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Archive for July, 2010|Monthly archive page

Seven Secrets of Seduction, by Anne Mallory

In Book Reviews, fiction, romance novels on July 30, 2010 at 8:47 am

Even the most guarded souls succumb to the power of beautiful words.

Set in the London of the early 1800’s, Seven Secrets of Seduction follows the journey of Miranda Chase, bookish and reserved shopgirl, as she meets a charming Viscount and is drawn into a splendid game of seduction.

Leading lady Miranda was terrific; reserved in manner, yet able to verbally hold her ground with the Viscount.  Mallory scores points with this reader for leaving the choice to Miranda of whether she will succumb to the seduction.  Miss Chase is not held against her will, is not a helpless victim of any vile villain, but simply a young woman with a keen insight who accepts a challenge.  Not that there isn’t some wonderful maneuvering in the game, but it is practiced by both parties and expected as well.  Maximillian Downing, Viscount, is also a great character.  Using the gossipy and cruel nature of the “ton” against his adversaries, he ensures his rakish reputation will overshadow what he does not wish revealed in expert fashion.

Each chapter begins with an intriguing header such as in Chapter 1, “Secret #1:  Every good seduction first begins with a baited hook.”, with the “baited hook” which caught this broad being the fantastic dialogue between Miss Chase and Maximillian Downing.  The banter exchanged is slightly reminiscent of a D’Arcy/Elizabeth go-round in the famous novel by Austin, only add in heightened boldness and obvious double-entendres on Downing’s part.  Miranda is often caught off guard, being more innocent, but usually recovers cleverly.  The overall effect is quite adequate, because a man who expresses himself well, who realizes the power of perfectly timed and carefully chosen words, is a treasure to be hoarded.  Along with the back and forth verbal sparring, Mallory uses Miss Chase’s written correspondence to add one more layer to the game/seduction.

Be forewarned, a few minor characters in Mallory’s book are wretchedly misplaced and the time period she chose in which to write an otherwise delightful romance doesn’t work.  Victorian-ish Era London would not have abided a Viscount parading a shopgirl around, no matter the level of “discretion” shown by either of them.  (History lovers may be challenged by these discrepancies.)  Despite these issues, Seven Secrets of Seduction is on this broad’s “Read It” list for romance lovers.

~Moira

Romance Amidst A Sea of Anachronisms

Seven Secrets of Seduction by Anne Mallory is the romantic story of Miranda Chase and Viscount Maximilian Downing.  As romances go, it’s interesting.  The story gets its name from a scandalous book that has been recently published in 1820s England, The Seven Secrets of Seduction.  Miranda is enchanted by the book, which explains the methods of seduction.  That she likes the book is one thing; that she announces this to Downing when he meets her in the bookstore in which she works is another.  This simply wouldn’t be something a young, educated English woman would do in 1820.  It wouldn’t happen because it would be entirely inappropriate for her to speak to the Viscount on such matters.  1820s English society was incredibly rigid.  It was divided into the upper, middle, and working classes, and even if Miranda were to be considered in the middle class, a Viscount is certainly of the upper class and not likely to be speaking to any female in the classes lower than his other than in a superior to an inferior manner.

Viscount Maximilian Downing is a rake  and takes a liking to Miranda.  This too is an anachronistic issue: While he may have wanted to take a taste of a woman lower than he, Downing certainly wouldn’t be allowed to  spend time openly with her in his home or with her in society.   This plot device in this time period simply doesn’t work.

The problem is that too much of what happens in this romance couldn’t happen because of the strict social structure of 1820s England.  Does this make it a bad book?  In one very important sense, yes, it does.  This story is rife with mistakes about the time period, which is a problem.  In another sense, no, it doesn’t make it a bad book because it’s a romance story, and the romance is basically sound, if the reader is able or willing to overlook the inaccuracies.  But this begs a different, larger question:  Are romance stories of so little consequence and importance that they don’t even need to be properly researched and edited?

