Welcome to another Guest Dare – the August edition. For those new to the feature, our Guest Dare is a monthly endeavor in which we invite an unsuspecting victim to read a book totally outside of their comfort zone.
This month we invited Angie (from Angieville), one of our favorite bloggers and book pimps. When we asked what sort of genre was outside her comfort zone she answered “Romance” and Ana jumped at the opportunity to introduce someone else to one of her own favourites: Loretta Chase. What we did not know was that Angie had never EVER read a romance before. Here is what she has to say about her experience.
Title: Mr Impossible
Author: Loretta Chase
Genre: Romance (Historical)
Publishing Date: March 1 2005
Paperback: 320 pages
Stand Alone or series: Part of the Carsington Brothers series but can be read as a stand alone.
Summary: Blame it on the Egyptian sun or the desert heat, but as tensions flare between a reckless rogue and beautiful scholar en route to foil a kidnapping, so does love, in the most uninhibited and impossibly delightful ways.
Hi fellow Smugglerites! When Ana and Thea dared me to read Mr. Impossible
, I knew I was in for it. You see in all my years of reading I had never read a romance novel. That’s right. Not one. I was a romance virgin. And so it was with some trepidation that I girded up my loins (sorry! I couldn’t resist) and marched into the library to check out my first book featuring brawny man chest resplendent on a field of hot pink. In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I was secretly looking forward to the whole endeavor, in a nervous I-hope-I-don’t-hate-it kind of way. I mean, I love a good romantic subplot as well as some of the old romantic suspense classics, particularly the incomparable Mary Stewart
. I also know Ana is a big fan of Loretta Chase
, which equals big points in my book. And though I’ve never heard of Mary Jo Putney
before, according to her blurb, fine and delightful things were in store for me. I worried about my tendency to burst out laughing and/or wincing at descriptions of certain body parts…meeting and mixing…but I resolved to keep my reservations at bay and sit back and enjoy the story.
Daphne Pembroke’s life sucks. She had the extreme misfortune to be born in a time and place (1821, England) when her value resides solely in her name and not even a little bit in her mind. This is particularly painful for Daphne as she is of a scholarly bent and, try as she may, she cannot seem to bring herself to give up her passion for hieroglyphics and all things ancient Egypt. She marries the fabulously wealthy, fabulously square Lord Pembroke in the hopes that they’ll get on well because he is also of the scholarly persuasion. Her hopes are dashed, however, when Pembroke proves to be in the dark ages as far as his expectations of how a wife should (and shouldn’t) act and what a wife should (and shouldn’t) do. Fortunately, Pembroke has the good sense to die, leaving Daphne a rich widow. Her progressive and kindhearted brother Miles agrees to let her publish her work under his name and the two of them travel to Cairo together in search of a papyrus Daphne would like to get her hands on. When the papyrus (and Miles!) are stolen, Daphne finds herself in the middle of a decades-old conflict between three nations. She must race to rescue her brother and the papyrus before they, too, become casualties of war. She is accompanied on her journey by Rupert Carsington–the fourth son of the Earl of Hargate and general mountebank, cad, wastrel, what have you. Having sprung him from the dungeons of the Citadel, Daphne determines he will provide the brawn (see cover) and she will provide the brains (alas, the cover is Daphne-less). Together they will foil the kidnapper’s plot.
This was a good pick for me as I love historical novels and mysteries and this has both. Give me a good Laurie R. King
or Deanna Raybourn
and I’m in heaven. The problem is I spent the first half of the book kind of wishing one of them had written it. There just wasn’t much in the way of development, plot or character. Ms. Chase seemed to fall on the tell end of the show, don’t tell spectrum and I was having a hard time with it. It was like she told me Daphne was smart and Rupert was dumb (or playing dumb) and I was expected to accept it and move on, no more questions asked. Well, it’s clear Daphne’s smart, but when her knees melt and her mouth goes dry the first time she encounters Rupert, it just doesn’t seem the action of an independent and intelligent woman uninterested in layabout men of uncommonly large size. For his part, it’s so abundantly clear that Rupert isn’t any kind of stupid that I found it difficult to believe Daphne would buy his act for a moment. Let alone a couple hundred pages. I wanted more back story, more on her past and his, and not just the bare sketch of a few facts slapped together. I wanted more of their thoughts than how he was going to get into her pants and how she was going to resist his advances. After all, she’s smart (and he really is, too), so give me some more of what’s going on in those complex brains of theirs. And I’m fine with some nice description of just what he and she find attractive about the other. But I need a little bit more to go on than her “rump” (Rupert’s word, not mine) and his “bronze chest” (Daphne’s words, not mine). And varying it up is nice as well. After the fifth “bronze chest” reference, I was ready for some other body part. Or at least some other color. It didn’t help that I kept picturing Edward Cullen’s hair on Rupert’s chest. Sort of makes it hard to take him seriously as a hero when he’s got a chestful of RPattz hair…
Interestingly, at the halfway mark things picked up for me. It seemed like there was a sudden shift in focus. As though Ms. Chase hit her stride a bit with the writing and it felt smoother and more intriguing. This could very well have been me adjusting to things in general, but my favorite scene also happens at right about this point. My favorite passage:
“You were right after all,” Mr. Carsington said.
