Weird book club post, a post about a book you may be reading but I don’t want to re-read and why I don’t want to re-read it.
So, here’s the thing, when you are writing a romance novel the central plot, conflict, everything is the relationship between your two leads. In other novels, your protagonist is revealed through interactions with friends, family, work, everything in the world. But in a romance novel, it’s just that one relationship above all else.
Julia Quinn is a very good romance novel writer, and part of her being good is that she manages to sketch in those alternative relationships and make her characters feel real without wasting a lot of words. You understand what made this character into who they are at the time they meet their love interest, the most important relationship. But in this particular book, I think the way she had to sketch in the background and then draw out the characters through their relationship just does not work for me.
The idea is that our heroine is tough and strong and outspoken. She is just Too Much for most people. Our hero is also a strong character, the oldest son who has felt the weight of responsibility on himself his whole life. He thinks he wants an “easy” wife who will be a minimal additional responsibility. But what is actually best for him is a wife that can stand up to him and force him to see her as an equal, not another responsibility.
In order to draw out the personality of the heroine, we need her to be challenged. And the logical way for her to be challenged is by the hero, the central relationship in the book. And this is where they lose me!
Just to clarify, this is where they lose ME, myself as a reader, in particular. I can’t criticize the book objectively, it is enjoyably written and the characters have internal logic and it ends in a good place. I just don’t enjoy the fighting parts of the book. Something about the exact way it is set up, with the hero and heroine actively working against each other (he wants to marry her sister, she doesn’t want him to marry her), is just too harsh for me. I sympathize too much with her, she is working for saving her sister, and he is working towards a whim to marry the woman he thinks is most proper. It just feels MEAN for him to hit back so much.
I do remember enjoying the later parts of the book. Quinn structures it so that the central conflict is resolved well before the end, and we are able to just watch the hero and heroine fight for the sake of fighting without quite such high stakes. That works for me. They revealed their true personalities because of the high stakes earlier, and now that they have revealed those personalities, they can start exploring really getting to know each other.
But yeah, I don’t want to reread it because, for me personally, that first part where she is fighting a high stakes battle and he doesn’t have nearly as much on the line just does not work.
Reading is such an intimate experience, isn’t it? You can enjoy or not enjoy a book based on the smallest little thing, something in your own personality that makes it just not strike quiet right. I don’t like the sense that anyone is being conscietiously unkind, and the first half of this book comes a little too close to that line for me.
On the other hand, I know other people enjoyed this book. Why? Is it the strong heroine, the fighting to love, the outspoken anger part of it? Tell me! I want to know!