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REVIEW: Barely a Lady by Eileen Dreyer

Barely a Lady by Eileen DreyerDear. Ms. Dreyer,

When a friend told me that you had started this historical series, despite the fact that I’m pretty much Regencied out, I was delighted. After all, you’ve written some wonderful category novels such as “A Soldier’s Heart,” and “A Rose for Maggie” that I love. After I finished it, all I could do was shake my head.

Olivia Grace works for a jumped up harpy who couldn’t pass up the chance to push her three daughters into the polite society gathering in Brussels before the showdown with Napoleon. Olivia is surprised when Lady Kate, aka the Dowager Duchess of Murther, sits down beside her at the Duchess of Richmond’s ball thereby blowing the cover Olivia has constructed to hide herself from the evil villain in her past. Yes, Gervaise, her former husband’s cousin who has hunted her like a fox because he lusts after her, has found her at last but, in the nick of time, the battle begins followed by Lady Kate and her unconventional household taking Olivia in to help nurse the wounded.

Except one of the wounded is a man Olivia never thought to see again: the love of her life and her former husband. Jack believed the lies Gervaise told about her five years ago, called her a whore, challenged her cousin to a duel because he thought they were having an affair, threw her pregnant self to the curb with no money then divorced her. Only Jack is badly injured, was found on the battlefield in a French officer’s uniform and looks to have his own past secrets coming home to roost. Will the truth be discovered before all the many evil villains lurking in the shadows attack?

As I read deeper into “Barely a Lady,” I should have stopped. But I kept thinking that if anyone could take situation loaded with every trite trope in the genre and turn it around, you could. I was wrong. This book has aristocratic spies, a hero with amnesia, brain injury causing a character to be only able to speak in metaphors or symbols (Lady Bea) – and btw why on earth was she needed? -, past and present Big Misunderstandings during which the hero acts like a dickwad, revenge, eeeevil villains, multiple PsOV including many from secondary characters, a heroine who ought to loathe the hero but who instead just can’t stop herself from dissolving into lust around him, a supporting cast of characters who immediately support Olivia in the face of all contrary evidence unlike the rest of the ton who have spurned her for five years, Lady Kate’s ragtag household which has a pregnant housemaid, a former boxer and a pickpocket – who all adore Olivia – and the beginnings of a series complete with future heroes and heroines (hence the multiple Psov) sprinkled throughout the narrative. It’s even got a cringe worthy series title by which a lot of the future heroes are already known in this society: Drake’s Rakes.

In answer to the question of why I kept reading as the cliches piled on I offer the response that I wanted to read the climactic scene in which Olivia finally, after suppressing her emotions for the majority of the book because the doctor said that reminding Jack of the memories he’d suppressed or temporarily lost due to his head injury would hurt him, lets him fucking have it. And then I wanted a grovel scene to outgrovel just about any other groveling I’d read in any other romance book. I wanted world class groveling. I wanted Oscar winning groveling from a man who seemed to have done everything to Olivia except kill her dog. Well, you supplied the scene in which Olivia Reveals Almost All to a shame filled Jack. And it was pretty good. This is followed by almost the entire household piling on Jack and telling him what a shit he is and how fabulous Olivia is. Then Jack grovels over the course of quite a few pages and chapters. And that was good. Only it’s not enough.

Because then Jack didn’t seem to know when to stop pouring ashes on his head and crawling to Olivia begging forgiveness and Saint Olivia, despite five years, FIVE YEARS!, of hell on earth appears ready to forgive and forget way too easily for me to believe. And I find that I can’t believe either his 180 change from the rat bastardness described as his past actions. I also don’t give a damn about whatever spy nonsense will be carried on over the course of the rest of the series or the fact that Gervaise gets what’s coming to him.

I think I’m going to stop reading romance novels using Waterloo as a backdrop. Balogh gave me Disney Whores, this is where Putney started the pile that is Shattered Rainbows and now here’s Olivia the All Forgiving with Jack the Asshole. When I close a book and feel sorry that the two main characters are facing a life together it’s a bad sign. When I don’t even feel sorry for the heroine because I feel she’s too silly, it’s even worse. D

~Jayne

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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

65 Comments

  1. meoskop
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 13:11:22

    I just bought this yesterday! At least if I start to get annoyed with it I’ll forgive myself if I don’t finish it.

  2. Janine
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 13:18:05

    Thanks for this review. I’ve been considering reading this book and I’m still not sure if I will or not, but at least now if I do pick it up I’ll know what I’m getting into.

