Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Summer of You by Kate Noble

So Ruth, who is never wrong, told me to read The Summer ofYou by Kate Noble and the way she talked about it made me want to go and buy it immediately. So I did, and then read it rather quickly.

Think steamy Georgette Heyer that plays with narrative device.  Observe: I said steamy. This is not one of the squeaky clean historicals you sometimes find on this blog. If you are offended by steamy scenes then you are probably not going to like this book and should stick to your Heyer. You have been warned.

But if you don’t mind, oh I don’t know, perhaps the hottest sex scene I have ever read in a Regency ( made more so because the sexual tension was so wonderful infused and borne outta friendship and the guy---the Rochesterian misunderstood thought-to-be-a-Highwayman guy--- is such a dish ) then you are in for a treat. (Note: this book is more than this scene; but there is this scene, so I am letting you know )

Lady Jane leaves the ton and her society with her boring and horrible brother and retreats to the Cottage: a massive mansion in the Lake District with their ailing father who is suffering from the side effects of dementia.

From the first, Lady Jane is out of place: receiving visitors, planning social events, wandering the town… she has no one who “gets” her and while she enjoys the female company she keeps ( this book excels at painting lovely female friendships ) she wants something more.  She finds it, in the figure of Byrne Worth: a wounded war veteran who lives at the edge of her family’s property and is renowned as the surliest most uncouth man in the history of time.  When Lady Jane meets him, however, they form an immediate bond ( she may ALSO have noticed his fine figure when she stumbles upon him swimming en dishabille in the cold pond ) and she gives him jam and he gives her a special kind of tea and La! They become friends.

And this, ladies, is where the book gets really good and ends up winning the honourable mention of other books of its ilk ( think The Blue Castle, Venetia, the Black Sheep ): Friendship. Romance borne of friendship.  This isn’t “she doth make the torches burn bright” love at first sight crap with no substance. No, Lady Jane and Worth get each other, talk to each other enjoy ---and eventually --- crave each other’s company. The physical ( and it gets physical ) attraction that blossoms out of that does so gracefully, subtly and oh-so-believably.

Who wouldn’t want to marry their best friend?  When they finally consummate a passion borne out of similar personalities and traits--- it is seemingly more intense and beautiful because it is not something strewn from objective desire.  Certainly they are attracted to each other; but they have a foundation from which to springboard that attraction.

Pepper in some hijinks and familial problems and a few sideline romances and a ball and you have a fun regency getaway that is told by a much more competent pen than many contemporaries. Not only does Noble infuse her story with a careful and impressive knowledge of regency history, she does so in a winking sing-song manner,  devilish and deviant, pulling you aside and coaxing you along: nudging you closer and further as excited to tell—as you are to read--- the next portion of the tale.

I mentioned before that I was absolutely smitten with the range of narrative perspectives and I remain so.  Noble’s unexpected switches of points of view are nothing short of textbook.  She knows how to seamlessly transition and leaves you without a jolt. If she suddenly changes to a secondary character’s viewpoint it seems as easy as pie and natural as all get out.

I know that had I seen this book on a shelf I never would’ve picked I up.  But that’s the great thing about bookish people, they share and give you the insider scoop.  Someone gave this insider scoop to me and I am giving it to you.

I leave you with a few awesomely fun snippets:

“Later that summer, when the atmosphere was beginning to dip into autumn, Jane would be able to look back and pinpoint this moment in time---the moment of Byrne Worth’s lascivious delicious grin---as the moment that the earth hit a bump and the winds changed their course and the great northern heat wave of 1816 began.”

“There was a moment, so slight Byrne could not count its passing, that those eyes held him rooted to the ground.”

“Jane had infiltrated, her cinnamon scent stale in the air, like leftover spiced tea. He shouldn’t be surprised, but he was. She had wormed her way into his daytime thoughts; his unconscious was simply catching up.”

“There was nothing like a party to remind a person that the world was larger than their own frustration”

“But… a small worry pricked the back of her mind. Those other gentlemen…nothing would change with a kiss. With Byrne, would it change the way they spoke to each other? Would it colour every conversation that was to come, every time they ran into each other between their houses, every look? And, suddenly it mattered to Jane. It mattered, she realized, because he was her friend.”

“He could chalk up his actions last night as a product of stars…”

“new Jane who discovered the ability to be bold and vulnerable at once.”

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

that one time when fiction/fact blurred and ALL OF CUTTER GAP had twitter accounts

It is an interesting age to live in, cookies.

An age in which if you have ever felt the need to cathartically yell at a character who p*sses you off you can DO SO!

omg let' s just pretend this is their wedding

An age wherein MOST OF THE FICTIONAL CAST of "Christy" in an odd book/adaptation hybrid have taken to twitter and to, in some cases, recapping scenes in 140 characters.  The best part, all TRUE to each character's voice.

