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Restaurant to Another World: Book Review

Never before have I read a book that made me so hungry! Restaurant to Another World, book 1, by Junpei Inuzuka, is a light read focused on gastronomic goodness. Every Saturday, Western Cuisine Nekoya restaurant in Japan connects to another world, a world full of magicians, elves, warriors, and the like.

Restaurant is charming in its approach: It is from the perspective of the people in the magical world who come to the place to eat their favorite dishes. Although there is some awkward phrasing with the English translation, it mostly works as we are seeing things from the perspective of fantasy people and creatures who struggle to describe the delicious alien dishes. It’s fun seeing our food–and it’s a variety of dishes, not just Japanese dishes–from that viewpoint.

I enjoyed the book, but it was more a series of vignettes rather than a cohesive story. Any and every fantasy creature populates this other world, from Lord of the Rings characters, to tiny people, and there is a complete lack of forward momentum or overarching story arc. Character and food descriptions are okay, but I’m a reader that likes plots, and often complicated ones at that. Perhaps in the subsequent volumes there’s more going on plot wise, but at this time I’m not going to spend the money to find out. The bland names for the countries in the fantasy world disappointed me also: Ocean World, Mountain World, Desert World.

It also seemed unrealistic that not a one of these fantasy creatures and people tried to get out of the restaurant into our world. We get a basic background of what’s going on with the character, they find a door to the restaurant and either order their favorite dish or try it for the first time. Sometimes they get takeout. That’s it, that’s how each chapter plays out.

The idea for Restaurant is creative, and I can see this could be something that teachers could use in the classroom for creative writing. Explain the concept to the students and then they have to think of their own fantasy creature or person and write a short story of what’s going on in their lives, how they come across this restaurant, and the describe the dish they ordered and ate. Describing the food alone would be a great writing exercise. This would totally be something I would have used back in my teaching English as a second or foreign language days.

Updates

Well, Nanowrimo was a bit of a bust for me, but then November, even this November is always very busy at work, so it’s difficult to find the time and brain space for writing. I did get over 10,000 words, so that’s something. Kevin and Becky Colossus are getting into serious trouble and the actors in the Etherland are realizing they are not alone there.

Readingwise, I’ve started The Last of the Mohicans and will also be starting another Regency romance. My stack of possible reads for winter is piling up, and I’m aiming at reading the entire Narnia series, finally getting to The Wings of a Falcon by Cynthia Voigt, and other books which I’ll detail in a future blog post.

Book Review: The Meaning of Everything

Books are a joy to read multiple times, because if they’re good, one gleans more information and enjoyment every time. This is my second time reading Simon Winchester’s The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary, and I quite enjoyed it. It is the tale of how the Oxford English Dictionary or OED came to be, and what an enormous undertaking it was.

This book actually started with a different book that Winchester wrote called The Surgeon of Crowthorne, later to be retitled, about the contribution of a murderer and madman to the OED. The Meaning of Everything describes the full scope of the project.

I have to say the beginning chapter describing the difficulties and strangenesses of the English language compared to others, although interesting is far less so than the stories of the men that follow. Philology, or the study of language and languages, can be nearly as tedious as advanced math, if not more so. There’s also a bit about the history of dictionaries in general. The famous Samuel Johnson wrote his Dictionary of the English Language in 1755, and it was the book of reference for the next hundred years. Others who tried their hand at dictionaries were The Brothers Grimm, Jakob and Wilhelm, who had a lot of people reading for their work. Webster’s Dictionary from America was a great success also, and not too long after that The Philological Society in England started talking about making their own dictionary of the English language.

Dean Trench gave the initial paper and presentation on the subject in 1857 entitled “On Some Deficiencies in our English Dictionaries.” The main deficiency was simply that no dictionary was comprehensive enough. The scope of the Oxford English Dictionary was to be huge, recording not only the various definitions of all words in and taken in to the English language over time, but also the origins of those words. This book was to be the authority on the language. Neither Trench or any other member of the Philological Society foresaw that the project would take 70 years to complete, and the enlisting of hundreds of readers to help them.

Readers for a dictionary are necessary. These are people who read specific books, articles, etc., to find unique or definitive uses of words. That they had so many volunteers really shows how smart and well-read people were at that time. They would send their findings on carefully sized slips of paper that were stored in massive cases of pigeon holes.

