Purple Prose and a Rapist ‘Hero’: The Original Bodice Ripper: Review of ‘The Flame and the Flower’ by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

Mummy Porn cover

Marty-Stu rapes Mary-Sue and then they find a love so true…
I am so glad that I have finished this (by the way, I read it for research: honestly!). I detested reading it; and it was epic length. The only reason I am not giving it one star is because an online friend of mine said that it had helped her in dealing with memories of sexual abuse.
It has been argued that the whole ‘rape to love’ theme so beloved of the Bodice Rippers of the 1970’s developed from the fact that the US was many decades behind the UK and parts of Europe in accepting a woman’s right to sexual pleasure; this being so, readers of this age group were attracted by the comforting fantasy of a man who is at first a sexual aggressor coming to love and treat the object of his lust with tenderness and respect.
This being so, I will give it two stars. This is the most acid review that I have written about any book. As I have often said, I don’t like giving low star, savage reviews and only award them for novels which romanticise rapist so-called heroes or the brutalisation of women.
Even so,being a softy, I doubt I would have been able to bring myself to write it, had the author still been alive.
This story seems to be a verison of Georgette Heyer’s ‘Devil’s Cub’ meets Margaret Mitchell’s ‘Gone with the Wind’.
From ‘Devil’s Cub’ there is the abduction on a ship by a seemingly wicked man who misunderstands the female lead’s purpose and mistakes her for ‘a light woman’, the male lead making a rape attempt (in this case, after earlier successful ones) with the words: ‘Be damned, I’ll take you’ , the male lead’s murderously violent temper, his showing unexpected kindness to the female lead when she is seasick, etc.
Birmingham is also as a sea captain from Charleston, like Rhett Butler from ‘Gone With the Wind’, though Rhett Butler has the ability to laugh at himself that this ‘hero’ does not, and is far likable and intelligent generally. Birmingham’s late mother and the female lead are obviously based upon Scarlett O’Hara’s mother Ellen; the countless other similarities include a version of the sharp-tongued Grandma Fontaine, who in this case becomes one of a chorus devoted to singing the female lead’s praises and running down other women.
I have to find some positive things to say about this. I suppose the writing can be described as vivid; in some passages, it is even striking if overburdened with adjectives and adverbs. For instance, this description of a storm: –
‘Horse and rider entered a forest gone wild. Once lazy branches lashed and stung and whipped and clawed. The trees bent and swayed in what seemed a frenzied determination to snatch her from the horse and failing, moaned their frustration to the wind.’
In its day, it was a phenomenal success.
Views about rapist ‘heroes’ have changed, and I am frankly disturbed that it still receives glowing reviews.
On the writing style, unfortunately, this is far more typical:–
‘To her he appeared as some splendid, godlike being. Murmuring her love to him, she slid her arms about his neck, pressing her soft breasts into the mat of hair that covered his chest …’
For someone who is supposed to be devout, the female lead doesn’t seem very troubled by the First Commandment. Elizabeth Gaskell would have pointed the moral to that.
Purpose prose abounds. Such tautologies as ‘He laughed at her with mirth, throwing his splendid head up high’ are typical. I felt that if I read once more about her, ‘looking up at him timidly’ or the muscle in his jaw ‘twitching spasmodically in his anger’, or ‘the elderly ******* grinning from ear to ear’ I would turn into a dung beetle. Sometimes, the ‘hero’s’ eyes are like ‘flames of fire’ or ‘burning with passion’s fire’. At other times, he ‘chuckles softly’. He is very fond of doing that.
I lost count of the number of times the allure of these ‘soft breasts’ is mentioned, or of descriptions of Heather’s ‘ flowing dark tresses’, or her other charms. Possibly more often than we hear about his ‘dark, handsome face’.
There is no man who meets Heather who doesn’t fall for her, and all the women long for Brandon Birmingham, which surely qualifies the pair as fully paid up, card-holding members of the Mary-Sue and Marty-Stu club .
All men are seized by violent desire the minute they set eyes on Heather. Fat, repulsive ones are stimulated to unusual athleticism in trying to rape her, and as a result are thrown out of windows or knocked flying into bushes by the male lead.
Interestingly, fat people in this are invariably evil, with the exception of Hatti , rightly described in a Goodreads review as a ‘Cringeworthy Mammy stereotype.’

