REVIEW: Not Quite a Lady by Loretta Chase
Dear Ms. Chase,
Your books have provided me with hours of happy reading over the years. I rejoiced when you began writing the Carsington series and for the most part have enjoyed them all. Not Quite A Lady will easily take its place beside them but the grade will Not Quite be up to Lord Perfect.
Lady Charlotte Hayward has made a career out of not getting married. Which isn’t as easy as it might first appear. She’s the cherished only daughter of a wealthy Marquess, she’s beautiful, charming, friendly, nice to those to whom it’s hard to be nice, good natured and if she’s headed towards the ripe old age of 27, her good points still outweigh this. As a matter of fact, it takes a lot of work for Lady Charlotte to not get caught at not getting married. After all, it’s what the daughters of the ton do. Her doting father is baffled but determined his daughter should know wedded happiness. What he doesn’t know, and what Charlotte and her youthful stepmama have taken great pains to ensure he doesn’t know, is the real reason why Charlotte, who longs for a husband and children, can never have them. You see, Charlotte already has a son. One conceived outside of marriage while she was barely past childhood herself, fathered by a rake who died before it was born. Knowing her wedding night would reveal her indiscretion and bring shame on her family, Charlotte dodges matrimonial candidates like most rakes avoid virginal daughters of good family.
And one rake who’s made a career of avoiding young women of good family is Darius Carsington, youngest son of the Earl of Hargate. Darius’ passion is agricultural learning, dissemination of said learning amongst those of similar interest and enjoying himself with widows and young women of dubious virtue. But when his father calls him into the Inquisition Chamber, Darius, who has no independent source of income, knows his number is up. He is presented with a challenge: he has one year to show a profit from an estate recently purchased by the Earl. The fly in the ointment is that it has been neglected for a decade whilst it was in Chancery being argued over by lawyers. If Darius can’t get the estate to show a profit, he has to marry the bride of his father’s choice. As his father knew it would, Darius’ masculine pride can’t resist.
When she learns that her father has arranged a house party with the sole intention of finding her a husband, Charlotte knows she’s in deep trouble. And after she discovers that the neglected estate which borders her family’s own is now under new management, so to speak, and that the young man is of good family, single and the author of several agricultural pamphlets from which her father can quote from memory, she realizes she has to work fast. Neither is overly impressed with the other at their first meeting but soon each realizes that the other is what they’ve always tried to avoid in the past but which they no longer wish to run from now. But what will they do when Charlotte’s past comes back to haunt her?
First, I’d like to thank you for giving us a heroine with a really major problem in her past and realistic reason why she can’t wed. A bastard child born in early nineteenth century England to the daughter of an aristocrat is so much more of a realistic reason than a heroine who fusses that she won’t be able to ride astride or would be forbidden to study the Elgin marbles.
Then we have the villain. I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting what we got with him. I was primed for a common romance plot device, but once again you provided a relief from the standard, surprising and delighting me.
I enjoyed Lizzie’s character and the revelation that it took time for Charlotte to warm up to her stepmama. As pointed out in her conversation with Darius, men didn’t have to get along as women of that era did since women were more restricted to staying home. I can see how a young woman faced with a new stepmama only 9 years older than herself would have some resentment. And how that might have contributed to her Fall from Virtue. The other reasons mention for her going bad are also believable: a smooth talking seducer and a 16 year old virgin slightly mad at father’s remarriage and wanting to show him up and prove something.
But the character who really impressed me is Lord Lithby, Charlotte’s father. After years of reading about nitwit fathers in Romanceland (see especially the f’ing idiot in Gaelen Foley’s The Duke), here’s a real father. I can believe that he doesn’t know what happened given the pains Lizzie and Charlotte went to to hide the fact from him. I can see how bewildered he is that his lovely daughter hasn’t found a husband yet and the hopes he has for her happiness.
