athousandwinds: (I <3 books)
[personal profile] athousandwinds
I was watching the second episode of Crooked House (the Christmas haunted house drama by Mark Gatiss, not a hitherto unknown adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel) and while it wasn't terribly scary (I only screamed once, and I'm incredibly squeamish about horror), it made me think.

Is it just me, or is there a trope with regard to upper-class men in costume dramas dealing with the first half of the twentieth-century? One of them's going to be gay. At least. (Particularly if we're talking Edwardians or the late 1920s.) It can't all be due to Sebastian Flyte and Merchant-Ivory, can it?

N.B. I am not complaining, merely commenting.

Speaking of unexpected gay characters in historical dramas! I was reading Pleasure for Pleasure by Eloisa James and that was probably the best part.

I liked it, in the way that I like most of Eloisa James's novels - I appreciate how she bends the rules of the genre, while wishing she'd full-on attack them. In this case, there were surprise lesbians in an otherwise fairly average Regency (I always rate higher for surprise lesbians, unless it's an unpleasant surprise). One of them was a viewpoint character for part of the book, but we only got to see her being bored with her fiancé (the hero) and developing a friendship with another woman. Later, we hear from the other woman's ex-girlfriend that they've gone off travelling together and that's about it for the lesbian romance in this novel. Which is a shame, because I adored Sylvie and would have liked to have a whole novel about her adventures, but instead it was rather a truncated, abrupt subplot.

Contrast with the beta heterosexual romance, which took up a good third of the book. Though, give Eloisa James points, the heroine is older than the hero! And a bit more sexually experienced! (This is why I think Eloisa James is one of the better historical romance novelists - she mixes it up a little, it's not all virgin heroines and rakes and compromising situations leading to marriage, JULIA QUINN.) Though I found it mildly depressing that Darlington actually turned out to be a successful novelist and able to support himself. I was quite looking forward to the woman getting to be the economically dominant partner for once.

And now to the actual main romance - Pleasure for Pleasure is the fourth in the Essex Sisters quartet, about the youngest sister, Josie. And Josie struggles with her weight a lot - it's a little repetitive, especially with all the scenes of her sisters reassuring her that she's breathtakingly beautiful, but it resonated a great deal with me. I don't know that I completely buy the romance with Mayne (who has been a recurring character throughout the quartet and I believe also in James's books set in the same universe). They struck me strongly as BFFs, weirdly enough, even when they were having sex I couldn't quite picture it. But that's probably an idiosyncratic reaction.

All in all, it was a good read - better than Kiss Me, Annabel and The Taming of the Duke, which I should also talk about at some point, but I think Much Ado About You is the best of the bunch. But there are no stealth lesbians in Much Ado, which is a great pity.

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Angharad

September 2012

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