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.

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.

Lord and Lady Hetheridge Mysteries by Emma Jameson

Ice Blue by Emma JamesonBlue Murder by Emma JamesonSomething Blue by Emma Jameson

  • Title(s): Ice Blue, Blue Murder, Something Blue
  • Author: Emma Jameson
  • Series: Lord and Lady Hetheridge Mysteries
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
  • Publisher: Lyonnesse Books, March 2011
  • Source: Purchased ($3.99 for Kindle)
  • Length: 170-200 pages
  • Trope(s): Age Gap, Smartass Heroine, Repressed Hero, Cops, Misogyny & Racism, Murder & Mayhem
  • Quick blurb: Veteran (and titled) Scotland Yard inspector’s world is turned upside down when he brings a foul-mouthed young female onto his team.
  • Quick review: Hooked by the brilliant characterization, stayed for the bloody stuff.
  • Grade: A- (for the series so far)

The first book in this series popped somewhere in my Amazon recommendations soon after it was published, and I LOVED it without even realizing I’d read the author before. Emma Jameson is a pseudonym of Stephanie Abbott, aka edgy m/m author S.A. Reid (Protection, Something Different). I’m always blown away by writers who can successfully switch genre and voice, and Abbott/Jameson/Reid appears to be phenomenally good at it.

The author labels the Lord and Lady Hetheridge books as “cozy” mysteries, but with the metro London setting and the prickly, smartass professional detective heroine, these books don’t have that Miss Marple/Jessica Fletcher vibe I associate with cozies. There’s just enough blood-and-guts gore and police procedural stuff to sustain the “cynical urban cops” atmosphere, with a few suspenseful gun-in-the-face moments and a charming serial killer to keep everyone from getting too jaded.  Book two, Blue Murder, has a particularly good twisty bit at the end.

For me, however, this series is all about the characters.

Continue reading

One-Quote Review: Trust Me on This by Jennifer Crusie

Trust Me on This by Jennifer Crusie

  • Title: Trust Me on This
  • Author: Jennifer Crusie
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Bantam, October 2010 (originally published June 1997 by Loveswept)
  • Source: Public library
  • Length: 320 pages
  • Trope(s): Battle of the Sexes, Mistaken Identity, Slimy Villain, Bimbo Sidekick, Mature Couple
  • Quick blurb: Fraud investigator mistakes a reporter for a con man’s shill.
  • Quick review: Fast, funny and pure fluff, but definitely worth reading.
  • Grade: B

“A million guys in this city, and I have to hit a bleeder.”

I got this from the library on a whim after wishlisting all the If You Like Mature Romance recs at Dear Author. Crusie pulls off the farce really well, zinging back and forth between the older and younger couples with great one-liners and a surprising amount of romantic and sexual tension. It’s a fun and memorable one-night read.

One-Quote Review: Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare

Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare

  • Title: Any Duchess Will Do
  • Author: Tessa Dare
  • Series: Spindle Cove, Book 4
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Avon, May 2013
  • Source: Edelweiss
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Trope(s): Smartass Heroine, Brooding Duke, Marriage-Obsessed Mama, Bad Knitting
  • Quick blurb: Duke’s mother declares she can turn a barmaid into a duchess in one week.
  • Quick review: Shut up and quit bugging me, I have to read the whole series again.
  • Grade: A-

Her. I’ll take her.

The only other time I’ve used a gif in a review was the previous book in this series. So…yeah.
My Sweet Babboo

One-Quote Review: After Hours by Cara McKenna

After Hours by Cara McKenna

  • Title: After Hours
  • Author: Cara McKenna
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Erotica
  • Publisher: Penguin/Intermix, April 2013
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Length: 281 pages
  • Trope(s): Loners, Annoying Siblings, Tragic Pasts
  • Quick blurb: A rookie psychiatric nurse gets involved – very reluctantly – with her enigmatic coworker.
  • Quick review: Just add me to all the other “holy shit wow” reviews.
  • Grade: A-

“What we have between us is strong and stupid.”

When I beg for “something different,” THIS is what I mean. Difficult, dark characters in a desperate, almost desolate setting, and McKenna makes it all subversively romantic.