The way you wrote about
Yet, despite all my praise, I have a few niggles. Charlotte got in BAD trouble earlier from unprotected sex. Now she does it again. And again. I guess this is to show how Twue Love (as the archbishop says in The Princess Bride) swept her (and Darius) away on the wings of passion. I can see it once but not repeated times and not in a house full of servants and workmen who are going all over the place in rooms where servants might not normally go.
Then will Society really accept Charlotte and her children
Finally, did I miss a brother’s book? When did Geoffrey get married? Or is he like the missing Malloren sibling already happily married? Oh well. Not Quite a Lady is a fine wrap up to an overall delightful series. B+
Dear Ms. Chase,
In my letter about your last book, Lord Perfect, I wrote about my enjoyment of your Carsington series, which began with Miss Wonderful and continued in Mr. Impossible and Lord Perfect. Now, in Not Quite A Lady, the Carsington series has reached not only its end, but in my opinion, its pinnacle.
Not Quite a Lady begins with a prologue in which the seventeen year old Lady Charlotte Hayward gives birth to an infant who may be too weak to survive. The child, who is illegitimate, is spirited away in secret to adoptive parents, and Lady Charlotte, who was seduced and then abandoned by a heartless rake before making her debut in society, vows never to love again.
Ten years later, Darius Carsington is the despair of his illustrious family. The youngest son of the Earl and Countess of Hargate, Darius has always had to fight not to be overshadowed by his older brothers. At twenty-eight, Darius has established himself as a scholar, a member of the Philosophical Society and an author of agricultural pamphlets. He has also distinguished himself in an activity that has met with his family's disapproval: heartless raking.
Darius is careful to avoid seducing innocents, so he has never been caught in a scandal, but what bothers the other Carsingtons is the cold and unemotional way in which Darius' love life proceeds. To Darius Logic is all, and Reason must always triumph over Emotion. It doesn't bother him that he can't recollect the eye color of his latest paramour, but it drives his father crazy.
Therefore, the Earl of Hargate challenges Darius to take over Beechwood, a dilapidated property that borders Charlotte's father's estate in Cheshire. If Darius can make Beechwood profitable within a year, he need never marry. But if not, his father will find him a wealthy wife so that like his brothers, Darius will have a source of income. Darius is determined to make Beechwood profitable and sets out for Cheshire right away.
Now twenty-seven, Charlotte is still unmarried despite her beauty, wealth, and high birth. In her fear that any man she married would discover that she is not a virgin, and that she has given birth to a child, Charlotte has never allowed herself to fall in love, and has found ways to unobtrusively steer men away. Charlotte's father is unaware of his daughter's past, which his wife Lizzy helped Charlotte conceal. He is determined to see his daughter happy and he tells Charlotte that he will invite potential suitors to their home for a house party in a month's time.
Charlotte is distraught on hearing this, but as always, she conceals her feelings out of her need to be a perfect daughter. Guilt drives Charlotte never to give anyone a moment's trouble –" that is, until she meets Darius Carsington. Beechwood is Charlotte's place of escape, and it is there that she and Darius have their first encounter, after Charlotte nearly falls into a pond and Darius rescues her. In her emotional turmoil, Charlotte forgets to be the perfect daughter. Her looks and prickliness intrigue Darius, and when he learns she's not married, so does the mystery of her unwed state.
Darius, can usually “spot a virgin at fifty paces” and is therefore surprised and not a little alarmed by his attraction to Charlotte. Over and over he reminds himself that virgins mean marriage, and are to be avoided at all costs, but for once, Logic and Reason desert him.
If Darius is alarmed, then Charlotte is, beneath her seemingly calm surface, turbulent. For Darius awakens feelings that she thought long dead, feelings that she has vowed to suppress, and the more these emotions come to life, the more endangered Charlotte feels.
Like the other Carsington books, Not Quite a Lady is steeped in charm and wit, and again, the dialogue is terrific. But unlike those earlier books, this one also deals with more emotional and serious subject matter. It goes deeper, while still retaining a light touch, and what I loved about it most was this marriage of humorous and tragic elements. Sweetness and sadness intermingle beautifully here and the result is a poignant story of a man's discovery of his heart and a woman's healing and her path to peace.
