The Heyer Project: Part II – A Matrix O’ Heyer Tropes

Bugger, bugger, bugger — I started this over a month ago and emailed it to myself so I wouldn’t lose it. *sigh*

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In which I color-code a spreadsheet and compare The Grand Sophy to Curious George.

heyer_part2

Holy crap, I cannot believe it’s been over a year since Part I. I haven’t ruminated on my Balogh Binge yet either. I am such a slacker.

But then, sometimes things like this happen:

heyer_tweet

I am serious about this. I have never met any of you, but I seriously love you guys.

So this is me:

heyer_dug

Yes. I used a gif. Get over it. It’s Dug, so you can’t complain.

On to the good stuff! My initial foray into Heyer included (in reading order):

  • The Black Moth
  • FredericaPowder & Patch
  • Pistols for Two
  • April Lady
  • Cotillion
  • The Nonesuch
  • The Masqueraders
  • Black Sheep
  • Frederica
  • Venetia
  • The Grand Sophy
  • The Unknown Ajax
  • The Convenient Marriage

Since then, I’ve done all the rest on audiobook (all dirt-cheap from Audible thanks to Amazon’s nifty “Hey, You Really Need This Ebook On Audio Too, Just Give Us All Your Money And Be Done With It Already” feature). So a shout-out to Sourcebooks for their incredible $1.99 ebook sale way back when.

Round 2, in reading order:

  • Bath Tangle
  • farosdaughterThe Toll-Gate
  • Regency Buck
  • Sylvester, or The Wicked Uncle
  • Sprig Muslin
  • Devil’s Cub
  • The Quiet Gentleman
  • Faro’s Daughter
  • Arabella
  • The Foundling
  • False Colours
  • A Civil Contract
  • The Reluctant Widow
  • The Talisman Ring
  • Friday’s Child
  • Cousin Kate

I’m only doing the romances (not the hist-fics or mysteries), so I think I only have a few left to go: These Old Shades, The Corinthian, Charity Girl and Lady of Quality.

That’s a lot of Heyer. And since this is all about ME, I made up my own Matrix O’ Heyer Tropes. There are many, many cross-overs, but this is how I find myself mentally categorizing them.

heyer_matrix

View larger image!  |  View and comment(!!!) on the spreadsheet!

As I’m typing the list and re-color-coding the spreadsheet, I keep realizing how brilliant Heyer was in using the same tropes to tell very different stories.

The plot tropes

The Mysterious Stranger

A dysfunctional family gathers in a run-down manor, awaiting the patriarch’s imminent death. A Mysterious Stranger appears, and guess what? He’s the Long-Lost Heir! Or a Passing Stranger With the Right Weapon at the Right Time! The Dispossessed Cousins scheme frantically while the Female Third-Cousin-Twice-Removed Poor Relation languishes in a window seat with her embroidery waiting patiently for her next once-every-four-chapters scene.

The Big Big BIG Misunderstanding

These are the full-on farces – usually a mix of all the plot tropes.

In Disguise

Characters pretending to be who they’re not — includes mistaken identity, hiding in plain sight, etc.

Sibling Shenanigans

Heyer’s heroes and heroines have a LOT of clueless and reckless and sometimes evil relatives. Also includes cousins, parents, aunts/uncles, etc., so more “Feckless Families” but I love the word “shenanigans” so I’m going with it.

Spies & Smugglers

I really love alliteration. This includes blackmailers, con artists, kidnappers and whatnot.

Road Trip

Usually set in out-of-the-way country inns with spies/smugglers hiding in the cellar.

The character tropes

The Smartass Heroine

I love smartass heroines. Have I mentioned this before?

The Background Betty

See the “languishing in a window seat with her embroidery waiting patiently” bit above.

The Dimwit Ingénue

I want to smack each and every one of them upside the head. Often.

The Bachelor Babysitter

In which our Beta/Grumpy Hero becomes inextricably intertwined in the escapades of a Dimwit Ingénue and/or Dandy FratBro.

The Dandy FratBro

Self-explanatory. Sometimes redeemable, but usually just a pain in the arse.

Share your thoughts!

Because I am the open-minded sort, the spreadsheet is open to any and all comments — have at it!

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And…my thoughts on The Grand Sophy

grandsophyIn my original Heyer post, I said:

I read it. It was good. It was everything every five-star reviewer raved about. And then some.

