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CONVERSATIONAL REVIEW: Forbidden Shores by Jane Lockwood

Dear Readers,

Book CoverJust as I had finished reading Forbidden Shores by Jane Lockwood (a pseudonym for Janet Mullany) and was getting ready to review it, I had a conversation about the book with my good friend Jennie F., who had also recently read it. Jennie’s comments were so insightful and thought provoking, and I enjoyed our chat so much that I thought it might be fun to (after editing it a bit, and applying the spoiler font to spoilers) share the conversation with all of you, in lieu of a more traditional review.
-Janine

Janine: Okay. I finished this book and am ready to discuss it. First, I want to bring up that although Forbidden Shores is labeled “Historical Romance,” it should at the very least be considered an erotic romance, and maybe even straight erotica. There is a lot of sex, and not just between the hero and heroine.

Jennie F.: I just finished it too. I would think it would fall somewhere between erotic romance and erotica. The focus is definitely on sex, but there’s enough other stuff going on for me to hesitate to label it straight erotica.

Janine: I agree with that; it seems like a hybrid of the two to me.

Jennie F.: BTW, I went to Lockwood’s website and she mentions that one of her inspirations was reading Adam Hochschild’s Bury the Chains, about the efforts of English abolitionists in the 18th century. I read that earlier this year, and it is a very good book.

Janine: I’ve heard nothing but good things about Bury the Chains. Here, for our readers, is a plot summary of Forbidden Shores:

The story takes place in 1800. Allen Pendale and Clarissa Onslowe meet on board a ship called The Daphne. They are sailing to a Caribbean island where a position as governess to the daughter of a plantation owner named Lemarchand awaits Clarissa, and where Allen plans to visit his father, also a plantation owner, and inform him of Allen’s mother’s recent death.

Clarissa is a clergyman’s daughter and former abolitionist who was ruined when she fell in love with a man and went to bed with him. When the rest of her family disowned her, her uncle offered her a position as his housekeeper, but now the uncle is dead, and despite her anti-slavery sentiments, Clarissa is on her way to the Caribbean, to work for a plantation owner, of all things.

Allen is an attorney and the younger son of an earl who has a knack for getting involved with married women. Allen and Clarissa meet when an irate husband tries to shoot Allen and Allen knocks Clarissa down to protect her from the gunshot. Clarissa does not appreciate Allen’s gallantry, especially since Allen lands on top of her. She is irritated with him but secretly aroused, too.

Allen and Clarissa both fantasize about each other and then, one night they end up having sex on the deck behind the chicken coop. They have fun but then decide it’s best to pretend that nothing happened.

Shortly after that, their cabin mates, Lemarchand’s overseer and his wife, become so seasick that the best solution to the problem seems to be for them to share a cabin, and for Clarissa and Allen to share the other one. (Like the AAR reviewer, I was very doubtful that such a thing would actually have happened in the Georgian era).

At this point, Clarissa reveals to Allen that she hopes to become the mistress of some very wealthy man on the island, and to earn a lot of money on her back. There’s just one problem — her sexual experiences are limited, and would Allen be willing to teach her everything he knows about sex?

Allen is plenty willing. So he and Clarissa have lots of different kinds of sex, to the enjoyment of both. Then they arrive on the Caribbean island, and it is time for them to part company. But just as they are intending to go their separate ways, they meet with the wealthy plantation owner, Lemarchand, who goes by the name March, and Clarissa falls in love with him almost right away. It’s love at first sight for March, too. Only the object of his affections isn’t Clarissa — it’s Allen.

After Allen does something that offends her sensibilities, Clarissa sets her sights on March for her wealthy protector (something else that seemed to me like it could be historically inaccurate, since she was his daughter’s governess). Not long after she does so, Allen realizes that he is in love with Clarissa.

So now the focus of the story is a triangle, but not a traditional one in which two men are in love with one woman. Instead, it’s a triangle where each person is in love with someone who loves someone else.

I don’t want to say much more about the book because I’ve already revealed things that happen quite far into it, but it’s tough to discuss it without giving away spoilers, because of the way the book is constructed.

I will add that at some point, there’s a sexual menage in Forbidden Shores, too. I’m mentioning this even though it happens far into the book, because I think it’s the kind of thing that readers like to know about a book in advance.

Jennie F.: Yes – I’ll add that in case it makes a difference to anyone (it was brought up on the AAR thread about the book) that while there is m/m interaction, it doesn’t involve anal sex. I wondered if Lockwood’s omission of any m/m anal sex was a concession to potentially squeamish readers – somehow I don’t think so. Readers who are interested in erotica featuring m/m scenes probably wouldn’t draw the line there. So I tended to see it as more a decision to stay true to the characters rather than go for that extra shock factor, which I respected.

Janine: I agree with you on that. There’s a sense of intelligence and an earthiness in Lockwood’s writing style that appeal to me, so I really wanted to love this book. The characters, especially Allen, had some depth and dimension; the settings, shipboard and Caribbean, were unusual, and I enjoyed that very much.

I also liked the literary allusions to The Tempest and loved that the story had a slavery angle. I really appreciate that Lockwood did not pretty up what slavery was like. The depiction of slavery was very realistic, and that was one of the best things about the book.

Forbidden Shores is clearly above average in many ways, but despite that, I closed the book feeling that it did not live up to its potential.

Jennie F.: I agree that there was a lot to like; it made the flaws that kept it from being a great book all the more disappointing.

Janine: Agreed. One reason I felt that way is that it took me a while to warm up to Allen.

Jennie F.: I liked Allen fairly early on. He had a certain ironic self-awareness that reminded me a bit of a Judith Ivory hero, or of Sheridan from Kinsale’s Seize the Fire.

Janine: Yes, that’s true, but he also had a certain uncouthness that those heroes lacked. Sometimes I enjoyed that (especially in the first sex scene), but at other times, it kept me at arm’s length from his character.

Jennie F.: That didn’t bother me. If anything, it leant a bit more of a realistic edge to his character. Despite his apparent success as a ladies man, Allen ultimately seemed to realize that it wasn’t because he was so suave and irresistible that all those married women fell into bed with him. Ultimately, he was the character I liked best.

Janine: I started out liking Clarissa best, but as the book progressed, I liked her less and Allen more. My feelings toward Clarissa underwent a sea-change when The Daphne reached shore, and she decided she was in love with March.

By far the biggest flaw in the book for me is that I could not understand for the life of me how Clarissa could fall in love with March so quickly. Yes, March was gorgeous, wealthy and elegant, but Clarissa was a former abolitionist, for heaven’s sake, and March’s wealth came from the back-breaking labor of the slaves that he believed in treating with cruelty.

Jennie F.: The instances of love at first sight (Clarissa for March; March for Allen) are what really brought the book down for me. I am not a big believer in love at first sight, and it’s a fanciful notion that didn’t fit into this book, that was to a certain degree more realistic, and as you said, earthy than the average romance.

