Tag: romance

Cruel Beauty

Cruel Beauty

best book EVAH

Well, I didn’t end up reviewing Deathless, mainly because it was so beautifully flawed that it defied description (I feel like people wouldn’t have had much time for BDSM and two-timing during the Siege of St. Petersburg. Too cold. Too hungry. But I wasn’t there, so what do I know?). Also, college fried my brain, so yeah. There never was a promise I could keep.

However, post-finals, I was looking for subpar brain candy to destress, and I found it in Cruel Beauty, courtesy of Rosamund Hodge–except it wasn’t subpar! Who says brain candy can’t also be art?

Lots of kitties
WHAT THIS BOOK DID TO ME

First of all, the setting is gorgeous. I adore gorgeous settings, probably because I can’t write them at all. Nyx Triskelion (cool name) lives in Arcadia, which is…a dome? made of parchment? I was never really clear on how to picture it (notoriously bad at following descriptive details, sorry), but it sounded cool.

The wavy, golden rays of the sun looked like a gilt illumination in one of Father’s old manuscripts; they glinted, but their light was less painful than a candle. Once the main body of the sun was risen over the hillside, it would be uncomfortable to look upon, but no more so than the frosted glass of a Hermetic lamp. For most of the light came from the sky itself, a dome of cream veined with darker cream, like parchment, through which light shone as if from a distant fire. Dawn was no more than the brighter zone of the sky rising above the hills, the light colder than at noon but otherwise the same.

Arcadia (land Nyx lives in) has been closed off from the world, seemingly forever, with only a Gentle Lord in a ruined castle to rule it. Many have theories as to why. Unfortunately, the Gentle Lord is excellent at making bargains, but they don’t always work out so well for the bargainers. There’s always a misinterpreted clause, like the one Nyx’s father falls prey to. Wife will give birth to two healthy daughters? Excellent. Wife will die in the process? Oh.

So Arcadians hate the Gentle Lord because he’s a ruthless haggler who tells tons of lies by omission. Also Nyx’s dad promised him one of his daughters. OH. Instead of beating himself up over not totally owning his Dad of the Year award, like maybe he should, he spends Nyx’s entire childhood training her as a magical weapon so that she can take her future husband down. No, really. DAD OF THE YEEEEEAAARRR.

why junshan why
Me whenever Nyx’s daddy was remotely mentioned in any way.

To make matters worse, the Gentle Lord’s hotness is in dispute.

I knew that the Gentle Lord was different enough from other demons that people could look on him and not go mad. But some said he had the mouth of a snake, the eyes of a goat, and the tusks of a boar, so that even the bravest could not refuse his bargains. Others said he was inhumanly beautiful, so that even the wisest were beguiled by him. Either way, I couldn’t imagine letting him touch me.

*checks genre* Yeah, let’s go with inhumanly beautiful. I know that it can be hard to marry an evil demon Prince, but I think I’ve read so much of this genre that I’ve gotten a bit jaded. Honestly, I was just waiting for Nyx to fall in love with him so that we could all go home already. However. Elements kept surprising me.

For one thing, Ignifex, the demon prince in question, was more of an asshole than I expected. Also, almost zero angst over what a douchecanoe he was being, which I personally found refreshing. Maybe I’m tired of cheap angst, which is something I never thought I’d say. I don’t like cheap assholery either, but Ignifex’s reasons for acting out, if not exactly laudable, are at least understandable…ish? No spoilers, though. Also, he gets better. 🙂

Maybe what surprised me most, though, was Nyx herself. I’m sad to say that in YA, I sometimes end up reading for the hot dude of the week because heroines can be a little subpar, and I hate doing it. On the other hand, I also hate reading solely for the heroine because the hero’s terrible. Not the case here! I was able to read for both. Nyx is a QUEEN, and I cannot emphasize this enough. She doesn’t take the fate handed to her lying down, but she also doesn’t waste time on pointless rebellion or wilting sacrifice. Instead, she is quietly and murderously furious, clever enough to realize that something is horribly wrong with her family, but socially conditioned too well to reject the future planned for her. She is her people’s only hope of breaking the curse, so she meets her fate gracefully.

Fortunately, her new husband is way more interested in building card towers and eating bon-bons than being, you know, absolutely terrible. In fact, he offers something that no one else in Arcadia can give her: unconditional acceptance and love. Awww. See, not that much of an asshole. More and more, Nyx starts to doubt her mission and whether her father really knows what he’s doing (obviously not). Before this book, I never wondered what would happen if the protagonist got sick of the hero gig and kicked back with the villain for some nice bonding time and snacks, but now I guess I know.

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Actual footage of Nyx and Ignifex.

Actually, if I have one criticism of this book, it’s that it briefly flirted with the abandonment of the heroic role, only to veer back in a more traditional direction. Not that the ending I got wasn’t satisfying–honestly, I probably cried a little (POST FINALS-EMOTIONS, THAT’S ALL), but I would have loved to see a world where curses aren’t broken, villains aren’t defeated, and heroines aren’t sacrificed. Oh, well. Maybe I’ll have to write one.