    On the upside, I actually like amnesia, revenge, grovelling heroes, and sometimes, spies and heroines who can’t help themselves when it comes to sleeping with the hero.

    On the downside, the eeevil villains, character who speaks only in metaphors, big misunderstandings, and esp. the cast of characters who treat and view the heroine so differently from everyone in her past, sounds like reasons to avoid this book.

    I think I'm going to stop reading romance novels using Waterloo as a backdrop. Balogh gave me Disney Whores, this is where Putney started the pile that is Shattered Rainbows and now here's Olivia the All Forgiving with Jack the Asshole.

    That Disney Whore book was so disappointing, but I loved Shattered Rainbows. I’m torn.

  3. Jayne
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 13:26:47

    @meoskop: Well maybe after you read it you’ll come back and say, “Jayne, you ignorant slut. How could you have given this superb book a D?” Or maybe not…

  4. Jayne
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 13:30:16

    @Janine: Give it a try. You never know. It could work brilliantly for you if enough of the things which pissed me off are things you enjoy.

    I never understood the secondary character who can only speak in metaphors. It made absolutely no medical sense and she adds only marginally to the story.

    I think I’m the exception to the general love of “Shattered Rainbows” but then the series as a whole does little for me.

  5. Janine
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 13:46:37

    @Jayne: The excerpt I read didn’t grab me all that much, though.

    I also don’t get the concept of a character who can only communicate in metaphors. It sounds like an annoying device, like the hero of Robinson’s Lady Gallant, who frequently spoke in poetry.

    I can’t recall, did you like any Putneys?

  6. Jayne
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 13:52:58

    @Janine: I love “The Would-Be Widow” and the Fallen Angels book with Robin as the hero. The rest? ‘Eh.

  7. Janine
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 14:06:19

    The Would-Be Widow was fun, though not one of my absolute faves.

    The Robin book was Angel Rogue. One of my favorite Putheys — maybe my third favorite after Uncommon Vows and Shattered Rainbows.

  8. marsha
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 14:35:45

    Star Trek Next Generation had an entire episode with beings who spoke only in metaphor. It worked for Star Trek, but in a book I think it would seriously annoy me.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darmok

  9. Sandy James
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 15:20:46

    @marsha:
    I remember that ST:TNG episode, and it annoyed the hell out of me!! Sounds like this is one book I’ll avoid…

  10. Sunita
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 15:34:42

    Oh gracious. Jayne, I really can’t disagree with anything you’ve said. And yet I had a much more enjoyable time reading this. I think I found the writing sufficiently strong that even in all the WTF moments I was able to keep going and stay engaged.

    But there *were* plenty of WTF moments. I still don’t understand how they jumped back into lust so quickly, or at least how Olivia did. I found “Lady Kate” to be incredibly jarring in my brain after the first 25 or so times (it’s one word to me now). And I really disliked the gruesome aspects of the suspense plot.

    I guess I found the writing compelling and the situations (like the battlefield) effective even when the characters and plot were going pear-shaped. Maybe because while the Brussels scenes were boringly familiar (Namur gate blah blah blah rain blah blah blah injured soldiers on steps blah blah blah – there is apparently only one way to write the Brussels perspective of Waterloo), I thought the scene where they go to pick up the body and find Jack worked.

    The second half of the book did not work nearly as well for me, perhaps because I didn’t believe anything that was happening and I was getting tired of the overkill. And the end of the book, with its combination of sequel bait and legal improbability and excessive sackcloth and ashes, was really unsatisfying.

  11. Jayne
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 15:44:24

    @Sandy James: And I still don’t get the point of having this character be that way. She could have been presented as a pithy old broad who just speaks her mind and screw what anyone thinks and it would have worked the same.

  12. Jayne
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 15:52:57

    @Sunita: One of the few scenes that really worked for me was when they went to find Grace’s father after the battle was over. If only the whole book had been that good.

    I didn’t even get into the legalities at the end. By this point I was just trying to hang on and finish the book. Perhaps I’m mistaken but I honestly don’t see any way that at that time a woman could be made sole guardian of an heir to a Marquessate.

  13. Jessie
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 15:56:39

    Question: What in the world is a “Disney Whore”? I’ve only read a couple of Balogh’s books, so I’m not sure I’ve encountered this yet.

    Comment: I will be avoiding this book, but I am a little curious about it–I don’t think I’ve ever read a historical, at least not an English one, in which a main character (or both main characters) was divorced.

