I had read a few audiobooks and had even joined Audible. But until I read this book I did not understand the magic of the format. Before reading this book I had no interest in1) romance 2) science fiction or fantasy and 3) time travel genres. I'd heard enough about the series that it piqued my interest because I loved historical fiction. Especially the period of time I knew the book covered. And I always found the challenge of tackling a big book rewarding.
This book changed so many of my perceptions of genre and reading format. While I still argue that though there is definitely a romantic and sexual relationship at the books core, it was only one part of the adventure. It still doesn't fit the romance genre to me, but it did such a good job of weaving romance and sexuality into the adventure it made me curious to read more traditional romance novels and see if they handled the topic as well. They didn't, but I discovered other good books I never would have tried of not for Outlander.
Likewise, other than Anne Rice's Vampire series which I had read many years ago, this was one of my very rare ventures into fantasy-science fiction. Setting aside my understanding of reality to accept someone else's is always difficult. But reading Outlander and the subsequent books in the series, I found myself trying to work out in my mind how this might have happened. It encouraged me to explore this genre more thoroughly as well. Even more surprising, it made me evaluate my perception of "time", what it means and how it works. I found myself paying more attention to physics and the study of the time and space relationship.
The twists and turns of the plot kept me turning the page just like the best mysteries I read. While reading the book there were enough unanswered questions, clues and short glimpses of scenes or events that caught my attention and made me store them away to remember "when all was revealed." But all was not revealed at the end and I found myself turning over these clues and snippets, trying to determine their significance, what I thought they meant and what their purpose was. One requirement of a great book is that you cannot get it out of your mind after you turn the last page. This book met that criteria. I thought about it for weeks.
Most importantly I learned that other voices can bring a whole new level to the reading experience, if it is the right voice for the right book. I would have enjoyed this book regardless, but if I read it myself and heard my voice in my head the characters would never have come so alive as they did in Davina Porter's voice. This is a perfect marriage of book and narrator. I was so surprised when I later discovered more about Porter's age, experience and background. She made a 21 year old Scotsman come to life. Her voice is Jamie to me. She handled each character wonderfully, although it is the first and only time I have ever listened to a book or series of books and thought a woman narrator did a better job on the men's voices than she did on the women's. I have loved hearing how the narrator has aged the character's voices throughout the series. You hear the young Jamie in the middle aged Jamie's voice, but you also hear the growth and maturity. I have accepted the narrators in the Lord John series, even when the book includes Jamie and actually think they are narrated well. But I am not certain I could accept another narrator for future Outlander books.
Finally, my initial interest in this book was from a historical fiction viewpoint. A good historical fiction novel, by Bernard Cornwell or Sharon Kay Penman sticks to as much historical fact as possible but presents it in an engaging and relate-able format. It makes you interested enough in the times and events that you will endure the dry-er, less lively recitation of facts of that same event or time in a nonfiction book, just to learn more. Outlander and this series delivered that in spades.
Johanna Parker is a fantastic narrator and has narrated several exceptional books. She must not have read this book before narrating it. No one could read this twice.
The plot hinges on a declaration of spinsterhood by the main character. Thus the title. And she does "declare" it at lunch one Sunday. Then the book continues on exactly as before. Besides providing a few lines of dialog, the book totally ignores what was supposed to be the primary hook of the plot line.
The mother is emotionally abusive to the daughter. The father is one of those characters we are supposed to see as an upstanding moral Christian. Instead he is a mysogonist who thinks if his daughter would only carry a gun and find a man to guide her, no matter how big a tool the guy is, she would be worthy of his love. No one could be raised by these parents and emerge undamaged. And while the daughter gets angry at them, we are still suppose to believe they are good people worthy of the daughter's love. After all they are Christian, go to church every Sunday and the dad is a preacher. That must mean they are "good." Two words. Jim Jones.
On a blind date her loving mother made for her, her drunk date makes a sloppy attempt to grope and kiss her in a public place. Even though her dad was also a cop, she is totally helpless against the drunk groper. Her family response? Not -- take a self defense class. No. It is get a conceal and carry license so the next time your mother sets you up on a date with a drunk lech, you can blow his head off. This alone makes this book a great argument for gun control.