Janine: Well, I can sometimes believe in love at first sight, but the author has to work double-time to convince me of it, and I don’t feel that Lockwood did that in this book. You’re right that March’s instantaneous love for Allen was pretty inexplicable too, but the insufficient motivation was even more glaring in the case of Clarissa’s love for March, because the gap in their values was so wide.

As I read I kept asking myself how Clarissa could love March. She was upset with Allen for a transgression that, although bad, was nowhere near the level of the wrongs March committed, but she wasn’t nearly as angry with March.

Jennie F.: I really lost the thread of Clarissa’s character even earlier, with her decision to become a courtesan. Her motivations were not sufficiently explained, so it ended up coming off as a sort of porny plot device to get Clarissa together with Allen and March.

Janine: I agree that the motivation for her decision to become a courtesan was not explained but for some reason I was able to accept this much better than her falling in love with March.

Jennie F.: At least her falling in love with March was somewhat unexpected, from a romance POV. Whereas the courtesan thing seemed a bit cliche. Though I agree it was less morally distasteful than falling in love with a slave owner.

Janine: Perhaps if Clarissa had been shown getting to know March more gradually, I might have believed that she loved him, but as it was, I never really did. To sell me on love at first sight, an author really has to lay the groundwork that shows that the lovers have a lot in common before they meet, or else that one complements the other in an essential way. But I didn’t see anything like with March and Clarissa.

Jennie F.: I would’ve settled for laying some groundwork that Clarissa was ready to be deluded; that she could fall in love with the *idea* of March rather than the man himself.

Janine: Oh, excellent point. There was a while when I thought that this was where Lockwood was going. I thought Clarissa would turn out to be merely infatuated rather than in love, and to be deluding herself about March. I think I would have found Forbidden Shores more interesting and more romantic book if I had felt that something like that was conveyed, because the infatuation could then have been merely an obstacle in Clarissa and Allen’s relationship, and overcoming that obstacle would have ultimately made Allen and Clarissa’s relationship stronger.

Jennie F.: I agree. I guess it was it was more unconventional, but not very romantic. By the end, Clarissa at least was saying that she had loved March, past-tense, but again I didn’t feel I got enough of her interior thoughts to really get a feel for when her feelings changed. Presumably when she found out what he’d done to Allen, but that doesn’t make her particularly admirable, that she tolerated his abuse of his slaves but only fell out of love when that abuse extended to Allen.

I ended up feeling that Lockwood really gave Clarissa’s thoughts and motivations short shrift, which was a shame, because she had some potential as a character.

Janine: I too felt that a lot of Clarissa’s thoughts and emotions were missing from the sections in her POV, and this made the book more frustrating. I’m still not completely sure whether Lockwood intended us to believe that Clarissa was merely infatuated or that she felt a deeper love for March than that, although I lean toward the latter. But either way, because I couldn’t believe in Clarissa’s love for March, and because I thought a lot less of when she loved him (or thought she loved him), the story fell apart for me toward the end. I was still interested in Allen and his character arc, but there wasn’t enough in the book to satisfy me.

I also have the feeling that I was supposed to find March sexy and to care about what happened to him. But I just didn’t, because of the way he made his fortune. Maybe it sounds moralistic of me, but I can’t help it — this is the way I feel.

Jennie F.: I think we were supposed to at least understand the magnetism that drew Allen and Clarissa to him. I don’t think Lockwood was entirely successful in depicting that, though again, I think maybe she could have done that through examining the aspects of Allen and Clarissa’s characters that could have made them susceptible to March in the first place, rather than trying to make the reader fall in love with March.

Janine: Yes, good point. What do you think about the erotic aspects of the book? I thought the first sex scene between Allen and Clarissa was mega-hot, and a few others were pretty hot too. There were others between the two of them that I could take or leave. The menage scenes didn’t really turn me on much at all, and I don’t think it was because it was a threesome. I have enjoyed a threesome scene in one of Megan Hart’s books, so I think the issue here was that having so many unrequited feelings flying around made the scenes somewhat uncomfortable to read. I did enjoy one very hot kiss between March and Allen.

Jennie F.: I think this is where the book did succeed for me – I found all the sex scenes pretty hot. I do hope the author writes more erotica, because I think she has an affinity for it.

I did mean to say that I liked Clarissa’s forthrightness in suggesting the menage a trois. That could’ve come off as a porny erotica set-up, but it had a bit of poignancy because of the nature of the triangle.

Janine: It’s mentioned on the back cover that Allen has a secret, and even though it doesn’t come out until quite late in the book, I guessed what it would turn out to be very early on, and even had a strong hunch about what would happen when it came out, which proved to be correct.

Jennie F.: I don’t know if I would’ve guessed; I was bad and read ahead. I think there were some hints, but I’m not sure if I would’ve put two and two together.

Janine: Well, it’s clear from reading Blythe’s review at AAR that she didn’t guess the secret, and I really don’t think most readers would. I seem to (she says immodestly) have a knack for that sort of thing. But because I did guess this secret, I kept waiting for it to come out and when it finally did it seemed like that section of the book, and especially Allen and Clarissa’s reactions, was too compressed and should have been fleshed out more. I think the book needed to be longer.

Jennie F.: I agree with you that the book would’ve worked better had it been longer. I would have liked to have known more what Clarissa thought about Allen and her relationship with him after the revelation of the secret.

Janine: Overall, I felt that there was a lot to appreciate in this book, but also some things to be disappointed in. The ending does point to a HEA, but I didn’t feel the book was very romantic.

Jennie F.: I think I agree that it did not feel very romantic in spite of the hinted HEA – I think because Clarissa’s feelings for Allen never seemed to rise above attraction and liking, and when they were estranged, a sort of nostalgia for him and their times on the ship.

Janine: What grade would you give Forbidden Shores?

Jennie F.: I would give it a B; not a high B – closer to a B- than a B+. Judging it strictly as erotica I’d probably give it a B+; judging it strictly as romance a C. I do give it a bit of a bump for being something different; I’m always looking for that.

Janine: Me too, which is another reason why I wanted to love this book, and am somewhat disappointed that I didn’t. I’m not sure if I’ll be tempted to reread it, but I’m glad I read it at least once and I do think it’s above average. So for me, the B- grade seems to fit.

This book can be purchased in trade paperback format.

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.

53 Comments

  1. Elle
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 06:49:32

    Welll, you have managed to pique my interest, despite the lukewarm review. The book certainly sounds like something different from the usual fare (at the very least.) I am not much for erotic romance, but Jennie’s comparison of Allen to an Ivory hero or Sheridan from Seize the Fire is quite a lure for me. Balancing that against the Heroine Decides to Become A Courtesan plot device (which usually is an eye-roller for me) and the *hinted* HEA, I still am tempted to give this book a try.

  2. Tracy
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 09:46:51

    I haven’t read this book, but I had to say to Jennie F~I read ahead with all my books LOL I actually like knowing what a “secret” is and then looking for hints to it as I read. I’m weird that way!

  3. TeddyPig
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 09:58:46

    Is this out on eBook yet? I’m so interested to see if the man on man stuff works.

