Thursday, August 20, 2009

Saphhire, by Rosemary Rogers - Review

Old-Skool Done Right
Oh. My. God. How much do I love this book? Up to the moon and back, that's how much.*

Ms. Rogers and I go way back. From Sweet Savage Love to The Crowd Pleasers, that woman wrote some OUTRAGEOUS stuff. And I loved every single page.

Her classic books pretty much epitomize the Old Skool romance, from the punishing kisses to the spoiled and tempestuous but also sweetly virginal eighteen year old heroine; up to and including the kidnapping raping hero.

I've been aware that she's published some new stuff recently, but I hadn't gotten around to trying any of them. However, I feel a glom coming on because I have to tell you, this book has everything I love about Old Skool, stuff you don't see much any more, but has left the raping to to the bad guys where it belongs.

My Favorite Part... Is a Secret
This is one of those occasions where my no-spoiler policy is really inhibiting because it makes discussing my very favorite part of the story a little bit problematic: one of the reasons I loved it so much is because it took me completely by surprise, and I don't want to spoil it for you. In this book is a really extended battle of wills between the couple -- really really. And at the point where another heroine might have done something different, Sapphire's choice-- and more particularly, its execution-- is 1) brilliant; 2) exactly perfect; 3) difficult -- so freakin' difficult I could hardly believe she did it. I wanted to jump up and cheer at one particular moment when I knew she was going to make it work.

But I can't tell you what it was. I'm afraid even a hint would give it away.

These are a Few of My Favorite [Old Skool] Things
Stuff I've missed about the 70s and 80s romances that hooked me forever on the genre -- you could practically go down a checklist, and it's all here. (Except the spanking. Ah well, can't have everything, I suppose.)

Loooonnnger adventures. I'm not talking page count. I'm talking months or even years in the storylines, where the characters butt heads, develop and change.

The tropics. So many of the older romances included sections in the Carribbean or other tropical and exotic locales. Sapphire starts out in Martinique and comes complete with the amoral, free-lovin' alter-ego island girl character to advise our heroine on those strange, disturbingly tingly feelings.

A hero who is actually still getting some at the start of the book. I'm not sure this is something I've missed, exactly, but when you see it in a book published after 1990, you suddenly realize, you haven't actually seen it in a really long time. Or at least if you're me, that's what happens. There's a scene where he bangs a society woman up against a wall on a balcony before she even quite realizes it's happening -- a bit shocking these days but a textbook example of showing and not telling us quite a lot about his character:
Only afterward, as he fastened his wool trousers and smoothed her silk skirts and bodice, did he see a single tear slip down her pale face."

"Don't cry," he murmured as he kissed her cheek.

"I-I've never done this before," she said breathlessly.

...[snip - at this point, they're interrupted by the lady's elderly husband]

The hem of her gown almost brushed Blake's polished boot as she glided past him. Either Mr. Williams didn't see him or he didn't care what his wife did on balconies with strangers.

Blake smiled. Yet another reason to be in no hurry to wed.
Brrr. Cold much?

A book with British society stuff set in an historical period other than Regency. Rumors abound that Victorian is the next Regency, and I think it's already here. I like the mobility people had and the feeling that change is about to bust wide open everywhere.

Protagonists that travel. From Martinique to London to Boston to New York. Love it.

Cross-dressing heroine. OK, so this isn't actually one of my particular buttons, but it is for some people, so PSA, this book haz it.

The whore with the heart of gold. Actually, there are several in this book. Why stop at one? It's not like Rogers got famous because of her restraint.

My Only Regret
The ending felt kind of rushed to me. The turning point where they come back to each other just... well, to be honest it didn't work very well at all for me. How can I still love the book if this didn't work? Wish I knew. I just wished there were about 50 more pages and that Blake had had to work a little harder once they were re-united. But it was such a damn good ride getting to the point I can't bring myself to hate on it because of that.


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*Couple things: yeah, I'm living under a rock right now, which is how come I just found out about the western rodeo round-up git-along thing going on over at Ramblings... can't participate right now but I may do a belated post and link back. Also, the exact rock I'm living under is named Natalie-- she's my newest niece and I'm out of town helping out my sister with childcare, which I hope partially explains a) my general absenteeism from Blogland (yours, mine, and Kristie's) and b) the reference to the Psychotically Competitive Nutbrown Hare (hope they've got a nut-brown therapy fund going).

15 comments:

Mandi said...

This one sounds lovely..I have not read this author. Thanks for the great rec! I suppose I will still read it even w/o spanking....;)

Carolyn Crane said...

Hey Nicola! I have never read her, either. But maybe this is a good one to start with. Unlike others, I'm not sick of any of the old skool aspects of books. This recommendation really is strong and meaningful.

