Please Do Not Touch

FORBIDDEN….. About Touching Things You’re Not Supposed To, and When Heroes are Better in Someone Else’s Story

Elgin Marbles

Name:  Jordan Willis, auburn-haired Earl of Blackmore; by day he crusades for social reforms in Parliament, by night he’s busy winning the affections of the bored wives and widows of the ton.

Falls For: Prim yet proper rector’s daughter Miss Emily Fairchild, blackmailed into posing as wild Scottish debutante Lady Emma Campbell.

forbidden lordStory Recounted By:  Sabrina Jeffries, in The Forbidden Lord (1999)

Hangs Out In: Parliament, the British Museum, clubs, the opera (London 1819)

Likes: merry “uncomplicated” widows, social reform, his militant sister Sara.

Dislikes: falling in love (but he does fall in the end, and there’s quite a lot of heat along the way!)

Badass Hero Moment: Arranges sizzling hands-on private encounter with the Elgin Marbles, newly displayed at the British Museum.  “I’m a trustee of the museum…”

Badass Annoying Moment: Insists throughout that he doesn’t believe in love, that his heart remains untouchable and his desire for our heroine is purely physical, yet proves his emotions are deeply involved — and confused — when he’s all too willing to believe the worst of her.

(too) Frequently Described As: Controlled.

Might Look Like:  Rupert Penry-Jones as Captain Wentworth in the 2007 PBS Persuasion.. ?

capt wentworth

To Read Or Not To Read?  This is the middle book in the Lord trilogy, and, like the other two, it’s a bit of a romp, with occasional interludes of character development revealing painful histories and inner emotions.  A fun read largely because SJ does such a good job building the ever-intensifying sexual attraction between Jordan and Em(ma)ily. There are evil, scheming relatives and unsuitable suitors all over the place getting in the way of the HEA, but there is connection and chemistry to get them past these obstacles. Usually false identity “uncanny double” storylines are irritating because you can’t believe the hero/ine doesn’t realize the deception sooner, but in this case we get that out of the way quickly, which is a relief.  Blackmore is nothing if not keenly observant when it comes to women.

The odd thing is that I think I found Jordan more compelling, and even more sexy, as Sara’s ruthless brother in Book 1 of the Trilogy than in his own book, where his edge seems blunted by the plot device that drives the central conflict — his insistence that he doesn’t “believe in love” just comes off as annoying and repetitive.forbidden

This trilogy from a decade or so ago was reissued by Avon and I think if Steamy Regency is your thing, this fits the bill quite nicely. Lord’s sake, I could not stop reading in spite of it being neither the steamiest, nor the funniest, of its ilk!  (And I’m not sure why, but I think in this case I actually like the old cover better…)

elgin_marblesTangentially Related … and Possibly Diverting:

Arrival, Exhibition and Early Reception of the Elgin Marbles in London, from APOLLO.

These iconic fragments of classical Greek sculpture were removed from the Parthenon in Athens in the 1790’s and brought to London. Controversy over this looting/appropriation/rescue (you decide) raged even then, and they were not displayed publicly until after 1816, but they remain in London today and the controversy over where they belong continues.  It could just be the erstwhile art historian in me, but the scene in the Museum where they’re alone together with their hands all over the freaking Elgin Marbles really got my attention. All that forbidden touching!!

Pamela Poll:  Who are your favorite secondary character heroes? Have you ever been disappointed when they seemed less Badass in their own book?

BONUS QUESTION:  Have you ever touched something in a museum that was off-limits?

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Boston and Badass

I just need to get this off my mind.   It’s an unfinished post I was working on about 2 weeks ago.  Butch O’Neal was going to be my next badass.  I wanted to do a JR Ward hero to add a solid dose of vampire/paranormal romance into the mix, and review a book I actually really liked.  My blog is so new; I’m still trying to get some momentum going and figure out what it’s really going to be about. What will be fun and interesting for me to ponder and post, and what might inspire some sassy and/or intriguing discussion?
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Even though I read Lover Revealed quite a while ago, Butch’s story was among my Black Dagger favorites and this is partly because of the Boston connection.  So there it is… I’ve been completely stalled and distracted, like everyone else who lives in the Boston area, and pretty much haven’t even thought about my new blog for over a week, since before marathon Monday and school vacation week.  When I did think about getting back to the blog, it was with avoidance,  because I knew this was the post I’d find.  Ugh.  I can’t finish it now, and I’m not sure I should post it at all, even with these fragmentary musings.
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I have noticed the term badass all over the place in mainstream coverage and tweeting about the cops in Boston and Watertown.  I can’t tell if I am just noticing it more, or if it is actually being used more. For example, this from a list of media moments compiled by Boston.com’s Radio BDC blog:
IF YOU WERE LISTENING TO THE SCANNER, THIS WILL NOT BE NEWS: WATERTOWN POLICE OFFICERS ARE TOTALLY BADASS.  While waiting for backup, a single Watertown police officer engaged in a shootout with the suspects early Friday morning — and employed a tactic straight out of a Die Hard movie, according to Watertown police chief Edward Deveau. The officer put his car in gear and jumped out of it, hoping they would think he was still in it as he fired from behind a tree, Deveau said.
We tell kids to “look for the helpers” when we’re forced to talk with them about violent and scary events in the news.  I think some of us grown-ups can’t help looking for badass heroes, in much the same way.
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It’s interesting how quickly social media has provided the means for romanticizing key figures in the drama of the last week.  This morning I read this crazy story about how “hot” and badass the Boston FBI head is, based on tweets and other online sources of pop culture buzz.
In case you were buried under a rock, DesLauriers was at the center of the investigation all last week. He stood up at press conferences and said all kinds of badassy stuff, like this: FBI’s DesLauriers ‘We will go to ends of the earth to find those responsible for this despicable crime.”

