Book Review: Mine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas

Ghosts, a handsome gypsy, and an eccentric family thrown into unforeseen circumstances: What’s not to like?

Lisa Kleypas has been a favorite author of mine for a while, and this book is definitely part of the reason.  Kleypas creates a cast of vivid characters and sweeps you along the arch of the story like a master, caught up in the mysterious romance between the ever-practical- Amelia and the dashing roma gypsy Cam, who readers might recognize from Kleypas’ Wallflower series.  The book is filled with bright, witty humor and a storyline that has me  turning the pages with anticipation even after reading it a dozen times.

Altogether a wonderful way to start a series, and a favorite of mine.

(Mine Till Midnight is the first book of the Hathaway Series)

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Book Review: Warning

So, I’m about to start writing a bunch of book reviews about my favorite books through the years.  I have two rather distressing tendencies when picking books that you might note:

  1. Once I find an author I like, I will not stop reading her books until they have all been read.  Thus you are going to see a lot of reviews for Kleypas, Feehan, Dodd, Lindsey, and a few others recurring frequently.
  2. I grew up spending the majority of my time in a not-so-well funded public library which has exposed me to a large selection of non-current books, so it’s likely that many of the books I’m reviewing will be rather old.  That doesn’t mean they aren’t wonderful, but it does mean that if you are looking for the newest publications, you probably won’t find too many of them in my reviews.

Writer’s Block

Currently I am suffering from writer’s block, and so I’m just going to write down a bunch of prompts and see if any take off and make my imagination happy.

  • A young lady is stranded on a desert island with a man deathly afraid of water.  She’s within swimming distance of the next island, but there isn’t a sign whether it has people on it or not, and she doubts she would have the strength to make it back if there wasn’t anything there, which would leave both people to die on their own.
  • A man has a mysterious ability to change into a muskrat.  But only every other Thursday.
  • A man and a woman fall desperately in love.  The only problem?  They’re both invisible, cursed by a gypsy queen long ago that they would never be able to see the thing they needed most.
  • In the Wild West a group of outlaws hyjak a stage coach full of riches.  The only problem?  A sassy and stubborn young lady is still inside, and she’s just as good with a pistol as they are.
  • Someone accidentally transforms the world into a game of candyland.  Now that everything is edible world hunger is over, but new problems ensue as the monsters come to life as well.  Annie, brave and diabetic young lady, is the only one who can stop them.
  • A nymph, bound to her tree for thousands of years, longs for something more.  A soldier from the modern age, shipwrecked after a mission gone wrong, finds himself in her enchanted garden, only wants to escape.
  • A tiger, lost at birth, tries to make his way through the tall, terrifying jungle, only to find that he does not belong.  His mission to find his family and save his own life is only the beginning.
  • After hundreds of years of allowing technology to progress and take over, nature rebels, seeking to destroy the ones who tried to destroy them.  In the midst of the chaos star-crossed lovers from each side must find a third way to survive.

Why Poetry Leads to Tragedy

Being perfectly honest, I hate poetry.  I am never happier with Elizabeth Bennet when she starts talking about how poetry can absolutely kill a fledgling love.  Why is this?

Poetry signifies DEEP thought.  Perhaps too deep of thought.  When one lulls too long on petty details like the exact number of syllables in a sentence, one is inevitably caring too much about trivialities.  Had Shakespeare written “Would not a Lilly by any other name not smell as sweet?”  I’m sure Romeo and Juliet would still have become a hit.  When someone focuses too much on one little thing they inevitably start to realize the flaws in something, which inevitably leads to their lulling on said flaws and coming to despise those flaws more than they love the hundred other perfections.

You might say that this is taking things a little too far, and you could be right.  I’ve never been one to enjoy things that I don’t understand (a human failing/ flaw of my own) and I have very little patience for unwarranted tragedy, which seems to be the focus of much of poetry.  I believe there is quite likely a direct correlation between reading too much poetry and coming to a tragic end.  Poetry dwells on emotion and emotion, like most things, is best for you in moderation.  Many tragedies, particularly in fiction, could be avoided with a simply application of common sense and communication, both very rare qualities in poetry.

Having mentioned my distaste for the subject in general, there are exceptions.  Most of these exceptions I believe occur because of a lack of serious and tragic thought involved in the writing of it.

Examples of acceptable poetry:

Anything that flows so sweetly that it moves you like a ship drifting on a quiet sea, like this:

 

Lesbia, you ask how many kisses of yours

would be enough and more to satisfy me.

As many as the grains of Libyan sand

that lie between hot Jupiter’s oracle,

at Ammon, in resin-producing Cyrene,

and old Battiades sacred tomb:

or as many as the stars, when night is still,

gazing down on secret human desires

–Catullus

 

Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say in ice.

From what I’ve tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire.

But if it had to perish twice,

I think I know enough of hate

To say that for destruction ice

Is also great

And would suffice.

–Robert Frost

Examples of unacceptable poetry:

Basically anything in Romeo and Juliette, anything written less then fifty years ago, anything without punctuation, and anything that uses the words: gash, gaping, crouch, squat, uninhibited, and gouge.  Anything that makes you long to rip your own eyes or ears out in anguished repentance that they had consumed said poetry, and anything that makes you squirm in a desire to get away.  If you heard it in a mandatory high school lit class it is probably just a quiet form of torture your English teacher decided to inflict on you as punishment for their own mental angst.   (Unless they made you read Frost, Silverstein, or Byron.  Then they were merciful and you were fortunate.)

 

I know there are many who would disagree,

and I’m glad that you haven’t been as tormented as me,

but I will stand by my decree:

poetry leads to tragedy.

