother’s noble relatives. Her mother married a poor younger son for love and was disowned by her father, the late Earl of Stewkesbury. So yes, I think it had potential. She meets Sir Royce Winslow and (of course) sparks fly. He asks her to marry him after they’ve slept together, and she says no. She says no repeatedly. And vociferously. Personally, I didn’t find Mary to be all that lovable — she’s very controlling and very, VERY annoying. I could never figure out what Sir Royce saw in her. Other characters were far more interesting, but I don’t know if I can get the bad taste from this one out of my mouth and read the other 2 books in the series. We’ll see.
I hate making such a snap judgment (well, maybe I don’t hate it, but…), but I really can’t help thinking that Ms. Camp should stick with modern books and leave historicals alone. Final grade: C-