Now, I have read thousands of books in my lifetime ( no hyperbole. tis fact) and I have never hated any character more than I hate David Grantland.  Just irrational hatred. Doesn't matter what incarnation: book or television adaptation. David Grantland and I are not friends.  Before Twilight Heck--even after Twilight,  this is the best literary love triangle ever ( except it's more of a duo because David sucks). TRIVIA: Meg Cabot even shouts out to Christy and the dilemma of two men to win her hand in The Princess Diaries.

I hate David he is useless.

and now, thanks to the power of twitter and the devious and insane amount of fun I get from it, I can coax, cajole and bury David in words of *bitingly incendiary wit

(*I like to think they are bitingly incendiary and full of wit)

Whether you're on Team Neil or Team David ( wait. there is no Team David, is there?) or you think a social experiment wherein actual humans cloak themselves in fictional identities that, I think might actually entertain Catherine Marshall, welcome to Twitter--- Cutter Cap-style

There are several Christy Huddlesons on twitter ( also Anne Shirley and Jane Eyre, whodathunk); but this is the account I follow:

 ( written by a friend of mine) 
 (amazing. who ARE you )

I believe the same pitch-perfect voice at the helm of C_Hudd is responsible for Miss Alice and Neil MacNeill.

note: Neil MacNeill on twitter is the greatest thing to ever happen

second note: someone on facebook told me that they guy who plays Neil MacNeill is actually Australian and not actually Scottish. Which ruined my childhood.

If this makes any sense to you or amuses you whatsoever, ain't no PARTY like an S Club Party, know what I'm sayin'
third note: if the person who tweets as Neil would reveal her/themselves ( there is no way this is a guy. If it is, proposal to come shortly ) then we can all bask in your glory and follow your real-live twitter account ( irony intended)

Monday, January 20, 2014

TV Review: When Calls the Heart Episodes I-III

If you harbour even a moticum of interest in Inspirational Fiction, you know that we would never have a market were it not for Catherine Marshall and Janette Oke.

Michael Landon Jr. and the folks at Hallmark have done for Oke's Canadian West series in When Calls the Heart what CBS did for Christy in the 1990s: given it a vibrant revitalization on the small screen.

Opening with a two-part homage to the original story of Elizabeth Thatcher and her handsome red-coated Mountie, Wynn Delaney, the Hallmark series now offers episodic vignettes of life in an early 20th Century Canadian mining town. Here, another Elizabeth Thatcher teaches children out of a saloon due to the lack of schoolhouse and Constable Jack Thornton arrives gloriously on horseback to act as law-provider for a town still bereaved by a tragic explosion months before. To put it lightly, former city girl Elizabeth and frontier-man Jack do not hit it off the cuff; but that, fair readers and prospective watchers, is what is delicious about these stories.

The production value is wonderful and Canadians will rejoice in the moments which reference Lethbridge and Medicine Hat: more still, take pride in the red-serged Royal Northwest Mounted Policeman who maintains the right while (slowly) winning the hand of the pretty schoolteacher.

If this sounds like a familiar convention in these kinds of historicals, it is.  But it owns it.  This is a nice hybrid to settle between Christy and Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman: a romantic look into a simpler time rift with hardships we moderners can scarce fathom.

I love stories like this. I love the lack of cellphones or immediate need for speed of technology. I love that a hand-brush is far more romantic than whatever full-cover nudity you'll see on the latest HBO series. I love that it is stripped of the conniving soapy antics that plague Downton Abbey. This historical is made for those who appreciate a strong, historically-accurate, ripple of faith; but also just appreciate quality television.

I was fortunate enough to view the first three episodes (poor Canadians, this is not shown anywhere here yet--- so keep an eye on amazon for the  DVD) and I was impressed, as mentioned, by the production values and warm writing :not unlike a patched quilt sewn with anecdotes and timeless Old Wives Tales. I also enjoyed the acting!!! Great cast!  It put me greatly in mind of Sunday evenings as a child when I would rush home from church to catch Road to Avonlea on the CBC. When Calls the Heart is inherently nostalgic: for those familiar with Oke's work, yes; but also for those who just enjoy a time period that seeps gently into your psyche.

Did I mention he is a MOUNTIE :)
I had mentioned that my first feel for the series offered me a glimpse at the hardships of mountain pioneer life and  I want to speak to this a little further as probably the strongest tenet of the series.  You really, seriously get a glimpse at what lies behind the curtain of romanticism bookish dreamers, such as myself, have created for the golden olden days.   You realize how dastardly doing laundry in the winter would be and Elizabeth, adjusting to life away from her grand estate, is met with an untimely stove fire and the dark burgeoning shadows of the outhouse .

