Tuesday, August 6, 2013

LOVE AND OTHER SCANDALS: The Scandal's in the Black Moment

I have gone on record before that I am a huge Caroline Linden fan. She's witty; her characters are funny and in need of redemption from time to time; and the heroines are worth rooting for.


Now on the surface it has all the things I love about Regency historicals. It hit all the notes and beats. We had a rake. We had a wallflower. We had a pushy mother. We had an eccentric aunt. Every character I met, I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved their play on the page and their dialogue. I was all in.

And then the Black Moment happened.

And I remember thinking, "WTF?"

But I was in the bath at the time and I couldn't get out and find a different book. I had already invested all this time in this book, so I kept on. Now I will grant you: it was not a WTF in the kind of WTF-ery that Nicholas Sparks delights and excels in. We were not suddenly deluged with dead characters and a lesson about life is all about us dying and nothing is permanent. (Thank God, because the Mother was a bit ill for a while and I was worried for her.) Still, it was definitely a "This does not feel like the most probable course of actions for the characters as I know and understand them right now." And maybe that was just me. I am totally willing to admit to that.

I myself consider myself a bit of a wallflower; and have the pushy Mother and love the forbidden boys...and there is no way on God's Green Earth I would have agreed to the course of actions that occurred right before the Black Moment. Not even for Deerhunter--and Deerhunter has gotten me to do some things I wouldn't have dreamed of or made a bet about--deerhunting at 5 a.m comes to mind. So at the point of this Black Moment, the decisions made by the wallflower seem...rather dumbassed for someone who worries as much about her Mother's opinion as she does and doesn't want to get in trouble. But she bothered me a lot less than the hero. The hero has repeatedly made thoughts that he knows he's not in her Mother's good graces--but instead of appealing to her Mother by showing her that he has reformed, he does this instead.

Yes, that'll definitely win her parents over, you asshat. So any growth he had going on as a hero, about outgrowing his tendencies to do these types of shenanigans were lost. However, right after he does that...and he kinda starts to realize it was bone-headed, he makes quick strides to make up for it. But still, where was this forethought 12 hours before? He had the forethought PRIOR to the event and right after, but not during...it was like both of them had out of body experiences.

The only reason I could determine why either of them did it was so the Black Moment could happen. Because quite honestly, these two were enamored with each other to their eyebrows--so there wasn't going to be a Black Moment of the "does he really love someone else" kind? Or "does he plan to remain single forever" kind?--because he pretty much clears those up rather early. Oh, there's some "does he really like her? But she's so plain" trials going on, but since he makes every effort (it seems) to treat her as anything but plain, I didn't think the heroine could fall for that kind of crap.

The other possible reason it happened when it happened is because if certain things hadn't happened then (aside from the Black Moment), they wouldn't have happened at all. Okay, fine, sex. They have sex. But the sex is essentially used to make the Black Moment--and it just makes them unrelatable, unlikable, which did not coincide with the characters I knew. (THOUGH it can be rightly argued, we're all capable of stupidity, no matter how smart and intelligent we may appear otherwise.) Still, it just felt like a shoe-horned in act because you need a sex scene for a romance novel and it double-played as the Black Moment. It completely jerked me out of the story and I was annoyed with the characters until well after the Moment had ended. Do not use sex to annoy me. I beg you.


I highly recommend Caroline Linden's books, but for this one, I believe I would use a cautionary on it. It was a fast read--up until that Black Moment--and it may be enjoyable for many on different levels, but for me, where the Black Moment needs to feel authentic, as if the characters were truly losing something or in danger, it can't feel inauthentic to the story or characters, well, it just missed the mark for me. Sex scenes are always tricky; and so are Black Moments. Maybe this story worked for others who read it...but it did not exactly work for me. I'm sorry.

I'm still looking forward to whatever Caroline Linden comes out with next. I think this one was just a clunker for me; and I can name a clunker (or three) for nearly every author I know and autobuy. (If I was rating I think it would be a 3.5 stars out of 5 for me. Characters worked; plot did not.

