Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

REVIEW: Thunder and Roses by Mary Jo Putney

Dear Ms. Putney,

I was a big fan of your books in the 1990s. They came along at a time when I had not read anything like them. If the characters made mistakes or committed wrongs, your books actually examined the of the characters’ motives for doing so in some depth. And your characters actually had spiritual lives, often in conflict with a troubled conscience. Concepts like honor mattered to them. Your side characters could be Jewish, gypsy, or gay, yet never the villains in the story. And sometimes even your main characters belonged to minority groups.

Thunder and Roses by Mary Jo PutneyUnderstand, I came to historical romance in the 1980s via the American single title blockbuster books, at a time when they were quite different from today’s romances. The heroes of many of those 1980s books just took what they wanted, and didn’t spend much time agonizing about wrong and right. The heroines embodied feisty. While those books were filled with adventures in exciting locales, and had some qualities I still miss, your books, when I discovered them, were so different from the pack that they were a breath of fresh air.

The Fallen Angels series, while perhaps not the very first series about a group of men who went to Eton together and earned a nickname for their closeness there, was certainly one of the first, and without a doubt the first I read. I remember the books being prominently displayed in bookstores at a time when most historical were still standalone, so I’d venture to guess that for good or ill, the Fallen Angels’ success played a part in setting the series trend.

I was an avid reader of your books at the time and eagerly awaited each release (This changed for me somewhere around the time you switched to writing contemporaries). I remember reading Thunder and Roses, the first Fallen Angels book, when it was released, and while it wasn’t among my most favorite of your books, I think I would have graded it a B or B+ at that time.

When I heard that the series was being reissued in electronic editions, I dug out my old paperback (yes, I still have it – I hate to separate related books from one another) and decided it might be fun to revisit this book in a review. I wanted to see how the book held up. Unhappily, the answer (for me at least) is not well.

Thunder and Roses begins with a prologue in which a gypsy woman delivers her son to his grandfather, the Earl of Aberdare. Marta’s motives for handing her son over to the earl aren’t revealed until late in the book, but Nikki, Marta’s son, is devastated and anguished by his mother’s abandonment, and it is clear the earl is perturbed by his grandson’s dark skin. Marta was legally married to Kenrick, the earl’s son, so the earl is forced to accept a gypsy as his heir.

Flash forward twenty-three years, and Nicholas Davies is now the Earl of Aberdare. Rumors have it that “the Demon Earl” seduced his grandfather’s much younger wife, bringing about the previous earl’s death, and then capped off the crimes by murdering his own wife. But Clare Morgan still goes to confront Nicholas about failing in his responsibilities to the villagers on his Welsh estate.

Clare is a schoolteacher as well as the daughter of the deceased Methodist Reverend Morgan, and is therefore respected in the local village of Penreith. Nicholas has just returned from four years abroad. He is drunk and wants nothing more than to be rid of Clare when she shows up at his home and insists that the dearth of jobs and the dangerous conditions at the coal mine in Penreith are forcing the villagers to risk their lives and that since Nicholas owns both a slate quarry and the land on which the mine is located, he must do something about it.

To get rid of Clare, Nicholas proposes a trade –he’ll help the villagers only if she’ll sacrifice her reputation to the cause.

To be clear, Nicholas is not asking Clare for sex. He merely wants her to move in with him so that everyone will think they are having sex. If Clare, Reverend Morgan’s daughter, is willing to destroy her precious reputation to save the same villagers who will condemn her, she will enlist his help. Otherwise, it’s a no go.

Oh, and there’s also the matter of a little side bet about whether Nicholas can actually succeed in seducing Clare during the time she’s in residence at his home. To that end, Clare must allow him a kiss a day. He will not go beyond that without her consent.

This being a romance novel, Clare agrees rather than telling Nicholas to go to hell. Nicholas, who mostly wanted her to go away, is instead obliged to check out the quarry and visit the mine. Clare takes on the redecorating of his house and discovers that a portrait of his late wife infuriates Nicholas.

Eventually the two travel to London where Clare gets a new wardrobe and Nicholas introduces her to his other “Fallen Angel” friends, Lucien and Rafe. A fourth friend, Michael, owns the mine on Nicholas’s Land, but Lucien warns Nicholas that while he was traveling, Michael conceived a hatred for him for unknown reasons.