I could not finish the book. There could be no acceptable happy ending. And I was pretty sure the only satisfying ending, her parents getting killed in a violent shoot out, wasn't in the cards.
I really like this author. I thought her Neighbors From Hell series was very funny. With polish she could rank with Molly Harper or Janet Evanovich. The first book in this series was pretty good. BUT she has the habit of finding a phrase, usually a term of endearment, and then overuses it to death. In this book the overused phrase was "little mate". It was so overused I found myself waiting for it, then cringing every time I heard it. In most of her other books, while her overuse was annoying I could manage it. In this book though, I was totally overwhelmed. It didn't help that the main characters were totally unlikeable. I couldn't finish this book.
I started this as an audiobook then finished it on my Kindle. It was a much better book to read than listen to. The narrator was fine except when she spoke as Bones. She made him sound like Eliza Doolittle's father in the movie My Fair Lady. Except the voice was two octaves higher and Bones must have been on crack. There was absolutely nothing "sexy-vampirish" about him. I couldn't buy the building romance because he sounded like her Cockney grandfather, or great-grandfather. He was an old vampire, but a young man.
I trust that future books in the series explain how Cat's half-vampire bloodline affects her. Could she stand full sun or could she only come out on cloudy days in the daytime? But the book didn't capture my attention for long enough that I will go further in the series.
I don't recommend this book, but it wasn't terrible, just mediocre. If you are tempted to read it in audio format - don't. I can't honestly say how much the narrator affected my opinion of the book. If I never attempted the audio version I might have enjoyed it more.
This is not a particularly well written book. However, I happen to think Ms. Lauren's is a better writer than many of her contemporaries and I gather those who determine what constitutes a good romance novel and what constitutes a poor romance novel disagree with me. Only one of her books is consistently rated highly by critics. And it wasn't this book, which is one of her earlier ventures as she moved on from writing Harlequin Regency clones.
But this book is saved by the same thing that saves many of Ms. Lauren's more readable books - there is a plot. It may be far fetched and it may be implausible, but there is a story beyond just the back and forth between two people trying to figure out if they hate each other or love each other. So many books in this genre are about nothing but the relationship, so if the relationship isn't plausible to the reader or if one of the characters isn't particularly sympathetic then the book has absolutely nothing else to fall back on.
I give Ms. Lauren's credit. This book starts a story arc that carries through another 9 or 10 novels in this particular series, and bleeds into her Cynster and Bride series as well. The plot never overshadows the love story and many times it should be emphasized more than it is. But it is always there, usually in the background, ready to remind the reader that there is more to the story and helping the author avoid dwelling too long on the romance at any given time.
I thought the narrator did a good job.
If you read any enjoyed other Lauren's novels, especially the Bastion Club series, then you will enjoy this.
My first Eloisa James. Probably my last. Not bad, just very predictable and not that interesting. It is the epitome of what critics find most appalling about the genre. I don't see anything wrong with reading escapist fantasy. But if this book is anything to go by, Ms. James has several contemporaries who write escapist fantasy far better than she does.
I think this is the book that Snoopy spent so many years typing out as he sat on top of his dog house.
On the old SCTV series, the actor Joe Flaherty used to play a cheesy vampire character named Count Floyd, who spent most of his time trying to convince the audience that something totally silly was actually quite "scarrrrrry" and wiggling his eyebrows. I think the author had Count Floyd in mind when she created these characters. If she tried to make the book sound scary, it might disguise the fact that it was silly.
Unfortunately it doesn't work this way. Making the narrator speak slowly and ponderously doesn't help either.
Silly book. I didn't finish it.
This entire novel could be told in no more than five sentences. And that is exactly what this author does. She retells the plot over and over and over again. She alternates between the characters currently and when they were in high school. Unfortunately, while she uses different words (sometimes,) the chapters that cover past events repeat themselves, could have been stated once up front, then never repeated again.
Just like no matter how many times you tell a lie, it doesn't make it true, no matter how many times an author simply repeats herself, it doesn't make a plot.