Nicola O. said...

REALLY?? Rogers is truly a grande dame of the genre. If you want to be a well-rounded romance reader, you really ought to try a couple of her older historicals. The contemps like The Crowd Pleasers are kind of out there, in a swinging' 70s kind of way, but the historicals were a huge influence on the genre.

I know September is BBAW month, but I wonder if a Back To [Old] Skool thing would fly.... think we could get critical mass going?

Christina said...

My love of romance books started with Rosemary Rogers' Sweet Savage Love in the 7th grade. Yes, I know way to young, but I was home sick and discovered her romance novels and I was hooked (good thing my mom never realized I read it). I still have every book I read of hers and they have been reread so many times that they are falling apart.

The old romance novels, Rosemary Rogers (Sweet Savage Love, Wicked Loving Lies), Kathleen Woodwiss (Shana etc.), Bertrice Small (Skye O'Malley series etc.) are still and always have been my all time fave romances.

Christina

Heloise said...

I've been meaning to re-read my favorite, The Wolf and The Dove but am afraid I'll be horrified. :)

I'm so glad I'm not the only one made uncomfortable by the nut brown hair. And how about the the crazy mom in Love You Forever. Creepy.

Thanks for the review cause I wouldn't have picked this one up otherwise. :)

Kristie (J) said...

It's been YEARS since I read Rosemary Rogers - and I'm not tempted to revisit her old books - but if she's mellowed out the heroes and made less Alpha Jerk and more Alpha Gentle - I just might try one. Boy - she must be old by now though.

And I hope you do come back to The Great Western Drive. It's not just at Ramblings but also at Wendy, Superlibrarian and Sybil, The Good, The Bad, The Unread too! Lots and lots of reasons to read them and lots and lots of rec's

Ciara said...

Oh, Old Skool. Do you think I'd like this one? People keep recommending their favorite romances growing up, but I'm hesitant. I have a couple on my shelf like The Flame and the Flower and Shanna that I've been avoiding reading, even though so many people love them. Who wants to be a well rounded reader? :P

Nicola O. said...

Well, the hero definitely skirts that line between Alpha Hero and Alpha Asshole pretty closely. He's not my favorite hero ever, so if that's a big problem, you might not like it. I just thought it was a really great story and made me a bit nostalgic for the old days.

And, you know. No werewolves. :p

Tumperkin said...

OMG - Sweet Savage Love! Wasn't the hero a total and utter PIG to the heroine? Kind of breathtakingly awesome in its way.

And like you say, those plots that cover years - that's something you just don't get now. That suits my preference but you're absolutely right about character development - the breadth of the canvas probably allows major character changes to happen in a more believable way.

Nice review.

EdgyJuneCleaver said...

I have it in my head I want to revisit romance novels and I had forgotten about Rogers!I remember teasing my very elderly grandmother she was going to have a stroke if she read those sexy Rogers novels. Thanks for sharing this; Sapphire is next on my list after I finish the fluffy regency romance: What Happens In London (regrettable title) I started this afternoon.

Nicola O. said...

Ooo, June, I loved What Happens in London. Never got around to reviewing it, but I thought it was very fun.

Christina, perhaps we were twins separated at birth. I was still on Harlequins in 7th grade but was reading Judith Krantz by freshman year. Precocious!

Heloise, OMG, that one two. When my firstborn was little I got copies of that book in TWO languages. Ick. I mean, I get that kids' brains don't work the same way, but... ICK. As for Woodiwiss, I picked up a few of her more recent ones (post-2000) and they didn't grab me. I just don't know what I'd think of them now.

Kristie, I feel the same way! I mean, I didn't process the hero-rapist the same way when I was 15 or 16 as I would now-- I was all about the hot sex and Rogers certainly delivered that.

Tump, there were definitely some horrible heroes in her books. I kind of want to re-read just to see what I'd think of them now. I believe SSL has been re-printed-- I wonder if it's a straight reprint or if there have been updates?

Carolyn Crane said...

Remember the Windflower revival? That didn't go over that well. I wonder if old skool only works at the time. But maybe Windflower wasn't the right book.

Nicola O. said...

I'm still waiting for my turn at Windflower, although I'm not sure it's gonna happen. And I just saw where Rogers' The Wildest Heart is being re-released. I believe it's a western/noble savage one.

Jessica said...

This is fantastic! I just picked up Sweet Savage Love at the supermarket used book table for fifty cents and this post has motivated me to read it.

I agree with you on all points as to what's not there in the newer romances.

Nicola O. said...

Aw, thanks Jessica. I always feel a little SMRTR when you agree with me, heh. Keep an eye out for The Wildest Heart, releasing in Nov or Dec, I think.

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