  4. Janine
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 10:51:31

    Welll, you have managed to pique my interest, despite the lukewarm review. The book certainly sounds like something different from the usual fare (at the very least.) I am not much for erotic romance, but Jennie's comparison of Allen to an Ivory hero or Sheridan from Seize the Fire is quite a lure for me. Balancing that against the Heroine Decides to Become A Courtesan plot device (which usually is an eye-roller for me) and the *hinted* HEA, I still am tempted to give this book a try.

    Elle — I agree that the book is definitely something different, and although there was a lot of sex, there was a lot more to it than sex, too, which I really appreciated.

    Jennie will be stopping in later today to comment as time permits, so maybe she will say more about how Allen reminded her of Ivory heroes and of Sheridan from Kinsale’s STF. I wasn’t reminded of them myself, possibly because Ivory and Kinsale heroes usually have a certain sheen to them, a kind of glamour, and I didn’t see that with Allen. But I agree that Allen does have an ironic self-awareness, and he’s a very interesting, multi-dimensional and interesting hero.

    Regarding my C+ grade, I am assessing Forbidden Shores using the Dear Author grading scale, which can be tough on those above average books that aren’t keepers. A C is described as “Eh. Not bad but I probably would never read it again,” whereas a B is “It’s good and I would buy it again, given the chance.” Forbidden Shores fell between those two descriptions for me. I won’t want to reread it and the $14 price is rather high, so it doesn’t make the “I would buy it again, given the chance” criteria for me, but I also feel that “Not bad” is a bit too lukewarm of a description for a book that took so many risks and had so many good things going for it. My C+ is a strong C+, very nearly a B-. And Jennie gave it a B.

    I was rather hoping people would be intrigued enough to read the book despite the grade I ended up giving it, because, regardless of the disappointments, there’s still a lot about the book that I found worthwhile.

  5. Janine
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 11:04:13

    Tracy — I’m looking forward to Jennie’s reply when she gets here. I think that Robin/Janet also reads this way, looking ahead and then reading everything from cover to cover. For me, that can take out the surprises that make reading a more powerful experience.

    TeddyPig — I googled the Forbidden Shores with “ebook” and didn’t see an ebook version come up. I did find an ebook version of Lockwood/Mullany’s The Rules of Gentility, which I enjoyed more. That book doesn’t have any M/M scenes, or any sex at all for that matter. I would be interested in your thoughts on the M/M stuff in Forbidden Shores. It is interesting because March is in love with Allen but Allen is in love with Clarissa (who is in love with March).

  6. Jennie F.
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 12:03:12

    Tracy, I actually try not to read ahead. But sometimes I’m bad. A lot of times my reading ahead is a sign that whatever is going on in the book isn’t really grabbing my attention, but not always. And once I start, I usually don’t stop; that’s what happened with Forbidden Shores.

    Jennie will be stopping in later today to comment as time permits, so maybe she will say more about how Allen reminded her of Ivory heroes and of Sheridan from Kinsale's STF. I wasn't reminded of them myself, possibly because Ivory and Kinsale heroes usually have a certain sheen to them, a kind of glamour, and I didn't see that with Allen. But I agree that Allen does have an ironic self-awareness, and he's a very interesting, multi-dimensional and interesting hero.

    The comparison to Ivory’s heroes was due to that ironic self-awareness, as well as an occasional awkwardness (Allen several times early on feels that he’s made a fool of himself in front of Clarissa, and I liked that; so different from the usual self-assured, always-in-control hero). I think I’m thinking of Nardi from Bliss, mostly.

    I’m not sure that I agree with Janine, entirely, about Kinsale and Ivory heroes having a certain glamour. I do know what she means, but, I mean, didn’t Nardi vomit into a piano in the middle of a party? (I haven’t read Bliss in ages, so I may be remembering it wrong.)

    Of course, Nardi was French, so I’m sure he vomited with elan, but still. I think perhaps it is that the entire tone of Lockwood’s writing is more earthy, and so Allen consequently does maybe have a little less sheen. But that did not make him less appealing to me.

    Thinking of the comparison to Sheridan in Seize the Fire, I would have to admit that it’s probably partly due to the shipboard parts of both books. For some reason, I’m remembering rather vividly beginning Seize the Fire, gosh, probably a looong time ago now, and being so shocked and delighted by the opening sequence when Sheridan is revealed to be a coward only concerned with saving his own skin. I hadn’t been reading romance long then, and I think StF was my first Kinsale, but I was already sick of all those ultra-noble, ultra-macho heroes.

    But I’m digressing, as I’m wont to do when StF comes up. Allen had not had quite such a traumatic upbringing, but he seemed to me to resemble Sheridan his strong sense of self-preservation. He was kind of a scrapper (and I do think of Sheridan as being a bit rough around the edges, too).

    Regarding my C+ grade, I am assessing Forbidden Shores using the Dear Author grading scale, which can be tough on those above average books that aren't keepers. A C is described as “Eh. Not bad but I probably would never read it again,” whereas a B is “It's good and I would buy it again, given the chance.” Forbidden Shores fell between those two descriptions for me. I won't want to reread it and the $14 price is rather high, so it doesn't make the “I would buy it again, given the chance” criteria for me, but I also feel that “Not bad” is a bit too lukewarm of a description for a book that took so many risks and had so many good things going for it. My C+ is a strong C+, very nearly a B-. And Jennie gave it a B.

    I would definitely buy it again, given the chance. The higher price doesn’t really factor in for me, because I find so few interesting, different romances these days. But I understand it may be more of an issue for someone who is reading a dozen or more romances a month (I don’t usually read more than five).

    I think the problem with C range grades is that they convey to me (and maybe other readers?) the sense that a book is blah/average. Whereas Forbidden Shores, obviously, is not – it’s just kind of a rollercoaster and honestly very inconsistent. It’s one of those books I can be very critical of precisely because it does have a lot to recommend it, and because even its flaws by and large are something different than the flaws I usually find in romances, and so I find them worth talking about and dissecting.

  7. TeddyPig
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 12:10:28

    It is interesting because March is in love with Allen but Allen is in love with Clarissa (who is in love with March).

    That is why I am interested. That’s a complex setup that would take a lot of finessing to sell.

  8. Janine
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 12:48:48

    The comparison to Ivory's heroes was due to that ironic self-awareness, as well as an occasional awkwardness (Allen several times early on feels that he's made a fool of himself in front of Clarissa, and I liked that; so different from the usual self-assured, always-in-control hero). I think I'm thinking of Nardi from Bliss, mostly.

    I'm not sure that I agree with Janine, entirely, about Kinsale and Ivory heroes having a certain glamour. I do know what she means, but, I mean, didn't Nardi vomit into a piano in the middle of a party? (I haven't read Bliss in ages, so I may be remembering it wrong.)

    Of course, Nardi was French, so I'm sure he vomited with elan, but still.

    LOL! It’s true, Nardi tossed his cookies (or more likely, ether) into some fabulously expensive grand piano early on in Cuevas/Ivory’s Bliss. And though there was so much to recommend that book, which I have kept, I haven’t read it as many times as I have some of Ivory’s books. I never entirely fell in love with Nardi, and that vomiting scene was one of the reasons why.