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And after all, she is merely, ‘ample’. She is the black domestic tyrant slave wholly devoted to the interests of her white owners. A typical speech from her is: – ‘Oh Lordy, Master Bran, we done thought something bad had happened to you.’
Interestingly, by contrast, none of the black men in this are given any personality or indeed, any sort of distinguishing personal characteristics at all.
At least, the racism of Margaret Mitchell in ‘Gone With The Wind’ had the excuse that was published in 1936, and begun ten years earlier. This novel was published in 1972, long after the Civil Rights movement. Yes, of course there was slavery in the US of 1799; but should it have been portrayed wholly uncritically?
Everyone regards the ‘hero’ with admiration, even those who suspect the rape, though a couple express misgivings over it . All the single local women swoon over this fellow. In fact, his jilted former fiancée continues to pursue him shamelessly. Just why everyone admires him, when he is depicted as being as callow and insensitive as a boy of fourteen at the age of thirty-five or six, isn’t explained, except by his being handsome and rich and something of a bully. Neither does he have the excuse of having lost his mother early; she died when he was twenty-five.

KEW
*Warning: spoilers follow*
This fiancée is understandably humiliated when the ‘hero’ turns up with a bride at the port where she comes to greet him back to the US. Here, one wonders at his total lack of social graces. Even given that overseas post would be disrupted by the French Revolutionary Wars, he might have had the sense to send one of his men with a note ahead of him before coming ashore, asking his brother to get his former fiancée out of the way. No, such delicacy is beyond him, and all of a piece with his performance as a rapist.
This rejected fiancée makes a point of aiming cruel barbs at the poor, helpless Heather (her late nineteenth century name being one anachronism among many concerning the late eighteenth century UK).
This woman, Louisa, is referred to as a ‘blonde bitch’ (off topic: as one born with light coloured hair, I find the way two terms are commonly casually linked in light novels to be wholly unfair).Strangely enough, the ludicrously named ‘Brandon Birmingham’ -it may be that the author had never taken note of what an unromantic city the Birmingham in England is- though he is portrayed as a macho man, shows a feminine streak of spite in his replies to these taunts.
For instance, this exchange, when the ‘hero’ is seen by his ex- fiancée carrying the now heavily pregnant Heather upstairs, is typical:
‘”Do you do this every night, Brandon?” she enquired jeeringly, with a raised eyebrow. “It surely must put a strain upon your back, darling…’
‘His face was expressionless as he made his reply, “I’ve lifted heavier women in my life, including you…’
Louisa keeps walking into these put-downs as if she can’t see them coming, though she is supposed to be so socially confident. In fact, she is, like most of the characters, wholly unbelievable.
Credible characters can make a wholly incredible plot seem believable, but these are as unreal as the events in the story. These characters are caricatures.
Though the story begins in England, the author shows a remarkably blasé attitude towards the need for any familiarity with the topography, language or customs of the UK of the late eighteenth century.
In fact, the action begins in ‘the English countryside’, with no county specified. The description is apparantly much admired, and is certainly striking, but it is set in a geographically impossible location of moorland which is nevertheless within a day’s journey of London on the appalling roads of 1799. Also, here, there is apparently a climate so dry that on a hot summer’s day dust hangs continually in the air. Even when roads were only partly paved, there could be no place in England, even in a prolonged drought, dry and hot enough to create that effect.
These anachronisms are so numerous that it is not worth listing more than a couple.
Heather presumably has lived through the terrible winter of 1794-5, when birds fell dead out of the trees, and in fact, even the mildest winter in the UK is decidedly cold and damp. Despite this, she does not think to order any flannel petticoats or warm underwear to take with her on a winter’s voyage across the Atlantic. This gives the male lead an opportunity to show he cares by having fashioned for her some quilted underwear.
Then, why does Brandon Birmingham (whose father was apparently ‘an English aristocrat’ who during the American War of Independence renounced his citizenship and therefore, any title he had, though we are never told exactly what his was) think that he would be entitled to ‘the axe’ for rape and abduction? It would have been a short drop hanging for him along with the hoi polloi.
There are myriad misunderstandings following on not, it seems, from Birmingham’s raping Heather three times on board the ship, or for his Dominic Alistair impersonation in the inn. No, none of that matters; what does come between them is that Birmingham has told Heather that as he suspects she was in the plot along with her aunt and the others to force him to marry her. Accordingly, he vows to punish her by treating her as an upper servant, allowing her no money, and refusing to consummate the marriage.
For months, he is tormented by desire for her soft breasts and firm youthful body, and finally he resolves on another rape as a way of solving their problems. This, however, proves unnecessary. Heather is already waiting for him in a provocative nightdress of the sort they definitely did not wear in the late eighteenth century.
This, apparently, is very romantic and exciting.
I think what outraged me most is that the rapes that take place when first they meet are recalled by both as finally a good thing, a fit subject for joking, and even a topic for sentimental recollection (by the by, Heather has no ambiguous feelings, no distaste, about having a pregnancy as the result of the rape).
For instance, Heather reflects at once point that she ought to be grateful to him for ravishing her, as her life was so hard before with her abusive (and naturally, obese) aunt. At another time she says, ‘I was nothing before he met me.’
He is sentimentally attached to the dress that she was wearing when he first raped her – regarding it as ‘Their Dress’. He sternly admonishes her for bartering it for some cloth which she uses to make him a Christmas present. She sheds tears and apologises.
At the end, before a wholly improbable piece of love making – though the ‘hero’ is pale from blood loss from a shooting, he can always rise to the occasion – he and Heather have this exchange. He says of one of the many would-be rapists in her life: –
‘”He got what he deserved for trying to rape you.”
She looked at him slyly. “You were the one who raped me. What were your just deserts?”
He grinned leisurly. “I got my just deserts when I had to marry a cocky wench like you.”’
He then threatens to spank her. The timid Heather shows some apprehension. Then he reassures her smugly, ‘”Madam, you amaze me. Never once have I laid a hand to you and yet you still act as if you expect me to.”’
As a critic said of Samuel Richardson’s Pamela: ‘It is sentimental and obscene. The obscenity lies in the sentimentality.’