The first two editors or project heads for the dictionary did not last long. The first, Chenevix Trench, burnt out quickly, and the second, the diligent but sickly Herbert Coleridge died in a year. The third one, Frederick Furnivall, lasted much longer, but was not fit for the job. He was an eccentric who ended up irritating a lot of people and was overly interested in young women. Thankfully, Furnivall himself realized he was no good at it and recruited one James Murray to take over.

James Murray was amazing–all these men were–having dropped out of school at fourteen, as his family was too poor, yet teaching himself numerous languages and having a vociferous appetite for knowledge of all kinds. He was a bank clerk and later a teacher, beloved by his students because it seemed like he knew everything about everything.

Rival to Murray was Benjamin Jowett of Balliol College in Oxford. He at first tried to hijack the project from Murray, causing Murray to threaten to leave, but another great man, a peacemaker named Henry Hucks Gibbs (later to be a Lord) whose family made money in the guano industry intervened. Eventually Jowett became one of Murray’s greatest supporters.

Some interesting readers, contributors, editors and subeditors of the dictionary were: J.R.R. Tolkien of The Lord of the Rings fame, Fitzedward Hall, an American who taught Sanskrit in England and later became a hermit who found good work working on the OED, and William Chester Minor, another American who was schizophrenic and a murderer placed in an asylum in England. Reading for the OED was his therapy, and notable enough that Winchester first wrote about about him before proceeding to this story.

It’s quite a tale, and The Meaning of Everything is littered appropriately with a plethora of words to look up in the dictionary. Winchester describes the difficulties the editors had with certain letters of the alphabet, especially finding word origins and the like. The end result was a body of 12 volumes that would never really be done as languages are continually in flux. The men who worked on this project were shockingly good at languages, as were the numerous readers that sent in their slips. I have only met a few people in my life who have learned ten or more languages and it boggles my mind, as I seem to only pick up a few words here and there. It’s quite a super power, that one. One of the editors, Henry Bradley, taught himself Russian in only fourteen days.

This story of the beloved OED is fascinating and I think would make a great movie or documentary. The OED today is mostly online with a variety of print editions available. If you are interested in reading obscure or new books for the dictionary, you can go to public.oed.com/contribute-to-the-oed and see the requirement for submitting digitals slips of words. Another aspect the dictionary is currently working on is the confirmation of all of Samuel Johnson’s examples he used in his dictionary, tracking down what work they came from. On the website it sounds like OED editors are assigned to this task and there’s not a lot left to find, but if you are an avid reader of, say, Francis Bacon, and come across the quote, “the chymists have a liquor called water of depart,” be sure to contact them and let them know where you found it.

Loss of Freedom

Just a quick item here. It seems as if WordPress is now in the business of censoring political speech, and is starting to ask Conservatives of “wrong think” to move elsewhere. As my readership is small, it may be some time before they ask me to leave or cancel my account, but if that does happen, I will simply be found at gab.com under Pixie Beldona. (Sorry, haven’t posted much on there at this time). With such, frankly, fascist, censorship going on, it may be soon that all webhosting sites will deplatform anyone not of a leftist and/or globalist mindset, and I don’t have enough money to buy and run my own server. I’d much rather focus on writing. For now Gab is good and for free speech, and hopefully will stay that way. I urge you again, please, please pray for our country. We have the boot of tyranny preparing to slam down on us, should we not rise against it.

RRR: Marriage by Decree

Can a man really be forced into marriage? This is a key question posed in Marriage by Decree, the Signet Regency Romance by Ellen Fitzgerald. Published in 1988 and part of Signet’s Romantic Interludes, this is only one of a few that Fitzgerald wrote for Signet. The story wasn’t half bad, but I didn’t find it to be a keeper, as the magic just wasn’t there.

Back to the question: Can a man, or a woman, for that matter, be forced into marriage? Certainly in some cultures, yes. In the Britain of the Regency Era, though, it was a lot easier for a man to escape an unwanted marriage than a woman. They simply had more resources, especially legal ones, to avoid it. However, this isn’t really what the author refers to in the story. What she’s talking about is the nature of manhood, primarily man’s purposeful pursuance of romance. Basically, it works like this: The man pursues, the women succumb. Don’t believe me as now women are so liberated? Women, try chasing and winning a man who doesn’t want you. Time and time again, you will find it just doesn’t work, but with the tables reversed, women often give in and/or are won over and it all works splendidly. And that is actually very romantic.