    Somehow, when you mentioned Ivory heroes, I instantly thought of my personal favorite, Graham from Black Silk. But even Nardi had considerable glamour. He wore a great alpaca coat, didn’t he? And sculpted beautiful things. And was a French aristocrat, And his addiction was to ether — somehow even that seemed glamorous to me.

    For some reason, I'm remembering rather vividly beginning Seize the Fire, gosh, probably a looong time ago now, and being so shocked and delighted by the opening sequence when Sheridan is revealed to be a coward only concerned with saving his own skin… Allen had not had quite such a traumatic upbringing, but he seemed to me to resemble Sheridan his strong sense of self-preservation. He was kind of a scrapper (and I do think of Sheridan as being a bit rough around the edges, too).

    Yes, that was what made Sheridan so thrilling to read about: he was always out for number one. I agree that Allen had a sense of self-preservation, and that Sheridan was a bit rough around the edges, but Allen seemed a little rougher to me, somehow, and perhaps you are right that that’s due to the earthiness of Lockwood/Mullany’s writing.

    It’s interesting that the book reminded you of the works of Ivory and Kinsale. It reminded me of Pam Rosenthal’s The Slightest Provocation (high praise from me since I loved that book). I think I was reminded of it because they both had that earthiness to them and more realism than one often finds in romances, because both books took a lot of risks and were truly different, and because as much as I love The Slightest Provocation and Rosenthal’s novella, “A House East of Regent St.,” her sex scenes can be hit-or-miss for me too.

    Another similarity is that when I read The Slightest Provocation it took me a while to warm up to the characters, but by the end, I had really fallen in love with them. I was hoping for that kind of progression in Forbidden Shores, too, but it never happened.

  9. Jennie F.
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 13:00:15

    You know, I liked The Slightest Provocation quite a bit when I read it, but I hardly remember it at all. I just don’t remember books the way I used to. I can remember pretty well the plots and even scenes from books I read early in my romance-reading career (even in some cases books I didn’t care much for and didn’t reread), but I can’t remember a single thing, probably, about at least a couple of my favorite romances from last year, or even earlier this year. I think my hard drive needs to be reformatted, or something.

    So likely, I will not remember anything about Forbidden Shores in a few weeks.

    Regarding the Allen/Sheridan comparison, Sheridan finally overcame his selfishness when he went to save Olympia. Similarly, Allen didn’t flinch at saving Clarissa even though it was quite dangerous for him to do so (trying not to be too spoilery here). Though Allen had long since acknowledged his love for Clarissa, so it was a bit different.

  10. Janine
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 13:16:33

    I would definitely buy it again, given the chance. The higher price doesn't really factor in for me, because I find so few interesting, different romances these days. But I understand it may be more of an issue for someone who is reading a dozen or more romances a month (I don't usually read more than five).

    I think the problem with C range grades is that they convey to me (and maybe other readers?) the sense that a book is blah/average.

    Yes, you are right, that is definitely a problem with C range grades, and I worried that my grade might give that impression. There is an even worse problem with DNF grades, which convey the impression that a book completely sucked, which is not always the case for me when I don’t finish a book. I wrote a whole opinion piece about that here, “The DNF Dilemma.”

    At the time we had that discussion, Robin said:

    To me, the DNF dilemma simply amplifies the larger issues with grading books at all -‘ to what extent to people pay attention only to the grade and not to the review itself and therefore miss what I would call “the important stuff.” All grades and ratings are so subjective to me that I immediately read past them to the actual substance of the review.

    and

    Every grade sends an incomplete message, which is why you have accompanying reviews.

    I really hope readers have read the review, and that they understand from it (and from my comments here) that although Forbidden Shores only had mixed success for me, it was far from blah, and definitely not your average romance.

  11. Janine
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 13:21:25

    Whereas Forbidden Shores, obviously, is not – it's just kind of a rollercoaster and honestly very inconsistent. It's one of those books I can be very critical of precisely because it does have a lot to recommend it, and because even its flaws by and large are something different than the flaws I usually find in romances, and so I find them worth talking about and dissecting.

    Yes, I also think this book makes a very good book for discussing. And speaking of dissecting, I want to relate a bit more of the discussion we had after this review was finished but before it posted. I had said that I felt that Clarissa was essentially a fair-weather abolitionist, and that I thought that if a heroine was purported to have convictions, then I wanted those to be strong convictions. I also said that it wasn’t the sex with March that was the issue for me (I would not have minded so much if she had merely been using him for his money or sleeping with him for some ulterior motive), but the falling in love.

    You then made what I thought was a very insightful comment, in which you said that it could have been very interesting, if, in the process of falling in love with March, Clarissa had had a powerful internal struggle and was torn between her personal feelings for March and her feelings about slavery. But nothing like this was shown, Clarissa’s moral dilemma seemed to be non-existent, and in fact Allen, who had never been an abolitionist, seemed to give more thought to the slaves than she did.

    I agree with all that, and am close to agreeing with your comment that the inconsistencies in Clarissa’s characterization and the lack of clear motivation for some of her actions made up of about 85% of the weaknesses in this book. I think would say it was more like 80% of the weaknesses for me, maybe even a little less, but that still makes it the book’s main flaw.

  12. Janine
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 13:24:43

    That is why I am interested. That's a complex setup that would take a lot of finessing to sell.

    Teddy, I’m really curious as to what your opinion of this book would be. Jennie and I were also talking about how M/M is a growing trend in romance, but it’s mostly hererosexual women’s take on M/M, and we were wondering what gay men think of it. So I really would love your opinion, and if you read the book, I hope you will come back here to post your thoughts.

  13. Janine
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 13:35:35

    You know, I liked The Slightest Provocation quite a bit when I read it, but I hardly remember it at all. I just don't remember books the way I used to. I can remember pretty well the plots and even scenes from books I read early in my romance-reading career (even in some cases books I didn't care much for and didn't reread), but I can't remember a single thing, probably, about at least a couple of my favorite romances from last year, or even earlier this year. I think my hard drive needs to be reformatted, or something.

    LOL. My hard drive isn’t what it used to be, either, but it would take a lot to make me forget that book, because of the non-linear flashback structure. Plus I think I’ve given only three books straight A grades since I started reviewing here, and TSP is one of them.

    Regarding the Allen/Sheridan comparison, Sheridan finally overcame his selfishness when he went to save Olympia. Similarly, Allen didn't flinch at saving Clarissa even though it was quite dangerous for him to do so (trying not to be too spoilery here). Though Allen had long since acknowledged his love for Clarissa, so it was a bit different.

    Yes, I agree, Allen ended up being very heroic in his way. I liked him quite a bit by the end of the book, and only wish I had felt the same way about Clarissa, and that I felt a palpable love for one another from both characters. I think one of my issues with the book has to do with expectations. Approaching it as a romance makes it evident that the romantic component isn’t as strong as it could be, so I think perhaps it should be viewed as an erotic novel with romantic elements.

  14. TeddyPig
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 14:05:42

    but it's mostly heterosexual women's take on M/M

    Heee! You know, the very best Gay Romances are “in my opinion” written by heterosexual women.

