Monday, March 5, 2012

Perhaps a Bit Warmed Over, Still Tastes Good

While I was immersed deep in the P&P universe, a few long-reserved titles arrived at the library.  The first of those to which I turned my attention was naturally the one the excited me most - Lauren Willig's 9th Pink Carnation, The Garden Intrigue.  The PC series is, of course, one of my favorites, uniting accurate (ok, somewhat vaguely realistic) history, well-formed prose, and *solid* romance.  The books might almost be categorized as romance novels, especially the earlier ones, but they are so superior to the lot as to be almost literary in comparison :) So what more could I want than a well-written romance novel? Well-written and true to its chosen time of course.  That's as far as the series goes, and #9 is really true to form.  A new hero and heroine with as classic a romance as any, liberal "good angst" moments abounding, and a plot to keep things going without distracting.  There's also Jane around (unlike some of the latest ones) to keep us entertained, admiring and waiting for her story.

But... I'm really not sure what it was, my enjoyment of the book did not compare to previous times.  Some of it was almost definitely things I just happened to pay attention this time (or this time more than others) - notably the very anachronistic writing style, and even conversation at times.  This doesn't really bother me, as it's done deliberately to amuse - I don't find it particularly amusing, but I can hear the smirk behind it so the inaccuracy doesn't grind the way it could.  I do think that the little jokes may be becoming more prevalent (and obvious) though - Be careful with that case, it's a Vuitton? Approaching the level of Terry Pratchett when it comes to tongue-in-cheek anachronism,  but without his skill and certainly outside his genre.  But like I said, that didn't really take away from my enjoyment of the book.

It was more like... I don't know, I just didn't have patience.  My heart failed to wrench at Emma's memories of Paul and her regrets of past life, Augustus's unwillingness to think of home never went anywhere at all, and the characters' constant second-guessings and wistful imaginings left me mostly unmoved.  Even the love story itself seemed somewhat hurried and unsatisfying.  It was certainly not developed well, as the time during which they were supposed to fall in love is brushed through in a single, short chapter of notes back and forth.  But that's ok, they're believable enough as a couple.  It was more like that once the real happenings got going - the scenes on the stage, on the lawn, in the guesthouse... I just felt like it was all just too pat.  We knew he would say this, we knew she would feel that - not that I ever expect romance to be unpredictable, but this time it almost felt like it all unfolded along premarked lines.

And that's the part where I'm not sure whether it's me or the book.  I'd like to think it was the book, since that means I haven't lost my ability to enjoy romance.  And I think it's definitely somewhat that LW is probably feeling the same fatigue I am on #9 - yet another couple, with their own cozy little romance.  And there's the fact the Augustus is a poet, so a little high-flown sentiment may have seemed in order, even at the expense of more relatable writing.  But there's no question that if I had read this book a year or two ago, I would have enjoyed it a little more.  I guess that bothers me a bit, but it's not like I couldn't read this at all... and I do think that a good part of my failure to get interested was reading it in so many bits and pieces, which I can remedy easily (well as easily as I can free up some time on a Shabbos :)) So maybe The Garden Intrigue has been a gentle prod towards diversifying my book pool from romance.... but I wouldn't say it's not a good, old-fashioned example of my favorite genre, all the same.

Verdict: 4/5

No comments:

Post a Comment