The Delights of Good Bad Writing

 

Picture_of_Jeffery_FarnolI am run off my feet at the moment in real life with family responsibilities – as always happens during July and August – so I haven’t been able to keep up with writing at all these past few weeks.

That’s a good thing in a way; real life events should always take precedence over our imaginary worlds, as long as one has writing time over the year. Anyway,the last editing of my latest novel, that sequel to ‘That Scoundrel Émile Dubois’’, must wait until the autumn. Still,  I do feel that I have been neglecting my blog for too long.

Apropos my last post, which commented on the similarities between the the poet and spokesman for the days of the British Empire, Rudyard Kipling, and the writer of historical romances and detective novels Georgette Heyer, I was reflecting that I must explore the writings of Jeffrey Farnol, who has something in common with either:

Here he is summed up by Wickpedia:

‘Jeffery Farnol (10 February 1878 – 9 August 1952) was a British writer from 1907 until his death, known for writing more than 40 romance novels, some formulaic and set in the Georgian Era or English Regency period, and swashbucklers. He, with Georgette Heyer, founded the Regency romantic genre.’

The synopsis of the plot for ‘ Martin Coninsby’s Vengeance’ made me laugh out loud. Here it is, in all its glory:

‘Jeffery Farnol brings back the pirate days of the Spanish Main in this stirring book with a company of picturesque characters. It is a full-blooded, wholesome novel that captivates the reader.
Martin Conisby, sour from his five years of slavery on the Spanish galleon Esmeralda, escapes during a sea fight on to an English ship and makes his way back to England. Seeking revenge on Richard Brandon, who was the cause of his father’s death and his own imprisonment. Broken both in body and spirit, he arrives home disguised as a tramp, just in time to save a beautiful girl from the hands of robber, Lady Jane Brandon, the daughter of the man whom he has sworn to punish.
In the tavern he meets an old friend, Adam Penfeather, who tells him the tale of Black Bartlemy, the infamous pirate, with his treasure buried on a desert island–treasure of magnificent value.’…

I see. I simply have to read that one. It sounds as if it must be a classic following the ‘Rinaldo Rinaldini’ blood and thunder So Bad Its Good type of reading.