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Making power imbalances uncreepy, or, how authors can stop annoying me

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This is depressing, so have some kitty. With bonus bat collar!

Power imbalances are everywhere in romance. Although they’re ubiquitous in YA, they’re even more common in the adult romance industry. If you’re at all familiar with the romance genre, chances are you’ve read a story that features one. Maybe it was about a pirate captain who captures some British noblewoman. Or another billionaire and a random girl (God forbid!). Usually, the imbalance is skewed in the male character’s favor, for reasons that would take a whole post to get into. These types of stories often turn me off, but not because the premise is inherently bad. It’s just, well, authors screw up. A lot, in various cringe-worthy ways. Luckily, I’m here to show how to make skeevy gender dynamics more palatable! Continue reading “Making power imbalances uncreepy, or, how authors can stop annoying me”

Somedaaaaay, my alpha will cooooome, or, a review of The Sheik

The Shiek

This is it, you guys. I’ve found the One True Alpha. All the rest of you posers can go home. Nothing like vintage alpha for a bit of nostalgia, and at 1919, The Sheik is considered by some the first romance novel ever. Sometimes, the original actually is the best  worst. NOTHING will ever be as terrible or as hilarious as this book. Hence the reason I read the entire thing with a gigantic smile on my face. IT WAS SO AWESOME. Except for…well, we’ll get to that. Continue reading “Somedaaaaay, my alpha will cooooome, or, a review of The Sheik”

Siamese Mayhem finally finishes a series, or, a review of the Chemical Garden Trilogy

Chemical Garden Trilogy

One of the great tragedies of reviewing is that bad books always give me more to say. When I have an actual good book, I just can’t find the snark. Hopefully, it is possible for me to be interesting without making fun of something. However, I promise nothing. The Chemical Garden Trilogy is one of these happy few; they are the sort of books I have only good things to say about. Continue reading “Siamese Mayhem finally finishes a series, or, a review of the Chemical Garden Trilogy”

Why do (some) girls like jerks? No, really?

Chicks fall for it every time.
Chicks fall for it every time.

Yes, I am aware that many stupid people have asked this question in many stupid ways, but a little factoid hit me out of nowhere, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I can’t find the link, for which I’m very sorry; you’ll just have to trust me. It went a little something like this: In a 1950’s poll, many women said they considered belittlement and mockery a normal part of a happy marriage. And then I started wondering–were romance novels in the 60’s and 70’s influenced by this attitude? And are we influenced by bodice rippers today? I may not be able to explain why many women like all types of jerks (because there are many, dear reader, there are many), but perhaps I can shed light on why they like a certain sort. At least in the world of romance novels.

But before we begin, let’s define what a jerk IS, just so there’s no confusion. Continue reading “Why do (some) girls like jerks? No, really?”

How to dethaw an ice queen, or, a review of The Iron King

This book is about a girl and her boys. Meghan, our heroine, thinks she’s an ordinary high school student. Her friend, Robbie (also known as Puck), doesn’t quite agree. Their arch-nemesis, Ash, just wants to kill them both. Ordinarily, this is how I feel about love triangles:

Elsa makes her feelings clear

But this particular story worked for me, and I think it may be because the romance was fairly light, none of the parties spent a large time waffling, and–while I wouldn’t say they had camaraderie–they all developed mutual, grudging respect for each other by the end. I think. Love triangles in which all the principles are likable go a long way towards assuaging my wrath. Take notes, aspiring writers, because this is how you make love triangles non-fury inducing. Continue reading “How to dethaw an ice queen, or, a review of The Iron King”

What’s in a URL? Or, the story of how this blog got its name

Pup all prettied up
Pup, looking thoughtful on a sunny day.

I am incredibly lazy. Instead of actually writing this story, I’m going to reuse an old narrative essay about this topic. It’s a bit stilted, since I was (or am?) still figuring out how to merge personality with academic writing. With that in mind, I tried to make it more bloggable. Is that a word? No? Well, now it is.

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       My first story was terrible. Using increasingly elaborate notebooks covered with lighthouses and bees, I carefully composed a narrative involving princesses, stilted vocabulary, and talking horses. After roughly five years of this silliness, my original story had fallen into a sad state of neglect. Seeking distractions, I was lurking on the Amazon Romance Forum, as I often did, when a poster asked what sort of romance heroes and heroines our pets would make. I considered this question deeply. I considered it so deeply, in fact, that I wrote a novel about it. Pup, my little pit bull heeler mix, I made my heroine, and Midnight, my black cat with an ego the size of Alaska, was the hero. With those characters, I wrote over a thousand pages of drafts and tidbits. I learned something about composition from my original story, but my pets were the ones who really inspired my writing. Continue reading “What’s in a URL? Or, the story of how this blog got its name”