While Clare and Nicholas await an opportunity to approach Michael about the mine, their daily kisses grow more passionate. But though Nicholas thinks that being “ruined” could only be a good thing for Clare, Clare vehemently disagrees. Since she’s never felt a deep spiritual connection to God, she feels she’s a fraud both as a Methodist and as the reverend’s daughter. Nicholas’s kisses amplify that feeling and therefore Clare both looks forward to them and dreads them.

I had a number of problems with Thunder and Roses this time around, but I’ll start with the nature of Clare’s conflict. I have no problem, at least in principle, with a heroine whose religious beliefs prevent her from sleeping with the hero. That was the case with the heroine of your medieval romance, Uncommon Vows, and it worked for me in that novel. But in that book, Meriel was deeply devout and had almost become a nun as a teen. She was also held captive by the hero who wanted her to agree to become his mistress. So she had very strong reasons to refuse.

With Clare, the religion vs. premarital sex conflict did not work nearly as well for me, and here’s why: Clare’s fears focused on her reputation and what others thought of her and it was in this context that she seemed to find sex sinful. But she couched her objections in terms of religion and spirituality.

As events in the book later proved, her experience of spirituality was in no way harmed by sex; the real issue was what others thought of her. I think I would have had more sympathy for Clare if she had called a spade a spade and just admitted that it was her reputation and her standing in the community that mattered to her most, not the state of her soul.

Moving on to Nicholas. I think I was supposed to find Nicholas a charming rogue, but I found him pretty off-putting. First, there was his hypocrisy. He goes on about how he doesn’t force women, but he insists on the daily kiss a number of times when Clare is reluctant. He also touches her in casual ways early on in their relationship when he knows she’s not entirely comfortable with it.

Second, Nicholas also insists that losing her reputation would be the best thing in the world for Clare. Dude, if she cares about her reputation, and you really want the best thing in the world for her, then get a clue: destroying her reputation isn’t it.

Third, there’s the fact that even after Nicholas realizes conditions at the Penreith mine are horrendously dangerous, he threatens to withdraw his support from that cause when Clare tries to leave him. That’s right – he doesn’t force women, but a bunch of villagers will have to die unless Clare stays at his side and puts up with his kisses.

Okay, yeah, Clare is turned on by these kisses, and obviously so is Nicholas. Maybe he’s even falling for her. But threatening to endanger the lives of the miners, which include children, in order to have this chick is not cool.

But here’s my most important point: I think I might have been fine with all of the above had Nicholas been portrayed as a morally ambiguous character. If he’d owned up to his dark side, the way the hero of Uncommon Vows does. Sadly, that doesn’t happen here. A couple of people chide Nicholas for what he’s doing to Clare but Nicholas himself doesn’t seem to realize what a jerk he’s being.

Moreover, Nicholas is continuously referred to as charming. He has peacocks and penguins and a sad life story about all the people who betrayed him, and all that is somehow supposed to make him a nice guy even when he’s being selfish, childish, and obnoxious.

The book does have some good points – interesting details about mining conditions, a sexy game of strip billiards, and a nice suspense sequence involving fire. I appreciated that Nicholas was frequently described as dark skinned (even now the historical romance genre is too white), and liked side characters like Clare’s friends Owen and Marged. And when the conflict between Nicholas and Clare came to a head, it finally got compelling.

Other aspects I felt less keen on. The pacing of the story felt slow, though that may be partly because I’d read the book before and knew where the story was going. The language was occasionally pleasing but occasionally anachronistic. The gypsy side characters were portrayed stereotypically, but at least that they were also portrayed as a safe harbor for Nicholas. I mildly liked the resolution of Michael and Nicholas’s relationship, but hated what came between them in the first place.