Above and beyond the historical inaccuracies, the story is a good one.  Miranda is a strong romantic heroine and a very likable character.  But as in other romance novels, what saves this story from getting mired down in things that couldn’t ever happen is the Viscount.  This is the one area in which Mallory shines.  Her characterization of Maximilian Downing is wonderful; she created a fabulous rake.  He’s intelligent, quick thinking, gallant, sexy, and clever.  He’s no Sheik, Gregori, or Rhage, but he’s a good example of the classic seducer.

In addition, the use of the chapter titles from the fictitious Seven Secrets of Seduction book is great.  Each chapter heading is used at the beginning of each chapter in the story, and each relates to the action occurring in that chapter.  The fictitious book sounds like a better read, however, and was probably better researched.

Seven Secrets of Seduction is a romance based upon errors in historical knowledge.  Is it worth the time to read it?  Not if you believe that even books some think are trashy novels worthy only of the beach should be at least accurate in their plot ideas and settings.  If this isn’t a big issue for you and you won’t be bothered by the anachronisms, then it might be something worth trying.  The basic romantic story is sound.  It’s the setting–the time, the social circumstances surrounding the characters–that isn’t.
-Alexandria

Slaughterhouse-Five (The Children’s Crusade), by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

In author information, Book Reviews, nonfiction on July 30, 2010 at 1:24 am

With Sincere Regrets to my Favorite Phlebotomist and Fellow Wild-Haired Gypsy….

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. , in an attempt to reconcile his cumulative life experience with a singular experience, namely the day Dresden, Germany, was bombed into nothingness on February 13, 1945, seemingly asserts that points of time may be experienced or lived in random order and that one may simply spring from one point to another and live in that particular moment without affectation of any other moment, and likewise return again to any singular moment.  He never quite declares this theory in so many words, but the premise is inferred.

Although based around such a perplexing theory, I found Slaughterhouse-Five haltingly awkward and at times bizarrely random, quite possibly the very point Vonnegut, Jr. intended.  This perspective was empty and meaningless to this reader however, as I believe a story of human experience obviously felt with such force should be told from beginning to end with coherency so as to convey the brutality, the elation, the fear, confusion, and the purpose of the men who lived through this emotionally exhaustive dichotomy of reality. 

Vonnegut, Jr. failed to capture the essence and soul of those whose tales he relates with flat, clinical recollections of events that feel pieced together as if he gathered the shredded remains of memories and taped them onto posterboard.  Sadly, no redeeming glimpse of acceptance or peace is found between the covers of Vonnegut, Jr.’s book.  The joys of returning home, of family, love, and success are lost.  Instead of evaluating that fateful time in Dresden among and against an entire lifetime of experiences, Vonnegut, Jr. evaluates a lifetime of experiences through that singular point of horror and emptiness, and therefore etches horror and emptiness into all.

~Moira

Monthly Top 5: Our Top 5 Romantic Heroes

In romantic heroes, Top 5 on July 29, 2010 at 8:32 pm


In the last week of each month, we broads will post our top 5 of a certain theme.  This month we offer our top 5 romantic heroes from the books we’ve read. Below the list is our discussion of our lists.

Alexandria/Moira

1.  Lord Safyre (The Lady’s Tutor)/Lord Safyre (The Lady’s Tutor)
2.  Rhage (Lover Eternal)/Gregori (Dark Magic)
3.  Gregori (Dark Magic)/Maximilian Downing (Seven Secrets of Seduction)
4.  Wrath (Dark Lover)/Zsadist (Lover Awakened)
5.  Count Andre Dragulescu (The Dead Travel Fast)/Rhage (Lover Eternal)

Who is number 1?

Alexandria:  Ramiel is definitely my first choice.  He’s got the skills to handle a woman, the tool to do it with, and takes care of business inside and outside of the bedroom.  That kind of man is incredibly sexy to me.  Also, I’m a teacher during the day; I’d love to be a pupil at night. Where can I find a man like this?  Now, please?

