I had intended this to the final report on this quest to discover a new genre to read, replacing science fiction and fantasy. However, I still have one book to finish, and this report is long enough as it is, another one is on the way. This week, we’ll start with my final historical fiction entry.
Discerning Grace The White Sails Series Book One by Emma Lombard C on the curve
This story concerns Grace, the daughter of a wealthy English family, who in 1826 is promised in marriage to a cruel and gross man, who would’ve raped her in her own bedroom on the night of the announcement after battering her, had not Grace managed to escape his clutches. She flees to a commoner friend, and when he goes to get her some tea to calm her nerves, she cuts her hair off, dons his clothes, takes his money and flees, for who knows where? Pickpockets get her money, so penniless, she goes along with a man who recruits her, thinking she’s a boy, as the cabin boy on a Royal Navy survey ship. The ship is the one that a friend of the family, and her uncle, an admiral is the first mate of. He doesn’t recognize her, in her battered state and garments, so off they sail to the southern tip of South America to survey Cape Horn. She learns that her fiance has posted a great reward for her return, so she must stay away from London at all cost.
So far, so good. The author has done her research on shipboard life in the Royal Navy of the period. She’s not Patrick O’Brian or Forester, but her depiction of aboard ship as a common sailor and cabin boy to the ailing ship’s captain rings true enough for the thrust of the story. I was pretty hopeful at this point for some interesting adventures as a sailor. However, she is discovered to be a girl early on, and after that, the story seems to go flat. Oh, there is a romance of sorts between her and that handsome first mate who, when he learns why she is fleeing, promises to keep her safe. That said, the romance seems, confusing and halfheartedly written even though we presented with both character's points of view. Maybe she was trying to be realistic, but, as I said, it seems just as flat as are her further adventures.
They spend a lot of time surveying ashore, where the two… lovers (?) squabble a lot, she being headstrong, and he being commanding, as befitting a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, who has to assume command of the ship after the Captain dies. They agree to a common law marriage to save her from her engagement, but that gets postponed at the last moment… And so it goes. She leaves the ship in a huff after a fight with the Lieutenant along with the shipmate who recruited her. They see a mysterious ship and search party – looking for her for the reward? They then get captured by natives and her friend gets killed while she saved. Later she is kidnapped by the people from the mysterious ship, which, in turn, is almost captured by Barbary pirates. Finally she is delivered to the cruel and gross fiancée in London. He keeps her locked in a coal room for a week or two to break her spirit. When he finally gets around to trying to rape her, on Hampstead Heath, she use a knife she was secretly given to stab him and escape. She is then reunited with the handsome lieutenant, who had resigned his commission to go to London in search of her, and we have some plot twists at the end. All of which may sound exciting, but I found pretty tedious. Of course I’m not the target audience, but there was something perfunctory about the way the story was written. It was as if all she was doing was hitting all the expected tropes without any real spark of originality, in my opinion.
Moving on to urban fantasy. You would be forgiven if you were thinking that I was crazy to try urban fantasy, seeing that this quest was a result of my decision to find a replacement for fantasy or science fiction that I grown tired of. And you’d be right. What was I thinking? I guess I was hoping for something a little more lighthearted. But… I bounced pretty hard off of urban fantasy.
While I’ll mention the books I sampled, for most of them I didn’t get more than a few pages into them. That’s on me, they were not what I was looking for. These quick looks do not reflect the quality of the books. Some of these stories came from the Urban Mystic Box Set.
I Bring the Fire by C Gockel began with a college student on her way home to Chicago for the summer. Her ugly dog rolls in some smelly stuff at a stop, and after washing him off at a gas station she encounters a big gross man who grosses her out. She continues on only to get into a car crash hundreds of miles down the road late that night. And who should turn up at the crash scene…You guessed it. We then jump to Asgard where Loki is a prisoner. His ex-wife shows up, tells him that their kids are in danger, and they escape using hand grenades, which is where I called it a day. The blurb says she prays for a help and gets Loki, the Norse God of Mischief, and she helps him outwit Odin.
Things Unseen by C. J. Brightley Features a student in an altered America future who gets involved with a Fae person who the government is hunting – a dystopian SF with fairies. It wasn’t silly, indeed it was too dark for my tastes. However it had on curious feature that I want to talk about.
In most of the books I’ve read to in this quest, women are portrayed as being vulnerable, if not victims, to the strength and cruelty of men, but who have the strength of character to overcome their physical and cultural disadvantages. I think this is a fair representation, if a bit exaggerated for the sake of their stories. Now, in this story we have a young woman who sees this rather mysterious, if not sinister looking Fae man, and proceeds to sort of follow him to his apartment building, and the next day – for reasons I can’t explain – returns to that apartment building, breaks in to it and the actual apartment of the Fae man – and of course gets into trouble. Now if the situation was reversed, and a man did this, it would be very creepy, but putting that aside, conducting some sort of investigation on some reason would not be out of character for a male in an adventure story. But it seems, at least to me, to very out of character for a young woman to put herself in such a dangerous situation, unless she was some serious ninja skills. I suspect this perception, if it isn't just me, makes it hard for writers to write a female lead with agency who goes and gets herself into a dangerous situation without making her look rather foolhardy. Just a thought.
Finally I started, Grace under Fire by Frog & Esther Jones which started with a young woman who had captured some sort of baby creature from another realm, and had to get it back were it belonged, by casting a spell, before any normal people saw it. A lighthearted enough beginning, but what followed was something like six pages plus of info dumping setting up the history of this alternative America. Too much, too soon. I got bored. It did, however, make me wonder about the opening of my The Girl on the Kerb, were I deliberately start with a slow, mundane opening to do some world building myself. Perhaps I’m guilty of the same sin, though I don’t think I went six plus pages without some action and dialog.
So that’s my experience with urban fantasy. What next? Cozy Mysteries! What could go wrong with cozy mysteries? Stay tuned for the final quest!