[spoiler](Nicholas’ dead wife, Caroline read like a stock villainess and in that regard, the book reminded me of those 1980s books in which so the heroes despised all girls because of one bad experience with love. Thankfully, Nicholas wasn’t a misogynist, but I still found the absence of all redeeming qualities in Caroline deeply problematic.)[/spoiler]

On the whole, a good part of Thunder and Roses frustrated me, and I was a little surprised that I managed to finish it. I feel like I am slaughtering a sacred cow here, since I know how beloved the books in this series were for many readers, myself included. It feels churlish to write this after the many, many hours of reading pleasure I have received through your books in my years of reading, but as a reviewer, I have to be honest, and the truth is that while my 1993 self enjoyed this book, my 2012 self found it dissatisfying. D

Sincerely,

Janine

AmazonBNSonyKobo

Janine Ballard loves well-paced, character driven novels in historical romance, fantasy, YA, and the occasional outlier genre. Recent examples include novels by Katherine Addison, Meljean Brook, Kristin Cashore, Cecilia Grant, Rachel Hartman, Ann Leckie, Jeannie Lin, Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Miranda Neville, and Nalini Singh. Janine also writes fiction. Her critique partners are Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Bettie Sharpe. Her erotic short story, “Kiss of Life,” appears in the Berkley anthology AGONY/ECSTASY under the pen name Lily Daniels. You can email Janine at janineballard at gmail dot com or find her on Twitter @janine_ballard.

49 Comments

  1. KMont
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 14:48:03

    I feel your reading pain. I’ve read a couple of favored past treasures this year and came away feeling both were lackluster. There is another fave series I want to reread again but I’m afraid now it’ll get the same reaction from me.

    “…but Nicholas himself doesn’t seem to realize what a jerk he’s being.”

    This is definitely frustrating, when it’s plain as day for the reader (not to mention other characters) but the character in Q never has that realization of their faults. It’s a disappointing lack of character development.

  2. Mireya
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 15:24:16

    I completely understand. I haven’t been reading romance for as long as many romance fans have (10 years, at the most), but even within that relatively short period of time, I’ve found myself re-reading some “early” favorites which didn’t seem as good on the second round as I originally thought they were. It doesn’t surprise me, though, as it is normal for taste and/or personal preferences to change as the years go by.

    I did read this title, and I liked it, though. However, I didn’t find it particularly memorable, though the hero’s background I do remember well, and reading your review did refresh my memory.

    Mireya

  3. Jinni
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 15:28:08

    Perhaps the phrase, ‘you can’t go home, again,’ should apply to books. Last year or so, I decided to reread a number of the books from my keeper shelf – series romances from the late 1970s and early 1980s. I loved those books when I was in my early teens. I could read them again, and again. They don’t hold up. I don’t know if it’s our maturity (the age when we read the books), or the fact that romance is a super ‘trendy’ industry. Punishing kisses one year, rape another, and werewolves years later.

  4. Janine
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 15:49:10

    @KMont: Sometimes books hold up to rereadings for me, and other times they don’t. I think the idea in the book was that Nicholas didn’t admit he was being a jerk because admitting it would have forced him to let Clare go, but I still found him grating as a result.

    @Mireya: I do wonder if I might have enjoyed the book a bit more if I were reading it for the first time now. Because not only did I find the characters irritating, but I also found the pacing slow, and I think that was partly due to the fact that I remembered the plot and knew what was going to happen later in the book. There was no suspense to keep me turning the pages.

    @Jinni: Trends might have something to do with it. I’m always impressed with those authors who manage to write romances that stand the test of time for me.

  5. leslie
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 16:11:45

    When I was in high school I saw the film “My Brilliant Career”. I loved this movie!! When in graduate school I dragged my pals to see this fantastic film at the student union movie night. It was horrible!!
    Too say the least all had a good time at my expense.
    My point is that I had changed for the better yet part of me wishes I had never seen the film again, because an innocence was lost. My teenage self loved MBC, my 25ish self saw the flaws.
    Mary Jo is one of the best and I disagree with you about the D rating. I think sometimes there is a pettiness in these re-release reviews, yes you’ve explained blah blah blah, but why
    such bitchiness? To think someone might not read The Fallen Angels series because of this overly written negative review is just sad.

  6. Janine
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 16:51:57

    @leslie: I’m sorry you feel the review is petty. My frustration with the characters and the pace of the story did put me in a snarky mood, but I tried to be honest about my feelings and make it clear that I enjoyed the book a lot the first time I read it.