The titles alone are a delight. Here are a few:

The Amateur Gentleman (1913)

The Jade of Destiny (1931)

John o’the Green (1935)

Adam Penfeather, Buccaneer (1940)

The Fool Beloved (1949)

Sorry about the uneven print size.

I have not yet explored the contents of any of Jefferey Farnol’s novels, but from those titles and that synopsis alone, I am willing to take a bet that regarding purple prose and stereotypical characters, they have something in common with the novels of Charles Garvice, writer of  best selling Victorian and Edwardian romantic melodramas.

I may be proved entirely wrong, of course, and they may contain brilliant writing along with the bad – many novels do.

Charles Garvice, to my mind, wrote the worst prose, and created the most cardboard characters, of any writer I have ever encountered. I must admit that Barbara Cartland may be a strong runner up. However, I could only endure reading two of hers. Both were terrible and full of unintentional comedy.

One was about a disguised courtier turned highwayman in the court of Charles II. The other was about an obese, drab haired girl who went into a coma for a year and emerged as a slender ash blonde creature who came over to the UK to work for her own estranged husband, with whom she had been forced into a marriage of convenience, and who didn’t recognise her.

These gave me a pretty good  idea about the value of her literary output. However, as I read these many years ago, and have been unable to track them down,  I don’t feel that I have recently read a fair enough sample of hers to claim to be properly informed.

Regulars of this blog will know of my fascination with Garvice’s works, and how Laura Sewell Mater’s article more or less summed up my own reaction, that she had only to read the few paragraphs on the pages of that Charles Garvice novel she found washed up on a beach on Iceland, to know that the writing was ‘incredibly, almost uniquely, bad’.

Many writers combine both good and bad writing – that is certainly true of Elizabeth Gaskell and the Bronte sisters –  but they include too much excellent writing ever to come close to vying for the title of a Good Bad Writer, unlike Vulpius with his ‘Rinaldo Rinaldini’, Kipling in much of his poetry, Georgette Heyer, and Charles Garvice.

 

 

 

Episode from A Spoof Gothic Regency Romance: The Proposal

 

Medieval-CastlesThe Dastardly Duke approaches the Spirited Heroine as she walks in the castle grounds with her charges.

SH: Ho Hum! He’s got no shirt on. This means a passionate scene. This is the cover.

DD: Run and play, youngsters.

SH: Well, at least he doesn’t call them brats any more.

First Charge: I hope you are not dismissing her, Papa? [Second charge
starts sobbing]

DD: Only as governess. I will offer her a position far worthier of her talents. No questions. Run along.

Charges:  Oh good!  We can go to being spoilt brats instead of neglected treasures. Georg_Friedrich_Kersting_005_detail[They run off.}

[Now sounds a burst of organ music ]

DD: Eh, what’s that? Oh, it’s my late wife making her presence known. [shouts] I hope that’s OK with you, dearest? Damn, anachronism, I know. Give me the electric shock and get it over with. [refuses to wince as he takes his punishment]

SH: Whatever can Your Grace mean?

DD: [attempts to smile, but is too used to giving bitter grimaces to pull it off]

SH: Heavens! I hope you are not taken ill, Sir?

DD: My dear one: you cannot be unaware of the reason why I have changed form a morose, monosyllabic misanthrope to a man who sees a purpose in life.

SH: [twinkling] At least in the Regency era, it won’t be because he has been reading Hay House tripe. I know, anachronism: ouch!

DD: This is very hard for me; it goes against my nature, to admit what I have come to feel…

SH: [encouragingly] Whatever can Your Grace mean? You spoke of promoting me?

[Merry_Joseph_Blondel_-_Felicite-Louise-Julie-Constance_de_DurfortCrash of lightning. Enter the footman]

Footman: [who is, of course, a demoted ex-hero] Stop! I won’t have it! She’s my heroine, not yours, you beetle browed brute!

DD: Go to the devil, you low born cur.