That’s all I’ll say for now because I need to do a closer re-read to distill my thoughts.

A year later, I haven’t done a re-read, but my thoughts are distilled.  Memorable characters, imaginative plot, etc., etc. — it’s Quintessential Heyer.  Eleventy thousand five-star fangirls can’t be wrong, right?

Unfortunately, the “and then some” part ruined it for me. I am not a Sophia Stanton-Lacy Fangirl.

I was expecting a Kickass/Smartass Heroine like Deborah from Faro’s Daughter or Mary from Devil’s Cub. But the best word I can think of to describe Sophy (the character) is Bulldozer. She shows up, mows down everyone in her path, and leaves their carcasses by the side of the road. (How many metaphors did I just mix right there?) I kept thinking, “Jaysus, woman, just SIT DOWN, SHUT UP, AND LISTEN TO SOMEONE ELSE FOR A CHANGE.” If ever a “beloved” heroine deserved the epithet “insufferable,” it’s Sophy.

Oh! I just thought of a literary analogy! My sister the third-grade teacher hates the Curious George books (hang in there, I’m going somewhere with this) because George never pays the consequences for his action. In dozens of books, George does whatever the hell he wants, and everyone around him just watches him do it and says “oh, isn’t he cute???” At the end of every story, the Man in the Yellow Hat just bails his illegal exotic pet out of jail and then let him escape again to wreak more havoc in schools, parks, libraries, hospitals, ocean liners and embassies around the world.

Where was I going with this? Ah, yes — Sophy is Curious George because she’s continually rewarded for her selfishness. There’s zero development in her character. She never changes. And let’s just give Charles his Yellow Hat right now, shall we?

And that imaginative plot — it’s exhausting. There’s no downtime. With shenanigans (heh) this intricate, I need some anxiety-free backstory/exposition/set-up scenes to process all the flailing and flinging that passes for character development, and to reach that all-important emotional catharsis required for a satisfying HEA.

And, of course, the infamous anti-Semitic “Evil Jew Moneylender” scene. It makes me throw up in my mouth a little every time I think of it. There’s no arguing the scene itself is historically accurate for the story and the characters’ reactions. There’s no arguing it reflects the abhorrent stereotypes still common even in post-war Britain when it was first published.

But I also think there’s no arguing that the stereotype Heyer presents in this scene are beyond excessive. It’s repulsive. Period. Full stop. It’s the first thing that comes to mind whenever I see a mention of the title. It’s why I’m not re-reading it now or ever.

TBR Challenge: More Than One – Carla Kelly Harlequins

These challenges make me feel like an overachiever because they totally enable my hoarding/binging tendencies. I’ve been sitting on SEVENTEEN (17) (no lie) Carla Kellys for years because I knew that once I started, I’d have to read them all. So I did. And it was gooooood.

I’m only going to do the Harlequins in this post — more on the Signets next time! (And yes, I’ve read all of Kelly’s other Harlequins. I’m a capital-F Fangirl.)

Her Hesitant Heart by Carla KellyHer Hesitant Heart

  • Title: Her Hesitant Heart
  • Published: Harlequin Historical, January 2013
  • Source: Purchased
  • Length: 282
  • Tropes: Deep Dark Secrets, Scandal & Gossip, Beta Hero, Military Man, Widower, Schoolmarm
  • Quick blurb: Newly divorced schoolmarm finds refuge teaching at remote army fort.
  • Quick review: Great setting and perfect pacing, but the angst needed a bit more balance.
  • Grade: B+

“I can’t tell you how nice it was to open my front door and take a whiff of someone cares.”

Nobody does historical military romance better than Carla Kelly. She has an exquisite knack for world-building that has me THERE every single time, and this book was no exception. The only thing that knocked it down to a B was the uneven angst balance — it was all on the heroine, with the stalwart hero basically standing around waiting to display his stalwartiness.

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MMarriage Of Mercy by Carla Kellyarriage of Mercy

  • Title:  Marriage of Mercy
  • Published: Harlequin Historical, January 2012
  • Source: Purchased
  • Length: 282
  • Tropes: Small Town, Riches to Rags, Scandal & Gossip, Military Man, Working Girl, In Disguise
  • Quick blurb: Impoverished baker’s assistant gets a surprise inheritance — with a shocking responsibility attached.
  • Quick review: Another book trance, but with an iffy setup.
  • Grade: B-

No matter the outcome of these uncertain times, Grace Curtis knew that someone had chosen her and it was enough. There might be great pain ahead, or great bliss, but she would not go to her grave knowing that no one had ever singled her out and cared for her above all others.