    I think Gay Men muck it up because of this image they have of what makes a Romance and trying to write to that perceived formula. I think people get into the most trouble when they try and treat it so different. I mean you do have social stigmas against it happening but the actual Romance part should be similar to some extent.

    OK maybe with a wee bit more getting to know you sex. OK A LOT MORE SEX!

  15. Emma
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 14:33:05

    But even Nardi had considerable glamour. He wore a great alpaca coat, didn't he?

    Quick question from an obsessive Judith Ivory fangirl: Was it Nardi who wore the alpaca coat? I thought it was Stuart Aysgarth from Untie My Heart who had the very cool alpaca coat! The description of Stuart entering the bank (and the story) still remains vivid in my mind; there was much swirling of said coat, although I cannot recall if it was alpaca.

  16. Janine
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 14:34:43

    I think they both had alpaca coats, Emma. I could be wrong though. Maybe someone else will weigh in.

  17. Janine
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 15:03:53

    Okay, we are so off-topic here but I just checked and Nardi definitely wore an alpaca coat. Here’s the description from p.20 of Bliss:

    By the front door, the maid was holding Nardi’s overcoat. Putting it on him was a feat. Besides his being limply unconcerned with what was being done to him, the coat itself was handfuls and handfuls more of cream-colored alpaca than was necessary for either warmth or practical maneuvering.

    As for Stuart’s coat, I’m not entirely certain. Here’s the description from p.40 of Untie My Heart:

    He strode beneath a long dark greatcoat that flaped close to the ground about his legs, trimmed at the hem, cuffs, and lapels in silver-gray fur as thick and dense as batting. Amazing fur; she’d never seen anything quite like it. It lay, silvery and smooth, against vast amounts of dark wool.

    I can’t find a mention of the type of wool, but there may be one somewhere, and it may or may not be alpaca.

  18. Jennie F.
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 15:37:10

    You then made what I thought was a very insightful comment, in which you said that it could have been very interesting, if, in the process of falling in love with March, Clarissa had had a powerful internal struggle and was torn between her personal feelings for March and her feelings about slavery. But nothing like this was shown, Clarissa's moral dilemma seemed to be non-existent, and in fact Allen, who had never been an abolitionist, seemed to give more thought to the slaves than she did.

    I agree with all that, and am close to agreeing with your comment that the inconsistencies in Clarissa's characterization and the lack of clear motivation for some of her actions made up of about 85% of the weaknesses in this book. I think would say it was more like 80% of the weaknesses for me, maybe even a little less, but that still makes it the book's main flaw.

    Hah – I originally wrote 80% and then changed it. I just think that if Clarissa had been as fully realized as Allen, and her motivations had been much better explained (or her behavior had been less inexplicable, but I actually prefer the former scenario to the latter, because it’s more interesting to me), the other flaws in the book would have been pretty minor in my eyes and I could have given it an A- or even an A without compunction.

    I’m trying to remember if I had any similar issues with the book she wrote as Janet Mullany, but my bad book memory strikes again, and all I remember is the name of the book (Dedication) and that I liked it a lot but didn’t love it. I also *think* I remember that it was a reunited lovers story.

  19. TeddyPig
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 15:40:28

    It’s Penguin! eBooks, we are doing it wrong! It’ll be priced to laugh at whenever they get around to selling one.

  20. Jennie F.
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 15:40:39

    I think one of my issues with the book has to do with expectations. Approaching it as a romance makes it evident that the romantic component isn't as strong as it could be, so I think perhaps it should be viewed as an erotic novel with romantic elements.

    I think even by that standard, the ending was a little bit of a downer for me, because Allen loved Clarissa and Clarissa, IMO, did not love Allen, at least not enough. It made the ending bittersweet, and while that in and of itself is not a bad thing, in the context of this book it didn’t really work for me.

  21. lisabea
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 15:41:29

    Allen and Clarissa both fantasize about each other and then, one night they end up having sex on the deck behind the chicken coop.

    Really? I raise chickens. Not for all the money in the world would I have sex next to the chicken coop. That’s not the kind of dirty I’m into.

  22. Jennie F.
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 15:43:37

    Hee, lisabea! I think though the book was earthy enough, there were elements of the sex that one just had to accept as being a bit fantastical. Personally, the descriptions of how not-clean everyone was after a certain amount of time on the ship did not do much for me.

  23. sherry thomas
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 16:22:56

    Has there been a notable erotic romance of late without an M/M/F or multiple partners aspect to it?

    I have no problem reading M/M/F, but I prefer the good old fashioned M/F.

  24. Janine
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 16:33:43

    Hah – I originally wrote 80% and then changed it.

    LOL!

    I just think that if Clarissa had been as fully realized as Allen, and her motivations had been much better explained (or her behavior had been less inexplicable, but I actually prefer the former scenario to the latter, because it's more interesting to me), the other flaws in the book would have been pretty minor in my eyes and I could have given it an A- or even an A without compunction.

    I prefer the former scenario too. I think you’re right that the book had tremendous potential and that Lockwood has all the talent to write an A range book.

    I'm trying to remember if I had any similar issues with the book she wrote as Janet Mullany, but my bad book memory strikes again, and all I remember is the name of the book (Dedication) and that I liked it a lot but didn't love it. I also *think* I remember that it was a reunited lovers story.

    Yes, you’re correct that Dedication was about reunited lovers. I enjoyed that book too, but I recall that there were some character inconsistencies there too. For example, the heroine wrote letters to a female novelist (which turned out to be the hero, writing under a pseudonym) and she revealed all sorts of very personal things in those letters, even though the “female novelist” wasn’t even sure the correspondence was a good idea, and hadn’t done anything to invite those confidences. Overall, I thought Dedication was worth reading, but I recall that I felt that some parts of the story were underdeveloped, and I put it down to Mullany’s having to cut the book down from a single title to a traditional regency.

  25. Janine
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 16:44:46

    I think even by that standard, the ending was a little bit of a downer for me, because Allen loved Clarissa and Clarissa, IMO, did not love Allen, at least not enough. It made the ending bittersweet, and while that in and of itself is not a bad thing, in the context of this book it didn't really work for me.

    You know, because Clarissa’s motivations, thoughts and emotions were not explored as much as I wished they had been, I wasn’t sure if at the end it was really the case that Clarissa “did not love Allen, at least not enough,” or if it was simply the impression that Lockwood left us with because she had not done a more thorough job of revealing Clarissa’s thoughts and emotions.

    I’m not one of those readers who requires love declarations from all heroes and heroines, but I do like to feel that they love one another, whether it is shown through thoughts, emotions, dialogue or other actions. I do wish there had been more of that in this book.

  26. Janine
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 16:46:40

    I raise chickens. Not for all the money in the world would I have sex next to the chicken coop. That's not the kind of dirty I'm into.

    LOL! I was thinking the same thing as I read that scene, actually, but then things got very hot and I mostly forgot about the chickens.

  27. Janine
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 17:00:59

    Has there been a notable erotic romance of late without an M/M/F or multiple partners aspect to it?

