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What I'm Reading Wednesday

What I've Finished Reading
Mostly Regencies! I was taken to a different library by a friend and it was full of them, what could I do? They're reading candyfloss and I can't help it, even though I know I'm the wrong person to read them because whatever it is I'm after, they're not quite it. Still mostly fun, though. I just wish the latest one would stop having people say, "Brilliant!" It would feel like we had time-slipped into the 1980s if it had ever felt as if we were anywhere near the 1820s in the first place. (Sorry, deadline-ridden, hard-working Romance authors! I know, I know, I should leave you alone! But... I don't.)

I also re-read Heyer's Charity Girl. It's the last one she wrote (or completed, anyway), but it's also one I find weird in that there's nothing obviously wrong with it that I can ever quite put my finger on, and there are a bunch of engaging side characters but I always wind up doing the same thing in re-reading it, which is: I wait years and years, then start it again, thinking, "Hey, why didn't I like this one last time? It's pretty good!" and then by the end I feel like slapping Hetta and the Viscount for being too smug and heartless and feel that Cherry and Cary Nethercott are well out of that. And yet what is really so different from all the rest? I DON'T KNOW.

I finished the Mrs Jeffries thing. That was... a book. And mostly pretty inoffensive and all.

I also finished two local history books on Barnstaple. I still feel that I don't know quite enough about Barnstaple, though, which is a bit of an unsatisfactory outcome. I wonder if there's any way of me getting hold of the 19th C local histories at some time? (Now I have slightly more of a brain again, our sad expensive charges for ILLs are really getting to be a nuisance. By the time you're spending £8, you might as well just try and buy the book.) I bet they're more in depth and more fun to read. Or, better still, if you know someone handy in North Devon, tell them it's a serious gap in the market.

I also read Belle by Paulina Byrne, which is too slight a biography to comment on really. That isn't a complaint; it's just that hardly anything is known about Dido Elizabeth Belle. It was actually interesting to read from the point of view of how to write NF about someone you know very little about, because if I do write up some family history, that's how most of it will be, regardless of all my best efforts.

What I'm Reading Now

Another regency (the one where they keep saying 'brilliant'). It was being pretty mindlessly enjoyable, but now the plot has twisted and I'm not at all sure why everyone has decided they must all rush off to an inn to see somebody's father. And I don't know why I'm even cavilling at that, given that people keep saying 'brilliant.' Otherwise nothing really.

In NF note-taking, I have moved onto In These Times by Jenny Uglow, a social history of Britain 1793-1815. It looks promisingly interesting and useful, but since I am only on page 7 of 650 or so, it's too early to say much else.

What I'm Reading Next

I don't know, but I probably do need to find something a bit better in the fiction line. I'll get to go to the library when I go to the doctor's on the 17th, so maybe I'm find some more John Dickson Carr or something else that will suit my need for not very taxing but also interesting fiction. Who knows? Possibly The Valley of Fear in the meantime and skim-reading a Skulduggery Pleasant book for wrangling purposes.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth -- Comments there: comment count unavailable


( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 8th, 2017 12:12 pm (UTC)
I remember reading the first couple of Skullduggery Pleasant books and quite enjoying them, but apparently not enough to read any more of them.
Mar. 8th, 2017 12:18 pm (UTC)
That's pretty much how I feel about them, too, but I wrangle the fandom on AO3 and while I should probably try to find a wrangler who knows them better, it's rather a fun fandom, so I'm trying to catch up a bit.
Mar. 8th, 2017 02:23 pm (UTC)
That doesn't sound like too bad a reason to be reading them!
Mar. 8th, 2017 03:11 pm (UTC)
I also read Belle! I remember wishing that the author had just gone ahead and novelized it; there's really not enough known about Dido Elizabeth Belle for a nonfiction book, even with all the background info tossed in, but the outlines of her story are so interesting that it could make a kickass novel. And actually I did think the movie based on the book was pretty well done.
Mar. 8th, 2017 05:26 pm (UTC)
Well, I'd already seen the film, so in essence, I have the novelisation; getting the background facts was a nice extra. And, as I said, potentially useful in some ways, too!
Mar. 8th, 2017 03:26 pm (UTC)
Is "brilliant!" one of those things that sound too late to use in historical fiction but have actually been in use since 1635? Or is this just Generic Undated Britishness Marker rearing its lazy head again?

