Show Me the Romance

No cherubs. No doilies. No crap.

Archive for the month “May, 2010”

Book Review: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
Novel by Lauren Willig
A contemporary/historical romance and alternate history spy novel

Time to talk about one of my favorite authors. Lauren Willig is who I want to be when I grow up. Of course, the fact that she has a Harvard Law degree and I…do not… might put a bit of a damper on my emulation plans. Eh, well my point remains: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and its sequels are awesome incarnate.

The Premise

In modern day London, American grad student Eloise Kelly desperately needs sources for her thesis on flower-named spies during the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815). Everyone knows the Scarlet Pimpernel was a real spy, and they also know the identity of the Purple Gentian, his protégé—but Eloise really wants to discover the identity of the Pink Carnation, the most mysterious spy of all.

She becomes the luckiest grad student in history when she meets up with a direct descendant of the Purple Gentian. Even better, the old lady gives her permission to read the family papers—papers no academic has ever seen before. And never will, if her hostile-but-handsome grandson has anything to say about it.

Meanwhile in 1803, the Purple Gentian a.k.a. Richard Selwick is happily wreaking havoc in Paris when wannabe spy Amy forces her way into his life. Amy sucks at espionage. Suddenly, Richard has his hands full, carrying out missions for the crown while keeping Amy away from danger—and that includes himself.

The Pain

The book switches back and forth between the modern and historical timelines every few chapters. This would be intolerable if one storyline sucked, but fortunately they’re both good, so as you read it’s like “No! I don’t want to leave Richard and Amy!” and then a few chapters later it’s like “No! I don’t want to leave Eloise and Colin!” and so on.  Mildly annoying, but I can’t imagine the story being told in any other way.

The Payoff

This thing is funny. And hot romantic. And really well written. And she knows her history. And aw heck, why don’t I just squeal like the little fangirl I am.

There, done. Aren’t you glad you couldn’t hear me?


5 out of 5 arrows

The other books in the Pink Carnation series are great, too. In order:
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
The Masque of the Black Tulip
The Deception of the Emerald Ring
The Seduction of the Crimson Rose
The Temptation of the Night Jasmine
The Betrayal of the Blood Lily

The Mischief of the Mistletoe (coming in October 2010)

The Grammar Nazi Shops for a House

It’s spelled dining. D-I-N-I-N-G. There’s no such thing as a “dinning” room, and I know it’s not a typo when you keep using it ALL THROUGHOUT THE LISTING.

The majority of houses I find online bear descriptions that look like a particularly uneducated twelve year old texted them to the listing office, so I had thought I was building up a thick skin to the clear lack of caring real estate agents put into their property listings. Oh no.

The thing is, the rest of this listing is decently put together:

Open Sunday 2-4. BIG AND BRIGHT! Beautifully renovated home in lovely Broyhill Park. 5 bedrooms, 3 baths, Georgeous Kitchen with granite, stainless steel, tons of cabinet and counter space! Gleaming hardwood floors, HUGE living room and dinning room. Master Bedroom suite is amazing, with multiple closets, separate jetted tub and stand up shower, dual vanity sinks! A MUST SEE!

So, “georgeous” kitchen aside (I kind of love that, actually), I’m reading right along until I hit that “dinning.” I think, ok, typo, and click on through to the photo gallery where everything–the captions, the page headings, everything to do with that particular spot in the house is spelled “dinning.”

Like nails on a chalkboard.

Hey, maybe this is a dinning room after all.

(Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week).

Movie Review: Penelope (2007)

Movie (91 minutes, PG)
Starring Christina Ricci and James McAvoy

The French-language poster is better than the US version.

If Penelope had been released in theaters with all the proper promotion, it wouldn’t be a cult hit dependent on word-of-mouth–it would be a hit, period. Reese Witherspoon has produced (and cameoed in) a fairytale for the paranormal set, complete with disfigured ‘princess’ and diamond-in-the-rough ‘prince’. And before you go “Prince? Princess? What is this–Disney for grown-ups?” just hear me out. Penelope is a romance with style.

