Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Of Libraries and Loretta

Today I’d like to give a little shout out to Andrew Carnegie, and the King County Library System in particular. For someone like me, whose geekitude encompasses both a voracious reading habit and a mild internet addiction, the on-line reservation system rocks my world.

Last week I squeezed in a trip to the library on the way to picking up my kids at their aikido class. When I got to the library, I had 11 books waiting for me on the reservation shelf. I swished them through the barcode at the self-checkout station and was back on my way to aikido. Total elapsed time: 9 minutes. I think parking took the longest.

So I got two nice piles, one from Loretta Chase and one from Judith McNaught; the latest release from Deborah Smith (just started that one today), and a fantasy trilogy from Roberta Gellis. Oh, and I owe them 10¢. Which I could pay online if I want.

I’ve been reading Loretta Chase now since Not Quite a Lady came out last year. The Carsington brothers are fun (Miss Wonderful, Lord Perfect, Mr. Impossible) but I really really loved The Last Hellion and Captives of the Night. CotN is a direct sequel of The Lion’s Daughter, while The Last Hellion has only a small intersection with a couple of characters.

There are certain constants in Regency romance. You can pretty much expect mention of Almack’s, balls, routs, eccentric dowagers, and descriptions of ballgowns. At some point, the heroine is going to need to navigate the ton.

Loretta Chase is different. High society still factors, but the heroines operate mostly outside of society. They are career women ahead of their time; some by necessity, others by passion. They are less protected & more mature than your typical regency deb, and therefore, to my mind, far more interesting. The heroes’ reactions to them range from hilarious to truly moving. Chase’s heroines just seem more... participatory in their stories. They are right alongside the heroes, scrapping through adventures with bad guys, foraging for clues in locations both exotic and low-brow, and contributing plenty of brainpower to the plot.

As they say, death is easy; comedy is hard. Something about the diction and voicing of historicals makes it even harder to achieve, as far as I’m concerned, so the fact that Chase can make me laugh out loud in an empty room is doubly impressive. Here’s a snip from The Last Hellion that completely cracked me up:

setting: a dicey neighborhood in London, 1828. "He" is our hero, a well-dressed duke.

He fell to his knees. "Sweet Aurora, behold me prostrate before you-"

"That isn't prostrate," she said reproachfully. "Truly prostrate is out flat, face down--"

"Bung upwards, she means, Your Grace," a tart called out.

"I should do anything for my goddess," he said above the male segment of the audience's raucous suggestions of various acts he might perform in his present position. He would kill them all later, he decided.

Overall, my favorite so far has to be Captives of the Night (though the title is a bit more gag-worthy than usual). The heroine is smart and ballsy and takes no crap from anyone, and the redemption of the hero is a story that gracefully twines together with the mystery plot in a flawless pied à deux of pacing. Andrea’s fave is Mr. Impossible, which asks the question, what if the alpha hero is cute and strong and everything, but just not that...well... smart? The answer may surprise you.

I like the recent offerings too – Chase continues to write heroines that really go for what they want, whether society approves or not, and I love that.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree (though I use the Seattle Library System). I log on. I search. I place holds. I pick up the books here in Ballard after a day or two. It is awesome. I wish Seattle still used the Carnagie Free Libraries. Fremont does, but the one here in Ballard is now a restaurant. It has awesome little reading rooms and pretty windows. I dream of someday buying and restoring it and turning it into a bookstore and tea house. Maybe once I'm a world famous author. *grin*
Are you a member of the Greater Seattle RWA?

Ana said...

Loretta Chase is romance novel goddess! The woman is fanstastic, my favorites are Lord of Scoundrels, The Lion's Daughter and Mr Impossible.


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