  14. Jayne
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 16:00:50

    @Jessie: “Disney Whore” is a term I coined years ago when I read the “Slightly” Balogh book (5th in the series, I think) which starts at Waterloo and has the heroine living in a brothel with a group of prostitutes who are just so damn happy all the time that they ought to whistle while they work.

    ETA: It’s “Slightly Sinful.”

  15. Ros
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 16:09:02

    @Jayne: Oh, I’d forgotten about that one. Yes, Disney Whores is spot on. I’ve just been indulging myself in some of Balogh’s much older backlist, though, and really enjoying the ‘Web’ series which includes Web of Love, set around Waterloo. It does sadden me that an author who used to have a really strong sense of historical plausibility and a sensitivity towards the manners and mores of the time, seems to have given it all up in favour of the Regency-lite versions she now writes. Still, I have Dancing With Clara waiting for me at the library, so I’m not complaining too much!

  16. DS
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 16:16:30

    I really like Eileen Dreyer’s contemporary suspense books– even the ones set outside of the medical field, although her medical stories seem more genuine due to what feels like fictionalized war stories that every profession gathers.

    I’ve never managed to get into her Silhouettes though and I’m not at all inclined to follow her into historicals– what a bag of Regency romance cliches. This wasn’t originally written for Zebra circa 1998 was it?

    However, I would definitely pick up another thriller by Dreyer.

  17. Jayne
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 16:17:20

    @Jessie: In “Mrs Drew Plays Her Hand,” Carla Kelly has a divorced hero. In Lynn Kerstan’s “Lord Dragoner’s Wife” she has a heroine who is married to a hero who she thinks doesn’t want her. Since she wants a chance at a happy marriage and children, she tells him she plans to try and find a good man, have an affair with him so that Dragoner will divorce her for adultery so she can remarry. She’s well aware she’s committing social suicide and will be disgraced for it but it’s a price she’s willing to pay.

  18. Jayne
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 16:19:29

    @Ros: Balogh has so many excellent older traditional Regencies. I’m glad to see them being reissued.

  19. TKF
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 16:23:12

    Perhaps I'm mistaken but I honestly don't see any way that at that time a woman could be made sole guardian of an heir to a Marquessate.

    Depends on the situation. If the child in question is the baby she was pregnant with at the time of the divorce (who would have been the husband’s legal heir whether he liked it or not), the husband could certainly have left the child under the physical guardianship of its mother. The bigger question is why would he agree to do so if she was so awful he divorced her?

    If the child in question is not that baby, but another whose father is dead, then no. The child could be left under the physical guardianship of the mother, but there would be legal guardians (male) to deal with money, the estates, etc.

  20. Jayne
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 16:24:53

    @DS: Perhaps I need to stick to her contemporary books as well. I wasn’t aware she’s now writing as Dreyer. The older categories I like that she wrote as Kathleen Korbel are all from the 1990s.

  21. Jayne
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 16:34:30

    @TKF: Jack presents Olivia with papers drawn up by solicitors giving her sole legal guardianship of the child she was pregnant with when he threw her out. I’m not sure if she delivered (in a cow byre, no less) before or after the divorce. That isn’t made clear.

    I thought that as long as a husband didn’t deny his wife’s child, he would be considered the father. Well, at the time, Jack tosses her out on her ass. Would that be considered enough to legally deny the child?

    Of course the color of the child’s eyes prove Jack is the father(!) and he claims the boy at the end of the book but it still seems that the issue of the divorce could make things legally sticky as well as socially sticky for the boy from that point out.

  22. Sunita
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 17:01:46

    SPOILERS AHOY
    *
    *
    *
    *
    *

    @TKF: @Jayne: I just don’t see how Jack could guarantee Olivia that she would have guardianship of Jamie without interference if Jamie were Jack’s heir. He would have all kinds of responsibilities that she wouldn’t be party to. He wasn’t just a person, he was the heir to a fabulously wealthy Earldom.

  23. Muriel Lede
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 17:26:42

    Once again your grade is too gentle; if it were a creative writing assignment, it would have earned a solid F. But then, if you were too honest, probably no one would send you ARCs anymore.

    When I read reviews, on this blog and others, I translate into my own grading scheme:
    A->B
    B->C
    C->D
    D->F
    To me, a mere D coming from a professional writer that should know better is a big fat Failure, hence an F.

