May 29, 2014
Once upon a time...
There was an author who wrote some masterful romance books. Then she became one of those "whatever happened to..." authors. Judith Ivory, aka Judy Cuevas, wrote 9 novels
between the years 1988 and 2006. I haven't read all of her books, but the ones I've read are just a little bit different from standard, rushed, current romance novels. They are a little richer, a little fuller, and a lot distinctive. Then Ms. Ivory vanished from the writing world. There are internet rumors of divorce and health issues, even a rumor of her writing under the name of Laura Florand (the Florand rumor is untrue - Ms. Florand appears to be a tiny bit younger than Ms. Ivory and she seems to be proving herself a remarkable author under her own name). After rereading The Proposition - 1999, I realized just what a wonderful voice Romanceland is missing. If any of you have never had the privilege of reading one of her books, I suggest you begin with The Proposition. What a pleasure it was to read this story again.
The Proposition is based on the Pygmalion myth which George Bernard Shaw used for his play Pygmalion and which was later was used for the musical My Fair Lady. Occasionally I was reminded of Trading Places with Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackroyd, especially the twin brother characters. In this case, Edwina/Winnie, our heroine, is Henry Higgins and Mick, our hero, is the Eliza Doolittle character, so there is a bit of role reversal.
Let's begin with the main characters, starting with the heroine, Edwina/Winnie. Winnie is one sharp cookie; she's adopted her father's linguistic skills and from that extremely talented expertise she has managed to eke out a living. While she is a strong woman, she also has some weaknesses. She is almost six feet tall, she refers to her body type as a pear, she has a big nose and freckles - she views herself as a great gawking female whom men do not find attractive. She was ignored as a child and has grown into a lonely, unloved woman who has the tendency to blame herself for this condition. She also over thinks everything and is not a spontaneous person.
Then there's Mick. What a wonderfully different kind of hero. He considers himself London's best rat-catcher, he and his trusty ferret and rat dog. He originally came from Cornwall, is the eldest of fourteen children and has quite an interesting accent. Even though Mick is poor, he manages to send money to help support the family he loves. Most people would consider Mick's poverty depressing, but he has developed an interesting view of life. He enjoys what he does, he loves his siblings, and he has learned to live life to the fullest. Mick is the furthest thing from an angst-filled hero that you are ever going to come across in a romance novel. His character is a pure joy to read. I just loved Mick. Later in the book there is a wonderful scene when Mick and Edwina/Winnie go back to his old neighborhood. It is a very subtle scene, with numerous undercurrents going on and one of them is his realization that he doesn't belong in his old world anymore. Oh sure, he still manages to talk to his old friend and tell his jokes, but he knows he can no longer be one of them and he is forced to ask himself the question of what does he do now. If he can no longer be London's best rat-catcher just what can he be... and how can he ever keep Winnie?
Fairytale ending. Yes, this story has an old-fashioned fairytale ending and while some readers might groan and complain at the ending, that it's a bit of a stretch, I think it was perfect and Ivory's prose makes it just right. Maybe in the hands of a different author it would seem a bit silly, but Ivory's ending is the only way this story could end. Speaking of endings, I was never happy with the ending of the musical My Fair Lady. I always thought the incredibly skinny Audrey Hepburn returning to the outrageously older Rex Harrison a cringe-worthy finale. Stay with Freddy! Stay with Freddy! I often wondered just what she was supposed to do in the Higgins' household now. And, get your own shoes old man!
This is a full, rich book, jam-packed with wonderful writing and a great romantic couple. While the sex is limited, the sensuality is abundant. This is a magnificent book and one I must remember not to put in a dark corner of my shelf again! It deserves to be amongst my Desert Island Keepers. This is a feel good book.Not a slap-stick, screwball comedy, laugh-riot book, but one that when you put the book down, you will be just a little bit happier and maybe you may think that fairy tales do come true.
And, they lived happily ever after.
Time/Place: 1890s England