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Jeremiah: Always timely

This was supposed to be published last week, but other things got in the way. Gotta earn my daily bacon somehow. Next week I plan to review Tess of the D’Urbervilles and also possibly the Kdrama Melting Me Softly, if I finish it in time. Tried Watcher starring Han Suk Kyu (Secret Door) and Seo Kang Joon (When the Weather is Fine), and made it to episode 5 before realizing I was extremely bored, despite it being an interesting plot of investigation police corruption. Sometimes a show can be too slowly paced, even if it’s a slow burn type of story. On to the prophet Jeremiah:

In Bible reading the Old Testament prophets don’t get a lot of love. Many people like Psalms, Proverbs in the OT, and the Gospels and letters of the New Testament, but the books of the prophets are often a hard sell for daily reading. For one thing, God’s prophets were sent with one main message: Repent or you will be destroyed. Not a happy message. God also asked the prophets to do strange things in their lives, making them into living object lessons for the people. The books of the prophets often require a knowledge and understanding of the history of Israel and Judah at the time as well, so they can really be intimidating. These days, I’m reading Jeremiah, as I’ve never read the whole thing before, but I’m doing it via The People’s Bible series, which combines commentary and annotations to the text, presenting a fuller picture for the reader.

Jeremiah prophesied from 627BC to 586BC, some forty plus years. He lived in Judah after the northern kingdom of Israel had been destroyed, and went through four kings of Judah in his time of ministry. After I finish Jeremiah, I want to read the parts of 2 Kings that deal with this time in history, as it will give more a picture of each king’s reign. The first king, Josiah, was a good king, who rediscovered the Scriptures and helped lead at least some of the Jews back to worshipping God. Josiah’s sons, however, were ungodly and despicable, and although God’s patience is long, eventually the kingdom of Judah was conquered by Babylon and king Nebuchadnezzar.

A prophet’s life is one of ministry, it’s a calling and is one’s whole life. Jeremiah didn’t get to have a wife or family, as God wanted him solely focused on telling the people of Judah what God wanted him to say. For warning the kingdom of the coming destruction, Jeremiah got no thanks and was much abused by the people and officials of the day. His life was often threatened and at times he was imprisoned or put in the stocks. Still, he kept speaking the truth, hoping that some would listen, repent, and turn back to the Living God who so loves them.

One thing I really like with The People’s Bible series is getting more background of what’s going on. It also helps in separating what parts of the prophecy are Jeremiah speaking and what parts are what God said. For some reason in trying to read it straight through on my own, I didn’t really distinguish it as much, even though it’s pretty clearly identified by Jeremiah. Likely, I was just trying to read it too fast. Forty years, lots of prophecies. Now I’m about halfway, and like with Isaiah, another long book of prophecies, one almost gets whiplash. It goes from punishment to redemption, destruction to salvation, and captivity to freedom. That is kind of the roller coaster or rather pendulum of the Christian faith. Sin, repentance, forgiveness and redemption…and then usually back to Sin again, because our sinful natures constantly drag us down, pulling us away from God. Again, again, and again, we need to be shown our sin and turn back to God. If that’s sounds frustrating for us, it’s probably even more so for God, but he hasn’t deserted us. He has a lot of patience, considering. In Jeremiah, he had a lot of patience for Judah as well, but finally had to fulfill the prophesies of destruction and captivity, for they would not repent of their idolatry and turn back to them.

Unrepentant hearts aren’t unique to Judah. This is a problem every nation faces. Many Christians can see the same effects of sin and idolatry in America today. It’s maybe not outright idol worship, but it’s just as destructive to the country. We have many criminals and people of violence wishing to seize power and drag us down even further. However, I think many people are turning back to God, which is a wonderful thing. Now, a lot of the evil is being so blatant and open about what they are doing that many people’s eyes are being opened to the truth. Our governments have all become very, very corrupt, and it is only by God’s grace that we currently have a president who actually loves America and its people.

The other side only has fear, violence, and hate. Most people don’t want to live that way; they want to live quiet lives and go to work and care for their families. For some reason, in this day and time, God is letting the good people have power again, and they are gaining more every day. I’d like to think that he is relenting in our country’s destruction because many are turning back to him in prayer, but I don’t know for sure. God chooses the authorities and rulers in this world, and, good or bad, he works out what they do for his purposes. In Jeremiah, it’s clear that any ruler who deliberately scorns God is walking a dangerous tightrope, both for himself and for his nation.

