Monday, January 09, 2012

Cage Match: Cecilia Grant's A Lady Awakened vs Joanna Bourne's The Black Hawk

For Christmas this year I gave my son a series of books called "Who Will Win?" It's sort of like a Deadliest Warrior for animals. Like if a Tiger and a Lion would fight, who would win? T-Rex and a Velociraptor? In the only one I've actually read a Polar Bear and a Grizzly Bear duke it out, but it ends up as a tie - the two are too evenly matched.

That's how this cage match is going to go for me, these two books are too evenly matched, but I REALLY want to talk about them.

These books rocked my world. They are totally different, Bourne's is an intricate historical spy novel and Grant's is an intricate historical landowner novel. Not kidding. Landowner.

But as different as these two plots are, in each book the plots are utterly key to the romance. Each character being (or becoming) GOOD at thier jobs was a big part of why the characters fall in love. So, Bourne's book wasn't just a romance with a dangerous espionage suspense plot thrown in - the plot and it's details ware crucial to what keep the leads together and throw them apart. And again, it wasn't vague. It wasn't easy. She's a French spy. He's an English spy. She shoots him, vows to kill him at one point. And we BELIEVE it. We believe she hates him as much as she loves him. Deeeeeeelicious.

Same with Grant - this wasn't a story with a wall paper village life. The character's attatchment and involvment with the land created the turning points that made the love believable. Made the love possible. Cheese, actually makes the love possible.

And because the non-romance plots are so nuanced and detailed and so tied to character growth - the romance is nuanced and detailed and tied to chracter growth.

To some extent this seems like a no-brainer, but in EVERY SINGLE BOOK I WRITE - I get bored writing about the "life stuff" the subplots about jobs and family that create a characters sense of self-worth. I kind of want to yada yada that stuff.

But Grant and Bourne take thier time. They totally commit to these "job" scenes. You can't skim this stuff like so many historical romances.

Grant's book challanges every single expectation, it zigs and zags. Bourne keeps us climbing deliciously upward, ratcheting up tension.

Both are difficult to put down, both are two of the best books I've read this year.


Eileen said...

Ooh, I just started Grant's book. I love what's going on inside that woman's head! Don't hate me here, but I'm not always a big fan of historical romance. It's hard for me to relate to some of the struggles and issues. Not in this case, though. I totally get her and the obstacles she's facing.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Yeah - just wait until you get to the cheese!!!

Stephanie Doyle said...

Eileen - I think that's what I loved about ALA. While the premise is typical historical trope stuff that isn't relatable, the characters so so real and grounded you can't help but relate.

I just read two "fluff" historical books by popular authors. It's like they need to be in their own category.

Fluff historicals - and then these guys.

Molly - how about in BH when he throws her shoes away? That scene... just unreal.

Maureen McGowan said...

Ive just started reading it too, while waiting to see if I'll be "dismissed for cause" from this huge jury panel I'm part of. Fingers crossed. (although trial sounds interesting)

Anonymous said...

so much great reading ahead of me... I'm starting both within the week and can't wait to talk about them.

We might need to devote a night of DWT to them.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Steph - the shoes? Awesome. The whole scene in the chess club? With Pax? Freaking amazing.

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