    The review is actually providing Thunder and Roses publicity and attention, so I think it’s more likely bring in new readers than to prevent those who were planning on reading it from doing so. Nonetheless, I invite you to share the reasons you love the book or rebut the points you disagree with in the review. I think that will be more helpful to readers.

  7. Ros
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 16:57:16

    I read this recently when a friend recommended Putney to me. I liked it better than you, I think, but I didn’t love it. I had more sympathy for Clare’s religious scruples, because I think that they were tied up with her position in the community (as the minister’s daughter) and because she is quite honest about her own doubts regarding her spiritual state. So I think it was reasonable for her to put that all under the banner of sex being sinful without teasing out all the different strands.

    I didn’t fall for Nicholas and I really could have done without the Michael/Caroline backstory. But on the other hand, PENGUINS!

  8. Ros
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 16:58:38

    @leslie: I don’t see any bitchiness in Janine’s review. She explained why the book didn’t work for her. That’s what a review is about and that’s what’s most likely to help a reader decide whether the book is for them or not.

  9. Janine
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 17:09:19

    @Ros:

    I had more sympathy for Clare’s religious scruples, because I think that they were tied up with her position in the community (as the minister’s daughter) and because she is quite honest about her own doubts regarding her spiritual state. So I think it was reasonable for her to put that all under the banner of sex being sinful without teasing out all the different strands.

    I think I felt that way when I first read it too. It’s hard for me to put my finger on why I felt differently this time but I think it may have had to do with the nature of the conflict between Nicholas and Clare. It seemed less about religion vs. sex and more about vice vs. virtue. The more I read it the more I felt that Clare’s protestations were there to reassure readers that she was a good girl and not a slut like Caroline, so it was the sex negative vibe that got to me in her characterization.

    I agree with you that for Clare to see things the way she did was not unreasonable so maybe my issue is more with the author’s portrayal of women and sex rather than with the character. But somehow as I was reading that issue translated to frustration with Clare. There’s a line in the book when Nicholas is thinking of Clare and referring to her in his thoughts as “his little hypocrite.” And when he thought that, I couldn’t help but agree with the description.

    The book is a product of its time and that should probably be kept in mind, too.

  10. Jayne
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 17:22:06

    Are you planning on rereading all the books in the series? I think I got about half way through the series before moving on.

  11. Dabney
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 17:48:32

    As someone who has never read this book and had it in my overly huge TBR list, I really appreciated this review. It’s hard to know what “classics” from another era are worth reading if you’ve never read them at all.

  12. Janine
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 18:10:31

    @Jayne: I don’t know if I’ll last the full length of the series but I will try. I’ll intersperse with other books, I think.

    @Dabney: Thanks, I’m glad it was helpful. I’m hoping some of the later books in this series hold up better. I’m a fan of her medieval, Uncommon Vows so I think it’s very possible.

  13. Ducky
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 18:16:45

    I think I will skip this one. I have had mixed reading experiences with Putney. There is one I read that was riveting: the heroine is the prisoner of the hero and escapes by jumping through a stained glass window and then things really go haywire. Then I read a contemporary where the heroine goes back to her abusive ex after 10 years that made me very upset.

  14. Janine
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 18:22:59

    @Ducky:

    There is one I read that was riveting: the heroine is the prisoner of the hero and escapes by jumping through a stained glass window and then things really go haywire.

    Yes! That is Uncommon Vows. My favorite of all her books.

    ETA:

    Then I read a contemporary where the heroine goes back to her abusive ex after 10 years that made me very upset.

    That one is The Burning Point, my least favorite of all her books. We seem to have similar tastes where this author is concerned.

  15. Susan
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 18:26:52

    Oh no!

    I read these books a number of years ago; Putney was one of my favorite authors when I “re-discovered” romances after a long hiatus. I bought the ebook versions and have been planning a reread. But now I’m scared! I really hope they hold up for me and don’t take the luster off of my memories. Like others, I, too, will revisit some beloved film, TV series, book and ask myself, “What the heck were you thinking, woman?!?” And then I’ll say, “Eh, different time, different place in my life.” (Yep, I talk to myself. . . and answer back.)

  16. Janine
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 18:29:57

    @Susan: I hope the reread pans out well for you. I’m reading Dancing on the Wind right now and liking it better than Thunder and Roses, although it has its flaws too.