If you read it and loved it--hurray!--maybe you can share with the group why the story worked for you? Or have you read a story where the Black Moment didn't work for you? What do you think would have made it better? What was a story that had a really great Black Moment?

DISCLOSURE: Avon gave me this book to review. I'm sorry I couldn't give it full pom-poms and a cheer, but I had to keep honest.


Maureen said...

Ah, some decades ago...I read an Anne Rice book. The Witching Hour. I was working at a bookstore then and we were all anxious for this book to come out... It was timed to come out right around Halloween...and it didn't. And it didn't. And we all went to a big bookfaire in Las Vegas in November and they handed out the first few chapters...but the book didn't come out until early the next year.

Okay, I read it! Wow, good stuff. Loved the book...right up until I didn't. Hero had to leave town, wasn't going to be gone long...Heroine? Totally went a direction that was in complete contradiction to where everything was aimed.

It was...wrong. Not just horror story wrong, but terrible wrong. But you know what? It left room for a sequel.

Damn it.

I always wondered how the original book ended...you know, the one that was finished on time, before her publisher convinced her that she needed to leave room for a second book. And I think a third, or more.

ARGH! Yeah, it was a black moment, but because it came out of nowhere, not in the right way, it just felt like a muddy moment. I never read a book by her again.

Maureen said...

Yeah, I'm vindictive like that.

Janga said...

I loved Love and Other Scandals. I agree that the scene you describe seems contrived to provide conflict, but I loved the characters so much that the contrivance was a quibble rather than a major flaw for me. I loved that there were no nasty villains, no spies, no plots to assassinate anyone--just the focus on the hero and heroine and their relationship. I loved that Tristan saw Joan as beautiful and she saw the lost, lonely boy that still existed in him. Beyond their relationship, I loved that Joan's parents had their own love story, one that foreshadowed Joan's and Tristan's. I loved Joan's relationship with her friends and their fascination with 50 Ways to Sin, I loved Joan's relationship with her brother, and I particularly loved Aunt Evangeline. I hope Linden writes her story, if not as the central romance then as a secondary one or as a novella. As for ratings, my penalty for the ballroom scene would be much slighter than yours since it really didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Terri Osburn said...

Characters remaining consistent is a big thing for me. Making them act completely out of character, especially well into the book, is a deal breaker. That said, I've read Linden in the past and likely will again. Someday. When I can read anyone again.

Honest to goodness black moments seem scarce these days, but again, I'm not reading even a 50th of what Janga or Hellie is reading. But it's been a long time since I read a book and really truly believed it was just not going to work out. Which is what I want from a black moment.

Then, of course, the resolution has to make sense. If the resolution happens due to options that were never mentioned, considered, or existed, I'm going to be just as irritated.

MsHellion said...

Mo, I agree: some books just need to be ONE book and there's no need to string them out for no reason. Yeesh. But it was Anne Rice. They don't allow her to write one book...or she doesn't allow herself. Whatever. :)

MsHellion said...

Janga, I do agree with you--all the things you loved about it, I loved. I really did. (And I do hope there is a love story for Aunt Evangeline.) And I do realize that the ballroom scene is not going to hurt everyone. *LOL* You know how some people get upset if a virgin acts like a virgin--especially an OLD virgin? (She's too old to be that ignorant of everything!)--see, that stuff I eat up, but I read so many reviews of readers who are pissed at that kind of thing. I know my perturbness is personal. I imagine most people wouldn't find the ballroom scene that big a deal or that it fit enough with the story not to be a dealbreaker, but honestly, for me, it's like having sex in the bathroom at a host's party. Really? You're going to do that? I think that's tacky to do that now, let alone when this is supposedly happening.

But again, that's MY personal preference. I agree that the characters, dialogue, relationship (up til then) and the foils were lovely.

MsHellion said...

Terri, despite the flub (in my opinion) of the Black Moment, the resolution did make sense. Honestly I half-considered putting in my review, just skip the ballroom scene and you're fine.