I'm not ashamed to say that I cried like a five year old when I reached the section in which Charlotte's past was revealed. Because of the book's early lighter chapters, its emotional ending snuck up on me, and I was surprised that it packed as much power as it did. It is rare these days for a book to drain me so completely, and I mean that in the best way, since I love an emotional catharsis. The last paragraph or two were sublime, note perfect, and I closed the book with a sigh of satisfaction.
I want to add that the things that bothered Jayne did not bother me in the least; much to the contrary, I liked and appreciated them. Explaining why would get into spoiler terrain, so I will save that for another forum.
A couple of other things did bother me, however. I would have liked to see Darius reevaluate his past raking after he learned what happened to Charlotte. I also thought it was a bit of an inconsistency that Charlotte's stepmother, who was said to be extremely perceptive, did not perceive the depth of Charlotte's grief over the child she gave away. A major plot turning point relies on a coincidence, as well, but I was willing to suspend disbelief and go with it.
I want to thank you for having the courage to write about a different kind of heroine, one who is less than perfect, and whose past is less than spotless. After years of reading books in which virgins were predominant and most of the non-virgins were widows or women who are sexually traumatized, I feel that the tide is finally turning and we are seeing a wider variety of heroines, something that I couldn't be happier about.
I'm also grateful, and excited, that you undertook to tell such an emotional story. While I have enjoyed your wonderfully witty lighter books, this one was an even richer emotional experience for me, and I thank you for that, too.
As it is only April, I don't know yet what my favorite book published in 2007 will be, but I'm certain that Not Quite a Lady will be somewhere near the list of my favorites from this already very rich year. For now, it is at the very top, and I give it a high A-.
I’m glad this is already on my list. Great reviews ladies.
On the basis of Janine liking Dirty, I’ll pick this one up.
I hope you like it, May. It’s quite different from Dirty, but I loved both books.
My copy is on its way, so I’m glad to see the positive reviews. I love Chase’s intelligent heroines.
I can’t wait to read this. I’m hoping it comes out in ebook next week, otherwise I’ll break down and buy it from my local B&N.
On the basis of this review I have requested Miss Wonderful from the library so that I can start working my way through this series!
Jane A – it’s weird because HarperCollins says that the book is released today (hence the review today).
The ebook is now listed as for sale on the harper collins site — you just have to dig a little there — who set that site up, anyway? NOT buyer friendly, that’s for sure.
I brought this book last week at Waldens, and I just started it yesterday but didn’t get that far into it.
Although I generally agree with Janine’s reviews, here I am definitely more in line with Jayne’s review. And before I forget, what IS the deal with Geoffrey, because I had the same question and thought perhaps I missed something from a previous book. Also, I needed a moment when Darius referred to Peregrine as Benedict’s nephew, or rather at Charlotte’s lack of confusion about that (because in that case, wouldn’t he be Darius’s nephew, too?).
Anyway, while I loved Charlotte and thought the opening scene of the novel one of the most touching I have read in the genre, the book ultimately left me less enraptured than I wanted it too, probably because I felt it was Miss Wonderful, new and improved with a more emotional heroine: older heroine who doesn’t want to marry and who knows more about estate management than most men; friend of family military man close by; hero set with an impossible land-based task that competes with his growing feelings for the heroine; lots of affairs of the estate as setting for much of the conflict; romantic use of a desk; love scene in which the heroines share the same position, both in a location featuring a clothing theme; widowed father of heroine, although in NQAL he has remarried and spared the melancholia; liberal use of the melancholia device as a puzzle (this time it’s Darius who figures it out, in MW it’s Mirabel’s father). I know there are more similarities, but those come immediately to mind.