  17. Dabney
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 18:43:23

    @Janine: I will add Uncommon Vows to my towering TBR list.

  18. Janine
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 19:08:28

    @Dabney: I hope you like it! I don’t think it’s available electronically yet.

  19. Sunita
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 19:19:54

    Ah, it’s so disappointing when an old favorite turns out to be a dud when you go back to it. It’s happened to me too, like any of us who reread.

    But sometimes you CAN go home again, so it’s kind of pointless to have a rule against rereading oldies unless you are willing to give up possibility of satisfying rereads, which I’m not. I seem to remember that I inhaled the first two or three book (I read out of order) and then I started skimming.

    Some books do hold up, though. I have reread Balogh’s Welsh books across the years and even though I see errors now, I still find them great reads.

  20. Lil
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 19:52:13

    I’ve only been reading romance for about five years, so that may be affecting my response, but this is one of my absolute favorite books. I thought the confusions and reservations of both Clare and Nicholas were quite believable, and I absolutely loved the penguins. You’re welcome to your D, but for me, it’s an A.

  21. Janine
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 19:53:54

    @Sunita:

    Some books do hold up, though. I have reread Balogh’s Welsh books across the years and even though I see errors now, I still find them great reads.

    Mary Balogh is a great example of an author who has older titles worth revisiting. I don’t love all her trads but I’ve enjoyed many, and even her weaker books are frequently interesting. Of the Wales-set books I’ve only read Longing but I recall it fondly.

  22. Janine
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 19:56:23

    @Lil: I’m glad you enjoyed the book so much. I honestly wish I could have found the same reading pleasure in it this time that I got out of it when it first came out.

    I’ll add that it’s not that I didn’t find the characters choices believable. I did find them believable, just not appealing to me.

  23. DM
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 20:03:36

    I read this one during a major Putney glom and thought it was one of the weaker installments in the series, but with prolific authors like Putney who have a distinctive style, I find my favorite books aren’t necessarily their strongest ones–they’re the ones I read first, when the author’s worldview and voice seemed freshest to me.

  24. Dabney
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 22:14:37

    @Janine: Nope. It’s not. I might have to get a real book. Horrors.

  25. Janine
    Apr 21, 2012 @ 00:44:06

    @DM: That’s been the case for me with some other authors so I understand what you mean.

    @Dabney: I keep waiting for it to come out in e because I would like a copy.

  26. Kaetrin
    Apr 21, 2012 @ 00:48:27

    Its been a while since I read this one. I think Shattered Rainbows was my favourite of this series but I recall enjoying this when I read it about 4 years ago. But then, I’m one (of the apparently few) who enjoyed her contemps, esp. The Burning Point.

    I’m not a fan of the PNR/historicals she did more recently and I’ve only read Loving a Lost Lord out of the most recent straight historical series, which I didn’t like all that much sadly.

    I have all of MJP’s older historicals in pride of place on my shelves. I haven’t tried a re-read yet and I’m sure some will work for me now better than others, but they remain some of my favourite historicals.

  27. Eve Langlais
    Apr 21, 2012 @ 07:09:17

    Your reading experience with a favorite from the past sounds like me and an author I used to gobble up. Her backlist recently went online and I grabbed an ecopy of a story that I read so much when I owned it, twenty years ago, the paperback died. I didn’t even make it a quarter of the way into the story. It wasn’t so much the world building, or characters as it was all the extra padding the book contained, which in restrospect, I guess was for word count/bulking. It dragged the story down for me and I started skimming. I think todays writers, or at least the ones I enjoy, make the story more about the action and the characters than the setting and all the minute details that do nothing to bring the story forward. And they use better language too for the hot parts lol.

  28. swati
    Apr 21, 2012 @ 09:11:04

    The rake was the first book i read by MJP. Then i went crazy and read pretty much all of her stuff till i got fatigued by her voice. This was a couple of years back. I remember thunder & roses was firmly put in my ‘save & re-read’ pile. It was actually my favourite in the series. The one that i didn’t like was the spy one and the heroine who got gang raped by french soldiers.

