Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Windflower by Sharon and Tom Curtis *****

The Windflower was written under the pen name Laura London, but the actual authors are a husband and wife team named Sharon & Tom Curtis. The Windflower is on the Top 100 of 2007 at All About Romance, and according to the author of the review there, "one of the most beloved historical romances" - and it's got pirates too!

As I started reading it, to be honest, I thought it was a joke. The prose is so overwhelming as to be quite deep purple, in my opinion. Indeed, when one of the metaphors was how Merry recovered from something or other and was likened to an upholstered chair, I laughed out loud - it was indeed a joke. Were these two authors laughing at the reading public, trying to see how far they could go with lush, never-ending sentences, layered adjectives, parenthetical phrases galore?

No, I guess not. It took me a while - and it's a long book, for romance: right at 500 pages - to get into the mood and the essence of the book. Yes, I do believe they tried to push the very limits of what the romance reading public would tolerate, and in doing that, apparently exceeded their goal while at the same time pleasing the hordes. Yes, by the time I got to the end, I was thoroughly in love with both Devon and Merry, and Cathcart, and Cat and even Morgan Rand. However, Morgan comes across as something of a "deus ex machina" - I mean, not exactly out of the blue, but the coincidences of his participation really stretch the imagination.

I would almost call the book pure fantasy - it even starts with Merry's recurring dreams of a unicorn. This unicorn is so sexually blatant in her dreams - his horn "poised and thick". After they stared at each other in one dream, she thinks, "He wants me to ride him." Oh, honey, does he ever! The pirates, the ones the AAR reviewer calls "the most realistic to be found in romantic fiction" are about as realistic as Hansel and Gretel's witch. They are a merry lot, with intriguing pasts, and they come to love and cherish Merry, who - yes, it's true - remains a virgin til her wedding night some many moons later. Oh, yes, very realistic. For fiction. Pure and total fiction, with no basis in fact at all.

But it's loads of fun too - swashbuckling adventure almost as wonderful as Marsha Canham's (but not quite). The virginal heroine doesn't start out brave and courageous, wanting to protect all mankind. In fact, she's scared out of her wits all the time, constantly thinking "this is it!" about her virtue and her very life. Although she grows to love Devon, she's always scared of him - it does come across as Stockholm Syndrome, saved only by her fascination with him at the beginning of the book, before he's become her captor. Devon, our devilish rakehell of a pirate, is, of course, a duke who likes to play at pirating with his bastard half brother the real pirate. Rand, the real pirate, is widely implied to be a sodomizer - lots of speculation about his beautiful boy pirates who accompany him, including Devon. Maybe he's supposed to be bi-, though, as he's always wanting a woman too.

The characters are richly drawn, if you can blast your mind through the prose with multiple adjectives, adverbs, clauses and other grammatical excesses. But you have to take several leaps of faith with the authors - could a gently-bred 18-year-old virgin actually survive 2 weeks stranded with a corpse on a deserted Caribbean island? How coincidental could it be that Rand had been in love with Merry's mother and (SPOILER ALERT) always intended for Devon and Merry to marry, even though it supposedly was an accident that she was brought aboard The Black Joke (heh heh, Black Joke, get it)?

Ok, plot redux: there's our American heroine Merry - already described - who is forced to go to England with her maiden aunt accompanied by a British officer, during the second war America had with England (of 1812-1815). Because of a series of events, she is moved into the officer's cabin and he sleeps on deck. Devon sends Cat (boy pirate) to steal something from the officer, and he steals Merry as well. Merry is a talented artist who draws portraits for her brother in support of the war effort, including a quite accurate one of Devon, so she is determined to keep her real identity a secret from him forever. Therein the conflict between the two - he assumes she's the officer's mistress and wants details, and she assumes if he finds out who she is and what she did, her brother and she will both be killed.

Lots of intrigue and swashbuckling ensues as Merry is kept aboard The Black Joke (heh heh) for months, and attempts 2 or 3 very credible but almost fatal escapes. She learns to dress in men's clothing, and the pirates teach her all kinds of things over the months before Devon decides enough is enough, and hauls her off to England, apparently to face trial. But over the course of the story, the only thing realistic is their growing relationship (if you discount the whole Stockholm Syndrome thing, that is) so that when it finally, FINALLY - and I mean they make you wait and wait and WAIT and build tension til you could SCREAM with it - finally they get to the declarations of love and the HEA, with only one more, rather scary conflict to resolve in the last dozen or so pages. At last, HEA.

The AAR reviewer mentions that there are several people hoping for a sequel. The book is so out of print as to be practically impossible to get, so I don't think anyone should hold her breath for that. I don't know if I could swashbuckle my way through more of their writing, myself.

Still, one more on the AAR Top 100 of 2007 down, and still a few to go - and I enjoyed it in the end, and give it 5 stars/favorite if not "keeper" status. Hmmm, no notable pets, and I wouldn't call Devon besotted, although I wondered how Raven and Cat managed, because I thought they were both besotted with her and yet they kept their distances.

1 comment:

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