Footman: I cannot stand quietly by and see a delightful maiden duped. This man is a whatchacallit- you know, the name for people who murder their wives –

DD: [with a bitter smile] Murderer will do, fellow.

[Wraith of late wife, arriving with a flash of lightning] Oh no, he isn’t!

Footman:  Oh yes, he is!

DD: Please, my dearest, stop! You fellow, silence!  I refuse to have my Proposal Scene descend into vulgar pantomime.

Footman: [brandishes sword] I’ll kill you first!

[Wraith, gliding between them] Oh, no!

DD: You and whose army? I know, anachronism. [refuses to wince as he suffers the inevitable electric shock] Anyway, I didn’t kill my beloved Matilda, for all that we quarreled bitterly. She slipped on the stairs. And that sword’s an anachronism, how come you’re being let off?

Footman: I took it from one of the suits of armour.

SH: Oh, do go away, dear. I’ll marry you immediately you get promoted again. That’s probably only three books from now. Authors do like to use your type.

DD: There will always be a demand for the Mean and Moody emotionally challenged type as long as so many women readers have bad taste.

SH: Well, I don’t. So let’s make this a wrap. I know, anachronism! Ouch.

[Footman Ex hero goes off] Oh, very well.

DD: [shouts after him] Go and clean the closets, scrub! [Drops down on his knees] Ah, will you be mine, dearest? I count your connections with trade as a mere nothing to your charm and liveliness, my dearest, sweetest –

[Wraith of ex wife] I give you my blessing. [vanishes]

DD:  She releases me. Will you marry me?

SH: I will.

[DD jumps up and they kiss]

Author: The End.

DD: What? That’s it?

SH: That’s it. This is a ‘sweet’ romance. No naughtiness beyond a chaste kiss.

DD: Well, damn me! Getting my hands on you was the only thing that kept me going.

Author: Now, what for my next? I know! A Dastardly Duke who courts a Spirited Heroine! And I’ll set it in Regency England!

[DD seizes SH’s hand and they begin to run]

220px-IncubusDD: Not me! I’m booked to be an alluring demon in a futuristic fantasy!

SH: Not me either. I’m having a go at being a female detective for my next!

Horse [who is, of course, an ex hero of the 1970 Vintage Rapist variety, demoted as he deserves) How about me?

Author: [turning up her nose] In your dreams, Dobbin! [Footman approaches] Oh, all right, you then…

 

More of the Dastardly Duke and the Spirited Heroine

Medieval-Castles

Scene: The Dastardly Duke and the Spirited Heroine (in the role of governess) now take dinner together, in the great hall of his castle somewhere on the Yorkshire Moors. The great hall is, of course, full of sinister shadows cast by the flickering candles.  The Spirited Heroine does not, of course, occupy the chair at the foot of the table, which is drawn back invitingly.

DD:             Damn me!  This sinister flickering gets on my nerves of an evening. I  know I’m meant to be sinister and brooding, with surroundings to match, but I sometimes  wish electricity was invented (A warning jolt from the censor) – Ouch!  Apart from the censor giving me shocks for anachronisms, that is.

SH:             [The glow of her reddish hair, and the pearly tinge to her skin lit up by the candlelight]  Well, they use it for those grotesque experiments with galvanism, of course, where they bring a newly hanged criminal back to life.

DD:             What? If only I’d known – when – when…[Grimaces and hastily refills his glass of wine]. No matter.  Do I live, or do I grind out an existence of dust and ashes.  No smile of mine has illuminated this gloomy castle these ten years, because no smile of hers… No matter. What were we speaking of? [Savagely] And I don’t care if that’s ungrammatical.

SH:             [Kindly changing the subject, though burning with curiosity]      Your Grace, I am honoured that you stoop to eat with a hireling. Why, in my last post, I had to take my dinner from a tray served in the schoolroom. Still, at least I could read and eat. At least I could put my elbows on the table, and read.

DD:             [Savagely addressing the footman] The main course, you damned low born cur!

Footman:    [Aside] This is so demeaning, in front of one of my former  heroines. I was a fool to risk demotion in putting off  recalling her to my arms in our last, even if she was tiresome! The number of times  I’ve beaten this wretch with the flat of my sword when he was the villain!  Still, from the way he’s carrying on this time, he’ll soon be demoted again. [bows and clumps out].

