Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Reread Challenge for June

Ride the Fire by Pamela Clare

Why this one: AL did a recent review of it and it started calling to me. I hadn’t read it for a while so I figured it was about time for another reread. You are probably getting sick of me talking about this one – but truly, it’s worth it!

My thoughts: I’m not going to give an outline since I’ve done that before and so have others. Instead I’ll just try and encapsulate what makes this such a powerful read for me.

One of the reasons this book is so compelling is the time period and the setting. I live in SW Ontario and when I was young one of my best vacations was a trip to all the old forts around the area. I’ve always loved history and was captivated by the history surrounding those old forts. I still remember a reenactment they did during one visit. I think my parents got quite a chuckle out of my excitement.

So reading a book that took place during this time period; the French Indian War against the British, takes me back to my youth.

And I can’t not mention the too die for hero in this book either. Nicholas Kenleigh is one of my very favourites of all time. From the very first when he is described as having hair down to his waist I perked up. Now I know this description doesn’t do it for everyone – heh heh heh but it sure does for me. Nicholas is one of the best tortured heroes I’ve ever read; both literally and figuratively. Because of what he went through he is pretty dead inside when he first runs into Bethie, the heroine. The author does such a fantastic job of slowly bringing him back to life while falling in love with Bethie. It’s not too hard at all imagining someone like Daniel Day Lewis in his Hawkeye role in Last of the Mohicans as Nicholas – nope, not too hard at all.

Bethie is also a great heroine. Wendy, SuperLibrarian put it well in a recent review she did of this book – a book she read due in part to my constant nagging – and she liked it. I quote: What I appreciated was that while she was alone and scared, she wasn't cowering in a corner waiting for someone to attack her. Oh no! Girlfriend knows how to use a rifle, and matches wits quite well with Nicholas when he shows up wounded on her doorstep”

I like how she puts that *g*.

The love scenes are soooo good. Pamela writes such great ones in all her books. The vibes between her couples in all her books are different and she really does reflect that in the scenes of intimacy that she writes. A lot of times when reading the sex scenes in a book I skip over them because there is nothing really unique about them. But in Pamela Clare’s books, each one is different and well thought out. You can tell she doesn’t just add them a sex scene for a sex scenes sake (try saying that three times!) Rather she takes who they are and what they are to each other into consideration and Ride the Fire is no exception. As an author, I’m sure they aren’t easy to write sometimes and they don’t necessarily add anything to the story, but in Ride the Fire, this isn’t the case. Bethie has been traumatized in the past and Nicolas sees this and is very patient and very tender with her. The full consummation doesn’t take place until later in the book, but before that he slowly shows her how good it can be between a man and a woman.

If you haven’t read this book or if you have it in your TBR pile just sitting there, I urge you to find it, to move it up. It really is a wonderful reading experience. It has been for me each time I’ve read it and this last time was no exception.

Grade: Always has been and always will be – 5 out of 5 and a true keeper

Friday, June 26, 2009

Not in that closet any longer

There is fairly new-to-the-romance-community reader who posted at AAR recently. She is overjoyed to have found such a place and such a community made up of dedicated romance fans. But she confessed she was still 'in the closet' as far as her reading preferences went.
I really identified with her because that was me for a very long time. Even after I found the romance community; after I started blogging, I still didn't tell many people in my day to day life how deep into romance I was. Some may have known a bit - perhaps that I enjoyed a good romance now and then, but I never made a point of telling people and if asked would duck the question or kind of mumble out the words. I think I'm your classic people pleaser and I didn't want anyone looking down on my choice of reading material.
But I've come along way in the past few years and practically everyone I have contact with - my friends, my coworkers, my family know exactly what I read and I don't feel embarrassed or ashamed any more to tell anyone. I realized that when the movers came a few weeks ago and when they saw all my books and that they were pretty much all romance, I didn't even flinch when he commented on it. And what a glorious feeling that was after hiding it for so many years.
I'm not exactly sure what got me to the point where I am today, when I can go into a bookstore and plop down some of those books with horrid covers or explicit covers and not feel a moments qualm about it. I think it's a number of factors.
  • I have matured - yes that still happens even though I'm in my fifties. While I still like people to like me, I'm not concerned if they don't. I'm at the place where I don't feel I have to justify my reading tastes to anyone. If they don't approve or make some kind of comment; though to be honest, no one has taken that approach with me, it's too bad for them. If they've never tried romance, and chances are they haven't if they have a negative reaction, they are the ones missing out.
  • Being a part of the romance community has allowed me to see what an intelligent, thoughtful and well rounded group we are. Whether a college professor, an assistant DA, a lawyer, a doctor or a homemaker, as a whole, we are smart people who should be and often are respected.
  • Getting to know authors and seeing them as the dedicated artists they are. And there is no question they are artists, only their canvas is a blank screen and their true talent is in telling a wonderful story. I've read the very occasional book outside the romance genre and there is no question that authors who write romance are just as talented if not more so then many authors who write in other genres.
  • Besides just being part of the romance community, I've know had a chance to meet many other aficionados of the genre or fellow bloggers *g*. Having that instant connection to someone I've never met before and sharing a passion with them is wonderful. I know this might not make too much sense, but in hiding or being ashamed of what I read somehow almost seems to affect the relationship I have with them. If I deny or don't admit how I've come to know them, then that seems to deny a part of them and of me.

