Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Rain In Spain Falls Mainly

Every once in a while a mini-debate rages in Romance Bloglandia over C-graded books. Are these books pleasant, but average? Terrible? Good? What? Well for me, a C grade has always represented "mixed bag." While others will argue with me, a C grade for me can best be summed up as "I liked some parts, didn't like others, and everything came out in the wash." Using that as my measuring stick? My Unfair Lady, a new historical (no fantasy paranormal woo-woo) from Kathryne Kennedy would be Exhibit A.

Summer Wine Lee is an American heiress thanks to her driven Daddy who struck it rich with his silver mine. His need to be taken seriously by "old money" has rubbed off on Summer, who fancies herself in love with some character named Monte, who is somehow related to the Astor family. Needless to say, they take one look at the girl who was raised in Arizona, counted an Apache as one of her closest friends, carries a knife under her skirts and haughtily declare that she will not do. Besides, she's "new" money. Ick. So off Summer goes to London in the hopes of gaining an audience with the Queen and thereby making her acceptable to Monte's family. Her only hope? Hiring some blue blood to teach her to be a lady. Her blue blood of choice? The impoverished Duke of Monchester. One small problem though - Bryon, who is chummy with the Prince, has made it quite clear that he despises American heiresses.

No matter, the guy is really in a bind. Gentleman don't work (::shudder::), and he's been surviving thanks to the kindness of friends. Largely the Prince, who finds Byron's cutting remarks about society-types vastly amusing. Normally he'd turn Summer down flat, but dang he needs the cash and darn it all, the chit intrigues him. But he's got his work cut out for him.

I'll be honest. As I was reading this book I knew I shouldn't be enjoying it. At all. Summer has a maid who speaks in the vernacular (lots of "yore"s for instance), they rescue a damn monkey (and keep it as a pet), Summer rescues baby fox cubs (Cubs, right? Anyway, they become pets) and there's even a chihuahua (yes, another pet) thrown in for good measure. Oh and more than once Summer takes to wearing buckskin clothing. In England. And she keeps carrying her damn knife around with her.

Oh, and did I mention the small matter that our English Duke hero knows Kung Fu? Yeah, seriously. Kung Frickin' Fu.

The whole thing is patently absurd, but delightfully so. If you can "roll" with this eye-rolling stuff, the author has a really light and fluffy writing style that keeps you turning the pages, even though rationally you know that you should know better.

Where it all kind of slides for me is in the romance. Summer hangs on to her "I will become a lady and marry Monte" nonsense for way too long - especially after she practically throws herself at Bryon and molests him right out of his clothes. The girl's brazen (which frankly borders on wanton) behavior is easily explained by her background, but her continued instance of being with Monte was rather galling. I will say it was rather refreshing to read about this hero, who half the time comes off as a major asshole, but is really hiding a gooey marshmallow interior. And I really, really liked (despite my other issues with her) that Summer was capable of some intelligence - especially when it appears that someone is out to silence Bryon...permanently.

So what we have is yeah - a mixed bag. This is cute, light, fluffy, and not completely without charm. But there are elements here that will cause some readers to heavily roll their eyes (be careful, your face may freeze like that) and Summer's stubbornness about Monte is rather troublesome, especially since it hangs on for a long time.

If you like light? Yeah, read this. If you like this sort of fluff and humor? Yeah, read this. If the idea of a Kung Fu fighting Victorian Duke has you reaching for the nearest bottle of whiskey? Yeah, maybe skip this.

Final Grade = C+


Carolyn Crane said...

I really like this mixed bag review. I like the way you present the sides so clearly and let us make our choices. In my case, I can roll with a kung fu fighting duke and buckskin in England.... I hope, because it does sound delightful!

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

Remember Garwood's Lyon's Lady? This sounds much like that book with the heroine being raised by Indians, carrying a knife and the hero having kung fu (LOL) type skills.

Me thinks this will be a pass for me.

Leah Braemel said...

A lot of books have been C grade for me this year. I like your description of "I liked some parts, didn't like others ..." For me, they're ones that I'll continue to read til they're finished, but won't put on my keeper shelf. If they're the start of a series, it's debatable whether I'd buy the second book.

(Re the fox question -- baby foxes can be refered to as either cubs or kits.)

Lyndee said...

Good description, good review. I always assume a C review means that the person doesn't think reading it was a waste of time, but feels pretty "meh" about it.

I do like light and fluffy reads, although it does peeve me when a girl is obsessed with a guy for longer than she should be. Ew.

Sounds like it would be a C for me as well.

Katie Mack said...

Your review has me cracking up.

For me, C reviews can be either a mixed bag or just...meh. I didn't love it, I didn't hate it, it's just somewhere in between. I also find them to be the hardest reviews to write, either because I'm listing all the things I liked and all the things I disliked, or I feel totally meh about the book, so I feel totally meh writing the review.

Cathy in AK said...

I'd be able to forgive the things that make the eyes roll, but one thing stood out in your description: The American heiress with the chihuahua. Does she carry it around in her purse? Dress it up in matching buckskin? : )

I'm sure Ms. Kennedy didn't go that far.

Hilcia said...

I loved your mixed bag review. I liked this one a little bit more than you did, and YES I was also surprised that I did, lol! My eyes were rolling, but I couldn't stop reading & I enjoyed it. All those improbable things in there & it still worked... hmm....

A C review for me is an Average read. A mixed bag. :)

Wendy said...

I will say that this one was a B- for me most of the way - until the first sex scene. That's when the romance started to slide for me. Before that? I was rollin' with it pretty well.

Leah: Thank you - kits! I was typing this review up late and was too lazy to Google.

Cathy: Honestly, out of all the animals the monkey was the most annoying. The chihuahua is mostly off screen and blessedly the heroine doesn't carry him around with her everywhere she goes :) Also, no matching buckskin outfit! LOL

Since she was raised in Arizona, I let the chihuahua thing slide - but the monkey and fox kits were a bit much.....

I've seen varying reviews on this one. Really, all over the place. Everything from B grades to an F.

~ames~ said...

Was the hero's kung fu strong at least? LOL

Excellent review, you gave both sides very equally. And if I see this around my library, I may pick it up.

Kwana said...

Fun review. Thanks for your definition of a C I totally get it and have had a few of those.

Wendy said...

Ames: It helped that he wasn't busting out the kung fu moves every chapter :) Actually, I did like the explanation the author gives for his having the skill. He's not a tall hero, and got beat up a lot as a kid. They family had a Chinese gardener who taught him how to defend himself.

Kwana: Yeah, C reads are those stories I sometimes "re-write" in my head. I like some stuff, don't like other stuff.