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Archive for August, 2013

Powder and Patch

For her, he would do anything…

Plainspoken country gentleman Philip Jettan won’t bother with a powdered wig, high heels, and fashionable lace cuffs, until he discovers that his lovely neighbor is enamored with a sophisticated man-about-town…

But what is it that she really wants?

Cleome Charteris sends her suitor Philip away to get some town polish, and he comes back with powder, patches, and all the manners of a seasoned rake. Does Cleome now have exactly the kind of man she’s always wanted, or was her insistence on Philip’s remarkable transformation a terrible mistake?[Plot summary courtesy of Goodreads]

Originally published by Mills and Boon in 1923 under the title “The Transformation of Philip Jettan,” and then republished by William Heinemann (minus the original last chapter) in 1930. This is one of Heyer’s Georgian novels. It is essentially her second novel – published in 1923 after the Black Moth, and then published between The Masqueraders (1928) and Devil’s Cub (1932). I could find no explanation for the reason that the book was republished under a new name only seven years after the original publication.

I have not read The Black Moth, and feel that I must, as it was written when Heyer was only 18 years old, and was published when she was 19 (she was born August 16, 1902) – this year represents the eleventy-first anniversary after her birth.

I did not love Powder and Patch. It has a Pygmalion-ish theme, where the young, rough, country bumpkin (Philip) is transformed into a worldy, fashionable gentleman in order to win the heart of his one true love, the insipid, if pretty, Cleome. In a turn-about-is-fair-play sort of a way, Cleome sends away a decent, honest, straightforward young man who loves her and gets back a well-dressed, popular, flirtatious, dandy . . . who still loves her. She realizes pretty quickly that she got the short end of that stick, and she wants the old Philip back. The one who isn’t prettier than she is. The book, honestly, would have been more interesting if Philip had fallen in love with someone who didn’t inexplicably want to turn him into this:

Georgian dress

There were a few moments of entertaining farce – the section where Cleome manages to engage herself to two young men – neither of whom are Philip, and neither of whom does she love – is mildly funny. Philip is required to return to his old self and extricate her from her own silliness in managing to muck things up. Thank goodness for a good man to solve Cleome’s problems. Otherwise she would’ve undoubtedly ended up a bigamist.

There are many things to like about Heyer’s novels. This one, really, possesses almost none of them. It is short, and underdeveloped. Some of her heroines can be quite interesting and empowered. Cleome was about as interesting as a hamster (she seemed to possess about as much sense, as well). The dialogue is usually quite witty and fun. This one really didn’t display that characteristic. Plus, I much prefer the Regency period because, frankly, men in tights make me want to retch.

So, overall, unless you are a huge fan of Heyer’s and intent upon reading all of her work, skip this one.

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Anne of the Island was the May read for my year long series re-read. I was joking with a friend that this installment of Anne is the age group generally covered by the so-called category of New Adult, or NA.

I have had generally terrible luck with NA books. I’ve read several of them, and pretty much hated them all. Just by way of a partial list: Beautiful Disaster (I hated both Abby and Travis), The Edge of Never (which put me on the edge of never reading another book shelved NA), Callum and Harper (Oh, dear God in heaven, the writing. The writing in this book was so horrible, I shudder when I think back on the experience of reading it), One Week Girlfriend (which should be sub-titled one half of a book because it ends about halfway through the actual story), Hopeless (I know that a lot of people loved this book. I didn’t).

There were a few that I liked that aren’t actually shelved NA, but which are the right age category: In the Shadow of Blackbirds (historical fiction set during the Spanish influenza epidemic) and Out of the Easy (1950’s New Orleans), and Easy, which is the only classic NA title I’ve actually liked.

But, back to Anne of the Island.

This is among my favorite of the Anne books. Anne has left childhood behind for Redmond College, where she is an undergraduate. She spends three years at Redmond College, where she does all of the usual collegiate things, with an Anneish twist. She arrives at Redmond, with her friend Priscilla from Queens beginning her first year as well, and the two girls quickly befriend Philippa. Lifelong college friendships are made, and romances are had. Anne becomes quite popular with the Redmond men, although true love eludes her. She remains stubbornly friends with Gilbert, and Gilbert, as far as she can tell, has given up on romancing Anne. She takes up with a young man who represents her ideal in every way – Royal Gardner. He is darkly handsome, poetic, and stormily romantic. He also bores her nearly to tears, but it takes her a long while to realize that sometimes when you get what you think you want, it turns out that you are wrong.

My favorite chapters take place in Patty’s Place, the little cottage rented by Anne, Priscilla & Phil in a stroke of luck, when Anne charms the owners who are embarking on an around the world trip into renting to three college girls and a maiden aunt. This entire incident could only happen to Anne Shirley, with her knack of finding kindred spirits everywhere.

This book is old – I get that. I am also old – I went to college from 1984 through 1989. But LMM manages to capture universal experiences none the less. Those first years of adulthood and exploration, figuring out who you are and what you want and what kind of man you could love (in Anne’s case, of course, it’s Gilbert Blythe, which everyone BUT her figures out when they are both about 12 years old) and what kind of life you want. Anne’s options are somewhat limited by her time – she is destined to be a wife and mother because that is what women of the time did, but it is up to her to be the wife and the mother that she wants to be and to find her own way in a world that gives her so many different, and delightful, choices.

Anyway, as I said at the start of this post, this is one of my favorite of the Anne series. I absolutely love it.

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We sit opposite on another, Kat and I, two soldiers in shabby coats cooking a goose in the middle of the night. We don’t talk much, but I believe we have a more complete communion with one another than even lovers have.

We are two men, two minute sparks of life; outside is the night and the circle of death. We sit on the edge of it crouching in danger, the grease drips from our hand, in our hearts we are close to one another, and the hour is like the room: flecked over with the lights and shadows of our feelings cast by a quiet fire. What does he know of me or I of him? Formerly we should not have had a single thought in common — now we sit with a goose between us and feel in unison, are so intimate that we do not even speak.

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