In Marriage by Decree, two people are decreed by royalty, aka, the government, to get married. Scandal being the reason. Alice Osborne, our heroine, is an American this time, and not too fond of the British due to the Revolutionary War and its following skirmishes and battles. Alice’s father, Charles, is more optimistic about improving relations between the two countries, and has agreed to be a diplomat to London at the request of the President, who in 1815 would have been James Madison. As they travel by ship to England, Alice is openly scornful of anyone on the ship who looks as if they might be a British soldier.

Deep down, though, Alice is a good soul, and during a storm on the sea, saves one of those soldiers from being washed overboard. This part I thought could have used more description. Help came too quickly, though the way some women can scream, would definitely garner immediate attention. At any rate, despite holding him fast and screaming, Alice doesn’t do much, it’s one of the sailors who gets the solider below deck. Despite that fact, tall, dark, and handsome Robert Saint-Aubyn is overwhelmed with gratitude for the pretty red-headed eighteen-year-old. The lesson, here, ladies is to assist handsome men when they are in dire need as they will be extremely grateful and will perhaps even want to marry you.

Despite what would normally be a turning point for someone, Alice is still scornful of Robert, though attracted. Definitely attracted. Sadly, he already has a fiancee, something Alice’s friend Phoebe bemoans, as she has been instantly smitten. When they arrive in England, Alice and Phoebe part ways, as Phoebe’s going to live in Scotland. The Osbornes settle in London and Alice is able to meet Richard’s fiancee, Janet. At first, Janet seems quite helpful to the women who saved her fiancee’s life, but the “help” soon grates on Alice, who as an American is used to more freedom.

Janet sends a harridan of a woman to be a companion to Alice, but the woman proves to be overly strict, causing Alice to react poorly, leaving the house secretively to meet men she barely knows, much to her father’s horror. Of course he responds by making her prison even tighter around her. It is not without reason that Alice should have a chaperone everywhere she goes, the streets of London aren’t always safe, men do have sinister motives, and young women are very naive. However, Alice is more naive than most, and that grated on me during the story. She is so loathing of Britain in the beginning, yet how quickly a handsome stranger persuades her throw caution to the winds.

Soon Alice finds herself in truly dire straights. The handsome fiend, a womanizer named Lord Winston, helps her escape her house in the dead of night and take her hours away to the whorehouse of a French emigre. Alice’s stupidity doesn’t end there: She allows the Lord to ply her with enough alcohol to make her drunk and lead her upstairs to “rest.”

In comes our hero, Robert, who has not forgotten Alice and keeps talking about her life-saving heroics to Janet, who is obviously quite jealous by this time. Turns out Lord Winston is a friend of Janet’s and they have both plotted together to ruin Alice. Winston will sleep with Alice and leave her, allowing her to fall out of all good society. When Robert hears of this he goes into knight errant mode and immediately takes off to rescue Alice, with barely a thought for Janet in the process. After the rescue, the pair find it slow-going to get back to London and have to stop at an inn at which there is only one room left. When Robert drops her at home, the servants hear him speaking of their adventures and scandal ensues. So much so that the Prince Regent himself, a friend of Robert’s, decrees that Robert and Alice must marry even though they did not sleep together. Janet leaves Robert and he caves, agreeing to marry Alice.

At first it seems as if the two may make the best of things with this unwanted marriage, but after arriving at Robert’s estate called The Towers (Wives and Daughters! So have to read that again), he takes off for days, deserting his new bride. Alice despairs, thinking she will never find happiness with a man who was forced to marry her. But her servant wisely says that no man can truly be forced into marriage. On some level, Robert did in fact want to marry her. Robert himself struggles with this reality. He finds himself needing some time to get over Janet, who has stupidly eloped with Lord Winston, but when he returns is resolute, and also horrified to find that Alice has been riding out with Tim, one of the stable hands–not romantically, of course, but servants will talk. He is at once afraid that all women are like Janet, but soon finds that Alice wants to be true to him, it’s just that she needs some help.