  24. TKF
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 17:27:01

    If the child was conceived during their marriage and if the child COULD have been his (if they were ever alone together, regardless of whether or not they claim to have had sex) then the child was his legally and was his heir. Not a damn thing he can do about it. As the father he could shun the boy, deny he was really his, leave him with his mother, etc., but the boy is still going to inherit the title and everything that goes with it. That’s just how the law worked.

    The only exception is if the husband could prove he and his wife could not have had intercourse (he’d been out of the country for example at the time of conception).

  25. firepages
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 18:57:19

    Thanks for this review. I will avoid this book like the plague! I thought the phrase “Disney Whores” was hilarious!!!

  26. Jayne
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 19:02:14

    @Muriel Lede: LOL, oh my. I think this is the first time I’ve seen us described as too gentle with our grades. Usually we’re the meangrrls.

  27. John
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 19:25:17

    @Jayne: That is rather funny. ^_^ Though I can attest to being a positive reviewer, though I’m not really the DA standard either. :S It really depends on the genre and what you read. YA, I find, is a lot easier to be positive and creative with as opposed to romance, but then again YA is more a very broad grouping of books that are very different on many obvious levels, while romance it’s more of a subtle difference after you work with subgenre like historical/suspense/ect.

    All the same, that review was funny. Disney Whores. I can see that. Which is sad. Not that all whores are bad but…LOL. Belle, Ariel, and Cinderella in a brothel. That makes me laugh.

  28. CEAD
    Jul 07, 2010 @ 06:59:41

    @Jayne:

    I never understood the secondary character who can only speak in metaphors. It made absolutely no medical sense and she adds only marginally to the story.

    Speaking in my professional capacity for the moment, it doesn’t make any linguistic sense either, and my fellow-linguist boyfriend shares my suspicions. Neither of us concentrates on neurolinguistics, but even so. I know that there are some disorders that can cause a person to be unable to process metaphors, but the reverse is highly implausible. Metaphors are all about violating various linguistic conventions, and in order to do that you have to know what the conventions are in the first place, or your speech can’t really be described as metaphorical.

  29. dick
    Jul 07, 2010 @ 07:58:32

    Well, hey, I agree with Sunita: It takes considerable skill to make cliches work at all and Dreyer managed well enough that I finished the book with enjoyment. And isn’t that what romance fiction is all about? All romance fiction depends on cliche, if nothing else the one that love conquers all to bring endless happiness. And right behind that one is the idea that lusty passion trumps reason every time.

  30. Kim in Hawaii
    Jul 07, 2010 @ 11:23:20

    I met Eileen last year at the Beau Monde Soiree (during the RWA National Convention). Many members dress in Regency gowns but Eileen dressed in a sari (having traveled to India – it seems that many authors are trekking to India for inspiriation). She indicated that she was taking a leap from medicals (as Kathleen Korbel) into historicals.

    It is unfortunate that this book didn’t work for you, but I am going to give it a try simply because Eileen was so animated in her sari and she has a proven track record as an multiple award winner. And I lived near Waterloo for 3 years when hubby was assigned to NATO. It may be overdone in Regencies, but it remains such an important part of European history.

    I enjoyed Mary Balogh’s Simply Series and Mary Jo Putney’s military heroes.

  31. Sunita
    Jul 07, 2010 @ 11:47:43

    @Kim in Hawaii:

    Many members dress in Regency gowns but Eileen dressed in a sari (having traveled to India – it seems that many authors are trekking to India for inspiriation).

    This is not helping. If people want to wear the native dress of other nations as costumes, I’m not going to stop them. But it doesn’t increase my belief in their understanding of the culture.

    Also, saris are incredibly difficult to wear gracefully if you’re not used to them. Even I look like a gawky westerner until I’ve spent a few days in one, and I’ve been wearing them off and on for many years.

  32. Jane O
    Jul 07, 2010 @ 11:59:00

    My goodness, I must read this book. It seems to provoke such wildly varied reactions, from “Must read” from some friends to your “D” with a “meh” tossed in the middle.

    I am wildly curious.

  33. Jayne
    Jul 07, 2010 @ 13:04:12

    @Jane O: I’m not surprised that views of it run the gamut. Harlequin Presents lovers often say they enjoy that line because it’s so formulaic and they know exactly what they’re going to get. People who love historical Regencies using the Napoleonic War as a backdrop are many as shown by the number of books with this background. And I’m sure this book will have its share of fans because it’s going to give them exactly what they want. On the other hand, if a reader is tired of all that, then this probably isn’t their best choice.