I think the other thing that ticked me off is that I do love sex scenes--but they have to be good. And I was so mad that it was happening when it was I didn't even enjoy it. *LOL* Sex scenes are tricky. If you get yanked out of the sex scene, good luck getting back into the book and believing this couple is a HEA.

However, the resolution was pretty sweet, so I could...just skip the sex scene.

quantum said...

Hellie, Janga reviewed this book a few weeks ago. I guess you must have missed it ...... take 3 black marks! LOL

Here is my comment from Janga's review:

I was attracted to Caroline Linden's books by her maths and physics background and ambitions to be an astronaut ... designing pink space suits!

To be honest though, I couldn't detect any influence of mathematics on her romance. LOL

I also remember liking Linden's 'author of the month' discussion on EJ-BB. Are these kind of discussions with established authors available anywhere else now?

Perhaps her construction of this black moment was a little too mathematical for you .... like logically inevitable to appear contrived?

Fascinating to see my favorite romance reviewers disagree .... in a ladylike manner! LOL

MsHellion said...

Q, I think Janga sometimes gets her books slightly earlier than me. Which is well deserved because she also reviews them more consistently than I do! I read it as soon as I could, I assure you.

I don't think her black moment was too mathematical for me. I just didn't buy it. *LOL* However, as Janga pointed out, it was a book without spies and villains (the mother came closest)--so admittedly creating BLACK moments and not having contrived plot turns are possibly more difficult to achieve. When action-and-life-in-danger is apparent, you can slip in some "I don't know why I'm doing this but now seems a good time" and write it off that they were deranged when their lives were in danger...harder to write off when it's clearly not the case. *shrugs*

And Janga and I didn't disagree that much. We loved the same things--and she agreed that the Black Moment could be construed as 'contrived'--it just didn't bother her like it did me.

Did you read the book, Q? What did you think of the Black Moment?

P. Kirby said...

Hmmm. This is why lately, I review everything I read and post at Gooodreads. Because, I forget what I read. Linden sounded familiar. Anyway, I did read one of hers a couple of years ago; one with spies and whatnot. Apparently, I liked the heroine a lot, especially because she wasn't the stereotypical female spy/assassin who schmopes because she's soooo guilty about doing her job. (That trope always pisses me off.) And her character stayed consistent throughout.

I gave it 3 stars though (3.5) because there wasn't much plot and the story spent too much time in the characters' headspace. No mention of the hero, which means I thought I thought he was a dud.

I have a note that I'd read more of her books, so maybe I'll hunt down this one at the library. If only because I'm curious how a sex scene can go so wrong. :)

MsHellion said...

Pat, I'm good with more headspace and less plot, usually...I'm usually always more interested in the relationship than whatever is going on, and this one does have some of that--thinking-thinking, and the plot is lower-key. I wouldn't say non-existent; just probably more normal rather than super extraordinary some books try too hard with. "Really? You were kidnapped by aliens AND vampires. Well, aren't you special."

*LOL* The sex scene might not bother you. After all, it might be the most action you see in the book, all considered. *LOL* You may decide I was critiquing the ONE action sequence. *LOL* And sex scenes are so hard...I think if it had happened ANYWHERE else, I wouldn't have minded, but it was where it was occurring that bothered me so much, no so much what was going on in the scene. Timing, I'm all about timing.

Haleigh said...

I've really enjoyed Caroline Lindin books in the past, though I haven't read this one. I don't read a whole lot of straight-up romance (I'm a sucker for the spy in danger!), so it would be a nice change of pace for me. And I've been gorging myself on regencies lately.

I'm also very intrigued to read this sex scene! Black moments are my very favorite part of any book, so I'm curious to see how I'd respond to this one.

quantum said...

Did you read the book, Q? What did you think of the Black Moment?

Afraid I haven't read this one. I read 'Blame it on Bath' after your earlier rec and also 'A View to a kiss', the spy story which I enjoyed a lot.

There are just so many brilliant authors that I still have to try. Currently I'm reading my first Jude Deveraux 'Temptation' about an American lady in Scotland. Another author that I want to read more of!