Here’s a lesson for the men: It’s not logical and if they try, women can fight against the mentality, but if a women doesn’t have some kind of connection with her man for a few days, she may become anxious. This is entirely due to the nature of women. We want to please men and we want reassurance we are accepted. If we don’t think we’re accepted, we may determine to find out how to get accepted, to be pleasing, change our clothes, or hair, even behavior. We really are very anxious to please. A women who doesn’t hear from her partner in a few days will be much, much more anxious than a man will. A man will logically think she’s just busy. A woman will illogically think there must be something wrong. Men in relationships, help yourselves out here: Don’t leave your woman hanging for too long. Connect with her as much as you can and reassure her that she is the one you want. Yeah, it’s annoying, but it will save you so much time and energy in the long run.

This illogical anxiety is Alice’s state of mind and she just doesn’t have the maturity to realize it for what it is. Her servant helps her the most by telling her that Robert wouldn’t have married her if he hadn’t wanted to do it. Neither prince or country could make him. Robert comes back and proves that this is true. He soundly beds his wife and makes her incandescently happy.

The last half of the story I didn’t find super interesting. The villainess Janet rises again, being as she’s one of those people who think if they aren’t happy, no one should be happy, and it just gets over the top, what with Alice getting kidnapped by an angry ex-soldier and held hostage. It was just too, too much, although the contemplating of the mood between America and Britain at the time I did find interesting. It’s not something we think a lot about today. Not a bad story, not bad writing, but forgettable. Nothing really stood out about it to me, except the intriguing question from above.

We are in different times today, and in many countries it’s not likely one would be forced into marriage. I think it likely few of either sex today would allow themselves to be forced into a marriage they didn’t want. Men sometimes say that women trap them into marriage by getting pregnant, but I think it’s just something they say to avoid the fact it was their choice to sleep with the woman and also their choice to marry her. It’s takes both a man and a woman to make a baby. It just does, and it’s silly to blame another person for choices one freely makes. So, can a man be forced into marriage? Can a woman? Do babies force marriage? It is a true kindness and goodness to a child if his parents are married, but our current society doesn’t make it mandatory. I think the answer is that no, neither sex is forced, not these days. If they get married, it’s because on some level they want to either be married to that person, or to just be married.

One more thing for women: Women’s anxiety over her man. It’s a thing, we do have this, but if you are married to a good man, or even a bad one, remember that he chose to do it. He chose you instead of all the others out there. There should be some security in that. And often if he’s not in touch or not around much, he truly is busy. He’s dealing with work or projects he has to get done. Men, I would like to say the reverse is true, but it’s not a great sign if your woman is not in touch with you. Working women are in fact forced into single focus man mode while on the job, so that’s an exception there, but otherwise it’s generally not in the nature of a woman to stay disconnected from you. We crave those connections constantly.

Alright, and that’s my Regency Romance advice for today! What do you think? Do you think that’s true about men and women or am I just spinning yarns of worlds here? Too many romances going to my head, perhaps?

Up next week, a review of Missing: The Other Side, a ghostly tale perfect for Halloween.

Those D’Urbervilles: A Review of Tess of the…

Thomas Hardy just may be my new favorite writer. Somehow I missed reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles in school and am sorely sorry I did. What a crazy, wonderful book. There’s much to love and hate about the story and that’s kind of why I like it–Great literature often produces polarizing views and opinions.

Because Hardy is writing in a time of more censor in art and entertainment, the scenes regarding the rape were unclear to me. Not that I wanted to read violence or anything, it’s just he wrote it in a way that even Tess herself didn’t understand she was raped. But Hardy makes it very clear she doesn’t like Alex D’Urberville, especially in the last part of the story. More spoilers ahead.

Tess is a sad, sad story, but it’s not a boring sad story: It ends with a cathartic, pathetic climax of both horror and ecstasy. I do not like the story itself, nor many of the characters, but it reminded me of another much hailed horrible story: The Great Gatsby by Scott F. Fitzgerald. Both of these books are somewhat the horrors of their times on display, written in gorgeous prose. Most of the enjoyment is in the writing itself, but as with Gatsby, there’s much to learn from Tess about the times in which she lived.

Again, we come to the problem of a woman in being young and beautiful. Here, my sympathy is roused, as Tess faces not only a rapist who impregnates her, but who, after encountering her later on continues stalking and pursuing her. Because she is poor and her husband who could have helped her has abandoned her, she has little defense against him. The story is intended to show how hypocritical society is towards young women who have been wronged in this way. The rape part aside for a brief moment, even still today a woman that sleeps around is reviled, where a man that does the same is often lifted up as having many conquests. Why this is the case, I’m not sure, but it has largely to do with the differences between the sexes, and there are many.