Jeremiah also has some good quotes. I’m on chapter 29 and here are my favorites so far:

Circumcize yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your heart, you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done–burn with no one to quench it. –Jeremiah 4:4

Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, “We will not walk in it.” –Jeremiah 6:16

They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire–something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind. –Jeremiah 7:31

O Lord, my strength and my fortress, my refuge in time of distress, to you the nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, “Our fathers possessed nothing but false gods, worthless idols that did them no good. Do men make their own gods? Yes, but they are not gods!” “Therefore I will teach them–this time I will teach them my power and might. Then they will know that my name is the Lord.” –Jeremiah 16:19-21

“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is him him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that send out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. –Jeremiah 17:7-8

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? –Jeremiah 17:9

“I will punish you as your deeds deserve,” declares the Lord. “I will kindle a fire in your forests and will consume everything around you.” –Jeremiah 21:14

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.” –Jeremiah 23:5-6

“Am I only a God nearby,” declares the Lord, “and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so I cannot see him?” declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord. –Jeremiah 23:23-24

“But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true.” (Jeremiah speaking to the false prophets who kept saying everything would be fine and that Judah would not be destroyed) –Jeremiah 28:9

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” –Jeremiah 29:11-13

There are so, so many more good quotes, so many cool idioms and metaphors, and such great descriptions, that I just couldn’t write them all down. Would have to become a biblical scribe. I’m sure by the time I’m done reading it, I will have many more quotes written down. Jeremiah is timely in his message now and until the end of the world, because we are always sinning, and always need God to remind us to repent and to turn to him and all will be forgiven through the blood of Jesus. It’s very comforting to know that God does take sin seriously, especially idolatry and the evil practices regarding children of the day. This has not gone away. Children are still being trafficked and abused horribly by those in power who practice idolatry or even just pretend to practice it to get ahead in whatever power group in which they want to advance. Because God does take sin seriously, it is all the more comforting to see he is just as serious about our salvation from sin. He wants everyone, all people, to turn to him, to believe on Jesus Christ who lived a perfect life and died for them, and to be saved to eternal life.

Tess: Afraid to Read the Next Chapter!

Somehow throughout my schooling as an English major I avoided ever having to read Thomas Hardy or Tess of the D’Urbervilles. This year I am giving it a try and wow, what gorgeous writing!! And I feel so, so bad for Tess! What a jerk and rapist her sort-of cousin is. In reading the book, it doesn’t seem as if Tess herself really understands if she was raped or not. Maybe she wasn’t? Maybe she did acquiesce? Have to read what other scholars have said about this, but it doesn’t seem she liked the guy very much, and did not enjoy the experience, at any rate.

My favorite part of the book so far is at the dairy farm. What fun! What descriptions! Makes me want to work on an old-time dairy farm for a summer. After all that Tess has been through, having a child out of wedlock, and then losing that child, at twenty she finds some happiness and falls in love with Angel Clare. This part of the book is so happy, I just want to stop here and not read the rest, but curiosity will get the best of me, I know it. As they are 40 or so miles from where Tess had the scandal with her cousin, Angel and those on the dairy farm don’t know that Tess isn’t a virgin and she is reluctant to tell Angel, as she’s sure her chances with him will be gone. Her mother, who is practical for all her drinking, says not to tell him. Sometimes this is the right thing to do; it’s not necessary to confess all of your sins to everyone all of the time. Often it’s between you and God. However, as she had a baby from it, this is clearly a big secret that if it comes out–and it’s likely to–will ruin Tess forever. She dithers back and forth between telling Angel or not, knowing that it’s probably better to get in front of the matter than clean up behind.

Angel is portrayed as a broadminded sort of fellow, so it’s likely that he won’t care as much as she thinks he will, but sometimes these so-called broadminded people turn out to be very narrow-minded and unforgiving in the end, thus her very real fear to tell him. Angel himself is inconsistent in at least one way: he claims to not care for old, wealthy families, but then is overly impressed that Tess comes from the now decrepit family of the once prosperous D’Urbervilles. Several times before the wedding, Tess attempts to tell Angel, but can never quite do it, and then the wedding day arrives, they get married and they’re in their new digs, and suddenly Angel wants to confess to her his failings of fidelity.

Aha! She is thrilled at this news. They have both committed the same sin and will both forgive each other for it, so after his confession she bravely launches into her own…and his response is in chapter thirty-five, and I…just…can’t…read…it! He’s going to reject her, acting the hypocrite, I know it! And throw her out of the house and denounce her to all around! These are fictional characters and not real people, but sometimes it’s so hard to read or watch even fictional people go through these trials. Maybe I will work up the courage by tomorrow.

Monday’s Child: RRR

Another Regency Romance Review this week. Although there was a bit of tackiness in Monday’s Child by Barbara Hazard, it is a book I enjoyed and one that I’m likely to keep to read again. The romance was heartwarming.

A Fawcett Crest Book published by Ballantine Books in 1993, Monday’s Child was definitely a more modern story than the other two I reviewed. Although there was some nonsense of force against women, it didn’t, thankfully, come from the romantic hero. Hazard’s writing style was a bit in the vein of Julie Klassan, so maybe that’s why I liked it so well. The main character, Sarah Lacey, was very likable and that helped also.