    I never start a book hoping I’ll hate it. For all the readers who decide to try this book, I do hope it works better for them than me.

  34. Polly
    Jul 07, 2010 @ 15:53:44

    @Sunita: Thank you. Absolutely!

  35. Marianne McA
    Jul 07, 2010 @ 16:38:23

    I enjoyed it.

    I was really apprehensive about reading it – because the set up sounded so ludicrous – but went ahead because I loved some of her books as Kathleen Korbel (though not the Fairie one, or the one Eileen Dryer I had tried.)

    Hard to say why I liked it – I bought into the central romance, I suppose. And – I can’t quite articulate this – while I thought the book was well researched, I read it as taking place in RegencyLand, a place where everyone uses Christian names and is on friendly terms with their servants; and the tongue-tied sister-in-law and helpful pickpocket all seemed perfectly at home there.

    Horses for courses, of course.

  36. Kiah
    Jul 07, 2010 @ 16:41:51

    I'm not surprised that views of it run the gamut. Harlequin Presents lovers often say they enjoy that line because it's so formulaic and they know exactly what they're going to get.

    So those of us who loved this book did so because it’s so formulaic? That’s exactly the opposite of what happened. And I think you’re doing readers a disservice to suggest that the only thing here is a formula. To read just about any regency historical nowadays is to read many of the elements you mention. What Dreyer does with them is what is special. I found real emotional resonance in the relationship and suspense in the plot. Olivia and the others have a very real fear that Jack was working for the French and thus may be a traitor. For them trying to keep the secret while having mixed feelings about the possibility means very real tension.

    You also make mention of how this new group of friends supports Olivia while others in society did not. That didn’t seem at all forced. She first meets Kate who draws her into her home. They then are immediately thrown into the care of soldiers wounded at Waterloo and Olivia cements her friendship with the other woman (I’ve forgotten her name) when she helps to find that woman’s father. As for the rest I think of my own life and the people who are in it. If I brought someone new into my life the people around me would accept them for my sake and hopefully like them in their own right and that’s not that weird since we tend to surround ourselves with like-minded friends.

    Overall what made this book was the emotional depths the author plumbs and I compare this to how flat Married by Morning by Kleypas fell for me because of the lack of emotional depth.

  37. Jayne
    Jul 07, 2010 @ 16:51:33

    @Kiah:

    I found real emotional resonance in the relationship and suspense in the plot. Olivia and the others have a very real fear that Jack was working for the French and thus may be a traitor. For them trying to keep the secret while having mixed feelings about the possibility means very real tension.

    Well, the whole “is he a traitor or isn’t he?” part of the plot fell flat for me. Grace’s father dies on the battlefield yet after only a very short token resistance, she’s ready to support this man who might have turned traitor to their country.

    I didn’t buy it.

    Then they worry a little about going to Lady Kate’s friend (Dicken?) for help. But again, why should they have bothered since he quickly also supports Jack.

    The whole household is afraid that Jack will be found when all the wounded start being shipped home and elaborate plans are made to get him back to England. But during the journey, almost nothing happens.

    So sorry, I didn’t find any real tension about this part of the story.

  38. Kim in Hawaii
    Jul 07, 2010 @ 17:32:18

    Sunita,

    I regret if I gave you the wrong impression about Eileen – she was very respectful of the Indian culture. In fact, we stepped outside the room for a few minutes to discuss her trip in detail. Likewise, I know of two other authors who traveled to India in the past year. I believe they are answering the call of publishers, reviewers, and bloggers for “different”, even exotic, locales. The fact that Eileen thought outside the box for a Regency event just amazed me – she demonstrated the Regency extends beyond Almack’s Ballrooms and teh Waterloo battlefields.

    Your comment about wearing native dress touches upon political issues that I – as a Haole – face every day in Hawaii. Having traveled around the world for business and pleasure, I have a great appreciation for other cultures while being a proud American. You cannot judge me as ignorant of the local culture simply because I choose to wear a muumuu. In fact, I write a monthly newsletter that spotlights Hawaiian culture (and my husband sings in a local chorus that celebrates Hawaiian culture_. I’d rather not descend into a political discussion – I was just commenting that I wanted to give Eileen’s book a try even though it didn’t work for Jayne.