Fictional Men Say the Sweetest Things

Your heart starts beating faster as the hero and heroine come to their final confrontation. He says something, she snaps back indignantly, declaring her independence, and whips around, adamant she’ll never speak with him again.  He grabs her arm, refusing to let her go, and spins her into his embrace.  His lips descend on hers in a passionate kiss that makes your toes curl as you repress a feminine shriek of pure, estrogen-driven delight.  He breaks off the kiss, both of the protagonists stare at eachother for a half-second of indescribable connection, and then he says it.  The line that makes butterflies swarm in your stomach as your heart squeezes in a throb too harsh to let any oxygen go to your brain.  The words that are eternally engraved on that portion of your soul that contains your deepest, most ardent longings.

Coming out of the scene is like coming out of the best dreams; reality seems dull and pale in comparison, and all you can do is think about that line, that simple stream of words that calls to you, seduces you, overcomes you.

Isn’t it a shame they aren’t real?  Why aren’t men (and lines) like that a part of our lives? Are boys/ men in books just better?

These are questions I really don’t know the answer to.  Maybe it’s fate, maybe it’s destiny, maybe it’s pesky reality intruding where it has no business.  But instead of thinking about it, let’s just go over some of our favorite lines, shall we?

  • The Princess Bride: “As you wish,”

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Every time he says that line he means, “I love you,” EVERY TIME!

Also, he has some epic lines in the book, such as,  “Do I love you? My God, if your love were a grain of sand, mine would be a universe of beaches.”

Sadly, Buttercup isn’t very bright in the book…

  • Pride and Prejudice: Pretty much everything that crosses Mr. Darcy’s lips

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“You have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love… I love… I love you. And I never wish to be parted from you from this day on.”  *Swoon*

“In vain I have struggled this will not do, allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” *Swoony, Swoony Swoon!*

  • Jane Eyre: “You transfix me, quite.” (And, again, pretty much anything that Mr. Rochester says)

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She literally hears his voice when he calls to him even though they are thousands of miles apart.  Also, the tormented fellow has quite a talent for prose.

  • Wuthering Heights: “If he loved with all the powers of his puny being, he couldn’t love as much in eighty years as I could in a day.”

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Ah, Heathcliff.  So many more from this man, too!  He begs her to haunt him, for goodness sake:

“Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living. You said I killed you–haunt me then. The murdered do haunt their murderers. I believe–I know that ghosts have wandered the earth. Be with me always–take any form–drive me mad. Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!”

Admittedly, he’s crazy.  But who is to say that all of the good men aren’t?

  • Romeo and Juliet: ” It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.”

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This play is a stereotype for a reason.  Romeo might be a flighty fellow, but he is also poetic to a fault.  It’s good to remember that that ended with a tragedy, as romance often does.  (Except in fiction.  Read reviews to control your fate.)

  • Tangled: “You were my new dream”

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Okay, okay, I know this doesn’t really fit with the theme of everything else (romantic literature) but I feel that Eugene Fitzherbert (Flynn Ryder) needs to be recognized as a truly epic fictional man.  They literally had meetings when they created him, trying to pinpoint the traits of a perfect man.  Unrealistic expectations in men can start early.

There are many other fictional men with fabulous lines: which is your favorite?

 

What I’ve Learned From Reading Historical Fiction

Let’s start with a disclaimer: most of the historical fiction I’ve read is from the early 1800’s/ late 1700’s and, of that, the majority is set in England with a smattering of Americans thrown in. (Americans make everything more fun, especially in literature.) Now, just to annoy those of you who are serious scholars, I’m counting both fiction based on history and fiction written during this period in history as the same thing, historical fiction.

Now that I’ve successfully alienated half my potential readership, what have I learned from reading historical fiction?

  1. If you have amnesia or were abandoned at birth, you are probably the long lost heir/heiress to a large fortune and title.
  2. Your likelihood of being kidnapped, having a twin, or being orphaned increased exponentially if you are an heir or an heiress to a large fortune.
  3. If you have a twin, you will almost always be identical and trade places with each other when necessary.  However, you will kiss differently, which the hero with discover right away.  (Also, if you had a bad upbringing and someone sees a person that looks like you wandering around, most likely you were kidnapped when you were a baby and that is your twin.)
  4. If you catch a handsome gentleman wondering around and assume he is supposed to be a new servant/worker of any kind, he is probably your betrothed.  He’ll go along with the ruse until you fall in love with him and are agonizing over the fact that you are engaged but in love with a servant. Then, when you are at your wits’ end and planning on running off with this penniless servant, it will be revealed (though not by him) that he is actually your betrothed.
  5. If a man is charming, he is probably a villain.  If a man is handsome by conventional standards, he is probably a villain.  If a man is ungodly masculine and holds an appeal that the word “handsome” is a bland affront to, he’s probably the hero.
  6. By nature, people with blond hair tend to be more externally charming while people with dark hair tend to be more brooding.  The color of the hair must seep directly into the brain and from there into the soul.
  7. If a man went on a crusade (Going all the way back to the middle ages), he most likely was captured by the other side, enslaved, became half-accustomed to their ways, escaped, and brought a large fortune back with him.
  8. The proper order of rank in the British Aristocracy:
    • From lowest to highest, male: Knight, Baron, Viscount, Earl, Marquis, Duke
    • Female: Lady, Baroness, Viscountess, Countess, Marquiss, Duchess
    • Beyond that you go to the royals, which are: Royal Duke, Prince, King, Emperor

So, that’s what I’ve learned over the past 10 or so years reading this genre.  What have you learned?