This is another story which tries to imply what a curse it is for a woman to be beautiful. I’m sure in real life there are downsides to having a pretty face, but it’s kind of like Brad Pitt or someone like that claiming to have been a nerd in high school. No one really believes it. And maybe that is the real curse to being blessed with good looks: It’s really hard for regular people to believe the good looks truly give a person difficulty.

For Sarah Lacey, her curse isn’t so much her looks as it is her family. They remind me of the father and oldest daughter in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, always grasping for more wealth, class, and titles, and refusing to be content with their own class and station in life. This is not to say that people can’t strive after wealth, they certainly can, but this isn’t the way to go about it: Practically selling off one’s daughter instead of working hard with one’s property, in this case a farm, which is already wealth beyond measure for many around the world. The Lacey family is contrasted nicely by the humble and productive farmer Evan Lancaster. Though in his own humbleness, he doesn’t realize what a catch he actually is.

A young earl in the neighborhood takes a fancy to Sarah’s pretty face and insists that they will be married. He is younger than her and refuses to take no for an answer. Add a bizarre suggestion of kidnapping into the mix by Sarah’s rake of a brother, and events in the novel strain credulity. Young men certainly do have wild ideas, but it’s really, really hard to believe that this young earl would have actually kidnapped Sarah and held her hostage until she agreed to marry him or slept with him, or both. It’s a case of trying to make a character into too much of a villain. His insistence despite Sarah’s wishes and clear disinterest in him is really enough, and I was disappointed in that whole part of the story, even though it was funny how Sarah thwarted the young earl’s efforts.

The best part of this book was the love story between old friends. Sarah and Evan have long been friends and long been in love with each other, and finally they both realize it and understand that no one else will do. Friends falling in love are some of my favorite romances. It’s so sweet to see them slowly realize, wait I love this person! In addition to that, Hazard did well with the minor characters included and also made the village of Sutton Cross come alive. Old biddies gossiping over tea are a must, as are holiday events, balls, and the like. This book was a joy to read compared to the other two and has me excited to read more. Oh, “Monday’s child is fair of face.” That’s where the title comes from, a poem the book says was “quoted by A. E. Bray, Traditions of Devonshire.” The original author must be unknown.

Quick Reviews

Haven’t finished anything to review lately, so just have some quick partial reviews:

The Scapegoat by Daphne Du Maurier: Am about halfway through the book and it’s pretty much the same as the movie, except it takes place in France instead of England. Enjoying Du Maurier’s writing as usual, but I think the main character comes across as a lot more charming in the movie. The other characters seem all the same. The film makers did a good job at adapting the story. I already know what’s going to happen, but am super curious about how the endings are different.

Peanut Butter Sandwich: This Japanese romantic comedy just wasn’t my cup of tea. Made it to episode 4 and just realized I was very bored. The story was neither funny nor romantic, though I was impressed at the government rookie being able to fit into so many service jobs without a hiccup. She’s got skills. The middle-aged woman obsessed with PB sandwiches was creepy and the guy agent looked dazed half the time. As for the other characters and their storylines–meh. Also, who wants the government investigating our love lives? None of their business.

Lookout: This Korean drama is a second watch for me. With hopping music, dynamic characters, and plenty of intrigue, I think I’m enjoying it even more this time around. The show stars Lee Si Young (Boys of Flowers) and Kim Young Kwang (Pinocchio), both of whom I think were born for these roles. Kim is especially on the money and enjoying acting his character and his character acting. The episodes are only half hour ones, so the plot and action moves relatively quickly.

Your Name: Also a second watch. Some of the best animation out there. Although I didn’t care for the Garden of Words, Makoto Shinkai hit this one out of the park. Definitely best to watch on a big screen if you can. It’s difficult to imagine an American cartoon or even CGI production that can touch what Japan can do with anime. Can’t wait to watch Weathering with You again later this fall.

Books I Wish Were TV Shows: The Apothecary’s Daughter

Needing a break from the tacky Regency romances, I’ve just finished a Regency romance by Julie Klassen. She’s definitely my current go-to modern author for them, and although she’s no Jane Austen, her stories are intriguing, heartfelt, and somewhat religious without being overbearing. A few of her books have bored me to tears, but some, like The Girl in the Gatehouse and her Ivy Hill series would make great TV shows. A third book now joins those ranks: The Apothecary’s Daughter.

Lillian or Lilly Haswell has grown up without a mother. Romanticizing the abandonment of her family, Lilly often looks for her mother on the bridge overlooking the canal that goes through the town of Bedsley Priors. Her mother always spoke of traveling, about seeing the world, and Lilly hopes she’s doing just that, but will someday come back to them. Lilly’s father runs an apothecary shop, similar to what we know today to be a pharmacy, and Lilly and her younger brother Charlie help out how and when they can. Having a near photographic memory, Lilly is a great help–almost too much so, for she an easy resource for her father’s apprentice, Francis, to use as a crutch. She remembers all the correct ingredients to make the various potions, pills, and concoctions, while he seems to remember nothing.