SH:             [Aside]  Such savagery! I must get to the bottom of this    Intriguing Mystery surrounding the isolation of this wickedly handsome and embittered man. [aside]   Thank goodness I’ve got that line out with a straight face. Now it will be a plain sailing through the Gothic bits.

DD:             You may wonder at it, my good young lady. But I sometimes weary of my own company, and I saw you  were a female of spirit. I am surprised, almost sorry, to think of your charms wilting in a schoolroom, under   the care of tiresome brats.51Iw-60CWnL._SX218_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_

SH:             Really, Sir, surely you do not see your own daughters  in such a light?  I haven’t met my sweet pupils yet.

DD:             You won’t find them so. And why shouldn’t I see ‘em as brats? I care for nobody and nothing since the  death of my first wife. I didn’t give a hang for the     second.

SH:             You have been unlucky, Sir, twice widowed, and   yet still in your prime.

[Enter footman, lugging a heavy silver tray]

Footman:   I wish there was a service lift in this place – I know,      anachronism, Ouch!  [Sets down the dish on the table].  Do you wish me to carve, Your Grace?

DD:             No, get out of it.  I’ll serve us both. [Carves the joint     savagely. A sudden flash of lightning illuminates the chair  at the foot of the table, and in its light, a ghostly figure is visible there.]

SH:             [Continues to eat a moment, as if reluctant to leave  her dinner. Then drops her knife and fork]. My goodness,  I thought I saw –

DD:             [With set, ghastly look] Then you saw it too? Can I credit my eyes after all?

Footman:    [Coming back in]  And here’s the rest of the courses.

DD:             Curse you, fellow, I haven’t rang –  [He breaks off at another                    flash of lightning. Now the ghostly figure is clearly visible in the chair]  It is She!

SH:             Oh dear, there is never an uninterrupted meal in these Gothics.

Footman:      [To spectre, gabbling hysterically] Some nice beef, Your Grace?

Spectre:         Why not? [smiles round generally], then vanishes.

DD:                   She smiled so, on all…[quotes brokenly]    ‘Then smiles stopped altogether…’  Ouch! What was  that for, you cursed censor?

Footman:      Anachronism! Robert Browning’s poem ‘My Last Duchess’   was not written until 1840. This is 1812, and you’re not the  sixteenth century  Duke of Ferrara, who in the poem had his wife killed for arousing his insane jealousy,  you’re the Duke of Somewhere Made Up  in the Yokrshire Moors, and it is only rumoured that your beloved late wife died at your hands, though your mad possessiveness was legendery throughout the moors.

DD:                 Leave me,  you literary minded low born cur!

Footman:      Only too happy, you Miserable Murderer!

DD:                  You lie, you damned insolent dog! [Leaps up and chases him from the  dining hall. The sounds of a violent dispute and blows exchanged drift back through the open doors]120px-John-Pettie_Two-Strings-To-Her-Bow_1882

SH:             I’m glad he’s fighting back. He’s quite sweet, really. I much prefer him to this current hero.

[The spectre of the Duchess re-appears, smiling again]

SH:               Your Grace, you seem very friendly. Shall we have some  girl talk? [wearily] Yes, I know, anachronism…

Authors Note; The full text of Robert Browning’s fascinating and brilliant dramatic poem can be found on:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Last_Duchess

 

A Spoof Gothic Historical Romance Episode

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now for some comic relief. Who’s for a Gothic historical romance, full of anachronisms (which the re-cycled characters know too well).

Scene: A castle in the wilds of Yorkshire, UK, on the moors.  Date – Regency

[ A darkly handsome and brooding man appears  at the bolt studded door holding a modern electric torch. Although it is October and there is a force eight gale blowing, he wears breeches but no shirt.]

Dastardly Duke:    Damn me! Where is the chit? She’s late.

[A footman appears. He, too, is dark and handsome. On seeing him, the Duke starts.]

Dastardly Duke:   Devil take me, not you!

