Monday, November 9, 2009

Dated But Readable: Ring of Fire

Anne McCaffrey writes science fiction and science fantasy, usually with a strong romance component. Her YA Dragon books are wonderful for kids; I think Dragonsinger may be the perfect comfort book for a middle school girl. She also wrote several mainstream books, most of which I enjoyed. I saw a new one in the library, and saw that it was only new to me -- the copyright of Ring of Fear is 1971. It reads like a gothic-y romance, with horses rather than ancestral buildings.

There's the young girl, struggling against adversity, with only her cat and two great horses on her side. There's the older man (about twice her age, but who is counting? Besides me, disapprovingly, I mean) who sweeps her off her feet and rescues her from danger and poverty. There's the wicked relatives, the horse only she can tame, the scheming nemesis from the past, the happy guard dogs, and the loyal retainers. All good stuff, if you like that sort of thing. I know I do.

And there were the 1970's stuff. The first love scene that skips that whole pesky consent thing. "This won't be rape, Nialla, because you'll want me as much as I want you... So I'm going to make love to you. And you're not going to resist me, because, dear heart, you can't." Um. This is what they were talking about back in Beyond Heaving Bosoms, in the rape chapter. There's a spanking scene later, where she disobeys his order to stay inside because she notices that the barn is on fire. The spanking proves he really loves her.

On a different level, another hindrance to my taking their romance seriously was his clothes. Our hero dresses very stylishly, for 1971, and McCaffrey's description is clear enough that even I saw him clearly. I'm not a very visual reader, but "the elegant dark red pongee jacket had been built for him, and the gray pants flared in swinging bells over the darker gray leather boots" had me giggling for twenty pages. It's funny how Regency clothes are quaint, but hippie era clothes are hilarious.

If you can swallow the conventions that horrify us today, it's a fun read. I have a different cover, which shows off Nialla's eyeshadow better. B.

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