Our heroine is at odds with the local manor house at the beginning, caught stealing flowers by Roderick Marlow, the young heir. That the theft was to make a sorely needed balm seems to matter little to him, and for years afterward, Lilly is loathe to encounter the man.

Throughout the story Lilly has several changes of fortune and almost too many suitors. We get to know her family and a few of the residents of Bedsley Priors, as well as a few characters from London. This is a multifaceted story with enough subplots and characters to make a fully formed miniseries or TV show, just like the other work by Klassen mentioned above. To its credit, it has a satisfying romance, but it’s perhaps a bit overdone in the sense that Lilly seems to be attracted and drawn to every handsome would be suitor that crosses her path. She doesn’t know what kind of man she wants. Show writers would probably cut some of the romantic possibilities–I counted five men all interested in her and it was excessive–but a way to keep them and “solve” things, as it were, would be to play up some of the other romances going on in the story.

Another reason I think this would make a great TV show is the timeliness of the medical themes. Today tensions till exist between the various categories of the medical profession. MDs and NPs are considered near sacrosanct by general society, while the just as knowledgeable practices of pharmacists, alternative medicine, chiropractors, herbalists, and the like are too often scorned and derided. Here we have a time in history when doctors had begun moving against apothecaries by force, instilling licensing, required schooling and classes, and the like. Not entirely bad, but not entirely good at the same time. What else is a doctor’s trade based on but an apothecary’s one? Why is it assumed that doctors and providers have intimate knowledge of medications, but pharmacists somehow do not? More important for today: Why are all traditional remedies and prescriptions roundly derided for manufactured pills, expensive radiation treatments, and more expensive surgeries, when the alternatives, although taking longer, would work with the body to truly heal it?

The plight of a licensed doctor is shown no more clearly than in that of Lilly’s hesitant suitor, Dr. Graves. He is a good student, but has no deep connection with healing in the way that Lilly, her father, the apprentice Francis, and also another apothecary, Mr. Shuttlesworth do. These apothecaries do more than dispense medicine, they make it from start to finish, spending hours laboring with mortal and pestle, growing and drying herbs, and filling the shoes of an occupation with a wealth of knowledge, that at least in this story, often exceeds that of the medical doctors. They also make house calls and treat patients at their bedside. Dr. Graves can’t begin to compete with them, even though he’s a satisfactory doctor. The apothecaries are physicians in their own right, and that is where the conflict comes–expensive schooling versus knowledge passed down through the centuries.

I don’t want to diss doctors, many are amazing and very knowledgeable, but all too many simply know only what they are taught and toe the line of the day instead of considering what’s really best for the patient. Too many are content to treat conditions instead of finding out what’s causing them and attempting at a cure. Strangely, vaccines, which are not a cure, are continually held up as one–think of the “let’s wait for a Coronavirus vaccine”–and more and often often mistaken for one by the general public. Really, it’s not the doctors’ fault, they are forced into it by the very medical schools that take them in, the various medical boards, licensers, and hospitals that all too often can’t see past the ends of their noses.

Happily, there are some doctors with curious minds who are finding out that cheaper medications and older remedies may actually be what helps the patient, not least of which is an all natural diet, which works wonders on the body. Happily, many in the general public are becoming tired at their diagnoses simply being managed; more and more often they are turning to the alternatives and finding relief and success.

This book doesn’t fully go into all these issues, and in some ways the apothecaries are ignorant, too, but it’s fascinating that we allowed the MDs to reign as if they are or were somehow better. It wasn’t that they were better, it was that they gave themselves power to secure their livelihood for ages to come. If that’s an uncomfortable truth to ponder, well, so be it.

Also in the mix of the story is the idea that a woman can be neither doctor nor apothecary. It’s the age old problem of woman’s primary province being the home, but some consideration can be made for different types of homes, I think, and the fact that being a healer comes naturally to many women. Lilly’s home is the apothecary business. She cares for her family and also the business. For some–not all–women this is entirely doable, and the difference we often fail to address in these modern days of feminism is that many women simply choose not to do both, because, well, it can be exhausting. And that’s ok and should be considered ok. Providing is a province men thrive at and it’s really ok to ceed that to them. And for most men, either way is ok, they really just want to make us happy, and enjoy what appreciation and attention we can give them, financial concerns aside. Sadly in our quest for society we’ve made it far more difficult for a family to exist on one income alone.

Well, this review grew a lot longer than I thought it would. Clearly, I have a volume of opinions on medicine and the sexes. It’s interesting to be at a time in history when many are rethinking these aspects of our lives and turning to the way things used to be done. Having the freedom to choose the old ways is a relief for many, and it’s a bit ironic that we derided the limitations of old only to realize now that we simply exchanged one set of limitations for another.