The Premise

Due to a curse on her rich, blue-blood family, Penelope Wilhern (Christina Ricci) was born with a pig snout instead of a nose. In an effort to protect her from the scorn of the world, her parents constructed an entire wonderland for her inside their house, and never let her go outside. She’s learned about the world through books and music, and the only boys she meets are the ones who speak to her through a one-way mirror. Apparently, the curse will be broken if she falls in love with her own kind, so her parents parade only well-born boys through their house. Every time twentysomething Penelope shows them her face, they run away in terror…until blue-blood Max Campion (James McAvoy) arrives.

The Pain

The fairytale genre leaves room for some convenient plot turns and over-simplification. Most of the actors chew the screen like silent film stars, but I didn’t really mind that. It fits this satirical fairytale. The romance seemed to sag at the halfway mark, but redeemed itself by the end.

The Payoff

Simple and innocent as this story is, it has more romance than traditional fairytales, and McAvoy brings a believable honesty to his role that elevates this above more traditional fairytale endings. I loved Enchanted (starring Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey) but that was a fairytale comedy. Penelope is a romance.


4 out of 5 arrows

Book Review: Darcy’s Passions

Darcy’s Passions
Novel by Regina Jeffers
A retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice

So in case you haven’t noticed the ballooning words over in my tag cloud, I’ve been on a Jane Austen kick lately. When I wasn’t able to find the retelling of Persuasion I was looking for, I decided to investigate the author by settling for the only one of her books I could find in our local library: Darcy’s Passions by Regina Jeffers.

And I do mean settle. This is an awful book.

The Premise

I think everyone with even a passing interest in romance knows the plot for Pride & Prejudice (if not, check out the Pride & Prejudice Wikipedia page) and this is a retelling told almost entirely from Darcy’s point of view. I say “almost” because the author frequently slip-n-slides between her characters’ heads, all the while pretending she’s sticking only with Darcy. Also, Jeffers gives us almost 100 pages after the second proposal. Sound like a smorgasbord? Imagine how you’d feel after eating two entire double-fudge chocolate cakes in less than a half hour. Groan.

The Pain

Let’s breeze by the wrong word choices (things frequently “peak” her characters’ interest and one even says “perspective bride”) and go straight to the fact that after the second proposal the real Darcy and Elizabeth vanish from the pages (probably to go enjoy each other in private) and leave behind two sappy, chatty, PDA-prone doppelgangers. My mush-tolerance got maxed out some 90 pages before the end of the book, but I kept reading just to see how deep the rabbit hole went. The answer? Pretty darn far.

The Payoff

When you ignore those word choices, and Jeffers’ tendency to write like the academic she is, the parts of the novel that mirror Austen’s plot can be entertaining. I enjoyed seeing more of the friendship between Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam.

Yeah, that’s about it.


1 out of 5 arrows

The Grammar Nazi Tries to Service Her New Car

You guys like the Grammar Nazi, huh?

I have many, many miles to go before my new Honda Fit needs an oil change, but like any overprotective new parent I’m over-thinking how to take care of it.

I was raised to trust dealership service departments about as far as I can throw them, but in reading over my manual and doing some further reading online, I’m coming to think that I may need to take it to the dealership for oil changes and whatnot (partially due to the very specialized maintenance minder installed on the vehicle).

So, I’m reading consumer reviews for local dealerships. Some of these review sites allow the dealer to post a response to a customer’s comment, and what do you know, our favorite dealership (yes, the same one as last time) stopped the Grammar Nazi in her tracks.  The bolding is mine:

Dear [redacted], You said it, “repeat business and referrals say volumes about satisfaction.” Building customers for life is what we strive to do here at [redacted] Honda. You are the epidamy of that goal and we look forward to doing business with you for years to come. [redacted], Customer Relations Manager

First thought: Is this person talking about skin?
Second thought: Oh, epitome.
Third thought: Ahahahahahaha [cough] haha [cough] ahem.

Well…I guess that’s how most people say “epitome”. And, in the interest of full disclosure, the Grammar Nazi’s mother (hereinafter referred to as the Ur-Grammar Nazi) once had a good chuckle at the expense of her bookworm daughter over this very word. I had only ever read the word, knew what it meant, and pronounced it “EP-eh-tome.”

On the plus side, this rep used decent punctuation and capitalization with no typos, so I won’t dismiss her service department because she had the guts to use a good word (even if she made it sound like a skin condition). This dealer seems to have generally high marks, and their job is to accurately reset my complicated maintenance computer, not win spelling bees.

That said, anyone want to take a stab at defining “epidamy” ? 😉

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