It's taken a long time to get to where I am now and if there are others who are still reluctant to 'come out of the closet' themselves, I understand, truly I do, because I hid there for so many years. But if anyone is thinking of breaking out and being proud of what they read instead of slightly ashamed and worried what others may think, I encourage them to do so. It really is a great feeling to be proud now of what you read instead of hiding it!!


And in other news....

There are those defining moments in time where something stays in your memory for the rest of your life - where you were when you heard JFK died. Where you were when you heard Princess Dianna died, where you were when you heard Elvis died and now there is another one I will always remember - where I was when I heard Michael Jackson died. I know we are going to be hearing this over and over and over the next little while, but we did lose one of our greatest musical talents on Thursday.

I grew up listening to his music - he wasn't that much younger then me - hard as that is to believe and while I never counted him as one of my favourite musicians, there is no question I did love many of his songs. I remember how terrified my oldest son was when he first saw the video for Thriller - one of the best music videos ever made.

But he always struck me as such a lonely and sad kind of person. Only someone desperately unhappy with who they are could do to themselves what Michael Jackson did with all the plastic surgeries and that makes me sad. He was such a genius musically and it's disturbing that he never could accept himself. I watched a lot of the coverage and one item stood out. Lisa Marie Presley commented that when she married him, she hoped she could help him, that she could get him past the lost soul he always seemed to be, but she couldn't. It seems to me that he surrounded himself with vultures who didn't care about him as a person; who wouldn't stand up and say no - those kinds of actions are not good for you; they are inappropriate and will hurt you. And that makes me sad. He was a young man - and even though he was 50, to me he was still a young man who was so easily hurt and trusted the wrong people and the wrong advice. As for the charges he faced, I never really believed them. I can't say for sure whether they were true or not, but I tend to think not. I think he was looking for the innocence that he never really had in his own life.
And although as I said, he wasn't one of my favourite artists, still I admired him tremendously for his talent and what he contributed to the world.
Of all his songs I've loved over the years, this one is probably my favourite.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I know I said I was going to cut out all reality TV except for So You Think You Can Dance – and overall I’ve done a pretty good job of it. I only watched about 15 minutes of Paris Hilton’s New BFF – and that was quite enough. I don’t care if Tilla Tequilla finds love the second time around so I haven’t been watching it. I did watch a bit of the MMVDD awards – but that was only to see Nico – his Mohawk is now gone by the way. But there is another one I kind of accidently got hooked on and I have this to say about it.

ARE YOU NUCKING FUTS????? I think I squeaked that out when she turfed him!! You turned down a hot and hunky airline pilot who was everything a girl could watch for a boy break dancer and/or a slimy, sleazy looking bad country singer? Where is your head at girl?? I’m not good with names – only jobs – but the airline pilot was fine and seemed a helluva lot more sincere then break dance boy.

That’s it – I’m now officially done with this show. She’s just TSTL for me to watch it anymore. What’s worse – she’s a Canadian girl!!!! Plus, from the previews of upcoming shows, it goes into waters that are too deep for me to feel comfortable in. Apparently they have “overnight” visits coming up and – not interested. Plus, it seems one of them has trouble ‘getting it up’ if you know what I mean. I don’t know if they identify him but if they do, I don’t think I’d want my name out there as the guy who couldn’t perform.

So I’m saying bu bye to The Bachelorette.


In good television news, at least for anyone who might be reading this and lives in Ontario, guess what is on tonight at 9:00 on TVO??

Give up???