Updates: Despite enjoying Hannah Tinti’s fine first book, The Good Thief, I could not get into The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley. Although I appreciated the tall tale aspect, which is very American, the violence was unnecessary and off-putting, as was the odd relationship between father and daughter. I don’t think I made it 50 pages. Why do so many Americans think our gun culture is about being violent? It’s not. It’s based around practical things like hunting, and as a country, primarily about keeping the tyranny of fallible, human-run governments in check.

Am in the middle of both Tess of the D’urbervilles and The Man in the Iron Mask. Enjoying both, but they are lengthy reads and other books keep drawing my attention. Eventually, I will have some reviews on them. Currently reading The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier.

Just watched episode one of Cinderella, an Italian version with English dialogue and set in the 1950s. Delightful production! Sadly, though, Amazon does not have the second episode available for viewing.

As for K-dramas, I’m trying out Oh My Baby starring Jang Nara. I thought it was a remake of Three Men and a Baby, but it doesn’t look like it now. Also it’s hard to watch a show that hits too close to home, so not sure if I’ll continue with it. There’s a Japanese show on Viki called Peanut Butter Sandwich that looks cute, so I might try that instead. I’ve never watched a Japanese show before, and somehow Japan keeps inserting itself in my life. Maybe that’s just the way it is with Japan, who knows?

The Abandoned Bride: RRR

Welcome to another tacky Regency Romance review!

The Abandoned Bride by Edith Layton is a Signet Regency Romance published in 1985. Ms. Layton wrote several romances for Signet, and although I find her writing much better than RR#1 I read previously, she’s no storyteller.

With a title perhaps more suited to a gothic romance, we are introduced to the beautiful Julia on a secretive night. She’s run away no the north to be married to a man we suppose to be her true love. Something happens and they don’t get married. Julia is taken away by another gentleman in the dead of night and we see her again years later where she goes through job after job as a companion and governess. Young Julia is simply too beautiful for her own good. Any male, even baby males, fall for her, apparently. Aside from the creep factor of that, what could be actually a funny curse for our heroine is much forgotten the rest of the story.

From a poor family, Julia has little option but to work. She is innocent and virtuous, so hasn’t the wile to take advantage of her obvious appeal to the male sex. Just before being terminated from yet another position, Julia is visited by Lord Nicholas Daventry, also called Baron Stafford. He is the uncle of Robin, the man she was supposed to marry, the man who abandoned her. Although he is often referred to as “old Nick,” Baron Stafford isn’t really that much older than Robin, but as is usual in these romances, is almost a decade older than Julia. Nick has been trying to track Julia down in the hopes of reuniting her with his nephew and finding out just what happened the night they were supposed to get married. Exactly why this is his problem, was never really clear to me–family duty, I guess–but it seems inconceivable (that word doesn’t mean what you think it means) to me that Nick would have no inkling that Robin is actually gay.

Yes, that is the big reveal, which in the Regency era would have likely been shocking, and in 1985 perhaps a little surprising as well. Of course, this being a modern work by a modern author who doesn’t seem to understand that no conflict and no stakes mean really no story, this is much, much glossed over in the ending. Both Julia and Nick barely raise their eyebrows at Robin’s confession, and although it’s admirable they so easily forgive him for what he’s put them through, especially Julia, it’s sad that the gravity of such a lie is treated so superficially. In Britain back in the day, one could be hanged for living the homosexual lifestyle, and although I don’t agree with the lifestyle, the politically correct glossing over it does a disservice to both the sin, as it was considered at that time, and also to the very great risk that Robin is taking in living the way he wants. It also treats all of Julia’s hardships as nothing, which is a slap in the face to womenkind. It is no small thing for a gay man to daly with a woman with whom he cannot fulfill a romance–all her hopes, dream, and desires deserve to have a serious chance, no matter how virginal she may be. To his credit, Robin himself realizes this, but solves the problem by abandoning Julia to a rather heartless society and leaving her with the idea that she’s somehow at fault.

For stories that deal with this subject with more of the gravity it deserves, I recommend The Object of My Affection starring Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd, very PC, but also more realistic in the dilemma, and also the Korean drama Coffee Prince (aka The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince) starring Gong Yoo and Yoon Eun Hye. Both works are better because they delve into just how bad it is to pretend to be someone you are not, and also to delude oneself about the person you are in love with.

But, back to the RRR. Layton’s writing is good, with many turns of phrase signaling that she has far more in her than trade paperback romances. However, it’s all wasted on a mundane story with almost no conflict. True, the leads don’t get along at first, but they plod along, hanging out in Europe hoping to come across Robin. This goes on for months, months and months, and we are introduced to a great many superficial things about Regency society, including political intrigue that goes nowhere. At no point do we truly fear for either Julie, Nick, or even Robin. Basically, it’s a waste of a book, which is sad.

