Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Groundhog Day Rewind!

I'm trying to imagine the pitch for the movie Groundhog Day.  Really?  Same day, over and over? Trying to get something right but you don't know what you're doing wrong? And why Groundhog Day? Why not, oh, I don't know, Arbor Day, or Pi Day, or something? (you could make a good argument for the numbers in pi not repeating, but maybe you'd need to be a math nerd to think so...)

Is it the 2? 2/2? like a repeat? or a... rewind?  That gave me an idea...

I have to admit that I like the Old Skool romances.  I do.  I'm not sure what I'd think about a newly published one, with all the heaving and dying and whatnot, but I have a fondness for the real Old Skool ones that actually does stand-up to the repeat read.

About a year ago I got ahold of a couple of Rosemary Rogers titles and really enjoyed them.  So I think I'm going to seek out some of these old skool re-reads.  Keep an eye out for them on the second of the month.  Like... today?*


Oh, Bertrice Small... I loved her books so much when I was the same age as her heroines (13? 14?), and none more than Skye O'Malley.  Will I still?

Answer: Oh yes.  Yes yes yes! and then I fainted.

Poor Skye faints a lot, especially after a good orgasm.  There is lots and lots and lots of sex in this book and I wouldn't say that it's not graphic, but it's not as...erm, detailed as you generally see in the "hotter" modern offerings.  Two to three paragraphs, max. I love this story with my whole heart, but I will concede that the sex scenes may have been written by a virgin. No matter how bad it starts out, it almost always ended up OK.  PTSD had yet to be identified, much less understood, and so Skye, like any good Old Skool heroine, shakes off the odd rape or pirate attack with a good cry and a complicated revenge plan.

Small's villains are completely vile, indulging in such horrors as incest and anal sex.  Also they hit women and tend to have thin lips.  This is your best bet for distinguishing them from the heroes, who, just like the villains, pursue the sweet, virtuous but proud and tempestuous beauty, helpless against their baser desires, driven to possess her by fair means or foul. The villainesses are promiscuous and generally batshit crazy in one way or another. 

The other difference, besides the thin lips, is that the heroes (and there are more than one), are not cruel at heart and always genuinely fall in love with Skye.  In this book (there are sequels) she has 4 husbands and 7 children and still looks like an ante-bellum Scarlett O'Hara.  Those 16th century women sure had a lot of stamina.

I've always been puzzled by assertions that romance readers actually identify with the hero.  If that's you, you probably aren't going to like Skye O'Malley at all.  She's hard on husbands.  Jennifer Crusie says this about romance:
Seventy percent of book buyers and eighty percent of book readers are women, and like me, those readers are tired of serving and losing and waiting and dying in their fictional worlds. The romance heroine not only acts and wins, she discovers a new sense of self, a new sense of what it means to be female as she struggles through her story, and so does the romance reader as she reads it.
And that is Skye O'Malley to a T.  You might even say this isn't even a romance-- it is perhaps three romances, but it IS the story of the heroine and her struggles to act and win.

One thing that I found interesting about Skye is that it is no Cinderella story.  Skye is pampered and bejeweled and privileged from the first page to the last, and there is lavish descriptive detail about the lifestyle -- the food, the furnishings, the rich clothing, fabulous jewels, festivals.  The point of view is far more omniscient that current standards, with little introspection or inner dialog.  PoV travels easily from one head to another but it's nearly all in the service of describing the action and setting up the plot. 

It's epic and adventurous and while I could probably rip it up on technicalities, it's just too much fun to read.  It's a slice of lush fantasy, a moment out of time where I imagine myself fabulously wealthy, fabulously desireable, and clever enough to outwit  my jealous enemies.

Next up: I think maybe Shanna, by Kathleen Woodiwiss.


______________
*Oops.  I flubbed the scheduling bit so it went through a little early.  Oh well.  It's the second in most time zones...

3 comments:

gaelstat said...

I have been a fan of Skye O' Malley, Ireland's legendary Elizabethan pirate, since picking up the first adventure while staying at a friend's house where there was nothing else to read. I had always imagined the heroines of bodice-ripping romances to be delicate and fluttery and prone to fits of the vapors, so it was a refreshing surprise to find that Skye was a total witch. I was hooked, and read several more of Bertrice's Skye tales. Until it all got too weird with the harems and swarthy Eastern gentlemen. By then, Skye's hair color had an alarming habit of changing from book to book, sometimes within the same book, and you could tell Bertrice was just phoning it in.

Darren Daz Cox said...

I wont read those books but I really enjoyed your review! :)

Nicola O. said...

David! good to see you around! I don't think I'll read too many of the Skye O'Malley sequels, I just want to savor this one a bit.

Aw Daz, thanks. I'll never be a painter but I love to read what you have to say about it. You just can't go wrong listening to people* talk about stuff they love.

___
*Unless they love bad things, like neo-cons or paintings on black velvet. Mimes. Stuff like that. You know. Exception to every rule and all that.

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