I was immediately addicted to the main characters, include Elizabeth and Jack; but loved the subtle intertwining of secondary characters that will, I am sure, creep deeper into my heart the longer I watch.
In short, if you are like me at all ( and I know several of you blog readers are ) THIS , THIS is what we have been waiting for. It's our ideal escapism: all tea cozy and rose-patterned, laced with morality and spiced with enough romance to keep our spunky schoolteacher ( SHE IS SO STRONG AND WONDERFUL) gazing out her window for a stetson and red-coat to ride by.

note: My friends at Grace Hill Media were instrumental in giving me this sneak peek and you should check them out because they rock

another note: Janette Oke has written a companion book which will be published by Bethany shortly

Sunday, January 12, 2014

More proof that Toronto is the coolest city in the world

My musical theatre life started with Colm Wilkinson because he played Phantom of the Opera and Valjean here as I was growing up. In part, my love for theatre developed adjacent Colm Wilkinson's electric performances which I, being a Canadian near Toronto, had the privilege to see.

Ramin Karimloo, a native Canadian treasure ( having lived here since 1989, I would say that Colm is an adopted treasure ) is now set to perform the role of Valjean on Bway.

Last night, I attended a brilliant, brilliant and unforgettable performance wherein Colm played the Bishop and Ramin killed it as Valjean (it was my fourth time seeing him this round. RUN TO BWAY and get tickets when it heads there in Feb ).  The cast upped the ante, the orchestration was spine-tingling and at the end: they did this.


And you're all like: stop going to Les Miserables. Which is valid. But, last night was for charity :)

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Film Review:' La Veuve de Saint-Pierre"

I have wanted to see this movie since I was in high school.   I have always wanted to see this film; but somehow I have not. Until today. It was on the Movie Network: Encore and I was up and couldn't fall back asleep and knew that I had a full day of writing ahead ( I am nose-deep in finishing my new novel) ...

A few notes on the setting:

note 1: St Pierre is a little island off the coast of Newfoundland that is still in the possession of the French. I find it a fascinating little place and would love to go sometime.

note 2: it is FAIRLY obvious that this film was not filmed anywhere near St Pierre and is actually just totally filmed in Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island which is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of my favourite places in Canada! So HUZZAH! NOVA SCOTIA

This movie is achingly gorgeous and strangely ethical and philosophical and surged with harrowing humanism and consequences so grave you will want to sink your head into your hands.

It begins simply: two men go out to the pub on one foggy night, get drunk and kill a man.  Stupidly.

Their case is tried and neither can remember doing the deed.  It's all circumstantial and rather insipid and kind of horrible. You keep seeing in their eyes the desire to rewind the clock and put the liquor down and rescind their impractical stupidity.  Nevertheless, one man is sentenced to deportation from the sieged isolation of the little island and the other sentenced to death by Guillotine as was custom in French tribunal. As St Pierre belongs to French the same sense of legality is honoured there.

The stoic Captain ( a delicious, delicious Daniel Auteuil)  is seen receiving a horse from a cargo ship. He beckons his gorgeous wife Pauline ---known as Mme La---( Juliette Bincoche) to admire its ebony sinews and classic stance and we see a married couple deeply, madly in love. This sets off a relationship so passionate in its inference that I could scarcely keep my eyes from the Captain's eyes as he drunk in every moment of his wife's normalcy.

Indeed, the Captain drinks in every movement of his wife: every thought, the slightest of movements. Its as if he so treasures and cherishes her gift of sheer being he would like to steal into her thoughts to better understand every yet-unturned leaf in the blossoming garden of her compassionate enterprise.  You will die at how in love this gent is with his lovely wife.

While the prisoner under the Captain's watch is silently resolute, there is an over-arching judicial problem: the prisoner's sentence cannot easily be carried out.  They need a guillotine sailed in from the far reaches of France's middling empire and an executioner to see the dead to its end.  The Governor, a stern and horribly near-sighted man, proves far more obsessed with retaining his own idea of order than finding a proper end to a precariously bizarre instant.

The prisoner, Neel Auguste, is an exemplary case in reform.   Mme La undertakes him as a kind of protege and he begins by helping her consecrate a greenhouse under the ill-tempered weather of their maritime island.  Soon, Neel is helping the widows of the neighbouring Dog Island, fixing roofs, even saving a life. He is granted permission to marry and months pass without word about his method of execution or a man to carry out the odious deed.

In fact, when the cargo ship carrying the guillotine finally rims the mouth of the harbour, Neel is one of the first to volunteer to row it to shore.

As Mme La is compelled to spend more time with the prisoner and invest in his rehabilitation, so the Captain is caught in a paradox between his own brand of justice, buried deep in his resolute conscious and his awareness that his wife is preoccupied---if not in a conjugal sense--- with another man.

The eventual outcome is a distractingly strange and bleak and tragic downfall rips apart any idea of romance I had in its infancy due to its rugged, gorgeous sea-scape and spine-chilling chemistry between our Captain and his beautiful Mme La.

I doubt I'll be able to shake it from the precipices of my brain for awhile. It is a tortured movie that spills out like a kind of salt-water opera: tugs at you with brine and oakum and sinks into your pre-conceived notion of law and justice.

A gorgeous story, very well-told, thoughtful and just the right kind of bleak. It's hard to find any light in here beyond the muddled grey of the ocean exterior: but that's Louisbourg for you--- all haggard and rock-rifted and pining for bottled, captive light.