Moira:  A man who has a way with words will always steal my heart over a man with anything else.  Tall, dark, and handsome with the ability to instruct me in anything already makes Ramiel a winner; that his tutorial lies in the bedroom adds to his appeal.  His competence in matters of all kinds would allow my primary focus to be the evening’s lesson and nothing else.

Who are your choices for number 2?

Alexandria:  I have to go with Rhage.  I do love a tall man with demons inside him, and Rhage has got both of those things covered.  Sexy as all hell and deadly…..love that combination!  As sexy is the idea that he’s experienced with women and knows how to take care of business. That he’s sweet and wants to take care of his woman is even better. Finally, that he’s willing to trade his happiness for hers is incredibly appealing.

Moira:  Well, I simply cannot resist a man others refer to as the Dark One, a man others respectfully fear, a man who knows he is the answer to what I don’t even know I seek–with the patience to let me figure it out.  (Well, Gregori, how about just a few searing kisses to help me along in the thought process?)

Who makes it in at number 3?

Alexandria:  Number 3 is Gregori, an incredibly sexy character who still stands as one of the gold standards in romantic men for me.  He’s experienced the world and let his female go to experience the world too.  Love that selflessness!  In addition, he’s fearsome, a man who commands respect from not only others of his kind but all who meet him.  That’s quite appealing.  He also knows how to take care of a woman.  All of this adds up to a winning combination for me.

Moira:  Maximilian Downing,  affectionately known as #3, again comes out a winner in large part for superior language skills (and not just skills in whispering naughty nothings).  His ability to control a conversation, as well as manipulate a situation to his own interests makes him incredibly sexy.  True rakes are few and far between in this present day.  I’ve always had a bit of a thing for a rake.

And the romantic hero in at number 4?

Alexandria: I put Wrath in at number 4.  Another big man–6’9″–and feared by vampires and mankind alike is sexy.  Men who command respect are the kind of men I find desirable. Power is an incredible aphrodesiac, and this man has it.  Plus the height thing is a huge turn on for me.  Love me a big, powerful man!

Moira:  The bad boy with issues tugs at the (very small) soft spot in my heart, and lands Zsadist at number four on my list.  Tall, lean, and dangerous are three of my favorite things.  Zsadist has these and more.  Having been both a warrior and a slave, Zsadist has tattoos on his neck, arms, and legs…something I find appealing.  The author’s description of the scar running from his forehead down across his face added to the bad boy/bad ass image for me.  My mind’s eye feasted on this man-candy.

Finally, which romantic hero rounds out the Top 5?

Alexandria:  Count Andre Dragulescu comes in at number 5 for me.  He’s dark and mysterious, but his brooding is brainy, in a way.  He’s a vampire with a telescope.  Also, he’s charming and likes a smart female.  All of those things are attractive.  In addition, I have to admit that I find that Eastern European type quite appealing.

Moira:  Rhage rounds out my top five heroes to date.  Massive hunk of man is the best description I can give that may do justice to his 6’8″ frame covered with solid muscle.  The consummate ladies man, when he falls in love, falls hard, and Rhage was no exception to this rule.  His deep love makes him quite desirable.

Good Omens-Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

In Book Reviews, fiction on July 26, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Who Knew Armageddon Could Be So Damn Funny?

The blurb on the back cover of Good Omens reads:  “The world will end on Saturday.  Next Saturday.  Just before dinner, according to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies written in 1655.  The armies of Good and Evil are amassing and everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan.  Except that a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.  And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist.”  Witty and funny as all hell, Good Omens is an enjoyable, if not quick, read from the blurb on the back cover to the end of the story.

Gaiman and Pratchett have created a story which is basically an explanation of the end days, but far funnier than they are expected to be.  The two main characters are the angel and the demon.  The fussy angel is a character named Aziraphale, who in the beginning of the book is described as “an angel and part time rare book dealer.”  The fast-living demon is a character named Crowley, described as “an angel who did not so much fall as saunter vaguely downwards.”  These two have known each other for eons, and there is a definite camaraderie between them.  They have almost a Felix and Oscar Odd Couple type of relationship, except they are immortal and don’t live together.   They are what they are, but neither of them really wants The End to come, even though both their superiors are looking forward to it.  Aziraphale, for his part, likes humans and doesn’t want to see them exterminated.  Crowley doesn’t care so much for the humans future so much as his own; he’s having quite a good time on Earth and wants that good time to continue.