I don’t know why, exactly, the comparisons concern me at all, except for the fact that there’s been a certain pattern to the books more generally — the mix of passion and propriety, reason and emotion — that NQAL felt almost *too* familiar to move me like Miss Wonderful and Mr. Impossible did. Rupert is quite easily my favorite Carsington brother, and Charlotte probably my favorite heroine, but NQAL is not my favorite of the series, at least not right after reading it. Who knows how I’ll feel after re-reading from MW on.
Things I loved: that Darius and Charlotte could be truly rude to one another, which struck me as very consistent with their characterizations. That there was a true antagonist in this book, someone who both created an obstacle and facilitated the climax, not a malicious villain. That Darius — like Rupert – talked about and to his “breeding organs” the way he did. How I could find that charming disturbs me a bit, but that didn’t stop me.
What I didn’t love: the way Charlotte didn’t seem worried about the consequences of her affair with Darius after what happened before. Moreover, it’s two months from first meeting to wedding, and I know it’s true love and everything, but Charlotte seemed to lose her hard won stoicism PDQ. Why did Lizzie allow her youngest son to be named Georgie, when that was so close to Geordie (given name also George) — that echoes Jane’s question about Lizzie’s sensitivity, which I also had, even though I told myself that she was too uncomfortable to say anything to Charlotte about it, especially when they worked so hard to keep the secret. I never thought I’d say this, but some of the emotional language, especially in the kissing scenes, got a little overwrought for me. I agree with Janine that I liked the last couple of paragraphs in the book, but some of the similar passages felt too long to me.
Ugh, sorry about all the typos and crappy grammar — no proofreading. How about this for a last sentence, too: I agree with Janine about the last couple of paragraphs . . . . Otherwise it sounds like Janine was saying that *I* liked the end of the book — oy.
Now that you mention it, NQAL does echo MW in many ways. MW is by far my least favorite book in the series and as such I’ve never gone back to reread any of it and had forgotten these similarities.
What’s funny, Jayne, is that I really loved MW, and I am a reader who has never been able to get through Chase’s most famous Avon series of books (I’ve been stuck in the middle of Lion’s Daughter for two years now). MW converted me to the cult of Chase, and Alistair is second in line behind Rupert for my favorite Carsington (I have a terrible crush on Lord Hargate, but that’s something else entirely). The first few pages of MW, in which we have Lord Hargate’s thoughts on raising boys are some of my favorite passages in the entire genre.
Thinking a bit more about it, as much as I loved Charlotte by herself, I found her pairing with Darius less engaging than I expected to. He, especially, proceeds from a rather interesting character — a man who cares nothing for the women he beds, which is a certain kind of disrespect, although distinct from that of the book’s antagonist — to a paragon of respect and kindness within days. I know all about True Love transforming people, but Charlotte and Darius — who had spent their entire adult lives cultivating caution and distance — basically jumped from one of those really high cliffs within days of knowing each other. Which seemed precipitous to me, in every sense of the word, complete with falling somewhat flat.
Part of the problem, I think, is that the wounded Charlotte really needed a knight in shining armor type, because she goes through so much emotionally that we need to know she can count on Darius emotionally. But in creating that comfort for Charlotte and the reader, IMO Chase ended up pushing the characters forward more quickly than their story — both as individuals and as a couple — deserved. And so as the love story sped up, my enthusiasm slowed.
Maybe now I’ll go back and tackle the older books (TLD through TLH) again.
The deal with Geoffrey (I’m surprised you have both forgotten) is that he has always been married. In fact, originally, Chase intended this series to be a trilogy about the three youngest Carsington brothers. Benedict was not supposed to get a book, but according to Chase, he showed up at the end of Mr. Impossible widowed, and that was when she realized she had to write a book about him, too.
If I’m not mistaken, Peregrine is Benedict’s nephew by marriage (through Benedict’s first wife). Therefore he is not Darius’s nephew.
That is interesting, because I was relatively unmoved by the opening scene. For me the book’s emotional impact grew very gradually but by the end, I was an emotional mess (something that never happened to me with Miss Wonderful). I liked Miss Wonderful quite a bit, but I thought it was a more cerebral book, nothing as heart-wrenching as this one.