Footman:     It ain’t my fault.  I’ve been demoted from being hero, see, for                  refusing to chase after the heroine after I packed her off,  so  there  wasn’t a Happy Ever After. The punishment was to be a wretched servant. So you’ve been promoted from Dashing Villain to hero? Well, in this story, there ain’t much difference. It’s not fair. I’m better looking than you, too.

Dastardly Duke: I can soon remedy that, you whoreson. I always hated your damned smug face and uneering aim with your flintlocks when you were the Earl of Darlington.  [Makes to seize him, but a sudden flash and jolt makes him drop the torch; the bulb goes out. He lets out a terrible oath] Ouch!

Footman:  [Addressing the sky) Is that the best he can do for foul
language? That’s the punishment for an anachronism in Historical Romances, Your Grace. New rules.

Dastardly Duke:   Go down to the wine cellar and fetch me some strong
liquor, curse you for a miserable, low born rogue.85px-Man's_coat_and_vest_with_metal-thread_embroidery_c._1800

Footman:  We’re out of tallow candles.

Dastardly Duke:  Then you’ll have to go down in the dark, and if you happen to slip in the dark and break your low born neck, what care I!

Footman:   Come to think of it, I don’t care either. The sooner I get to the end of this one, the better. Maybe by the next story, I’ll be allowed to be the Heroine’s Hopeless Admirer or her rakish brother instead of a mere commoner…[Goes off]

Dastardly Duke:  Do I hear horses hooves? Yes, it’s the Heroine
arriving at last. Hmm. I wonder who they’ve sent me? To tell the truth, ha, ha!
I’d like a voluptuous doormat by way of a change from these sharp tongued hoydenish redheads who’re the fashion these days. I haven’t had a Doormat Heroine in years, and that sort was such fun for a sadist like me. [Looks about almost nervously] Well, the term hasn’t been invented when this story’s set, even if old de Sade had been at it,  but I’m talking off camera, or microphone, as it were…And yes, I know they hadn’t been invented either.

[The Ducal carriage appears, accompanied by a roll of distant thunder. The Duke moves, with lithe, almost feline grace down the steps to hand down the heroine when the footman opens the door.]

Spirited Heroine:  Hello, there! Sorry, anachronism. Good morrow, Your Grace. I fear you must have interrupted your toilette, to be gracious enough to greet me, for you wear no shirt.Unless you’ve lost it from your back through desperate gambling.

Dastardly Duke: [ Sourly] No. I’m never gracious. That was just for the cover. Do you think I enjoy standing about half naked in this cursed climate? [Lets out another terrible oath as he takes a closer look at her.] Don’t say it is that awful six foot redhead with the smart repartee? Hell and damnation, it is.

Spirited Heroine:  Well, I can’t say I’m exactly ecstatic to see you, either. No matter; we’ll be falling in love before we are halfway through the book [here they are interrupted by one of the horses speaking before they are taken on to the stables].

Horse:  Can’t I have a foaming jug of ale?

Spirited Heroine  Lud!

Dastardly Duke;  &*^&&^(!!!!!!

Coachman:   He’s been doing that all the way from the coaching
house, Your Grace. It seems he was one of those
abusive heroes with the –ahem – I don’t like to say
in front of the young lady – ‘bruising kisses’ and
worse, back in the 1970’s, and so he’s been paying
his debt to the Romance Society ever since they went
out of fashion.120px-Ds_of_M

Spirited Heroine:  Is that so? [Rushes forward} The swine! Give me that whip!

Dastardly Duke:  [Catches her arm]  No, Miss Er, I can’t allow you to flog a dumb animal.

Horse:  We Alphas must stick together. Anyway, who’s a dumb animal? [Neighs piteously at a sudden flash and jolt] Ow! That hurt! That’s so unkind. Abusers need love, too…[The coachman cracks his whip and sets them off towards the stables].

Dastardly Duke:  Well, shall we get on with it? So, you are the new governess. I hope you won’t find it too lonely in this isolated spot, with only a grim widower for company, and a few retainers.

Spirited Heroine:   [Helping him on with his shirt] Not at all, Your Grace. I like the country. Besides, the handsome renumeration you offer, merely for the coaching of two small daughters …

[More distant thunder]

More Next Week…