January 18, 2013
Romance and fairy tales and that ol' HEA
It is with a certain sense of synchronism that I read A Taste of Scandal by Erin Knightley You see, I just finished reading a blog article by Annie Grace at Word Wenches entitled Manners Maketh the Man — or do they? The article was insightful. The gist of it was the difference between social classes and their manners. Also included was the struggle to fit in with a group of people who set lofty standards. Ms. Gracie questioned the HEA that many of us romance readers have come to accept over the years. Those servants/lower class people/heroines marrying into the upper crust and it actually working. Those diverse couples that have their fairy tale HEA. I tend to agree with her. In the real world, I don't believe that two people from two totally different worlds/classes would have much of a chance with a HEA. And, if they do succeed, it would only be with a major struggle. Probably a pretty painful one.
Well, in A Taste of Scandal, we are presented with just such a situation. Our heroine, Jane, is lower middle class. She is a working girl. Not that kind of working girl! Jane runs a confectioner's shop and is responsible for some wonderful mouth watering treats. She is also alone in the world. Well, sort of. She has a younger brother and a seafaring cousin who is hardly ever there. She is training her young brother to be part of the business. Of course, he doesn't want to be. He has his eyes turned toward the sea. He wants to be a seafaring man similar to his cousin. So, there is that conflict. Jane doesn't seem to have any friends. She does, however, have a noisy neighbor. This same noisy neighbor is related to the landlord and she's pretty much a self-righteous old busy-body. There is no inheritance waiting in Jane's future, she is the sole support of her brother. It behooves Jane to have a spotless reputation, no mistakes, no scandals. If any of those things happen, she could lose everything she has built up. She and her brother would be out on the street. I found Jane to be a very sympathetic character. She loved what she was doing. She's proud of her accomplishments...and on top of all that she likes to bake. However, Jane is headed for disappointment and pain.
Enter our hero Richard, Earl of Raleigh. Richard is painted as a wealthy young man with nothing much to do and perfectly happy with that. He's just an aimless fribble, no ambition. He wouldn't even know where to begin, because about the only thing he's good at is bedding women and boxing. Not many career choices there, but then he will inherit stuff so why should he try. The meeting between our mismatched couple was fun, I smiled, I rubbed my hands together in glee. "I think I'm going to enjoy this story", I said. Alas, the characters got in the way or more precisely, Richard got in the way. Richard is a careless person, he doesn't seem to have any compunction with getting his own way. He doesn't seem to be aware of any of the damage his actions may cause. His intentions toward Jane were never made clear to me. Oh, sure, he wanted her in his bed, but he also seemed to care for her. At the same time he is doing whatever it was with Jane he's doing, he was also courting a woman of his own social standing. It never seemed to bother him if either of these two women were getting hurt in the process of his carefree romp through the pages. We are also presented with Richard contemplating doing something worthwhile, such as teach boxing. Teach boxing! An aristocrat opening a school for guys that want to box. This came close to a groan moment. Don't even get me started on the dance in Hyde Park.
While I applaud the writer for the a comprehensive glimpse into class division, I have to say, this wasn't supposed to be a depressing Thomas Hardy novel but a romance. Maybe if Richard had reformed just a little bit earlier in the story, I would have been happy. Maybe if I hadn't read that article right before I picked up A Taste of Scandal, I wouldn't have been looking so closely at the inequality between Jane and Richard. Maybe if Richard hadn't been such a twirp. Whatever the reason, I was disappointed in this read...mostly Richard.
Now, having said all that, Beatrice (Richard's sister) will be getting her story next. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that her hero is a good match.
Time/Place: Regency England