    Not sure how i will react to it now ……. Maybe its an age/ maturity issue. Example – i read historical romance extensively and when i started out i loved all the “sweet & popular” authors. I loved julia quinn but now i pretty much skim through her stuff. whenever i read the back cover that says 18 year old virgin debutant, I drop the book like a hot potato.

    I’ll read this book over the weekend again. Lets see if I still feel the love.

  29. Karenmc
    Apr 21, 2012 @ 09:43:24

    Re-reading a favorite author certainly can be a risk; tastes and perceptions change, making something that seemed magical into something disappointing.. I haven’t re-read this particular book, but Shattered Rainbows has held up. I’ve been much more disappointed with Putney’s latest historicals, the first of which seemed like a rough draft.

  30. Dabney
    Apr 21, 2012 @ 09:43:48

    @Janine: I feel this way about To Have and To Hold. I have two paperback copies–one to loan, one to treasure–but would love an eBook as well.

  31. dick
    Apr 21, 2012 @ 09:57:52

    Clare does admit that it’s reputation that matters to her; “No doubt it’s feeble of me to care what others think, but I do.” (p.301) As for the rest, I think Putney herself gives a good explanation in the afterword; “As for the penguins, why not?” Romance is fantasy from the first page to the last. Putney’s good at it.

  32. Roslyn Holcomb
    Apr 21, 2012 @ 14:17:04

    Most of my old faves are from the 80s and most have held up. I never took to this writer, so I can’t comment, but one writer who hasn’t held up for me is McNaught, and I was absolutely stunned. I was such a McNaught stan in my salad days. So, I can definitely understand your feelings upon discovering an old favorite just doesn’t do it for you anymore. I felt as though I’d lost an old friend. I think as we mature and evolve as people our tastes simply change. Some of the long descriptive passages I adored as a younger woman simply annoy me now. Just get on with it! I’ve thinned my keeper shelf considerably. Actually now that Gellis is available digitally, it’s not even a shelf anymore but a bunch of chips. Another thing I’m finding as well is that it’s a lot harder to find books I consider keepers. Not sure if it’s good or bad, it simply is.

  33. bobbi
    Apr 21, 2012 @ 14:52:25

    I thought “Thunder and Roses” was wonderful. I liked all 7 books in the series, especially “Shattered Rainbows” and “One Perfect Rose”. Those yummy Kenyon brothers. For a different view check out AAR’s 2007 DIK review of Thunder and Roses.

  34. Ridley
    Apr 21, 2012 @ 18:01:05

    @dick:

    Romance is fantasy from the first page to the last.

    And your point is? Are you arguing that all fiction is beyond criticism simply because it’s made up? Have you never heard the term “willing suspension of disbelief?”

  35. Dabney
    Apr 21, 2012 @ 21:25:39

    @Ridley:
    @dick: Hmmm….. somehow this is all starting to seem familiar……

  36. Nicole
    Apr 22, 2012 @ 09:06:51

    I read most of this series years ago, and have only reread “Shattered Rainbows” which is not prefect but certainly worth the reread. I most recently read “Angel Rogue” (don’t know how I missed it the first time) and was struck by the quality of the writing: the character development, the dialogue, the historical ‘feel’, etc. If I did reread “Thunder and Roses” now and find the characters’ behaviour objectionable or annoying, I still couldn’t imagine myself grading an early-ish Putney a D, when considering the standards of most ‘historicals’ today.

  37. Janine
    Apr 22, 2012 @ 11:06:03

    @Nicole:

    If I did reread “Thunder and Roses” now and find the characters’ behaviour objectionable or annoying, I still couldn’t imagine myself grading an early-ish Putney a D, when considering the standards of most ‘historicals’ today.

    My problems with the book went beyond the characters’ behavior. I also found the pacing sluggish, and was bothered by the stereotypical portrayal of the gypsies and the demonizing of Nicholas’ first wife who seemed to have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I debated giving the book a C- grade, but in the end I chose to grade it a D because the book was such a struggle for me to finish.

    I’m glad though that so many who have enjoyed it and disagree with the review and the grade are speaking up — readers here may decide to get it based on your recommendations.

  38. Janine
    Apr 22, 2012 @ 11:07:06

    I have a packed day today but I”ll make an effort to reply to more comments tomorrow.