I was inclined to just ditch my whole post, since it seems pretty cheesy and insensitive to objectify and engage in the “crushing out” on Boston law enforcement in the context of an overwrought fictional world where the Boston cop hero is a vampire.  I have not been directly injured or affected by the terrible events of last week.  I just live here, and my children live here.  The perpetrator is being treated in the hospital where they were born.  Many other strands link us to the places and institutions that have suffered devastating loss and lockdown. For me, Boston Strong is too personal; it’s not just a meme to adopt, analyze and/or deconstruct.   But then I decided to leave the post unfinished and try and make my peace with it by articulating some of this.

I had been especially looking forward to comments on the “poll” question, but now the whole thing just feels completely different.  Real life badass cops chasing and fighting warped evildoers who suddenly — given the scale and grandiose ambition of their actions — resemble nothing so much as Lessers.  Tough to make your peace with that.

Boston Badass

Badass: Brian (Butch) O’Neal, hard-ass Boston cop and long lost descendant of Wrath; re-united with his kin and his kind when he rescues Beth, a female vampire destined to be Queen.

Falls For: Marissa, aristocratic female of impeccable lineage who was not destined to be Queen, but kicks ass in her own right when she takes on the Princeps Council and defeats an attempt to impose misogynist restrictions on female rights and freedoms (the “sehclusion” motion).

Story Recounted By: the incomparable J.R. Ward, in Lover Revealed (2007)

Hangs Out In: V’s lair at the mansion, the ultimate man cave.

Likes:  Schmancy clothes, good Scotch, the Sox .  There are a lot of high end, top shelf brand names in this book.

Dislikes:  Following law enforcement rules when justice is what he’s after; sitting on the sideline when there are Lessers to be Dehstroyed.

Badass Hero Moment: Withstands torture to protect the Brotherhood and its secrets.

To Read Or Not To Read?

Tangentially Related … and Possibly Diverting:  

Pamela Poll:  Boston cops, Boston criminals… there’s a whole sub-genre now of Boston Noir, and it’s not just books.  There are so many great Boston films.  And tv — who can forget Spencer For Hire?!  So…. who are your favorite Boston badasses?

Pennyroyal Preacher Man

Badass (?):  Reverend Adam Sylvaine, brawny yet contemplative Eversea cousin, discovering his vocation, serving the flock of Pennyroyal Green as their vicar while dodging the lustful and marriage-minded pursuits of the entire female population.

Falls For: Eve Duggan, widowed Countess of Wareham, notorious former Covent Garden actress, courtesan, and all-around Scandalous Woman.

Brought to You By: Julie Anne Long, in A Notorious Countess Confesses (2012) (7th in the Pennyroyal Green series)

JAL_coverandtext

Hangs Out In: The pulpit, the vicarage, and a certain bedchamber at Damask Manor.

Likes: Children and old people, sarcastic and scandalous old women in particular.

Dislikes:  Anyone making snide, insinuating comments about Evie’s past.

Badass Hero Moment: When a man of the cloth throws a punch, or offers up five pounds he doesn’t have, you know it’s meaningful.  Fortunately, he’s also forceful and persuasive from the pulpit.  Definitely a winning combination.

Badass Annoying Moment: Makes snide — beyond insinuating — comments about Evie’s past.  (At that point, though, they were both pretty much acting like idiots.)

(too) Frequently Described As: Golden.

Looks Like….?

the-thorn-birds-richard-chamberlain-1

(Richard Chamberlain, The Thorn Birds, 1983)

Ha ha.  JAL has a clever bit of dialogue around the fact that Rev. Sylvaine doesn’t wear a “dress” (a cassock), and he’s (obviously) not a Catholic priest.  He’s really more like a lanky, broad-shouldered country gentleman who happens to have the care of a church and its flock of parishioners rather in place of an estate. Still, the contrast between his outward control and inner lust, along with the inevitable loss of control and explosive sex reminded me of the infamous Father Ralph. Yes, I know Pennyroyal Green is a million miles from the Australian outback and really there’s nothing else similar about these two.  But it made me smile to think about the Thorn Birds!