I’m not really sure why in these romances it’s so important that the woman be a virgin. Usually she’s fairly young, so maybe that explains it, but inexplicably the romantic hero is the opposite, or alluded or rumored to be. Okay, women don’t want embarrassed, fumbling men, I get that, but neither do we want libertines who have slept with half of the female population. These stories are fantasy, though, and I supposed some women do dream about taming a bad boy or wild man when no other woman could. Sadly, Nick is neither, although initially he is angry enough with Julia to hit her. What is with the Regency era hitting of the women? I have trouble believing that in any society this really would have been ok, but even today there are societies in which it is ok. Since Nick isn’t a bad man, he’s surprised at himself, but again, it all seems stupid because he’s a smart man who after so many years surely would have figured out Robin’s inclinations. If Julia really was some beautiful femme fatale, well, now that would have been a lot more interesting.

So far the supposed heroes of these romances are anything but, nor are they outright bad boys. No offense to my fellow females, but men who write romances often get it better. I love the Victorian romances written by Madeleine Brent (Peter O’Donnell), as example. And who can forget the hilarious line from Jack Nicholson’s romance writer in As Good As It Gets: In answer to “how do you write women so well?”: “I think of a man and take away reason and accountability.” It’s a funny line because it’s somewhat true, loathe as we are to admit it. Take The Abandoned Bride as one example, there’s little reason or accountability in the whole story. I like to think men’s gift to women is helping them operate under more reason and accountability, whereas one of our gifts to them is helping them see beyond their single focus: There’s something uniquely female in the way that Jane Austen and Agatha Christie showcase the strangeness and humor of both society and the human heart.

This is not to say that women have no reason and accountability, but our reasons and how we are accountable are far different than men’s reason and accountability. The closest the two come together are in the work place, for in it women are often forced into single focus mode, a male way of operating and thinking. Too much single focus, and often other details and a bigger picture is missed. The second closest is perhaps the world of social media, in which men are forced to take feelings as fact. This isn’t a diss on women, just the acknowledgement that for many women our feelings are the facts. Many times the two coincide–women’s intuition is a thing–but often they also do not.

In conclusion, here is my question: Without stakes, without reason and accountability, can there truly be a romance? Can there even be a story? Is the the lack of both these things the reason why paperback romances, rom coms, and the like are so heavily derided by both sexes? Food for thought.

The Scandalous Season: RRR

Regency Romance Review, book 1: The Scandalous Season by Nina Pykare

Published by Dell’s A Candlelight Regency Special, #501, 1979.

First off, I made it through the book, whew! The story was sadly rather tedious and it wasn’t clear what made it “special” as opposed to just Candlelight, but Dell appears to have Candlelight Romances and Candlelight Regency Romance Specials, so maybe that’s the difference.

Young, innocent Rebecca Stratford agrees to follow her father’s dying wish and marry Richard, the Marquess of Burlingame. From the beginning of the story, the couple is already in love with each other, though insisting that their marriage is in name only. This is somewhat due to the marriage being arranged and also due to the age gap. Richard is not keen to force himself on so young a woman, a point in his favor. He’s about thirty and she’s younger, but it never clarifies how young on purpose. She may be a teenager. Burlingame I kept reading as Burlingham.

From the start, the story was rather cringe and laughable. Over used words like sardonic, schoolroom miss and country miss abound, as do a plethora of points to tick off on norms and colloquial sayings of the day. The atmosphere was bad, just see-through, a skeleton Regency setting.

Exactly why Rebecca loves Richard at the beginning is not clear. She is a poor girl who luckily married into wealth, but her husband is so overbearing and tyrannical that she’s terrified of him most of the time. At one point he even spanks her. Totally different from modern times when we are even reluctant to spank our own children, this scene was hard to stomach. Rebecca did disobey his orders, but like many men, Richard did not fully explain the reason for his orders. This is convenient for the story, but also connects to real life. Men so often have plans and things they simply do not explain to their women, either because they don’t think they have to, but in a larger picture, because they don’t understand that they have to. Many things are obvious to men as men and women as women, and neither sex truly understands that you really do have to explain or spell things out. The opposite sex doesn’t automatically get it. They just don’t.

Although Rebecca doesn’t like being treated like a child, she continues to act like one, and although clearly her husband desires her, even at the end, she was just this hysterical childlike woman, not a match for him. It is supposed that she will grow into her role as wife. Not sure what to make of the fear factor. Most men I know today, at least what I know of them, are not tyrants with their wives. In fact, often it’s the opposite, where the wives have the upper hand. Anyway, the men I know are very kind and loving to their women and so, so far from Richard Burlingame, that I don’t really see how he’s that great of a catch.

Richard is handsome, tall, broad shouldered, and rich. Many times over is it described how broad his shoulders are, how his legs fit well into his pants, etc. Later on, he is shown to have some kindness, but even to the end, Rebecca is ruled by her fear of his anger. This doesn’t seem like a healthy relationship. Richard also is used to bedding other women and it’s doubtful that in a year or two he will not go back to this habit. He has all the power in the marriage at this time, and although we want to believe love conquers all, old habits die hard. The odds are simply not in Rebecca’s favor.