The one I'm reading now actually suffers a little from its own best impulses, I think. It doesn't "feel" like the early 19th century because of the dialogue and the writing style, but the author has clearly done a lot of research and wants to bring a hidden side of history to light, so it's full of convincing or jarring details and historically important political arguments, which make the writing style show a little more than if it had been pure ahistorical fluff - like when you clean one tile on the bathroom wall and suddenly the rest of them look 100x worse. But I also appreciate what the author is trying to do, so I don't want to be a jerk about it.

I think it's probably really hard to write a historical setting in this particular very unadorned close-third or first-person contemporary style and make it work - I don't mean that all historical novels have to be pastiche, but style is a tool for conveying setting and if you're limited to a particular style by genre conventions or whatever it is, you're working short-handed.
Mar. 8th, 2017 05:25 pm (UTC)
Brilliant as a word has been around for a long while, but it was used previously in its more literal sense as 'like a diamond' so bright, sharp, clear, bright - so you might have a brilliant mind etc., but as a general synonym for 'great', I'm pretty sure it's much more recent. I'll have to check, but I'm fairly sure of that one. I have a feeling it might have come up on that pernickity mistakes in Regency Romances website, too.
Mar. 8th, 2017 05:35 pm (UTC)
some meta abt Regencies
I have little use for Regency historicals as published nowadays, but that's JMHO and YMMV. Since you didn't list titles/authors, I have no idea if that's what you're reading. :) Members of the Regency list at Yahoogroups (many Regency writers post there, so you should join) state that many such take place in a Regencyland theme park, w/ 21st-century people w/ their morals, cosplaying in Regency garb. I tend to agree w/ them. Also too much graphic sex where the whole event is glorious and perfect every time! LOL, a fantasy indeed. I much prefer a slow development of a real relationship, which you often find in the traditional Regency novels.

Signet, Fawcett, Zebra and others had good trad Regency lines until abt 2000-2005, when 1st the copy editors for those lines were fired, and then the good editors were let go, or told to buy only the historicals, because the publishers thought that was what their readers wanted: lots of sex outside of marriage and very little history. Sad. Today's Regency writers aren't doing research, because it's not asked of them.

I'll direct you to this article:


and The Good Ton:


Trads can still be found in USBs or bought on-line. Many trad writers are bringing their older trads back into "print" via e-books.

Harlequin still has a small line in Regencies that harkens back to the trads.

Not all Regencies are candyfloss, although I'll admit that some are cute and cuddly; that latter is usually to be found amongst the short stories. A lot of the better Regency writers used their stories to point at the social ills that Dickens and other writers brought to the public eye in the Victorian era. In this doom'n'gloom era, a little light reading may be needed to keep us from being so depressed by current events in the UK and the USA.

Edited at 2017-03-08 05:53 pm (UTC)
Mar. 8th, 2017 05:57 pm (UTC)
Re: some meta abt Regencies
I'd also decided that most of them take place in a Regency theme park. It seems to be the best explanation! :-)

I think some of the authors have clearly done quite a lot of research, but nobody at editing level is worrying about it. In some ways, they're all not quite what I'm after and I almost prefer the ones that are pure fluff - at least they are what they are! The more modern ones tend to be longer and more lively and fluffier, the older ones tend to be shorter and sometimes a little more correct, but often sadly less lively. I have noticed that some of the Mills & Boon authors (Harlequin over here) are better in many ways than the big romance names, but it varies a lot. I don't list the names here, because it would unfair to pick on anyone for random things, really. Romance gets enough criticism from everybody without me joining in. But the Regencies do work as mercifully easy reading, so I will keep picking one up every now and then.

Thanks for the links! I'm really just dependent on what I pick up in the library or charity shops, though.
Mar. 8th, 2017 06:36 pm (UTC)
Re: some meta abt Regencies
Glad to be of help! Barbara Metzger wrote the wittiest farces ever. :) A lot of the short story collections have amusing tales; I loved the kitten series from Zebra. I now understand yr reluctance to mention names; romance is put down by those who also dislike things like any genre stories or cosplay or fanfiction or filking. Boring people, in other words. LOL!
Mar. 8th, 2017 07:47 pm (UTC)
Those books sound interesting :)
Mar. 9th, 2017 08:48 am (UTC)
Well, some were, some weren't. ;-)
Mar. 8th, 2017 09:29 pm (UTC)
Oh, there's nowt wrong with a little "reading candyfloss". We all indulge! Having struggled through The Brothers Karamazov, I'm seriously seeing the attraction, and feel like clinging to my Leslie Charteris collection like a lifeline. :D A shame you're finding something lacking, though. Is that because other authors don't compare to Heyer? I asked my mother, who is a big Heyer fan, if she could suggest something in a similar vein, incidentally. She suggested Anne O'Brien and Joanna Hickson. Easy reading and historical, though not Romance era. Tudor mostly, I think. She also mentioned Carola Dunn, who writes 1920s murder mysteries about a woman named Daisy Dalrymple, which are apparently very enjoyable and might good light reading. Depends on whether you prefer your Golden Age detective fic to have been written at the time or not, I imagine. I know some do.

