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Posts tagged ‘Judith McNaught’

Where has all the romance gone?

I am not particularly fond of reading romances – I mean Elizabeth Bennett – Mr Darcy, Winter de Ballesteros and Alex Randall or Hermione Granger and Ron Weasely (Yes! I know this was a sub plot of a sub plot but there is romance and once cannot deny it!) romances apart, I have not read like a really good love story.  And no, I do not consider Eric Segal’s Love Story as immortal, in fact far from it.

romanceWhile I growing up, I had devoured, Judith McNaughts (Sigh! Yes! I know the errors of youth!), but I cannot  seem to find any more charm in them, though I know there are millions of readers who swear by her books! May be its growing up – maybe it’s just cheesy, maybe it’s too much of Champaign and caviar dreams and too little of reality, but the heroes over whom I drooled over as a young girl – you know Zachary Benedict (Perfect) Stephen Westmoreland (Until You) or even Royce Westmoreland (Kingdom of Dreams), can no longer please me – and the heroines, let me not get started. Julie who has worked so very hard for her Perfect life and is so fond of her adoptive family, is ready to give all up to run away to Mexico with a convict. She is strong woman who faints (I mean who faints in this day and age) when Feds take away Zachary Benedict and mouths such inanities like “Oh! Please don’t hurt him!” – I mean what? You turned him over because you became convinced that he was a criminal and then what do you expect Feds to do – give him a Presidential treatment????? Sherry, who is supposed to be soul of sensibility and which is why she was hired as a chaperone anyway, runs away at the first moment of recovering her memory instead of explaining things to Stephen Westmoreland who knew and in fact had rescued her after the accident. Also one cannot help but wonder at how liberal was Regency England in accepting a daughter of rancher as the Duchess of the most powerful houses of Great Britain. If you ask me, it’s stretching the Cinderella story a wee bit too much. I am not even getting into the cutesy scene of Sherry making the entire servant quarter sing carols because she needed hot chocolate or the cook’s boy was upset or both!  (Yuck! Where is my barf bag?) And finally Jennifer , the strong red-headed Scot who needs acceptance from her family so badly, that she is willing to get Royce Westmoreland killed by her promise not to harm them, though he himself practically gets killed in the process.  Having said all of this – Kingdom of Dreams is perhaps the best of all McNaughts, though Royce Westmoreland behaves like a boor and a jerk (like all McNaught heroes), he at least tries to redeem himself by even dying for the sake of the woman he loves. Also for once, there is some history and the author does try to put in some history like the conflict between England and Scotland!

romance 2Or it could simply be the timing – when I first read these books in my YA days, maybe I had lot more hope or at the very least fantasy about how love should be. These days I take up sloppy romances when things have taken a downturn with Mr Soulmate and that in itself puts me a cynical framework of mind, so I really cannot be all that tolerant towards mush! (Yes! I know the big question is why I read books only after horrifying fights with him needs psychological intervention!) Though I still believe in that one true all-consuming love, (I know I am naïve and I am proud of it!), I guess I also know life does not always work out in neat little packages which you can tie up with a bright-colored strings and one has to kiss of lot more than one toad to finally reach Prince Charming. Even when you reach Prince Charming, it’s not always necessary that it will go exactly as you plan – career, commitment issues etc etc. will act as villains and you do not need and wicked fathers or the Feds to spice up your love story!

So what is the point of all this rambling – can somebody please take pity on a struggling writer/ Project Manager with her God-only-knows-what-status-of-relationship-I-have-issues and passion for reading and suggest some good romances –not googy slop, but all time abiding love storys!

P.S. I do not want suggestions like Barbra Cartland or Nicholas Spark. These all qualify as slops, in fact the latter is so excessively sweet that anyone with even one dose of Spark, runs the risk of diabetes for live.

Romancing the Regents….

I am not particularly fond of romance novels. Leaving historical romances apart….I mean that’s history at the very least. But romances as a genre make me want to barf. Even in my teens, I had serious problems with all the clichéd Mills and Boon and Silhouette romances and could not ever finish a Danielle Steel….all the sugar made me sick! (See my previous post)The only novels I was able to read through with equanimity were Judith McNaught’s Perfect and A Kingdom of Dreams. The former had a murder mystery woven into the love story and the second one was a historical romance set in the conflict years between England and Scotland of Henry VI rule.  So there…..

However during my late teen and I mean LATE teens, a friend of mine introduced me to Georgette Heyer and I fell for it…..I become a sucker for Regency Romance!

I think the process started long back when I read, yes, my bible of all sensible advice – Pride and Prejudice. The country side, the curricles, the balls and the Sprig muslin wearing Elizabeth Bennett and the dashing Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy all created such splendorous world of quiet and peace without being tedious and away from the everyday humdrum, that it was natural that  I fall in love with The Grand Sophy!

Having declared my undying love for Regency Romaces, I must point out that I am kind of choosy in this passion. Give me the traditional romance of Georgette Heyer any day. The plots are concrete, the characters believable and the repartee downright funny! The emphasis is on the plot and there is extensive research that goes into the details of the social mores and customs of 19th century England. That’s why I think Ms Heyer was absolutely marvelous – she managed all of these while making you laugh out loud and go back to her books again and again!

Then there is a whole different world of what I call “wannabe” romance writers! I mean they set their plots in the Regency times, but that’s where it ends. The characters all act/talk/conduct themselves more in 21st century fashion than those of the bygone days of Regency.  The plots are ridiculous and the conversations are anything but funny and sugary syrupy nature of affairs between the principal protagonists makes you want to lay off chocolate for the rest of your life! Case to the point – Julia Quinn’s Brighter than the Sun. I am sure Ms Quinn is very talented and erudite but I did expect more from a Harvard/Radcliffe protégé! The tale begins promisingly enough with a marriage of convenience between the Earl of Billington and Eleanor Lyndon and the sabotages that follow the marriage in the domestic affairs of the Countess and the Earl. But that is all there is to it. I read nearly 300 pages of sheer idiotism where the Earl did nothing but lust after his wife and while the Countess went in a tizzy every time the Earl kissed her, interspersed with how much the Countess was loved by her tenants and how the Earl though not expressing his feelings was gentle, kindhearted Squire, despite carrying a reputation of a rake! Yuck and a thousand times yuck!!! How very clichéd and I am an unqualified dolt for not only buying this book, but also actually reading it through! Where is my barf bag????!!!!

I know there are authors besides Ms Heyer who actually do put a more realistic spin on their regency pieces – Mary Balogh’s heroines are mostly fallen women or Carla Kelly, who explores the ravishes of the Napoleonic war on the lives of ordinary men and women. I do understand and appreciate that many readers do not prefer to read of about the more harsher and maybe real aspects of life in their fiction, after all many of us do resort to books to get away from our everyday realities! What I do have a problem is while I am all for a fairy tale romance, can we please , please include some sense and true fun into them!!! Ms Heyer, we so miss you!

Love and Mutiny in the times of British Raj

I think I have already mentioned in one my previous blogs that I LOVE Historical fiction. If it’s a historical romance, even better (Oh! Come on! I am a girl after all!!). So when I decided to write this post I thought I would do a quick survey of some of the top historical romances before getting down to the particulars. Unfortunately, the moment I Googled, I realized that my understanding of a historical romance and that of the world at large is very different.  To give an example of the same, Amazon list of top 25 romances consists of innumerable Judith McNaught and Jude Deveraux novels. While both the writer are very talented and I myself when I was somewhere in between the age of 15-20 have devoured all Ms McNaught ever wrote, one must admit in all honesty, that these are romances with no history. They are love stories set in a forgone period which adds all the dash and glamour of the bygone era to the story.

So what is my idea of a historical romance?…..Have you read a book perhaps little known called “Shadow of the Moon”  by MM Kaye?

Ms Kaye was born in colonial India in 1908 and spent her early childhood and much of her early married life in the same country. Born into a family that for generations had served the British Raj, her love for the country and her people was clear in her writings. Though after India’s independence, she would travel the world with her husband, Major-General Goff Hamilton of Queen Victoria‘s Own Corps of Guides and write about those places including, Cyprus, Berlin, Zanzibar, her heart would always hold a special place for her adopted nation, and from this came her most successful works – Shadow of the Moon 1957, revised in 1979 and The Far Pavilions 1978.

Shadow of the Moon is set in India during 1856-1858, tracing the rise and fall of the Indian Sepoy Mutiny. Being the daughter of the land and the great-niece of Sir John Kaye, who wrote the first standard account of the Indian Mutiny, her book is an exact and empathetic description of two races and nations striving to do what they believe is right, (though the author’s sympathies are clearly with the conquered race than the conquers!) without completely understanding the other’s view leading to one of the most horrific rebellions in the annals of British-India history. The book captures the politics, customs and economics that went into the making of the Indian mutiny, besides vividly portraying the characters of some of the greats of history who were instrumental in the event Lord Canning, Sir Henry Lawrence, Major William Hodson etc. The books gives a moving account of India with the heat, the bazaars, the winding rivers, the small hamlets, the acres and acres of cultivated land and her British India society with its balls, social rituals and moonlight picnics! At the heart of the book however is the heart warming love story of Winter de Ballesteros and Captain Alex Randall. Winter, the orphaned daughter of an English aristocratic mother and a Spanish nobleman, sets off from England to marry Conway Barton, whom she was betrothed to as a child. Alex Randall, Barton’s junior and an officer of the British Army, who is now working as an administrator in the fictional town of Lunjore, whose Commissioner is Barton, has been tasked to bring Winter to Lunjore. Winter’s journey to India, her marriage to Conway Barton, her flight during the Mutiny and finally uniting with Alex Randall makes the core of the story around which the politics, the battles and the history of India play out. While it sounds sordid, the love story is anything but so…it’s tender, moving and completely accurate in terms of social observances of the era. The country, her people and her heroes leap from the book and come alive as they grab your attention and force you to imagine an era long gone, in a land far away and love story that reverberates across time!

What so special about the book – it’s a darn good yarn. While the love story plays out, the book also has enough suspense, intrigue and thrills, to make it a good read. These along with the vivid and lyrical description of the land and her customs, makes the novel an all-round winner that would satisfy any genre of readers – romance, descriptive, thriller, historical!!!

Read it…I guarantee that you will at the least enjoy it if not love it!!

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