This is shown a bit in the story: Tess and three of her friends all are in love with Angel, our almost hero. One gets the impression that at least her friends would have all been perfectly happy to be in a harem with Angel. Maybe they think it would be better than nothing. Tess herself seems genuinely sad for them that they don’t get the desire of their heart. They also are genuinely happy that Angel chooses her. This is may be a bit of a fantastical view of women from a man’s point of view, but it is true that at least some women don’t seem to mind sharing a man. Men seem far less likely to agree to share their woman with another man, and a man who would, would automatically go down a few notches in a woman’s perspective of him.

I think the dichotomy between the sexes comes largely due to the fact that men are and should be the pursuers when it comes to romance. It just doesn’t work out when the woman is the one doing the pursuing, and that is the implication that comes to mind when we hear of a women having many sexual partners.

However, this is not our dear, beautiful Tess! In this story, Tess is an innocent teenager who has been raped. Society should have compassion on her; sadly, in those times, it often did not. Hardy doesn’t really show society’s rejection of Tess in full force. He shows it through one man: Angel Clare. Like his name, Angel is a fanciful head-in-the-clouds kind of person. He doesn’t take the religion of his parents seriously, has the luxury of being well off enough to have time to think and dabble in farming, considering making it his occupation. Being able to study, think, and write is really a form of wealth all on its own. Tess is quite a thinker herself, but she has to do it while doing physical labor or while making treks of miles and miles across Wessex, Hardy’s fictional English county.

Angel Clare is essentially modern society at the time, throwing off religion and taking up fanciful views of the people who work the land. He is a man who imagines himself to be very liberal minded, but when it comes down to it, it is the Christian love and forgiveness that would have served him far better than any liberal attitudes. Not that Tess really has anything to forgive. It was so, so hard to read the chapter when they finally got married and on their wedding night she still hadn’t told him that she wasn’t a virgin, when lo and behold, he suddenly brings up the topic. Angel, too, is no virgin, having had a fling one night. He is anxious that Tess would forgive him for this and her soul soars because she, too, has a similar sin to confess, and is thrilled thinking they will both forgive each other and that will be the end of the matter.

But as will people who profess to be tolerant, often one finds they are not. So it is with Angel. He rejects her almost instantly. Does he understand she’s been raped? Does society understand this about the incident? Tess’s mother certainly does, but she seems to be the only one. Tess is so in love with Angel, that she agrees to be a martyr, to take whatever punishment he meets out. Hardy says she would have been far better to act more the emotional women, to beg and plead at his feet, as then he would have been won over and relented. Hardy is referring to the fact that men are moved by women’s genuine tears; and to their credit, they so often are. We love that about men. Hardy also states that Angel’s father who is a preacher and very religious is far more full of forgiveness than the irreligious son. It is true that society so often promotes the judgmental church, that it forgets the church is also and much more so about forgiveness and love, and being able to start over no matter what–all things are possible with God.

Tess’s behavior in willingly letting Angel walk all over here is pathetic, but it comes from an unstable mind: It is unclear in the book until the end that Tess understands that what Alex did to her was wrong, though she is afraid of him and talks about doing him harm if he keeps showing up in her life. It is also clear that Angel’s rejection is merely a picture of society’s rejection of her. At this time Tess would be perfectly happy to die at Angel’s hand as punishment for her sin. This foreshadows her death at the hand of society for another, worse, sin. Tess really has no outlet for sharing her sorrows, for the guilt of the rape is placed on herself, i.e., she never should have put herself in that vulnerable position. While it’s true that sometimes young women don’t use common sense in dress and behavior that encourages unwanted attention, I don’t think it’s fair to blame them for a man raping them. Even Alex continually says it’s her fault for being so attractive! Is this belief genuine, from Alex, from society, and from Angel? It seems to me a good way not to deal with the actual problem: Alex D’urberville is a dangerous predator who should be tried and charged.

Happily, Angel eventually wakes up from his stupidity, realizing a year or more later that he does love Tess and does forgive her. Sadly, there still is little self-reflection on his own sin. Aside from his confession on their wedding night–a confession in which there was no question in his mind that Tess would forgive him–he thinks little of it. What hypocrites we humans are: We commit the same sin (though I wouldn’t call it a sin on Tess’s part) and ignore it in ourselves, yet see it as unforgivable in other people.