650 pages, and it only covers 1793-1815?! Flipping heck, that's seriously in-depth.
Mar. 8th, 2017 09:48 pm (UTC)
I've come to the conclusion that there just is nobody like Heyer but thank you for the additional recs! I think, with the modern Regencies that I'd be happy with a little less sex and a little more pretence at historical accuracy, but it probably is just that I've been spoiled by Heyer.

650 pages, and it only covers 1793-1815?! Flipping heck, that's seriously in-depth.

Well, it was a very busy twenty-odd years or so. There are plenty of books that long on just WWI or WWII or a decade or one place or something! ;-)
Mar. 9th, 2017 12:11 am (UTC)
That is a very fair point. Last year I read a book that was just about 1913 (and very good it was too). I would be a bit put off by a 650 page one of such limited intent though, I must admit. I spent so long having to read weighty, scholarly history books, that I prefer my historical non-fic to be of the lighter kind now!

I've come to the conclusion that there just is nobody like Heyer

My mother says much the same. Her favourite author is Cynthia Harrod Eagles, who is a very different animal, and writes much more serious-minded stuff, but she keeps going back to Heyer.
Mar. 9th, 2017 08:42 am (UTC)
It doesn't seem particularly weighty or anything - I think sometimes there's just a lot to talk about! (And I think I have that 1913 book, although I haven't read it yet!)

Oh, I used to read Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, but I gave up when I was ill and I can never quite summon the will to get back into that Dynasty series. Everybody was always marrying the wrong people and then making a fuss about it! Also she slowed down to a ridiculous amount, talking of people taking ages to cover short periods of time. If she'd wanted to take more time in some of the previous centuries, I wouldn't have minded, but she started doing WWI one year at a time and I'd had it. None of the twentieth C characters are half as fun as the ones who only got a decade at a time, or were skipped over to get to the next generation. I expect if I get a bit better still, I'll have to see what happened in the end, though, because I did read up to about 23 or something. If she ever gets there, if she's still doing a year at a time! :-)

(I don't actually read a lot of historical novels, funnily enough. I prefer the history books!)
Mar. 9th, 2017 09:00 pm (UTC)
The Dynasty series was axed by the publishers. My mother had just the same complaint that you did, so perhaps it was a common thing, and sales were suffering. CH-E has now launched a new series, set during WWI, with one book for each year, so I guess it's a favourite period with her. It's weird, as buying my mother the latest Dynasty book for Christmas is a thing dating back practically to time immemorial! She's enjoying the new series, but it's obviously very different. C-HE also has a murder mystery series, modern day, which seems very grim and dark. Again, my mother loves them, but I don't think they're likely to fill a Georgette Heyer hole!

Edited at 2017-03-09 09:01 pm (UTC)
Mar. 9th, 2017 09:26 pm (UTC)
Oh no! After all those books! They could have at least let her write a final one. But, see, she shouldn't have slowed down like that. Fatal. :-/

I've never really got on with her other books that much, so probably not! The ever ongoing family saga down through the centuries was the bit I liked, I think.
Mar. 9th, 2017 02:38 am (UTC)
I'm reading a regency right now myself, the first book in Lisa Kleypas' Wallflowers series. It's pretty good, and I needed some candyfloss.
Mar. 9th, 2017 08:44 am (UTC)
Oh, I think one of my lot was the second in the series - not technically a Regency, erally, but definitely the most candyfloss-est of the lot! Sometimes a person needs some candyfloss in book form. *nods*
Mar. 9th, 2017 06:06 pm (UTC)
Charity Girl isn't one of my favourites either. It feels like Friday's Child gone wrong.
Mar. 9th, 2017 08:55 pm (UTC)
Yes, it's all theoretically fine, but something's definitely off with it overall. It is a bit hard to pin it down, really. It's a Foundling/Friday's Child storyline, but not as good as either of them!
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )


spooks - Harry/Ruth/Bench = ♥

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