    I don’t think there was anything like that in Pam Rosenthal’s The Slightest Provocation or in her amazingly good novella “A House East of Regent Street,” which can be found in the anthology Strangers in the Night.

    I would also steer you toward Broken by Megan Hart, Sherry. There’s a triangle, but no M/M/F sex. The heroine is never with more than one man at a time, at least sexualy.

    S
    P
    O
    I
    L
    E
    R
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .

    There is a scene in which Joe, who is always telling Sadie about his sexual encounters, describes one in which he was with three prostitutes, but it turns out to be a made-up story.

    I have no problem reading M/M/F, but I prefer the good old fashioned M/F.

    All other things being equal, I probably prefer M/F too. With threesomes, I am always thinking in the back of my mind that someone would feel like the odd person out, or the third wheel. But I think if it’s really well written, anything can work.

  28. Jennie F.
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 17:12:19

    Has there been a notable erotic romance of late without an M/M/F or multiple partners aspect to it?

    I have no problem reading M/M/F, but I prefer the good old fashioned M/F.

    I’ve seen some discussion (at AAR, I think) of the escalation in erotic romance, and it makes some sense to me. What makes an erotic romance an erotic romance? Is it the explicitness of the sex? The focus on the sex rather than other aspects of the story? I think both, but I also think it can be problematic – there are only so many things two people can do, and if more pages are devoted to them doing them, the author needs to mix it up a bit to keep it from being repetitive. So you get toys, and food (the latter of which doesn’t usually appeal to me, since more often than not it’s something sticky like whipped cream or honey, and I get distracted by thinking about what a mess it’ll be to clean up). Escalate a bit more and you get collars and whips and BDSM, and introduce orifices not generally mentioned in romance. Or you bring in a third person, or a fourth.

    Honestly, I think maybe “erotic” and “romance” are concepts that are a little bit in opposition, at least as they are defined in the romance community. Erotic in romance land seems to be code for “slightly freaky/out of the ordinary” and romance, is well, romantic. I am not put off, as a rule, by anal sex, m/m, f/f, or threesomes, but none of these scream “romance!” to me. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like it’s difficult to reconcile a heightened sexual connection and a heightened emotional connection. Maybe because hot sex tends to be more, um, animalistic? (Again, these may just be my perceptions and I’m assuming that others feel the same way.)

  29. Jennie F.
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 17:20:33

    Yes, you're correct that Dedication was about reunited lovers. I enjoyed that book too, but I recall that there were some character inconsistencies there too. For example, the heroine wrote letters to a female novelist (which turned out to be the hero, writing under a pseudonym) and she revealed all sorts of very personal things in those letters, even though the “female novelist” wasn't even sure the correspondence was a good idea, and hadn't done anything to invite those confidences. Overall, I thought Dedication was worth reading, but I recall that I felt that some parts of the story were underdeveloped, and I put it down to Mullany's having to cut the book down from a single title to a traditional regency.

    Okay, now I’m remembering a bit more, and I think I had the same problems with it. It’s always weird to me when an author is a good prose stylist and seems to be good at characterization (since the two talents are pretty closely linked, IMO), but then falls down on plot, of all things. I’m no writer, but plot seems like it would be the easiest piece of the puzzle. There are a couple of authors that I have this problem with – the only one I can think of at the moment is Alisa Kwitney (who did better on that could in her recent book, Flirting in Cars).

  30. Jennie F.
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 17:46:32

    Re the above, I don’t mean to imply that I think plotting is easy; I don’t think any aspect of writing a novel is particularly easy. But compared to prose and characterization, which I perceive as requiring artistic skill, I see plotting as more workman-like.

  31. Janine
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 18:19:28

    I've seen some discussion (at AAR, I think) of the escalation in erotic romance, and it makes some sense to me. What makes an erotic romance an erotic romance? Is it the explicitness of the sex? The focus on the sex rather than other aspects of the story? I think both, but I also think it can be problematic – there are only so many things two people can do, and if more pages are devoted to them doing them, the author needs to mix it up a bit to keep it from being repetitive. So you get toys, and food (the latter of which doesn't usually appeal to me, since more often than not it's something sticky like whipped cream or honey, and I get distracted by thinking about what a mess it'll be to clean up). Escalate a bit more and you get collars and whips and BDSM, and introduce orifices not generally mentioned in romance. Or you bring in a third person, or a fourth.

    I’m laughing about your comment on food. I can find food erotic in sex scenes, depending on what it is. I don’t mind a certain degree of messiness, because sex is inherently messy.

    Robin recently wrote an opinion piece on what defines erotica vs. “erotically charged romance.” She contended that “in erotica the character development occurred and is communicated through sex.” I think that’s true of good erotica but also of some good sex scenes outside of erotica, myself. I agree that there has been an escalation.

    Honestly, I think maybe “erotic” and “romance” are concepts that are a little bit in opposition, at least as they are defined in the romance community.

    That’s an interesting notion. I will have to give it some thought.

    Maybe it's just me, but it seems like it's difficult to reconcile a heightened sexual connection and a heightened emotional connection.

    I don’t necessarily feel that way but I do feel that somtimes the hottest sex scenes (for me, anyway) are the ones that come earlier in the books, when the characters don’t know each other that well and when something is still keeping them apart. The ones that come late in books when everything is lovey-dovey can be touching, but often aren’t quite as hot.

  32. Elle
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 19:14:13

    It's interesting that the book reminded you of the works of Ivory and Kinsale. It reminded me of Pam Rosenthal's The Slightest Provocation (high praise from me since I loved that book). I think I was reminded of it because they both had that earthiness to them and more realism than one often finds in romances, because both books took a lot of risks and were truly different… (snip)

    For some reason, I thought of The Slightest Provocation when reading your review, Janine, even though the plots of the stories have nothing in common as far as I can see. I picked up this book this afternoon and I noticed that the cover blurb was by Pam Rosenthal as well. It is nice to see authors approaching the genre with more originality and flair, even if they do not always hit a home run.

  33. Elle
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 19:28:22

    As for Stuart's coat, I'm not entirely certain. I can't find a mention of the type of wool, but there may be one somewhere, and it may or may not be alpaca.

    The wool of Stuart’s coat was vicuna . The fur was chinchilla. Page 57 of Untie My Heart:

    At this unlikely moment, the word vicuna came to Emma. It was the name of the wool of his coat. While the fur inside it, which invisibly composed most of the garment, was chinchilla. Old words. Words she hadn’t thought in a long time. Which meant, dear God, his coat cost more than the average piece of English real estate.

    I love both Stuart and Nardi’s coats. Also Bastian’s coat from Anne Stuart’s Black Ice. And the coat that Eric gives Sookie Stackhouse in Dead To the World.

  34. Tracy
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 21:49:43

    So you get toys, and food (the latter of which doesn't usually appeal to me, since more often than not it's something sticky like whipped cream or honey, and I get distracted by thinking about what a mess it'll be to clean up

    I’m the same way. All I keep thinking is what an incredible mess they are making and what a pain it would be to clean it up. And please, whipped cream soaking into the mattress? That’s gonna stink if you don’t get it all out~spoiled milk smell. LOL See? I just can’t get past that.

