May 6, 2016
But it ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it. - Jack Kerouac
A bit of reflection. After all of these years, one would think it would not be necessary for
romance authors to defend their writing. Alas and alack, there is still a stigma applied to not only romance writers but romance readers as well. Over the years I have had to defend what I read many times. Even now when someone asks me what I'm reading, I hesitate just a little before I answer. Having experienced the "oh one of those" looks numerous times, I have become weary of having to explain myself to another pretentious nincompoop. Some of my favorite smug comment I've heard are: "I only read mysteries, romance books are too formulaic for me." Really, a mystery novel doesn't have a formula? OMG, has anyone ever read an Agatha Christie novel? "Oh, don't romance books always have happy endings?" You have a problem with happy endings? You big bonehead! Actually a romance novel empowers women and according to Maya Rodale the heroine of a romance novel doesn't have to die because she has an orgasm (Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, Hester Prynne, Clarissa Harlow, etc.) At the end of a romance a woman is not punished because she is a woman who has found herself and her HEA. What does this have to do with Eva Leigh's Temptation of a Wallflower? Well, when you read this novel and look beyond the romance - beneath the words you will find a very heartfelt defense of romance writing.
Lady Sarah Frampton, daughter of the Duke of Wakefield is a spinster. She is also known as the "Watching Wallflower." She is pretty much content with her life and not really interested in being tied down to a husband. But Lady Sarah has a secret - she writes. She writes erotic novels. These novels are very very popular in England; everyone reads them. She is known as "A Lady of Dubious Quality" by the public No one knows who the author of these stories is, they don't even know if the author is a woman or a man. And, Lady Sarah wants to keep it that way. If anyone found out that Lady Sarah was the author, she would be ruined and her family would be ruined right along with her. But Sarah cannot give up writing; writing is the air Sarah breathes.
As I read this story it became very clear to me that Lady Sarah's need to create was/is a reflection of Ms. Leigh own thoughts on writing. There was just too much of an emotional tie between Lady Sarah and her books for it to be otherwise. Ms. Leigh gives us some pretty compelling words throughout this book. Well done Ms. Leigh. Lady Sarah was a wonderful character. I had only one minor quibble with her. I had a slight "suspend belief" feeling through-out the book regarding the extent of Sarah's carnal knowledge. She was an innocent, never been touched, and obtained alllll of her knowledge through books. Those must have been some books' Plus she seems to have quite a lot of freedom for a Duke's daughter.
Then we have our hero Jeremy Cleland. Now, Jeremy is a vicar. He's a vicar not because he wants to be but because his horrible domineering father, the Earl of Hutton, demands it. In fact the Earl has plans for all of his sons: the first one, of course, is the heir; the second is in the law profession. Everything this autocratic man wants his sons to do they do. Jeremy is really under his father's thumb. Which is why when he is called to London by his father, he doesn't waste anytime jumping on the closest horse and galloping to town to do his father's bidding. What does his father want him to do? Well, being the moralistic bonehead that he is, the Earl of Hutton wants Jeremy to find out just who the Lady of Dubious Quality is. Well Jeremy doesn't see the need to find out and besides that he's been leafing through the latest novel by that same lady. He's been putting that book to good use - all by himself - in the darkness of the vicarage - if you get my drift. Jeremy's father threatens him with cutting off his funds, so Jeremy caves in. He is off to find the author of the salacious novel he so enjoys.
Shortly after this episode Jeremy and Sarah are at the same house party. They are instantly attracted to each other. The plot moves along, they keep secrets from each other, they go to a eye opening masquerade, separately - in disguise and are instantly attracted to each other again. Each thinking they are meeting someone new. Guilt trip, guilt trip! They feel as if they are betraying Jeremy and Sarah when all the time they are Jeremy and Sarah but they don't know they are Jeremy and Sarah. Anyway they have all kinds of convoluted thoughts about betrayal. Then Sarah finds out that someone is trying to find out her identity (the author identity, not the masquerade identity). She comes up with a solution - she will marry Jeremy. After some pondering Jeremy agrees, if only he can forget the woman from the masquerade. Also, he must find the Lady of Dubious Quality. Ooooo what a tangled web we weave....
Neither set of parents are all that enthused about Jeremy and Sarah getting married. Sarah's parents order her out of the house and Jeremy's father is upset that their marriage might interfere with Jeremy finding the Dubious woman.
Regardless of what the parents think they marry. With that marriage comes a freedom that both Sarah and Jeremy have been looking for. They even get to experiment using the erotic book Jeremy has in his keeping. Let me point out to you what that last sentence actually said. Jeremy uses the techniques he learned from his one erotic book to bring his innocent bride Sarah to a screaming, shrieking smorgasbord-orgasm. Remember who wrote that book? Sarah, the same inexperienced woman who is gyrating in the bed. It was actually sort of funny. Anyway, they fall in love, but they both have secrets. These secrets are what add to the tension of the book. We the readers know that sometime all of the truths are going to come out. They do. And, let me say this - it was very painful.
Watching Sarah and Jeremy grow, make decisions and fall in love was a treat. There were some painful moments but those didn't drag on for too long, and it was interesting to see how the author resolved them. The entire book was full of some pretty well developed characters. My minor issues: I do wish Jeremy would have stood up to his father just a little bit sooner and I had a slight suspend-belief issue with an innocent Sarah pulling off best-selling erotic novels. Other than that Jeremy and Sarah were a delightful couple. I also believe the author has put a lot of herself into this book and if you love romance novels at all this is one you don't want to pass up. I do recommend Temptations of a Wallflower.
Time/Place: Regency England