Despite all of that, although scandal was much alluded to, this wasn’t a smutty romance, and the scant love scenes were kisses only. The big reason the two love each other is simply that they are physically attracted to each other and are married. Can’t fault that too much, I suppose that’s often how it really is with couples, but romances are fun to read because they often “earn” each other’s love. Here, it wasn’t earned, but truthfully love isn’t earned, simply given, so there’s that. The ending was more nonsensical and abrupt than the beginning. Smuggling was thrown in for, well, no real reason, and Rebecca hysterically throws herself upon the scene because she loves her husband. Somehow the fact that he’s sent her info fainting hysterics makes Richard realize how much he loves her. This is a very strange relationship.

Some cuteness at the end:

“I expect that I shall be quite a nuisance to you now. Literally living in your pocket.”

“In that case, Robert, I suspect we shall both be nuisances. Can a wife be said to live in her husband’s pocket?”

Lovely and tacky at the same time.

Other updates: Currently liking and reading both The Man in the Iron Mask by Dumas and Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Hardy. Rewatching K-drama You Are All Surrounded starring Lee Seung Gi. Next one I review will probably be Oh My Baby starring the never aging awesome actress Jang Nara. Appears to be a remake of Three Men and a Baby with Tom Selleck, a movie I’ve always liked.

Tacky Regency Romances: New Review Project

Have I mentioned I’m addicted to stories? Hmm, maybe a time or two. Went up to wonderful, wild, Northern Minnesota this past weekend and had a grand old time. It was a little too cold to be on the water, so bookshops it was, and do they have them aplenty! The two used bookstores I stopped in have easily over 100, 000 books each–an enormous amount to peruse for a normal person, and a veritable treasure trove for bookworms. Thus, by the end of the trip, I’l bought the most books I’d ever bought at one time: 38! Yikes. Yes, it’s a problem, but a fun problem.

At a used bookshop in Brainerd they had $5 grab bags in the window, collections of books stapled shut in brown paper bags. I decided to live recklessly and bought the Regency Romance one, hoping I’d get a Jane Austen or one of her contemporaries. No such luck. Inside were 20 Regency romances and one Georgian romance from the 1970s and 1980s. One may be from the 1990s. Tacky they look and paperback romances they are, and I’ve decided to read every single one of them and give you all some grand, hopefully funny reviews. The books are published by Dell, Jove, Warner Books, Signet, Fawcett, Diamond, and Zebra books. This will throw of my planned summer reading a bit, but I am looking forward to the tackiness!

Tacky Regency Romances

Book review: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (spoilers)

It is finally summer and time to not only get outside, but also pull out our stacks of summer reads. I recommend The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. The title intrigued me more than anything else, and the blurb on the back was accurate, describing the mystery as a mix between Agatha Christie, Downton Abbey, Quantum Leap , and Groundhog Day. That being said, the story is better off if the reader really knows nothing about it or what’s going to happen. Spoilers are ahead.

This book is so awesome and fun I don’t know where to start. It’s a game, a mystery the main character, Aiden Bishop (a lot of chess references), has to solve, and we readers get to follow along with him. Bishop has 8 days to solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle; however, it is the same day repeated 8 times, and each time he will inhabit a different body of guests that have come to Blackheath estate for a masquerade ball. The biggest difficulty for Bishop is that each time he wakes up, he has to fight off the personalities of these guests and try not to totally give into their way of thinking. He also doesn’t know who to trust–a murder mystery standard–but it’s amped up a bit here. By the end of the story, Bishop has chosen a route that very well may not be the right one. He, and we, have so little information about the larger picture going on, and it comes from characters who are likely untrustworthy.

Major spoilers. Bishop is told partway through the book, that this is all a punishment, a newfangled way of getting people to pay for their crimes by making them solve a similar murder to one they committed–over and over again until they get it right. Apparently Bishop has been through several cycles of this murder mystery, and each time, the order of “hosts,” or bodies he inhabits, is changed and tweaked to give him better and better possibilities of solving it. He does solve it, but only has the word of the “plague doctor” that he is free, and also that he entered this prison or experiment freely. Since everything is forgotten at the beginning of a new cycle, there is every possibility that Bishop will once again enter the maze the next day, which may be the same day, and the cycle will begin again. He also may be free and not supposed to be free, which is also intriguing. It’s not clear how far in the future this prison actually is or if it really is a prison.

One truth stands out, though, Bishop definitely is changed by the end of the 8 days, even though we know so little about the real him. For me, it was a bit sad that he was happy forgetting or throwing aside whoever he was before. To know or not to know? I think knowing is usually better, but then other days I think not. And I would want to know bad things about myself more than I would want to know bad things about someone I cared for. 7 1/2 Deaths is truly a mind boggler and a book I’ll probably read again and again. It would be fun to see it adapted to a TV series, but I have no idea how they would do it.