  39. Sunita
    Jul 07, 2010 @ 18:41:01

    @Kim in Hawaii: I appreciate your response. And no, you didn’t give me the impression that Ms. Dreyer was disrespectful, any more than most people who experiment with other culture’s clothing styles mean to communicate anything other than an affection for the style or the culture more generally. And there are definitely times when donning another culture’s dress is a mark of respect (from covering your head and arms in the Vatican to wearing a salwar-kameez to a South Asian wedding). I just don’t think of a costume event in the US as falling within the latter category.

    I was also reacting to the idea that you can just throw on a sari without all the other stuff. People who brings saris back and wear them don’t usually have the blouses to go with them (they’re generally tailor-made with cloth chosen after the sari is purchased), although you can rig up a substitute for the underskirt. But I wasn’t there, so I should probably just keep my mouth shut.

    You cannot judge me as ignorant of the local culture simply because I choose to wear a muumuu.

    Of course not, and I wouldn’t think that. But I wouldn’t judge you as knowledgeable or possessed of a deep understanding just because you wore one, either.

    When asked about writing an Irish historical, Ms. Dreyer said this on her blog:

    Someone first suggested I write an Irish historical. I can’t do that. I know too much Irish history for it to ever be romantic.

    I would say the same thing about India at the end of the 18th century/beginning of the 19th. But since I’m sure you’re correct that editors want more romance set in exotic locales, that’s what we’ll get. And those of us who see those locales as familiar rather than exotic will just have to suck it up.

  40. Janine
    Jul 08, 2010 @ 10:17:20

    But since I'm sure you're correct that editors want more romance set in exotic locales

    I’m not sure about that. My impression is that for historicals, 19th century England is still an easier sell than other settings.

  41. Kim in Hawaii
    Jul 08, 2010 @ 13:48:44

    For Janine, the comment about “exotic” locales came from a historical panel at RT/Orlando in 2009, including Kathe Robin (RT), Sarah Wendell (SBTB), and Jane Litte (DA) – all three wanted the authors to accurately portray the characters, history, and locales.

    I am enroute to Denver for RomCon and very excited to meet other bloggers. I recognize that I see the world through rose colored glasses that I have gained as a military veteran and spouse. So I look forward to meeting other bloggers with different perspectives.

  42. Janine
    Jul 08, 2010 @ 20:41:53

    Thanks for clarifying, and have a great time at RomCon, Kim!

  43. Eileen Dreyer
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 13:25:47

    Wow. What a discussion. As much as I’d love to say, ‘no, no, there were no cliches in my book,’ guilty as charged. Some were mine, some…shall we say strongly suggested to me. I really can’t apologize for any of them, as I really enjoyed writing it, and I loved my characters. I guess I didn’t get across the fact that while Jack had, indeed, been a dickweed through immaturity, he’d spent the last five years serving his penance. But that is my fault.
    The funny thing is that there are a few small points I would like to contest. All completely unrelated to the core story.
    One, Bea’s language. While linguistically it seems odd that she’d speak this way, there is quite a bit of documentation (Oliver Sachs had some great works) about how oddly the brain can rewire itself. Bea has a form of expressive aphasia.She knows the words and concepts. She can hear them in her head. She can’t express them. So her brain makes odd leaps. Her language is actually a variation on my dad’s, whose aphasia is related to many small strokes.(the reason for it plays out two books on)(Bea’s language, not my dad’s).
    Oh, and the cliche about amnesia and brain fever is actually based on the fact that they really didn’t know anything about amnesia at the time, and truly were afraid to do anything for fear of what could happen. Well, no.The used leeches. But they used leeches for everything.
    The other point is my sari. I know. Silly. But I wouldn’t want anyone to think I was arrogant about the Indian culture. In point of fact,the reason I went to India was because my husband and I were invited to a wedding there. The people who invited us insisted I wear a sari. I protested, having heard every caution about a westerner wearing saris. My lovely hostess took me to town and got the local seamstress to make a ‘western’ sari, with elastic waistband and zipper(with all the undergarments). Since I was going to India anyway, I took advantage of the time for research. As for the Beau Monde party, I decided that it would be a crime to wear my sari only once. So, since India was going to play a part in my books, I used it as an excuse to be able to wear it again. Simple as that.
    As for the legal guardian business, you got me. I actually went back to look. I thought I’d said ‘custody’, which he could do. That’ll teach me to scream through the end of a book.
    For the rest, it’s my book, and I am happy to take responsibility.

  44. Jayne
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 12:51:31

    @Eileen Dreyer: Thanks for stopping by and adding to the conversation. The brain is an amazing thing and I will cheerfully yield to your knowledge and experience about the linguistics.