Angel and Tess are reunited for a few good nights of passion, but this comes at a cost: Tess murders Alex D’Urberville. Because Angel takes so long coming back to her, and she and her family are so down on their luck, Tess becomes prey once again for Alex. Although he is loathsome, when someone wants to step in and provide for you and your family that are on the brink homelessness and starvation, that’s hard to turn down. She also believes his lies that her husband will never come back to her, and it is those lies that actually cause her to stab Alex.

The story ends rather epically in the early morning as Tess and Angel are fleeing cross country. They happen upon Stonehenge and decide to rest there, only to be surrounded by the police. As before, Tess is only too happy to be taken away to be tried and executed for her sin. I think Hardy is making it very difficult for society at the time to swallow such a thing as the criminal so eager to be brought to justice. The implication in this is that even in committing murder, Tess did nothing wrong. Again, Christian love, forgiveness, and understanding from the beginning would have been far better, as would have justice against the true villain, Alex, but then we wouldn’t have a story.

For a time, Hardy has Alex himself reform and take up religion, but it is only a sham, for the moment he sees Tess again, he drops God like a hot potato, and picks up his sin of wrongfully pursuing her once again. Alex justifies this by claiming to love her and also to want to take care of her and provide for her, but it’s pretty clear all he’s going by is lust.

What the significance is with the D’Urberville family history in the story, I’m still not sure. Tess is Tess Durbeyfeld, and her family was at one time the powerful D’Urberville tribe, of which her very distant cousin, Alex, is one of the last. The family estates and cemetery plots appear to be all over the county. Tess’s father is a drunken lout, who has no real keening for work. He’s a dreamer and when he finds out that his family was rich long, long ago, he fancies that somehow riches will find his family again, as if by magic. He and his wife send their eldest daughter, Tess, out in search of the leftover D’Urbervilles, putting her in Alex’s way, and there the story begins. So far has the family fallen, that their last remaining heir is a rapist, and Tess’s branch of the family poverty stricken. It’s all great, great stuff, especially Angel’s profession not to care for lofty families, but then being impressed that Tess is a D’Urberville. Maybe the significance is, again, just the ironies involved, or Angel’s inconsistency. It’s easy to forget that he, too, is very young–maybe 25?

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the wonderful writing, and will definitely be reading it again at some point. I take it back what I said about good looking people: It can be a curse for them, just as much as ugly looks can be a kind of curse for others. The good news is that we don’t have to live our lives based on such shallow things. We can choose to rise above them, and with God’s help, succeed. This love and charity Hardy showed best between Tess and her friends. They were only too happy for each other’s success in romance, held no grudges against each other, and continued being friends and giving genuine help, despite their unfortunate fixation on Angel Clare. As for this idea that only women are held accountable when it comes to sex, it’s hard to deny that even today, this is still somewhat true. It may be largely due to the fact that women alone can get pregnant, a nine-month visibility of the sin. Happily today, rape is considered wrong and not the women’s fault, though that’s muddied a bit by some women falsely accusing men of the crime and the feminist push to perceive all men as rapists.

Again, we don’t have to live this way. All women are not harlots trying to trap men and all men are not rapists trying to abuse women. I for one would be happy to see the movements of the sexual revolution and feminism die the agonizing deaths they well deserve. Both philosophies are a stain on humanity and have caused so much grief, sorrow, and torment, especially for women. Nowadays, some men have been so estranged from women that they will gleefully talk about sleeping with them whenever they feel like it, but never about protecting, providing, or loving them. With glee, these men joke about lonely cat ladies, while they eagerly pile on wealth for themselves and themselves alone. Many women do the same, neither caring for or nurturing the men they sleep with, and only wanting their money, quickly divorcing them for the alimony at the first chance they get. Both attitudes keep the cycle of war between the sexes spinning at an impressive rate. How did we get here?

I say, again, we don’t have to live this way. We can choose to marry, to settle down, to have children and family, to have lives full of love and meaning. We can rise above past hurts and still love and care for the opposite sex. Even if for some reason we can’t marry or can’t have kids, we can support those who can, and encourage their prosperity. Families, not single, selfish, lonely people, are the true building blocks of a thriving society. Tess clearly shows that all of Angel’s lofty ideas are but nought if he has not love and charity. This, for me, was the true lesson of the story.

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.