I don’t see much similarity between Mirabel and Charlotte. Partly that’s because I think loss of a child (even to adoption) is something far more monumental than anything Mirabel had to contend with. Partly because the two women seem like very different personalities to me. I agree with you that Charlotte is the best heroine in this series, though. (My favorite hero is probably Alisdair, but it’s tough to pick).
I loved that too. I also agree about the antagonist, though here and there I felt that Chase was deliberately misleading me to view him as a villain at first.
This didn’t bother me nearly as much as it did you and Jayne. People, in my experience, do irrational things for love, or even just for sex. President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky in the oval office, for example! Think of the number of people who destroy their families for an affair, or who have sex in airplane bathrooms, or who don’t protect themselves from AIDS.
Why is what Charlotte did so unrealistic? I felt that Chase set up her decision to sleep with Darius perfectly, having Charlotte read the mad lady’s writings and realize she was in danger of ending up just as crazy if she didn’t reach out to another human being. Moreover, afterward Darius let her know he wanted to marry her. Most importantly, Chase really made me feel how Charlotte was fraying emotionally in response to Pip’s being there. She had also repressed any sexual and romantic feelings in herself for so long that in Darius’s presence she could no longer to be that “good girl” who never displeased anyone anymore. I thought Chase did a masterly job of showing all of this.
Actually that was me who had that question. I agree with you there; I thought it was a contrivance because Chase did not want there to be any villains. If Lizzie had suppressed her sensitivity because she feared her husband’s discovery of what she’d done, it would have been more realistic to me.
I felt that Chase was going for something humorous with Darius’s character, a hit-by-a-lightning-bolt effect. Perhaps for this reason, his quick transformation didn’t bother me as much as it might have, even though I recognized it as a bit unrealistic. I didn’t think Chase was trying for realism, but was speeding up the process for this comic effect. And since I really liked the marriage of comedy and tragedy, I can’t complain too much over this.
What did bother me a bit was what I mentioned in my review, that I would have liked the knight-in-shining-armor Darius to reflect a little bit on his past of raking. It would have lessened the humor of his transformation, and I think that’s why Chase didn’t have him do it, but I was a little troubled by Lord Hargate’s statement at the end that Charlotte was “a good girl,” because I read an implication there that Darius’s previous conquests were not good girls, and perhaps did not deserve the same kind of respect.
I want to add that the reason the ending did not bother me as it did Jayne was that I never thought Chase was trying to imply that Darius and Charlotte would always be accepted by society. Yes, they got some people to show up at the wedding, but I didn’t think that this meant they wouldn’t have a lot of difficulties ahead. But I like the difficulties. They make me believe in the happiness more, actually.
Ah, yes, that’s right. For some reason I got that anecdote mixed up with the Black Dagger Brotherhood death of Wellsie thing, I think, forgetting that it was Benedict and not Geoffrey who was widowed sometime after the first book.
Not by blood, but what is the nature of their relationship by marriage (especially when Benedict’s first wife was alive)? Since Peregrine is so close to Benedict, and so present in the family, it seems – judging from my own extended family experience — that the other Carsington brothers would have an avuncular relationship to Peregrine. So what am I missing here? I have several relatives I’m only related to by marriage but whom I refer to as, say, my cousins (particularly those with whom I’m relatively close).
I agree that the nature of Charlotte’s history makes this book more openly emotional and perhaps closer to us as women (I can relate to Charlotte’s situation more than Alistair’s PTSD, for example), but I do really think that MW is a very emotional book. Except that much of the emotion is disguised by Alistair’s dry sense of humor and his own attempts to deflect attention away from his trauma. And as for Mirabel’s father, the other source of emotional turmoil in the book, there’s a certain distancing of his melancholia via Mirabel’s frustration, too, I guess. So I agree that the narration sometimes acts to contain the emotion in the book, but I felt there was a great deal running just beneath the surface in that book, far, far more than in Lord Perfect, for example, and Mr. Impossible. So my lasting impression of the book is of strong emotion dressed in polite and witty prose.