So romantic, even if the meet-cute isn’t quite believable. If you’re considering this one, ignore the completely irrelevant title and the bad blurb — I don’t think the marketing team even read the book.

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The Wedding Ring Quest by Carla KellyThe Wedding Ring Quest

  • Title:  The Wedding Ring Quest
  • Published: Harlequin Historical, April 2014
  • Source: Purchased
  • Length: 288
  • Tropes: Road Trip, Big Misunderstanding, Poor Relation, Plot Moppet, Military Man
  • Quick blurb:  A missing wedding ring lost in fruitcake. No, really.
  • Quick review: Better than it sounds.
  • Grade: B

The world would never forget Napoleon. One man and one boy would never forget Mary Rennie. He knew, for the first time since the war began, which mattered more.

I was going to give it a C until I did a quick skim to find quotes and then I had to read it again. And, oy, that insipid cover — the hero has a peg leg and the road trip is in the middle of winter. Read the damn book, Harlequin marketing people!

Holiday Romance Binge, Part 3: More Contemporaries

A few anthologies, a few novellas, a novella from another anthology, and one I thought was a novella but was actually a novel which is probably why I got pissy with it.

I kinda forgot about the “Naughty & Nice List” theme, but I can’t think about that right now because I need to figure what to take to the office potluck tomorrow that won’t require cooking or baking. Or buying ingredients. I’m thinking Mint M&Ms. Unless I eat those for breakfast again.

ANYWAY….

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One-Quote Review: The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn

I’m back. Did you miss me? Don’t answer that.

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The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn

  • Title: The Sum of All Kisses
  • Author: Julia Quinn
  • Series: The Smythe-Smith Quartet, Book 3
  • Genre(s): Historical (Regency)
  • Publisher: Avon, October 2013
  • Source: Purchased
  • Length: 373 pages
  • Trope(s): Enemies to Lovers, Big Misunderstanding, Evil In-Laws, Scarred/Injured for Life
  • Quick blurb: Heroine who holds a grudge is forced into spending time with the man who (according to her) ruined her life.
  • Quick review: This may end my auto-buy relationship with Ms. Quinn.
  • Grade: C-

“I looked out my window,” he choked out. “I looked out my window at half bloody three in the morning, and there you were, gliding across the grass like some sort of erotic specter.”

Rolling along with a B-level grade — totally predictable with all the usual fluff and banter and light angst  — and that lovely first kiss, and then… What the HELL happened? A ridiculously drawn-out Big Reveal sent the whole thing veering off the rails into a bad gothic melodrama like one written by Quinn’s fake-novelist creation Mrs. Gorely. I half-expected death by pigeon. Yeesh.

One-Quote Reviews: Four Harlequin Love-Inspired Historicals

Falling for the Teacher by Dorothy Clark

  • Falling for the Teacher by Dorothy ClarkTitle: Falling for the Teacher
  • Author: Dorothy Clark
  • Series: Pinewood Weddings
  • Genre(s): Inspirational, Historical (1841 Upstate New York)
  • Publisher: Harlequin, September 2013
  • Category: Love Inspired Historical
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Trope(s): Tragic Past, Small Town, Extreme Self-Doubt
  • Quick blurb: Schoolteacher returns home to care for her ailing grandparents and finds the brother of her rapist managing the family business.
  • Quick review: Really annoyed with the heroine in the beginning, but chemistry and character development turned this into an unexpectedly emotional read.
  • Grade: B

He rose and looked down into her eyes. “Sadie….”

“Yes?”

Her name was a gruff plea from his constricted throat – her answer a barely heard whisper. Time was lost in his need to comfort her, to protect her, to love her forever. He sucked in a breath, fighting his heart with every bit of strength he possessed and hating himself for winning the battle. “I’ll see you safe to the house.”

I struggled with Sadie’s overwrought, baseless accusations in the first third of the book, but as Cole slowly wins her over, we get the backstory details we need to root for their HEA.

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