The second part of *drum roll please* North and South – British style!! One of the girls at work pointed out to me that they are running it Tuesday nights. I missed the Part I but at least I have Parts 2, 3 and 4 to look forward too. So anyone who hasn’t seen my favourite DVD of ALL time can get a glimpse of it tonight.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Recent Read

To Have and to Hold by Patricia Gaffney

Why this one: I read it years ago and then lost it. I bought a copy through Amazon and then got another copy at a UBS recently. Since I now had two copies when before I figured I should read it *g*. It’s one of those books that comes up for discussion with quite a bit of controversy and since it’s been a while, I wanted to read it again.

Steam Level: Pretty high

Blurb: Sebastian Verlaine, the new Viscount D'Aubrey, was cynical, sophisticated, and too handsome for his own good. He was also bored. Why else would he agree to sit on the bench with two fellow magistrates to judge the petty crimes of his tenants and neighbors? It was all a lark -- until a beautiful prisoner came before him, and he realized he held her fate in his hands.

Rachel Wade knew everything about helplessness and sexual degradation. Her husband's violent death had freed her from that nightmare, but ten years in prison for his murder was only another kind of torture. Now a jaded viscount was offering her freedom -- but at a price. "Housekeeper," he termed her new position at Lynton Hall. "Lord D'Aubrey's whore," the scandalized villagers called it.

A ruthless, unkind bargain. But neither of them guessed how the tables could be turned. How a game that began in base desire could lead to a breathtaking gamble in love.

My Thoughts: As I already said this book is often up for discussion such as here and here due to its controversial nature and one or two scenes in particular. As it’s been a while since I’ve read it, I didn’t feel I could offer much to any discussion as my memory can’t always be trusted and I was determined to fix this.

Now for my thoughts. I can see why so many people love this book and I saw again why I loved this book when I first read it many years ago. Both Sebastian and Rachel are broken characters though in different ways. Sebastian is broken inside by his lack of a working conscience and Rachel is broken inside by having to deaden herself to all emotion in order to survive her ten years in prison for a crime she didn’t commit.

I think this book is almost broken into two sections, each equally compelling. One of the reasons I wanted to reread this book after so many years is to qualify in mind whether Sebastian did rape Rachel or whether it was forced seduction and to me – this time there was no question it was a rape. It was about Sebastian’s power over Rachel. Even though it wasn’t a violent attack; in fact he made it as gentle as he could, she said no, he knew she meant it and he did it anyway because he wanted that power over her. Even as she was becoming slightly aroused the second time, it was rape and for that very nature it was an ugly scene. And anyone who hasn’t read this book who is horrified that I loved it and think it’s a powerhouse of a book – I don’t blame you. I’m surprised myself that in the end I would love this book and root for Sebastian and Rachel. Even after the rape scene, Sebastian continues to treat Rachel viciously – though not in the physical sense. Following this scene he allows a 'pack of rabid dog' friends to humiliate her at a so called dinner party and even shrugs his shoulders when the most vicious of this pack heads out to assault Rachel.

Oddly enough I did enjoy the book up to this point though not so much as a romance but more of a character study of two interesting people. Rachel was very sympathetic and Sebastian was villain with depth. But the attempted assault on Rachel made a turning point in Sebastian's character. After shrugging his shoulders on what was about to happen to Rachel, he had an epiphany about himself and his character and how jaded and uncaring and cold he had become over the years. And at this point he made a determined effort to change himself and Rachel had become the catalyst for making this change. He needed her. And she needed him. She had all but wiped herself out in order to survive and needed him to bring her back to life. I realize unless you read this book you probably can't really understand what I mean and probably for many, even if they have read the book, Sebastian is unredeemable. I can understand if he isn't for them. But he was for me and that's one of the things that makes this such a compelling book. Even before Sebastian had his 'change of heart' he was starting to change from the jaded, bored, dissolute aristocrat who only cared about his own needs into a responsible, country landowner who cared what was best for others.

And equally absorbing was the transformation that Rachel went through. For the first part of the book we saw a young woman who had been so defeated by her tragic circumstances that she had become almost invisible. But we see her slowly start taking herself back. And oddly enough it was Sebastian that set this change in her in motion.

Unless this is a real hot button I have no problem recommending this book. Grading it is more difficult then normally so. Can one have a DIK without it being a perfect grade? I know I can and this is one of those books. Interestingly enough I started this book in the middle - at the dinner party where Sebastian has his own personal revelation and read it to the end and then started it at the beginning and read it all the way through again.

Grade: 4 out of 5 - with an asterisk ****