Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snowed In

I’m snowed in.

You wouldn’t think in 2008 a little snow would have this much power over an entire region. But I live in the Pacific Northwest, and the infrastructure around here is just not equipped to handle a foot of snow.

I did manage to get out a couple of times. I have a two-mile twisting 9% grade road to get anywhere, which was harrowing but do-able. The city had it sanded, and people were driving remarkably sensibly, ie, slowly.

But I’ve missed 3 days of work and tomorrow is looking no better. Fortunately our Christmas prep is in OK shape except for the glaring absence of a tree. My kids were not happy about the tree situation-- although my 8 year old has made Christmas lemonade and constructed a tree for us from a mike stand and green construction paper cones.

All in all, it seems like the right moment for a review of Snowy Night With a Stranger, though I confess I’m not feeling very rose-colored-glasses about being snowed in. In fact, I’m in a pretty grouchy mood, but I’ll try to rise above that for the sake of a fair review. {g}

So I’ll call Snowy Night a confection of a collection: it melts quickly like a snowflake on your tongue (aww, poetry).

Jane Feather’s A Holiday Gamble features a youngish aristocrat, on his way to a remote family estate after unexpectedly inheriting the title. The requisite snowstorm strands him in a house of suspicious goings-on. The set-up is a little reminiscent of Madeline Hunter’s recent Secrets of Surrender, in that the heroine starts out in a position of ruin—or nearly so. Typically novella-ish, the situation is not nearly so dire, the obstacles not so insurmountable, but it had that same seedy undertone of Unspeakably Nasty Things Might Be Happening Here. As a hero, Ned’s primary advantage is that he’s observant and smart—less of a storming, confrontational alpha hero and arguably more of a beta with a good instinct for a strategic retreat. Here’s a nice little snip of the h/h interacting:
She turned aside to the fire, where a small pan was heating on a hob. “I was warming some milk for myself. Would you like some?”

“No!” he exclaimed. It was so domestic and soothing, and he didn’t feel either of those things. “What else have you?”

Georgiana, bending over her saucepan, straightened, laughing. “Cognac on the dresser. I like to put a little in the milk.”

“It sounds revolting,” he declared, finding the decanter and filling a glass. “What did you do to Belton?”

“A jab in the kidneys,” she said easily. “Undetectable but most effective.”

I love how unrepentantly rude he is, and how blithely she talks about streetfighter tricks. She’s in a nearly untenable situation, but she is not without resources. The fact that Ned happens along when he does is a major advantage for her, but you get the sense that she just might have worked her way out of her problem on her own.

When Sparks Fly from Sabrina Jeffries is, at bone, a very simple story of two lonely people finding each other, and finding their way past the defenses that lonely people have a way of constructing. The hero Martin is touchingly human, and Ellie is so perfectly direct, so perfectly right, especially in this scene, where he has told her that she couldn’t possibly want a life with him away from London society:
”I choose to do what I think is right for you. You deserve better.”

“Absolutely,” she said hotly. “I deserve a man who wants me.”

“I do want you!”

A blush darkened her fine skin. “If you wanted me, you’d find a way to have me, instead of making a lot of excuses.”

I mean, HEAR HEAR! How many times have you read a romance where you wanted to yell exactly that at one or the other of the main characters? And I love her line, “I deserve a man who wants me.” Words to live by, baby. (And some people think romance is anti-feminist. Ha.)

Snowy Night with a Highlander was definitely my least favorite of the three. I really like Julia London’s contemporaries, especially the Extreme Bachelors, but this was a bit of a dud. It reads like a far-too-long prologue to the story of the heroine’s brother, who’s gotten crosswise with the Prince Regent. Fiona is rushing to warn him that he needs to go into hiding, which provides the excuse for her to be on the road in a season when few people of that time and place traveled. I’m not fond of the device where the hero pretends to be a servant, either. Fiona’s character does sparkle, she has plenty of personality, but there just wasn’t enough of a story for me. Which is tough anyway in a novella… and this one merely proves that point.


wcvamp said...

Wow, it will be 80 on Christmas day here in Fla. ... i wish it was cold, it just doesn't feel like the holdiays when you can walk around in shorts and tank tops and flip flops...
got a new antho- Playing hard to get by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Kresley Cole & Jaid Black. I got it mainly for Kresley cole's story of Nikoli Wroth.

Anonymous said...

Hate to parrot the first commenter, but wow! We'll be in shorts on Christmas too.

That picture is so beautiful!

Nicola O. said...

wcv, I nabbed that one from the library last spring when I went on my Kresley Cole binge. I confess though, I never got around to reading the other entries.

Nicola O. said...

JK, thanks for the compliment!

I can't wait for the stuff to melt though...


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