She turned back to meet his deep brown gaze, serious now. “About what?”
“About learning to take care of yourself,” he said. “The Egyptians have been beaten down cruelly time and again. What reason have they to stand and fight to protect us–a lot of foreign invaders? It makes more sense to run away. You and I shall have to rely upon each other.”
She could hardly believe her ears. He had been so reluctant to teach her how to shoot. But these words used between equals, words of trust–in her judgment, her skill–from a man. Her heart leapt–with pleasure or fear, she wasn’t sure. Perhaps both.
He pointed to a large mound some twenty yards away. There were many such mounds of rubble hereabouts.
“Don’t I need a target?” she said.
“Choose a spot to aim at,” he said. “For now, you mainly need to practice loading, aiming, and firing. Later we can work on your sharpshooting skills.”
He showed her how to fully cock the weapon. He stood behind her, and holding his arm alongside hers, showed her how to aim. The weapon was heavy, and she was more than a little afraid of it. These weren’t the only reasons her hand shook. She’d caught his scent. She was actuely aware of his nearness.
“Hold the pistol with both hands, if you need to,” he said.
She did so, and it helped, but the shakiness went deeper than unsteady hands.
Then he moved away, and her head cleared.
“Fire when ready,” he said.
She took a deep breath and pulled the trigger. There was a click and a little puff of smoke, then a blast so powerful that she nearly dropped the weapon.
“Excellent,” he said. “You hit the mound.”
The mound was the size of Bedford Square. Blindfolded, she could hardly miss it. Still, a wave of happiness surged through her. She wanted to jump up and down. She wanted to dance. She wanted to throw her arms about his neck and kiss him senseless–for teaching her how to do something, a useful thing that men knew how to do, a skill that even her indulgent brother hadn’t taught her.
“Try it again,” Mr. Carsington said. “This time, see if you can do it without any prompting from me.”
This time she went through the preliminaries a degree more confidently, aimed, and fired. Again the ball struck somewhere in Bedford Square.
She fired several more times, and it seemed the ball struck nearer and nearer to the spot she aimed for.
“It is not so very difficult, after all,” she said casually, while her heart pounded with happiness.
Isn’t that great? From this point on I could buy a connection between these two, even if I wished there was more emphasis on its development rather than their getting it on before Rupert bursts a blood vessel. Because he understood her in this scene and he taught her how to shoot a freaking gun. From there on out she can protect herself. She can (and does) protect him. This girl who has been helpless her whole life is helpless no longer. It was bloody awesome. And that scene stayed with me for the rest of the book so that I was happy with how it ended. Happy they foiled the bad guys. Happy they rescued the hapless Miles. Happy Daphne would no longer be shackled to a boorish, tyrannical husband. In the end, I felt quite fond of both of them. In the same way I’m fond of little puppies frolicking about my feet. How innocent and uncomplicated they are. I still cringed through every sexual encounter, but that’s no more the writing’s fault than mine. I just prefer my sex a little subtler and a little more drawn out over time. Like, say, across a four-book series. Lol. Apparently I’m all about the foreplay. But that’s just my preference. For whatever reason, when terms like “rod” and “root” start getting bandied about it’s like I’m suddenly 12 again watching the dreaded maturation video and hoping no one notices if I quietly dissolve in a puddle of embarrassment right then and there. I guess in some ways it is possible to never grow up.
In Smuggler terms: 6 – Good, recommend with reservations
Thanks for the dare and the chance to review Mr. Impossible
, guys! As always, I had a great time.
Thanks for accepting the dare Angie. I hope you will try other romance novels – maybe give Julia Quinn’s What Happens in London a go next?
Next month on the Guest Dare: Lusty Reader accepts our dare to read the Graphic Novel Fables, Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham.
Until next month!