Sunday, November 21, 2010

Inconsistency - Sometimes Necessary For Likeability

If you pay attention to my posts at all (and I know you do :)), you'll know that Lauren Willig is, if not one of my favorite authors (which I think she is in any case), definitely my #1 most followed, by virtue of her often-updated website, which frequently features contests in which free books are raffled off.  Anyway, I always know exactly when her next book is coming out, which is usually in January.  But this year, she published what was supposed to be kind of a mini-novel, Christmas special kind of thing.  As it turned out, it seems almost like a full-blown book (over 300 pages, and clocking in as #7 instead of as #6.5 or some such thing).  Anyway, since it is only a mini member of the series, I expected less of it than usual, especially given that it's about Turnip.

Turnip is kind of the idiot of the series - Percy Blakeney, if Percy Blakeney wasn't the Scarlet Pimpernel :) But since it was the considered opinion of the commenters on the blog that he couldn't possibly be as dull as he seemed, Lauren Willig decided to give him his story too.  But actually, he is pretty much a slow guy - but with all that, he's nice.  And not only nice, but handsome and rich.  So a worthy hero in that sense :) But I have to say, I couldn't really see how she could write a successful romance with a hero who seemed incapable of real feeling.  I mean, whence the angst, whence the tension, whence the exquisitely subtle dance of courtship? :) I just couldn't see Turnip performing any such thing convincingly.  I think that's the reason I wasn't quite as excited about this one as usual... but certainly I sat down and read it as soon as I got ahold of it.

And to some extent I was right.  It was not really possible for the Turnip of the other books to feature as a complete romantic leading man.  I mean, I could certainly see what Arabella, no dummy, saw in him, that was fine - he is definitely a solid gentleman, well worthy of regard.  And he's slow and unobservant, but not stubbornly unenlightenable or anything.  But in order to pull off the romance, Ms. Willig (I hate using that, but Lauren seems too familiar :)) basically changes up Turnip's character.  At times, he's the same bumbling oaf he has always been, but whenever he needs to be, he comes through as plenty wise.  This is even true when the book switches to his point of view.  There's really very little hint of the bewilderment with which he seems to view the world when we see his actions from anyone's vantage point.  That being said, the romance is pretty gol darn decent, so who cares if Turnip needed a little tweaking to get him into shape? :) There's less of a spy plot than usual, which is just dandy, so we get to spend a little more time with the main characters and their all important developing story instead.  And yes, it's perhaps a little less developed than usual, but remember this is the mini version.  Lighter and shorter than usual.

So I'm not complaining, it was thoroughly enjoyable, if not from the start, than from very early on.  I wouldn't even criticize the Turnip turnaround at all if it were not for another author's perfect handling of a similar case... do you know who I mean? (okay, I know you don't :)) In Cotillion, everyone pretty much thinks Freddy Standen is an idiot, totally incapable of powerful thought.  By the time he and Kitty make their final bows, we know that while his intelligence may not be obvious at first, or pointedly clever, he has very well capable of taking control and steering things right.  Could Turnip have been another Freddy? Well of course, we don't want Turnip to be that smart.  But since he comes off as rather smarter than he's supposed to anyway, we might as well have gotten another Freddy out of him.  I guess this way he can continue as comic relief for  the next six books :), so it's all working out for the best :)

Verdict: 4.5/5
Food: a slightly less decadent version of a favorite... perhaps mendelsohn's pizza - it's good, definitely a treat, but store-bought is obviously better, if a little more effort to obtain

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