Recent Reading: Ides of March edition

Wind-Blown Tree image

Wind-Bent Tree, by Garry Knight, attribution per Creative Commons without changes.

I’ve decided to change the way I comment on books I’m reading this year, simple thumbs up and down just doesn’t seem very helpful.  I want to better explain why I like or dislike a novel.  Writing a story is a bit like juggling; if you don’t know how to catch and end the pattern, the balls or clubs can end up flying in all directions and make you look unprepared at best, a fool and liable for audience injury at worst.  A story falling apart doesn’t cause injury, but it makes the reader a little more careful about the author’s juggling and if they want to throw money their way in the future…

I admit I finish a book only if I’ve enjoyed it in some way.  That is no guarantee that I will like the finished whole.  Some books just don’t click, usually because I don’t care for the lead.  Of the last few years I’ve seen too many leads in the dreaded groups ‘too-stupid-to-live’ or the lesser known ‘too-special-to-sweat.’  I’m considering a new category of ‘enough-angst-and-bad-luck-to-melt-into-goo,’ though that is too long to be snappy. (I’d be glad of any suggestions)  I start and finish more books than I’ll do longer comments on.  Any reviews for those would tend toward a bad review, but I’m not that sure why.  So thumbs up/down will remain for some.

I’ve been slightly on a mystery kick, paranormal romances (romances are my guilty pleasure) tend to be too weak for me on plot and world-building.  Regency romances seem to feature way, way too many Dukes.  Once Earls, Counts, rich commoners, and every other possible rank were in period stories.  Now it seems only Dukes deserve love.

Isn’t that special?

Then again I’ve been reading more as my work computer is still in need of replacing.  When that resolves, rec reading will slow to mostly favorite authors.  For now, here’s a recent book.

The Hanover Square Affair, Ashley Gardner (Jenifer Ashley) regency mystery series, book 1

Captain Lacey left military service under a cloud to his reputation which gives him limited prospects for income.  Still he clings to his honor in his cheap rooms.  When he agrees to look into the disappearance of the daughter of a merchant, this throws him back among people whose motives are mostly to exploit his goodwill.  Think of this as regency noir.

Now I know that writing a series is somewhat different from standalone because you have to balance setting up (or continuing the series) with some kind of accomplishment or closure for each entry. This is a mystery series during the British regency of the George who will become George IV.  Now there are a plenitude of romances in that era and little general knowledge of how restricted investigation was. (The Maul and the Pear Tree, co authored by PD James is a good intro if you aren’t a history buff)  This series slides into this period.  The problem is that so much of the book is setting up the Captain and his supporting cast of mostly dangerous (to him) women that the initial mystery is not very interesting and the lead too much a patsy.

I just don’t like the female supporting characters.  I know even the wealthy ones had limited options by our standards, but these women had few of the period virtues either.  They all want something, but don’t have honor or kind of respectability or fairness.  I’m not talking the madonna/whore dichotomy, but a step above using the lead.  I might read the next book.

But then I might not.  I want my leads to accomplish something for themselves, even if they only solve the problem, earn enough to keep the dingy low rent office open for another month, and learn something for their problems. The mystery resolution here isn’t satisfying,  Period detail is okay, but some things seem a bit out of period with Bow Street almost a proto-Scotland Yard.  The world is a bit too dark and grim, I’m not at all sure why everyone is wallowing within it.  I hear emigrating to Canada might be a good idea for the lead, better than this hopeless life.

Rating 3/5.  Not hopeless writing, but not satisfying.


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