In addition to these two there are at least a dozen other characters, some of whom are simply a riot to read about.  The nuns of the Chattering Order of Saint Beryl are hysterical.  They work for Satan, and the patron saint of their order is explained in a footnote (there are many in the book, all of which are of the driest British humor and quite amusing) to have been a young woman named Beryl who was forced to marry a pagan, Prince Casimir in the fifth century.  She prayed to God for help, “vaguely expecting a miraculous beard to appear” for which she had a razor on hand just in case, but God gave her the ability to talk non-stop from that time on.  Beryl was murdered by her husband three weeks into the marriage, still a virgin, no doubt because she wouldn’t shut up or may have simply died as an old woman in bed next to a man with earplugs in.  Whichever was her true end, she was made a saint and the nuns of her order are in charge of the birth of the Antichrist.  But there is a mix up at the hospital they run and the wrong child is sent home as the Antichrist.  Eleven years later, no one seems to know where the real one is.

The human characters are less amusing than the supernatural ones, but isn’t this always the case?  Being on this planet longer seems to make beings more humorous.  Or it could just be that any character written as one who has been around so long is just more apt to be amusing simply because living longer gives one a more philosophical outlook, and that area is a goldmine for humor.  It is with the human characters’ parts that the book occasionally becomes bogged down, but if the reader can make it through those parts, there is a terrific story to be enjoyed.

Gaiman and Pratchett take shots at religion, history, and society in Good Omens, and their shots are dead on.  In slightly under 400 pages, they tackle the end of the world, and their take is incredibly funny.
-Alexandria

Reagan’s War, by Peter Schweizer

In Book Reviews, nonfiction on July 24, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Reagan’s War:  The Epic Story of his Forty Year Struggle and Final Triumph Over Communism  by Peter Schweizer

 

Schweizer wrote, “The ‘one big thing’ Reagan knew was the power and value of human freedom, which proved to be the defining principle of his worldview.”

Many Americans know little about our 40th president, Ronald Reagan, and his life’s work, a war against communism.  Reagan has been portrayed by some as an “absentee” president or an “empty headed dolt”, however after reading Schweizer’s book, I cannot agree.  In fact, the man may well have been a genius, at least concerning his views and strageties in combating the spread of communism and ending the Cold War.

Schweizer explains that to understand Reagan, you must understand his battle against communism.  This most important struggle at first left his life in ruins, ending his marriage to Jane Wyman and straining his relationship with his children.  It also led him to Nancy, whom he loved dearly, and of course, to the Presidency of the United States of America where his policies directly led to the downfall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.  While some may attempt to disagree, the secret records now released and quoted in Schweizer’s book, including sources from the U.S.A., Germany, Poland, Hungary, Russia, and even the K.G.B.’s file on Ronald Reagan leave little, if any, room for dissention on this point. 

Far from dry or dull, this true, yet fascinating tale will hold readers on the edge of their seats.  Death threats and assassination attempts plagued him because of his work.  Calculated military directives ordered by Reagan changed the course of the Cold War.  Brutal honesty on his part convinced the K.G.B. that he was a man “who saw word and deed as one”, and they respectfully feared him, as he would not, and could not be persuaded to compromise his principles, nor would he be deterred from his course of action.  In the world of politics, he was the rare exception to the rule.   Ronald Reagan was a man of bold word and deed, and his story is possibly the best of any political figure I’ve studied in modern times.  Well written and quite revealing, Reagan’s War should be required reading for all American high-schoolers, for they will never glimpse even half the man Reagan was if the only exposure they get is from boring textbook snippets. 

Recommendation:  Read it, and be amazed to find out just how much you didn’t know about Ronald Reagan.

~Moira