  35. Robin
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 23:48:06

    What a great, great conversational review!

    I am so excited to read this book now, especially with the Kinsale/Ivory comparisons (yes I know it’s mostly the setting, but that’s okay). And yes, I read by skipping all through the book while simultaneously reading from start to finish. If there is too much suspense, I’ll read so fast I’ll miss stuff if I don’t skip around and allow myself to read slowly (I wonder if this is why I’m not drawn to mysteries). Also, here’s one more vote for the coat from Ivory’s Untie My Heart. I fell in love with Stuart Aysgarth when he strode into the bank swathed in that Russian coat — as did Emma Hotchkiss, I think. And I agree with Janine that while Nardi was a fabulous character, I never fell in love with him as I did his brother in Dance. And Sheridan in Kinsale’s Seize the Fire –what a heartbreaking hero he was. The one book I don’t remember being mentioned but that I was thinking of when I read this review is Kinsale’s Hidden Heart, which also features some shipboard and sand lovin’, as well as an exotic locale. Yup, definitely looking forward to Forbidden Shores.

  36. Jennie F.
    Oct 18, 2007 @ 00:29:09

    Robin, I am really interested in your opinion of Forbidden Shores when you do get a chance to read it. It’s far from perfect, as you can see from the discussion above, but I will take a flawed interesting romance over a technically well done but ultimately dull and lifeless romance, any day.

  37. Janine
    Oct 18, 2007 @ 09:28:25

    For some reason, I thought of The Slightest Provocation when reading your review, Janine, even though the plots of the stories have nothing in common as far as I can see. I picked up this book this afternoon and I noticed that the cover blurb was by Pam Rosenthal as well. It is nice to see authors approaching the genre with more originality and flair, even if they do not always hit a home run.

    Lockwood also thanks Rosenthal in the acknowledgments page of Forbidden Shores, and I believe they blog together, too. All of that may be part of what put me in mind of The Slightest Provocation when I read Forbidden Shores, but as I said above, I think the books have some things in common.

    I love both Stuart and Nardi's coats. Also Bastian's coat from Anne Stuart's Black Ice. And the coat that Eric gives Sookie Stackhouse in Dead To the World.

    I loved them all too (Except for Sookie’s — I never made it that far in the Sookie series.) Maybe that’s what makes a great hero — his coat! (-;

  38. Jan
    Oct 18, 2007 @ 10:40:20

    Great review! If it weren’t so close to erotica I might give it a shot, but I’m erotica’d out. And, the things you mention about the characters and their changes not being quite so convincing makes me inclined to skip it as well. I’m surprised to see a book with this subject matter though. What made you two pick it up?

  39. Janine
    Oct 18, 2007 @ 11:19:30

    What a great, great conversational review!

    Thanks Robin! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Jennie and I had a lot of fun discussing the book; maybe we’ll do this again sometime.

    I am so excited to read this book now

    I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on it, Robin. You have to post them!

    The one book I don't remember being mentioned but that I was thinking of when I read this review is Kinsale's Hidden Heart, which also features some shipboard and sand lovin', as well as an exotic locale.

    Yes, that’s true, but The Hidden Heart seems like a much more innocent book to me.

  40. Janine
    Oct 18, 2007 @ 11:31:30

    Robin, I am really interested in your opinion of Forbidden Shores when you do get a chance to read it. It's far from perfect, as you can see from the discussion above, but I will take a flawed interesting romance over a technically well done but ultimately dull and lifeless romance, any day.

    Jennie, that last post of yours did it. I changed my grade from a C+ to a B-. I was torn between those two grades to begin with, so it wasn’t a big change for me, but it may persuade more readers to read the book. You are so right that a flawed but risk-taking and interesting romance is often better than those books that play it safe. I do hope some of our readers give this one a try, because I think it is worth reading, and that’s another reason why I raised my grade.

  41. Janine
    Oct 18, 2007 @ 11:53:18

    Great review! If it weren't so close to erotica I might give it a shot, but I'm erotica'd out. And, the things you mention about the characters and their changes not being quite so convincing makes me inclined to skip it as well. I'm surprised to see a book with this subject matter though. What made you two pick it up?

    I can’t speak for Jennie, but personally I’ve been interested in this author’s books since I read this interview with her on TRR many moons ago. I read her first book, Dedication, when it came out, and enjoyed it, and I recently enjoyed her second book, The Rules of Gentility, even more. So when I heard that she was coming out with an erotic romance under the Jane Lockwood name, I wanted to read that as well. I wish I had enjoyed Forbidden Shores as much as I had her other two books, since I think it is the most risk-taking of them all (and they are all unusual, risk-taking books). But though I still liked a lot of things about it, it was also the least romantic to me of the three.

    I do recommend her previous books to you, Jan. Dedication is a Signet traditional regency and although it is very sexy for that subgenre, it is not erotica. The Rules of Gentility doesn’t contain any sex scenes at all, though it has a sexy sort of sensibility to it. I reviewed The Rules of Gentility here and gave it a B. Jayne also reviewed it, here, and gave it an A-. It is probably my favorite of Mullany’s books. Mrs. Giggles has a great review of Dedication on her blog. It will be interesting to see what Mrs. Giggles will have to say about Forbidden Shores if she reviews it.

  42. Jennie F.
    Oct 18, 2007 @ 12:51:45

    I'm surprised to see a book with this subject matter though. What made you two pick it up?

    For me, it was the combination of “something different”, which I’m always looking for (and Forbidden Shores seemed to fit the bill both in the setting and the unusual love triangle) with an author that I knew could write (since I’d read and enjoyed Dedication). I give a lot of points for unusual and different, but I’ve found the hard way that it doesn’t overcome, or even much mitigate, bad writing.

    Jennie, that last post of yours did it. I changed my grade from a C+ to a B-. I was torn between those two grades to begin with, so it wasn't a big change for me, but it may persuade more readers to read the book.

    My cunning plan continues apace! Today, Janine, tomorrow, the world! Mwahahaha!

  43. Janine
    Oct 18, 2007 @ 13:24:06

    My cunning plan continues apace! Today, Janine, tomorrow, the world! Mwahahaha!

    LOL. The grading part of reviewing is the bane of my existence. I have such a hard time with it, and I never know if I’m being too generous or too stingy with my grades. As a reviewer, I shudder at the thought of readers making up their minds about a book based on the grade alone.

  44. Jennie F.
    Oct 18, 2007 @ 13:36:13

    I grade the books I read too, out of habit, even though I think it’s pretty limiting. I might read two C+ books that have nothing in common except for that grade. I tend to grade rather instinctively, based mostly just on my enjoyment of a book. But even that’s probably not quite right – it’s probably more like a balance between my enjoyment and what I perceive to be the literary merit of the book. So I might have one B book that gets a B because it’s really well written and worthwhile, even if it wasn’t a fun read. Whereas another B book probably doesn’t deserve so high a grade on writing, characterization or plot, but it was a fun, easy read, so I don’t feel right grading it lower.