  45. Sunita
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 15:23:26

    @Eileen Dreyer: Thanks so much for responding.

    The other point is my sari. I know. Silly. But I wouldn't want anyone to think I was arrogant about the Indian culture. In point of fact,the reason I went to India was because my husband and I were invited to a wedding there. The people who invited us insisted I wear a sari. I protested, having heard every caution about a westerner wearing saris. My lovely hostess took me to town and got the local seamstress to make a ‘western' sari, with elastic waistband and zipper(with all the undergarments). Since I was going to India anyway, I took advantage of the time for research.

    See, live and learn! I’d never heard of a “western” sari, although it makes sense nowadays. I can’t picture it (zipper? the mind boggles) but it must have been terrific, and it’s certainly not silly to want to wear it again. My saris and their accoutrements languish in a drawer for most of their lives, and it’s a shame.

    Best of luck with the new book, and I look forward to reading it despite my love-hate relationship with books that use India as a context (love that more authors are using it, hate when specialized knowledge pulls me out of the story).

  46. Eileen Dreyer
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 12:56:36

    Sunita, believe me, the tailor hadn’t heard of a western sari either.His entire staff and my friend stood around me for twenty minutes yanking fabric this way and that and yelling at each other. I truly think it is a thing of genius. I am sad I can’t wear it more. Not only for itself, because I adore the color, but because every woman looks good in a sari.
    I don’t really deal with India until the second book. I would appreciate hearing from you about how it worked. I have a love/dread feeling, too, when I’m delving into different cultures. I’m so fascinated I want to use it, but I live in fear that I’ve just insulted an entire subcontinent.

  47. Jane
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 20:52:26

    @Eileen Dreyer Am I the only one that would love to see pics of this? I am really heartened by the fact that you obviously care about getting it right. We have had the experience of authors saying that getting it right wasn’t really important to them. And no, I am not trying to say that this is an e for effort thing but that as a reader I really feel appreciated when an author is thoughtful in their work and it sounds like you were really thoughtful in your work.

    I will say that I agree that it seems every woman does look good in a sari as opposed to say, a hanbok. Hanboks are good for really delicate flowers and for hiding the pregnant belly.

  48. Sunita
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 21:22:24

    @Eileen Dreyer:Aren’t saris amazing? No matter what you look like, they make you look better. I start out galumphing like Barney and within a few hours I can fry puris in the damn thing and I feel so graceful. It is sad that they are becoming less frequently worn, but 6 yards is a lot to wash and iron when you’re doing it yourself.

    I don’t know how much authors appreciate being told that people love their older books, but your writing in Barely a Lady was so compelling that I went back and reread 3 of your Silhouettes just to get more. And I did not remember how gut-wrenching A Soldier’s Heart was. That should go in every Romance Conversion Kit for people who think we write/read trivial or superficial fluff.

  49. Maili
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 23:42:40

    @Jane:

    I will say that I agree that it seems every woman does look good in a sari as opposed to say, a hanbok. Hanboks are good for really delicate flowers and for hiding the pregnant belly

    I’m not sure if I could agree. During a school trip to Unicorn Children’s Theatre for its cultural day years ago, I was talked into trying on a number of various national clothes.

    According to some: I looked like
    – a toilet roll holder doll in a sari-blouse-scarf outfit
    – a NHS nurse who’s accidentally been splashed with Willy Wonka paints in a tunic-and-trouser outfit
    – a British train standing upright in a kimono
    – a Royal Mail letter box upside down in a cheongsam.

    So yeah, I don’t quite believe everyone could look good in a sari.

  50. MaryK
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 23:55:34

    @Eileen Dreyer: That sounds kind of fun actually. I wonder if he’ll start selling them now. :)

    Saris are so beautiful and look comfortable. I’ve always wanted to try one, but have been pretty sure I’d look ridiculous or it would just fall off me in some public place. Sounds like I was right to be cautious.

  51. Eileen Dreyer
    Jul 17, 2010 @ 00:14:31

    Sunita- I was amazed at how little time it took me to get it right, especially that kick to get the extra material out of the way. And you think just the 6 yards is tough, you should see the look on the dry cleaner’s face when I bring it in already attached to the skirt.
    I don’t know if the tailor would have much call for it there in Rourkela, but he might sell his secret to somebody along the tourist trail. I guarantee it would be a hit.
    Jane, I do have a pic. What I’ll do is post it on my blog today. I thought it was on my website, but I guess not.