Needless to say, I found this to be one of the most boring books I have attempted to read lately. I could not finish it and do not recommend it.
The most amazing thing though is I understand readers can also be subjected to a second book, that evidently tells the exact same non-plot but from the man's perspective. I've seen lots of so-called novels written by so-called authors that seem to sell, even though there is absolutely no plot. But it is something of a hat trick if Heywood can actually stretch absolutely nothing into two novels. Will readers really buy the second book just because the title changes from Him to Her (talk about original) and there is a cute girl on the cover instead of a cute guy?
It is hard for me to make too many negative comments about a Heyer novel. And I knew what to expect when I started this book. As every reviewer stated, there was very little plot and the tension one would expect in a story about a fugitive attempting to escape from certain death, was definitely lacking. Charles II on the run for his life seemed to approach the world and his predicament with the same joie de vivre and humor as the 19th century courtiers in her Regency comedies of manners. It was obvious that Heyer found him a very sympathetic character and considered his adversaries as simpletons. It was in some ways one of her most "classist" novels, and that is saying a lot.
All of that said though, it is still a well written book and she managed to stretch out a six week adventure in rural England with a predetermined ending into a readable and lengthy book. I know that Heyer has a reputation as a stickler for accuracy in historical detail, but I have no idea how much of this story is true, beyond the battle itself, the king, Wilmot and the fact that they did eventually escape to France. But she certainly presented a plausible and believable tale of what very well might have happened.
I usually enjoy Cornelius Garrett's narration on Heyer novels. But he always has to make at least one character have a very annoying lisp. He did it in this book as well, and I found it even more annoying than usual.
I still recommend the book. But go into it with your eyes open. This does not have the plot, pace or conclusion of other Heyer books, whether her romances, mysteries or other historical fiction.
If you read this book and keep in mind that Heyer was 17 when it was published, which means she was probably 16 when it was written, you must consider it a masterpiece. It is not one of her best books, it is far more melodramatic than her later work. But in it you see the earliest example of her genius. It is a fully formed novel, with a fairly complex plot, multiple well developed characters, and complex relationships. In her later work, her intelligent, witty, humorous and sparkling dialog is unmatched. And we get numerous glimpses of it in The Black Moth.
Her attention to detail and her obvious knowledge of the styles, manners, customs and general history of the mid-18th century was astounding. A schoolgirl may have been expected to have a good knowledge of the government and wars of that time, but Heyer knew details about fashion, manners, actual people and custom that would have required extensive research, especially in the pre-Internet days of the early 20th century.
I read These Old Shades and Devil's Cub prior to reading The Black Moth, so I had a firm impression of the Duke of Avon's character. (He has a different Dukedom in the Black Moth). But those books also offered enough of the back story of the duke that I knew what to expect when I read The Black Moth. But I was surprised at just what an excellent job Heyer did of portraying the villain. He was indescribably evil and wonderfully fascinating. And she had the good sense to make her hero just as wicked and wonderful in his own way as the villain. So many times a great villain overshadows a wimpy hero and it is hard to understand why the heroine chose the good guy instead of the bad guy. In this book, the "good" guy was just "bad" enough, he was equally intriguing.
The narration was great as well.
This is not a scholarly historical piece. The author spends too much time telling us how the regent "feels" and writes as though she was a witness to King George's mental deterioration. But it presents a great snapshot of history during a very specific decade in a way that is easy to follow, yet still has enough fact and detail that most readers can walk away learning something new about the time period. And while the book spends a great deal of time on the celebrities and main events of the decade, Waterloo, Napoleon, Byron and the Prince Regent, it also provides detail on "celebrities" of the time that are not household names today and also talks about events that occurred beyond those that are covered in a English history textbook. And through the writings of actual eyewitnesses of the period - regular people - we get a better idea of the day-to-day lives of those who lived through the period that were not poets, generals or royals.
If you are looking for a broad overview of this time, a book that is understandable to a reader without a degree in English history, this is a good book for you. And as usual, Simon Prebble's narration makes it fun to listen to.
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