On a writing level, it is masterful, but depends largely on first person perspective. It’s amazing how intricately the days are worked out and in such a way as to make it seem like a year or more has gone by. Turton does not have us repeat everything 8 times. There are a variety of guests, each who do something different during the day. At first the setting seems limited, but Turton uses that advantage, filling the whole world up. Bishop wastes a lot of time thinking he can save and trying to save Evelyn, even though he’s told point blank not to do that. As he knows by now it’s some sort of game, it’s fascinating that he takes it so seriously, and as a reader that attitude seemed…at little too convenient. Nevertheless, it was an exciting read and much food for thought on making punishments fit the crime and the possibilities of rehabilitating people. It is still not for sure that what Bishop is experiencing is an actual prison. He could be in a purgatory, another world, a broken mind, and so on.

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a speedy read that’s hard to put down. More than the murder mystery itself, you end up wanting to know what is going on? Why is Bishop there? Why does he have to do this for 8 days? What’s the reason, who’s behind it, so on and so forth. These larger questions are answered, if the characters who answer them can be believed, but that’s a big “if.” It is one of the few stories I’ve read that I started taking notes on as I read it. The party invitation at the beginning with a list of all the characters was super helpful, as was the map. The first person perspective really allows the reader to feel as if they are experiencing the game for themselves. This is one of the few minder bender stories that really live up to the hype. It did not disappoint.

The Secret Garden: A Perfect Book for Spring

This is the second time I’ve read the wonderful book A Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It is a children’s book set in the springtime and full of love of all the growing things and new life in the world, and a perfect book to read during the spring months. The introduction (I have a Barnes and Noble Classics copy) says that Burnett’s books were as popular in her day, the late 1800s, early 1900s, as J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is today. That’s pretty impressive. Her most famous works known today are The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, and both have been made into several films and plays.

The story follows a girl named Mary Lennox, a pill of a child, who’s understandably a spoiled brat as she’s been allowed to push around her servants in India while simultaneously being wholly neglected by parents who don’t seem to care two sticks about her. After an outbreak of cholera, Mary is orphaned and sent to live with her uncle, a hunchbacked recluse who lives on a large estate in England called Misselthwait Manor. Her uncle is little seen in the story, as his main occupation over the years has been to grieve the loss of his wife.

As much as Mary’s behavior is shown as being rude to other people, much is made of her ill appearance. She’s not a healthy brat, and doesn’t know what it’s like to spend the whole day outside. Knowing little of class barriers, having spent her life abroad, Mary quickly befriends one of the servants, a young girl called Martha, who comes from a family of twelve, and introduces Mary to a different way of life, one spent in good work, and often out of doors. At first, going outside isn’t much fun for Mary, it’s cold, and the spring hasn’t quite arrived yet, but slowly, she starts to toughen up and enjoy being outside. She learns of a secret garden all locked up and is determined to see it for herself. She also befriends Mary’s brother Dicken, who has a way with animals, plants, and all living things, and ends up helping and improving another child called Colin, who is even more tyrannical than herself.

The Secret Garden is delightful, full of real magic, God’s magic and His ways of making things grow. The children themselves aren’t necessarily Christian or anything, but their appreciation and delight in nature and the world is uplifting. The determination of Mary and then later Colin, to be truly healthy and out in the world doing things and seeing things is refreshing, especially in days like these when many are afraid to set foot outside. Colin is a prime example of just how damaging it is for anyone to always imagine themselves an invalid. It is a tale of sorrow, recovery, and health, and showcases that always, always, there is something worth living for, even if you only start with a rose bush or a robin. It is telling, too, that the more Mary improves in her person, so does she perceive that other’s improve in her opinion. There is much truth that our dispositions and attitudes affect everything about us, and the more positive we are, the more positively we view the world and people around us and find joy in them.

The world in springtime is wonderful to behold, and I always think it’s the time of year when we can hear every rock, tree, flower, and stream singing God’s praises the loudest.

Updates: Next week I’ll be reviewing the K-drama Are You Human Too? starring Seo Kang Joon (Cheese in the Trap). Not sure about a romance with a robot, that’s rather weird, but it’s an exciting series so far. Two books on my reading list have titles that go together, so I’ll probably read them back to back: Hannah Tinti’s The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley (her The Good Thief is an awesome colonial yarn of a tale), and The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. Life, death, and numbers. Should be fun. My next classics reads are going to be The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexander Dumas, The Last of the Mohicans by James Fennimore Cooper (it’s great, as is the movie, though they really aren’t very alike), and Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. Ever since watching the wonderful movie of Far from the Madding Crowd starring Carey Mulligan, I’ve had a hankering to read all of his works.