  39. dick
    Apr 22, 2012 @ 11:48:39

    Yep, I’ve read that phrase, in the original essay by Coleridge in which it appeared by golly. And that’s exactly what I meant–suspend disbelief for a moment or two.

  40. Ridley
    Apr 22, 2012 @ 12:06:17

    @dick:

    And that’s exactly what I meant–suspend disbelief for a moment or two.

    In light of your rape apologist comments at AAR, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you ignore the “willing” part of that term. You don’t seem to have a lot of respect for others’ ability to consent.

  41. Luna
    Apr 22, 2012 @ 15:30:47

    This book was a B+ read for me. My only objection was the penguins. I thought they were both distracting and a silly element the story did not need.

  42. Meg
    Apr 23, 2012 @ 02:01:09

    This reminds me of my venturing back to the “Earth’s Children” series. I loved the books when I was 13-15. But when the last book came out last year (I’m 32 now), I nearly chucked my Kindle against the wall. Part of it was because I felt Auel just lost interest and started heavily recycling and throwing Jondalar way out of character in order to provide a dramatic ending. But the other thing I realized is that a lot of the really long, descriptive paragraphs that enthralled me as a teenager just didn’t cut it for me any longer, in addition to some of the two-dimension characterization, etc. It did lead to an entertaining review on GoodReads though!

    I didn’t really read much Putney when I was younger, but I’m at least interested in checking her out because of the review. Uncommon Vows sounds really interesting.

  43. dick
    Apr 23, 2012 @ 09:29:13

    @Ridley: You know, I admire the passion you bring to discourse. But, go back and re-read my comments on the AAR blog. I don’t think any of them suggest that I’m supporting rape as a forgiveable action.

  44. Janine
    Apr 23, 2012 @ 13:19:45

    @Kaetrin: Shattered Rainbows was my favorite in this series too and I’m looking forward to rereading it.

    @Eve Langlais:

    It wasn’t so much the world building, or characters as it was all the extra padding the book contained, which in restrospect, I guess was for word count/bulking.

    I can relate to you reading experience with that older book because this Putney felt slow paced to me as well. I don’t know that I would use the word padded to describe it, I just think readers preferred longer books in those days. I can tell my attention span has changed, and not for the better. I do prefer tighter books much of the time.

    @swati: The spy one you are remembering is Petals in the Storm. It along with River of Fire were my two least favorite books in the series.

    Let me know how your rereading of Thunder and Roses pans out!

    @Karenmc: Good to know that Shattered Rainbows has held up for you, since it was my favorite in the series.

    @Dabney: OMG, do I feel that way about To Have and to Hold! I wait with bated breath for the day it is released in e! I’ll be purchasing it no matter the price.

    @dick:

    I do realize that Clare eventually admitted that what others felt mattered to her but that came quite late in the story (after she had slept with Nicholas, IIRC). Before that she was always looking at premarital sex in terms of sin, and since she was not particularly religious and knew it, this bothered me.

    But as I said to Ros, what I underlay my annoyance with Clare was the conflict of vice vs. virtue, rather than religion vs. sex or even one of wanting to avoid social ostracism vs.not caring what people think.

    The latter conflict was very much present, and we can debate whether the second was or wasn’t, but it was the first that irritated me. I had the feeling that Clare was to be valued above Caroline partly because Clare still had her hymen in place when Nicholas met her. That he was attracted to her virtuousness in itself doesn’t bother me but that that virtuosness was portrayed through her unwillingness to lose her virginity bothered me because I’ve grown to dislike books that conflate virginity with virtue.

    The Penguins didn’t work as well for me as they did for others but I do like the mechanical toy penguin Lucien makes for Nicholas and Clare’s child in Dancing on the Wind.

    SPOILERS
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .

    Your post also reminded me that it troubled me that Clare’s spiritual connection to her dead father resulted from her having sex with Nicholas. There was something a touch incestuous about that.
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .

    END OF SPOILER

  45. Janine
    Apr 23, 2012 @ 13:44:39

    @Roslyn Holcomb: Interesting you mention McNaught. I think McNaught and Putney are both authors who played a role in launching big trends. McNaught was among the first to write big, single title historicals set in the Regency era and Putney among the first to write a group of male friends series. Both of these innovations have been so emulated today that it’s hard to give credit to either of them as having been an innovative author but I think they were, in terms of having set a standard that was much emulated. And I think it’s also because they’ve been emulated to such a degree that it’s harder for us readers to view their books as fresh nowadays.

    @bobbi: Glad you were able to enjoy the book more than I did.

    @Nicole: I can see what you are saying about the grade but I tend to grade low when I struggle to finish a book as much as I did with this one. True, there are books among today’s historicals that I don’t even finish and in those case I give a DNF grade or (in those cases when I don’t get far) refrain from reviewing the book at all. I do wonder whehter, if I were coming to Thudner and Roses as a new reader and not as a rereader aware of the answers to all the mysteries, I would have been as bored with it as I was this time. It was that boredom that led to the D grade. I couldn’t make myself care deeply about the characters and the story moved slowly.

    My suspicions that I might have felt differently if I weren’t rereading were among the reasons why I mentioned in the review that my original grade for the book would have been a B/B+. But regardless of that, you guys have given me food for thought about grading reread books.

    @Luna: Agree with you about the penguins. Their out-of-placed-ness was distracting. But in Lucien’s book he makes a toy mechanical penguin for Nicholas and Clare that I thought was charming.

  46. Janine
    Apr 23, 2012 @ 13:46:55

    @Meg: I had a similar experience with some of the later Earth’s Children books and as a result I still haven’t read the very last one.

    I hope you enjoy Uncommon Vows! It’s dark and contains amnesia but I always saw the latter as a slightly paranormal element.

  47. Ridley
    Apr 23, 2012 @ 14:18:34

    @dick: You said “Dress is also a matter of cultural values and some dress does seem to imply invitation. No one, of course, has to accept the invitation, but in my opinion, it is common sense not to offer it, to not count on someone else’s control.” This implies that women who dress like sluts – and who defines that term? – invite rapists to violate them, that women victimize themselves.

    I won’t continue to argue the point here and derail the thread. You’ve proven impervious to reason on AAR. I just thought I’d link the basis for my jab for other people reading the comments.

  48. lupulusanne
    Apr 23, 2012 @ 15:29:18

    Thunder and Roses was among the first longer historicals I’ve ever read. I remember quite a bit about it what always is a positive sign for the quality of a book. TaR was also the book that led me to read other titles by Putney. Since then I’ve reread The Rake, The Bargain, One Perfect Rose and Silk and Shadows and so far I liked them the second time around. I wanted to reread China Bride I loved reading the first time next, but after this discussion I think I will try TaR first.
    By the way, River of Fire was one of my favorites in the Fallen Angel series, perhaps because both H and h were painters. I always tried to “see” their works as I’m quite familiar with the painting of this period.
    About “boring”: Rereading books my experience was similar: When the book has many descriptive parts I tend to skip them. What was neccessary for building the atmosphere tends to be boring for someone knowing it already.

  49. Lazaraspaste
    Apr 23, 2012 @ 22:47:17

    I fully support the feeling/experience of coming back to a book you loved and feeling totally different about it. I’m realizing, though, how strange it is to characterize this experience as suddenly noticing the errors or flaws of the book. I think memory tricks us into forgetting the flaws/annoying bits we may have noticed because we enjoyed the experience of reading the book. I’ve recently had the experience of not being able to read, full stop, (which is a huge reason why I haven’t been reviewing) and one of the things I’ve noticed is how much my mood and worldview has radically shifted the way I experience books, even old favorites, to the point where I cannot tolerate any book at all. Everything is an error! But I think this is just an extreme form of our changing relationship to books.

    It might be that first time readers would enjoy this book more than Janine did, simply because they are not carrying the baggage of having read it before. I read this book long after it was published and really loved it. But then on the second read, I didn’t like it as much. But then on the third read it was a totally different experience for me. I wouldn’t even characterize it as “liked” or not “liked” It was just really different.

    Sometimes I think it is a shame we don’t read books again that we disliked the first time around because our experience of the book might change as drastically as it does with books we love. And then if you re-read them again, Lord only knows what will happen.

%d bloggers like this: