Sunday, February 28, 2010

Laughter Reviews - Keeper: IMPROPER RELATIONS

Janet Mullany

Historical Romantic Comedy

Little Black Dress, 2010

Regency 'He Said / She Said' love story.

Cover: Title - Can be applied to content on several levels = well done. Art - loved it. From the unusual lack-of-people approach, to the magenta and robins-egg blue coloration, to the cursive script, to the whimsically retro parasols and curlicues. Beautiful, and in keeping with the previous title done in chocolate and robins-egg blue. Excellent work, Little Black Dress!

What Works: When Apprentice Writer first heard the term 'Regency Chicklit' she wasn't sure what to expect. Now she can congratulate the author on founding such a delightfully entertaining subgenre.

What did she like? The alternating first-person present tense format was surprisingly successful. The heroine sections really did have the feel of how Bridget Jones would write in her diary had she been born a century earlier, and it was very entertaining to 'see' things from the male point-of-view. Also working was the fact that although many 'traditional' Regency ingredients were present - special licence, mistress, compromising situation, misunderstanding, servant-handling - how the protagonists behaved and spoke in conjuction with them was utterly unpredictable. The way the duel scene ended, especially, will pop up whenever AW encounters another (literary) duel.

"Rules of Gentility", the first Mullany title AW read, was memorable among other things for venturing into territory that is usually glossed over in historicals - at least, the ones AW has come across. In the case of RoG one such subject was water closets (since then also delved into, if that is the right expression, by Eloisa James). In this case, there was some exploration of how expectations differ along class lines, and also the matter of what happened with the natural consequences of a lady (rather than the man) entering marriage with experience, as it were.

But what worked best of all for this reader was the author's style. Breezy, funny, conversational, compelling. Judge for yourself:

"...He wears plain black...but on this man it looks as though he intends to fight a duel and possibly conduct the funeral service over his unlucky opponent all in the same day. His dark hair is unruly...but in a way that, along with this unshaven chin, suggests he has but recently risen from his bed.
He is lean, dramatic handsome as the devil, and I suspect the bed was not his.
A rake!
Will my reputation fall around me in tatters if I approach him?
....I arrive in front of him as he looks up - ...and gazes straight at my bosom.
He yawns."

"I don't believe I'm more or less clever than any of the hopeful young ladies paraded in the marriage mart. I speak some dreadful French, embroider with a minimum of bloodshed, produce lifelessly correct watercolors, have several easy pianoforte pieces at my disposal for the drawing room and occasionally I read something other than the fashion pages. In truth, I am quite accomplished."

" 'Who is that?' I ask.
'Mrs. Gundling.'
'Does not Mr. Gundling care for the park?'
He looks at me, possibly for the first time that day, with a long, thoughtful look. 'I believe Mr. Gundling to be legendary.'
'Indeed? Legendary in the sense that he may not exist?'
'Precisely, ma'am.' He flicks his whip and the greys break into a canter.
'Is she your mistress?'
'That's a very indiscreet question to ask on our wedding day.'
I shrug. 'Very well. I'll ask you tomorrow.'

What Doesn't: Apprentice Writer is still trying to work out how she feels about the last page, which for obvious reasons she cannot reveal. It is not that she disliked it - she didn't. It is more that it was unexpected - from point-of-view, from closing action, and from lack of hint of what came next. This, of course, may simply be a sign of how well-trained she is in forecasting a more typical type of historical romance genre ending - meaning that one that departs from the usual is an innovation, and as such, to be commended. AW will therefore congratulate the author once again, for pioneering an unforeseen ending to go along with the new subgenre.

Nevertheless, AW would personally have liked having a bit more of an idea of what happened to the characters beyond THE END. She is a reader who loves epilogues, as a way of getting a more lingering farewell to characters she has come to like. Perhaps readers will find out what happend to Charlotte, Shad, et al in a follow-up title?

Overall: Apprentice Writer is very pleased to find proof that rather than being dead, chicklit has metamorphosised (is that a word?), and is alive and well in a new form. She will now go forth and find the author's previous 'Rakish Regency' title, A Most Lamentable Comedy, and enjoy her very funny blogpost on genre tropes all over again here: Regency Hotline.

'Improper Relations' has taken up a spot on AW's Keeper shelf. It is available from with free shipping anywhere in the world.

Learn more about the author here and here.

The Fine Print: AW received a copy from the author - and she's very glad she did.



Janet Mullany said...

Thanks for the great review!

M. said...

My pleasure! But - no deets on whether we'll see Charlotte and Shad again???

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