Monday, June 24, 2013

CAGE MATCH: Cecilia Grant's A Lady Awakened VS. A Gentleman Undone VS. A Woman Entangled

We're in a argumentative mood around here these days. Which is actually kind of fun and Steph and Sinead's posts about Lizzie vs. Jane are a pretty amazing tie in to my smack down which is between all of Cecilia Grant's books.

I had the incredible good fortune to get an advanced copy of A WOMAN ENTANGLED and in it Kate, our heroine is desperately trying to marry well to elevate her family out of the shadows her parents marriage placed them in. Dad was a Lord, Mom was an actress, their love could not be denied. Now, the family is happy, but Kate wants MORE. Kate wants not just respect and better opportunity - she wants fine things. She covets the position she would be entitled to if her parents had not married for love. She's beautiful, charming, ambitious and she means to land herself a lord. Our Hero Nick, is the brother of Will from A Gentleman Undone who SPOILER - married another man's mistress. For Love. But Nick is ambitious, he has his eye set on a life in politics and the scandal associated with his brother's choice for a wife, makes his dreams very difficult so he has cut his brother off.

Now, I'm a historical romance reader. Historical romance and I go way back, pretty much to the beginning. Which is to say - I feel like I know this Regency time period as it's been represented in countless romance novels. I feel in fact there is a rut that Regency Romance has cut into the genre that so much of historical romance has fallen into. It's not just that other time periods are hard to find, but that there is a rhythm and a pattern to these books. Ball. Tea. Ball. Conversation with a woman in a feathered turban. Introduction of hero's dissolute friend. Illicit moment in dark library. etc...

What I found so compelling about Grant's first two books is that she showed us this time period from a totally different perspective. The first, a farm in the country. The second, the decadent underbelly of card rooms and mistresses' quarters. And I believed that one of Grant's most interesting strengths was choosing these locations, these same but different aspects of the beloved regency novel. It was as if she'd found these little corners and invited us all in, and every inch of that corner felt new to me. Exciting. Fresh. I was boggled by the amount of research she must have done on cheese making and then card counting.

In this third book, I realize it's not locale or research that are the key to Grant's magnetic and fresh little corner. The setting of A Woman Entangled is completely familiar. That pattern is familiar - this is the Regency romance I know. And yet not. Granted she comes into those teas and ballrooms from a different angle, but still the set-up is not what makes this book my favorite of hers.

It's not even Grant's impeccable prose - which should be noted is impeccable. It's the reality of these characters. The reality of the homes they live in, Nick's career, the courts. All seem so breathtakingly real. Moreover it's the messy motivations that are not wholly noble, that are in fact at times small and selfish and so so human. Nick and Kate are both ambitious and are at times sanctimonious about it. There is no great wound making them defend their turf and their actions - they are going after what they want because they believe they deserve it. They have worked hard for it. They have sacrificed, flown in the face of convention and family and damn it - THEY WANT IT.

No one is penniless, no one is saving their sisters from having to sell themselves - they live lives of comfort, and yet...they want more. Oh God, it's so REAL. They are so human. We have given romance novel characters (And by we, I mean I) terrible back stories in an effort to make the less likeable aspects of their characters likeable.

Please dear reader forgive them their uglier desires, their selfish behaviors because they were never taught love.

Grant doesn't give us any excuses. She pulls no punches. And I find this book doesn't either.

A Woman Entangled wins the cage match. Hands down.

Now, I know you want a copy of this book and I don't blame you - it's AMAZING. So, there are two chances below - a paper copy and a digital copy.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Stephanie Doyle said...

I cannot wait to read this book. For Cecilia's work in historical romance, has been ground breaking!

And you're right to do that in a time/setting that's been so overdone is truly remarkable.

Nikki said...

Her work seems really fresh. A Lady Awakened is one of the best historicals I've read in a long time.

NOJuju said...

I've been looking forward to this release for what feels like ever.

Carole Underwood said...

I think Cecilia Grant is the best historical romance writer out there. I have read her first two books over and over again. Can't wait for this one!

Molly O'Keefe said...

hi Nikki, NOJuju (which I would love an explanation regarding that handle) and Carole - I don't think you'll be disappointed. I found this books to be just so small and nuanced, so deeply rooted in the ordinary lives of the characters. No hidden Dukes, no duels, no espionage - just people doing the best they can. I LOVED these characters. Loved them.

Anonymous said...

I'm on pre-order and stupidly jealous that you got your hands on it.

So excited to read it.

NOJuju said...

Oh, it's so boring, really. My name is Julie which is often shortened to Juju by friends. I live in New Orleans, which abbreviates to NO, but is also a city of voodoo and ghosts... hence the incantation "No juju!"

Molly O'Keefe said...

NOJuju - there is NOTHING boring about that!!!

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