Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Careful Prose: Never Less Than a Lady

Although I enjoy Mary Jo Putney's books and seek them out rather quickly, there is always a considerable distance between me and the characters. Her newest book, Never Less Than A Lady (Lost Lords), was no exception. I liked the characters -- Julia, who has been hiding from her life as high-ranking but abused lady of society, and Alexander, a romantic lover of chivalry who is ready to quit the army and settle down, if he can find a cause that is just. I liked the plot -- they meet, decide to marry to help each other (and because they have a lot of mutual friends), and then they confront their fears of a permanent relationship and their scars from previous bad times, as well as trusting in their growing affection.

The book follows Loving a Lost Lord (where their friends met), but I don't think you need to read that one to enjoy this one. What kept me from fully investing in the characters? For one thing, their attitudes and assumptions seemed very modern. While they understood the expectations of their Regency environment, they always seemed to find it antiquated, almost quaint. They talk seriously about psychological issues in ways that didn't really ring true, although it kept the plot moving along. And the sexual problems melted away amazingly quickly -- when they marry, Julia isn't sure she can ever touch a man again, after her brutal treatment by her first husband. But in a week or so she is ready to show off the sophisticated skills she learned from him. Admittedly this made the book much more readable (what kind of romance keeps the main couple from coupling for hundreds of pages?) but it was at a loss of credibility.

Still, I got what I expected -- those are known issues with most Putney books, which is one reason I prefer her books with a touch of magic -- if it's obviously an alternative universe, the transplanted modern people don't seem so out of place. I'll still read her next book in this series. I'm probably more enthusiastic than I sound -- I find my ratings go down a lot when I stay up too late to review things. B-

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