  45. Janine
    Oct 18, 2007 @ 16:54:35

    This is very similar to the way I grade, too. I try to weigh literary merit and my enjoyment of a book both. Sometimes, with my favorite books, the two go hand in hand. At other times, they don’t, and those are the harder books to grade.

  46. Janine
    Oct 18, 2007 @ 21:26:02

    Teddy, per your earlier comment on Penguin ebook prices, I wanted to make sure that everyone in this thread hear that Penguin just dropped its prices on ebooks, so Forbidden Shores will likely not be priced any higher than it is in paperback when it comes out as an ebook.

  47. DUELING REVIEW: Forbidden Shores by Jane Lockwood — Biography. writers and their biography
    Oct 18, 2007 @ 21:54:28

    […] had also recently read it. Jennies comments were so insightful and thought provoking, source: DUELING REVIEW: Forbidden Shores by Jane Lockwood, Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and […]

  48. Janet
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 13:11:26

    Jennie and Janine: hopefully it’s not confusing since I’m logged in as Janet, but I just wanted to let you both know that I will post my comments as soon as I finish the book.

    Yes, that's true, but The Hidden Heart seems like a much more innocent book to me.

    Well, I don’t have the comparison, obviously, but I thought HH was such a sexy book, what with Tess’s Tahitian friend imparting all her sexual knowledge and guidance to her, lol — not to mention Tess’s plan to bring Gryf to his knees, so to speak. And I loved it when she passed all that on to Leda in Shadow and the Star. It just seemed to subversive to me, not only in terms of the genre, but in regard to how women learned about sex and their own sexuality more generally.

  49. Janine
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 13:34:40

    Never fear, Robin, I know you and Janet are the same person. Hopefully our readers do too.

    I love that scene in The Shadow and the Star! I liked The Hidden Heart, but it’s not one of my most favorite Kinsales. Even though it was a very good first novel, I think the fact that it was a first novel shows when I compare it to some of Kinsale’s later works, like Seize the Fire, The Shadow and the Star, Flowers from the Storm, For My Lady’s Heart and The Dream Hunter, to name some of my favorite books in the romance genre. It doesn’t have the same emotional impact on me; I think because I feel that Kinsale glosses over Tess’s first marriage a bit.

    Maybe that’s what I mean by innocent. Not that there’s no sexiness to The Hidden Heart, but that a lot of Kinsale’s books (Seize the Fire and The Shadow and the Star especially) deal with loss of innocence and loss of illusions. That element is also present in The Hidden Heart, but it feels to me a bit as if at least in part, Kinsale shied away from it and hadn’t learned yet to go for that emotional jugular vein that she taps so stunningly well in her later books.

    To bring this back around to the topic at hand, in Forbidden Shores the characters start out with less illusions than some of Kinsale’s characters begin with. Allen and Clarissa both think they are somewhat cynical and worldly-wise, and then discover that they have some illusions left to lose after all. I liked that element, but I wish it had been brought out even more, especially in the section pertaining to the revelation of Allen’s secret, which seemed somewhat rushed and glossed over to me. I would have liked for Lockwood to really go for the jugular there too, and I think she did in some ways, while holding back in other others, where I wish she hadn’t held back at all. I hope that makes sense.

    So besides the beach sex and the shipboard setting, The Hidden Heart and Forbidden Shores do have this other aspect in common. But I wasn’t reminded of The Hidden Heart in reading and thinking about Forbidden Shores, until you mentioned it, and I still don’t think the books have that much in common.

  50. Robin
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 14:07:09

    Never fear, Robin, I know you and Janet are the same person. Hopefully our readers do too

    You weren’t the one I was worried about Janine, lol! Sometimes even I get confused.

    Maybe that's what I mean by innocent. Not that there's no sexiness to The Hidden Heart, but that a lot of Kinsale's books (Seize the Fire and The Shadow and the Star especially) deal with loss of innocence and loss of illusions. That element is also present in The Hidden Heart, but it feels to me a bit as if at least in part, Kinsale shied away from it and hadn't learned yet to go for that emotional jugular vein that she taps so stunningly well in her later books.

    I don’t know if Elle is still reading this thread, but I wish she’d come back and talk about HH, which I know is one of her favorite Kinsale books, because I have no doubt she remembers it better than I do. I think you’re right that Kinsale pulls her punches where Tess is concerned, but I think she did a fabulous job of tracing Gryf’s implosion and eventual recovery. The scene in the nursery, where he is totally undone by the presence of his son, where he is so terribly afraid of even touching him, let alone seeing him and Tess together, well, I thought that scene was incredibly wrenching. I agree with you that HH is clearly a first book in certain respects, and it doesn’t, IMO, reflect the narrative mastery of, say, For My Lady’s Heart, but emotionally speaking I think it actually surpasses some of her later books — for me, at least. But, of course, none of that means there’s any similarity between HH and FS. For some reason your discussion of FS just brought HH to mind (and kind of made me want to re-read it, lol).

  51. Janine
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 14:41:05

    I loved that scene with Gryf. I don’t think The Hidden Heart has much emotional impact on me as it does on you, but I do like it.

  52. Elle
    Oct 20, 2007 @ 23:43:23

    I agree with you that HH is clearly a first book in certain respects, and it doesn't, IMO, reflect the narrative mastery of, say, For My Lady's Heart, but emotionally speaking I think it actually surpasses some of her later books -‘ for me, at least.

    I couldn’t agree more with this statement, Robin. The Hidden Heart is not as polished a story as some of Kinsale’s later books, but I am fonder of it than many of the ones that probably are technically superior. I found the characters of Tess and Gryphon to be totally engaging and their journey to their HEA to be emotionally wrenching (in the best possible way!) and very satisfying. It is a rare book in which I adore both the hero and the heroine, but The Hidden Heart is one. Gryf is almost a precursor of Sheridan from Seize the Fire with his near mental breakdown and inability to accept love. And I love Tess; she is an original. I am particularly fond of the scene at the end when she has been studying manuals on how to be a perfect English housewife in order to impress Gryf, but then falls apart when a parrot lands on her head and ruins her carefully staged domestic tableau of mother and baby.

    The nuances in the character development and the quality and energy of the writing make up for a certain awkwardness in the plotting and the use of the dreaded Double Big Mis plot device. Yes, Tess was perhaps not as traumatized as she should have been by her awful first marriage, but Gryf was certainly traumatized by his past. Even when he was being a jerk, I felt for him. And I loved the way that Kinsale didn’t attempt to shoe-horn this very unique couple into a “Total Acceptance By the Ton” HEA. Far more romantic (IMO) for the two of them to sail around and explore the world together.

  53. Regina
    Feb 03, 2010 @ 20:30:08

    I started reading Forbidden Shores not really liking it. Not sure why. As it progressed, however, I got into the by-play between the three characters and found that it appealed to me more and more. The fact that there was minimal m/m sexual contact kept me looking for more. I wasn’t, however, disappointed that there was none. I like the book and am looking forward to reading more of her books.

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