To Read Or Not To Read?  So. The whole thing about Adam being a vicar really got me thinking, though, about what had to be different about him — from the other Eversea and Redmond males — in order to make him believable as both an alpha hero and a clergyman.  I think both Adam and Evie were just kind of too… something… maybe it’s that they were both too earnest.  It must have been a challenge to write him in such a way that he’d come across as a red-blooded…well… badass like his cousins Colin and Ian.  These two, who we’ve already met and married off in prior books, make regular appearances here, checking up on Adam. It’s as if Long uses them to give Adam some badass glamour by association. I kept trying to figure out if he needed this kind of bucking up, or if he really is just a kind of beta badass, who keeps a low profile but is a force to be reckoned with when pushed to his limit.

What’s more convincing is Adam as a man exploring his calling as a caretaker of souls, even as a somewhat ambivalent sermon-writer and preacher.  His humility as he discovers his gift and his vocation are nicely conveyed.  But combined with the fact that Evie spends almost the entire book doing good works of one kind or another (she visits the parish poor, she makes huge and almost irrevocable sacrifices in order to provide for her own poor relations) there may have been too much humble pie for me.

That’s always part of the problem with a (former) courtesan heroine; there always have to be dire circumstances that forced her to sell herself,  she has to be stoic and/or unapologetic about being a fallen woman, and she has to refuse to “drag down” the hero, before they can arrive at the HEA.

Bottom line — these two could not have made more incompatible career choices, and it just wasn’t quite as sparkling and fun — or even as funny — as the preceding Pennyroyals. I don’t know if I’m going to start giving letter grades, but if I had to, this would be a solid B. Anything from JAL is just so beautifully written and Pennyroyal Green is a place to which one wants to return again and again.

Tangentially Related … and Possibly Diverting:  The setting in quaint PG, with the requisite assortment of odd and earnest villagers, at one point taking turns in a dramatic recitation of 1st Corinthians that is both sweet and ridiculous, also made me think about funny old Dibley.

Romance arrived for our dear Vicar of Dibley in the HILARIOUS episodes where Dawn French lusted after, and landed, smoldering Richard Armitage.  Found this awesome video of Armitage and French romancing and goofing around together. I firmly believe any excuse to watch Richard Armitage should be taken advantage of, so Enjoy!

Pamela Poll:

Who’s your favorite badass sexy preacher man? Can a clergyman be a convincing alpha hero?

Horn of Plenty

Name: Gideon Horn, the Pirate Lord, terror of sea-going aristocrats, Robin Hood-like wealth re-distributor, Utopian visionary.

Falls For:  Miss Sara Willis, righteous prison reformer and champion of female convicts, stepsister of the Earl of Blackmore.

Story Recounted By:  Sabrina Jeffries, in The Pirate Lord (originally published 1998)

pirate lordpirate lord2

Hangs Out In/On: The high seas, aboard the Satyr; an uncharted island in the South Atlantic.

Likes: Flies a horn-y Jolly Roger, yearns for a mother’s love, dreams of a utopian colony, kidnaps a boatload of convict women to get things started.

Dislikes: Anyone with a title.

Badass Hero Moment: Capture of the Defiant.

Badass Annoying Moment: The Atlantis/Utopia concept is so flawed it’s hard to take Gideon’s insistence on the kidnapping and forced marriages seriously.

(too) Frequently Described As: Thunderous. Taut.

Might Look Like:  wallpapers-pirates-caribbean-1024

Not really, but it’s funny to think about.  I’m pretty sure the re-issue cover image is Avon’s attempt at a mash-up of Jack Sparrow-beadazzled style with traditional chiseled chest romance hero.

To Read Or Not To Read?  First and favorite in the Lord trilogy.  Somehow SJ mixes together pirates, convict ships, struggles for survival, and class conflict while keeping the whole thing frothy and fantastical.  Yet in spite of the fact that it lacks grit and substance (even the “mean” convicted prostitute is a pushover for Sara’s good nature, and the pirates are as tame as Disney — think Peter Pan or Pirates of the Caribbean), it works as a setting for Gideon’s and Sara’s character-driven story.  There are very nice secondary romances, and Sara’s determined and ruthless brother the Earl of Blackmore certainly got my attention as the future hero of the next book.

(Possibly) Amusing, Tangentially Related:

Information about St. Helena, the island SJ used as inspiration for the fictional “Atlantis”

Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19), official site

Pamela Poll:

What is your favorite pirate romance and/or  who is your favorite pirate badass?