  52. Eileen Dreyer
    Jul 17, 2010 @ 00:18:00

    Sunita, I don’t know about other authors, but that old cliche about my books being like my kids is true for me. I really appreciate your kind words about Soldier’s Heart, because it is particularly close to my own heart. My inspiration for it was my own brother’s journey back to close his books on his time in Vietnam. What makes me sad is that I could move it to the Iraqi War, and nothing would be different.

  53. LoriA
    Jul 17, 2010 @ 00:18:38

    Just throwing in my two cents here. I really enjoyed the book, though I felt it was dragged down somewhat by what I feel are some elements that have become all too common to the historical romance genre. (I don’t read a lot of historical romance any more.)

    I was a bit disappointed partly because secondary characters have to be saved for their books, so we didn’t find out some things I’d have liked to know, and also because I thought this could have been an interesting — and heart wrenching — book about a divorced couple having to deal with their divorce and each other back when divorce was extremely rare. (Not that I usually think books should be something other than what they are, but I do think Eileen could have done it justice.)

    There was of course some heart wrenching, but it comes as if through a gauzy veil; we’re not supposed to truly suffer when we read these books. (It was okay back in the days of A Soldier’s Heart and A Rose for Maggie!)

  54. Jayne
    Jul 17, 2010 @ 06:11:54

    The Vietnamese ao dai is lovely too. I wish the US had some national dress beyond blue jeans and t-shirts.

  55. Jayne
    Jul 17, 2010 @ 06:14:11

    @Eileen Dreyer: “A Soldier’s Heart” is probably my favorite book of yours. Maybe I can talk Sunita into doing a review for us.

  56. Eileen Dreyer
    Jul 17, 2010 @ 12:16:14

    Jayne, thank you. That really means a lot to me. As you can imagine, I pretty much opened a vein on that one. Books like that and Maggie are very special. I truly believe they aren’t mine, I’m just kind of the convenient transportation device. And while there are days I wish every one of my books could be like that, I know that it just doesn’t work like that.
    Lori, I understand that your expectations would be different based on some of my earlier romances. But I knew this would be a different book. More romantic suspense than plain romance. Which means that all the focus can’t be just on them(and then there’s that setting up a series thing. I’ve never done it before, had no idea how hard it was). And I was constantly battling with the word count limit. Anybody who reads me knows I write long. I had to be surgical in cutting words and scenes. And that was a real balancing act. But, that’s writing.

  57. Eileen Dreyer
    Jul 18, 2010 @ 00:51:16

    Jane and Sunita, I put up the pic of my sari on my blog http://www.eileendreyer.blogspot.com. This is me on the way to the wedding.

  58. Sunita
    Jul 18, 2010 @ 06:46:35

    @Eileen Dreyer: You look absolutely wonderful in it! Silk saris can be difficult to navigate because they’re slippery, but you look like you’ve been wearing one for years.

    Also, that tailor is a genius.

  59. Eileen Dreyer
    Jul 18, 2010 @ 12:52:41

    Sunita, coming from you, I am honored. And yes. Believe me. I know perfectly well that the whole crew were genius. (I also ended up having every granny at the wedding help me pin it into the proper place. It was great. I felt like I was in Bend It Like Beckham)

  60. Eileen Dreyer
    Jul 18, 2010 @ 12:57:50

    Sunita–PS. He sewed the pleats in so I didn’t have to worry about tucking.

  61. Eileen Dreyer
    Jul 18, 2010 @ 13:01:06

    Sunita, it just occurred to me. Will you contact me off list ([email protected]). There’s a bit of research you could really help me with. I’ll put you in the acklowledgments (she wheedled)

  62. Sunita
    Jul 18, 2010 @ 13:23:22

    @Eileen Dreyer: Of course, happy to!

  63. Karen H
    Jul 30, 2010 @ 21:44:27

    I just finished this book and I agree with Jayne. WARNING–SPOILERS POSSIBLE.

    I don’t mind all of the cliches but I do mind the Othello theme and that Jack pulls it not once, but twice! Plus the detail on Mimi and the Surgeon was too much and really turned me off. Things happened too quickly, especially Olivia’s forgiveness, so I didn’t really believe. I still have no idea why Olivia took Jack back because he really didn’t seem all that sorry (again, Othello twice!). I did manage to finish the book because I thought it had a chance of working but it never really did (for what it’s worth, there are books by famous authors I don’t bother to finish because they either don’t grab me or just annoy me).

    Although I really liked Kate and Grace, I probably won’t be picking up their books.

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