Emotionally, I think Alistair is more Charlotte’s match, because he’s the traumatized one of the pair, as is Charlotte. But in other ways, perhaps more superficial ways, Mirabel and Charlotte echoed one another to me (especially in the conscious facility both had in deterring potential suitors).
I agree, and I liked that, because it made me think about my own contemporary views and the various things I take for granted.
SPOILERS TO FOLLOW>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
She may not be unrealistic in comparison to the irrational ways real human beings act, but in the context of a book, I tend to be unpersuaded by some of those same “irrational” choices. And my issues with Charlotte started before she actually made love with Darius, and they were mostly about timing. The best I can tell, it’s six days between the time Darius and Charlotte meet to their first kiss, with Darius staying away from Beechwood for much of the time in between. I agree with you about the whole “bolt of lightning” thing for Darius, and he is certainly not averse to acting on his sexual attraction, no matter how unwise (I love the scene where his internal voice yells “Trap! Trap! … Run away!”), but Charlotte . . . as much as I can agree with all the things I think Chase was going for and you appreciated, I wasn’t sold. And worse, that wonderful Darius, the one who came up with these great phrases like “Vipera-bankrupt-me-remodeling-my-house-icus” got blander to me the more comfortable with his feelings he got (whereas Rupert, in MI, got more interesting, IMO).
Good points, Janine. I read Lord Hargate’s comments more as a counter to Charlotte’s own lack of confidence in her moral character, but I totally understand what you’re saying here. And as for Darius, yes, some reflection — from the man who THINKS about EVERYTHING — would have been nice. But now that I think about it, the puzzles that interested him were always someone else’s, not his own, which is interesting (although unfortunately not in the best way for me).
I understood this intellectually, but I just didn’t feel it as strongly or clearly as you did, Janine. Or more accurately, I didn’t feel the struggle it seemed Charlotte would have between reaffirming her commitment to remain unattached and her growing attachment to Darius.
Oops, sorry Janine, and sorry to Jayne, too, for referring to her as the wrong Ja(y)ne.
What’s strange about the Lizzie situation to me is that IMO it would not have cost Chase anything in the relationship she set up between Lizzie and Charlotte. If anything, it would have solidified their bond, IMO.
It’s been a while since I read NQAL, so I don’t remember how soon after the events of Lord Perfect NQAL taks place. But I had thought (if I’m not misremembering) that Peregrine had only been under Benedict’s care briefly before the beginning of Lord Perfect, and then he was sent to Egypt with Rupert and Daphne at the end of that book, so as to be kept away from Olivia. Therefore I don’t have the sense that Darius had that much opportunity to get to know Peregrine.
I will agree that there was more emotion under the surface in Miss Wonderful than in Mr. Impossible, and perhaps even in Lord Perfect (though I felt a fair amount of emotion under the surface in that book). But not “far, far more”; at least, not for me. I don’t think I cried at all while reading any of those three books, though, whereas when I read NQAL I ran through several tissues, and every time I thought I was done crying, I ended up needing another one.
That superficial similarity didn’t bother me. As for a similarity between Alistair and Charlotte, I think it’s a stretch to say that they are similar just because both characters have suffered through traumatic events that left marks on them. That seems to me to characterize half the human race.
SPOILERS BELOW >>>>>>>>
About Chase deliberately misleading us to view him the antagonist as a villain at first:
While I liked the overall effect of being misled, when I went back to reread those sections that created that impression, I was less satisfied with them because it felt just a little bit manipulative to me.
I think we’ll just have to disagree about Charlotte. I was completely convinced by her behavior. Regarding Darius, I didn’t feel that he got blander as the book progressed, just that he showed other facets of himself, aspects of his personality he hadn’t been in touch with until he needed to rise to the occasion.
I suspected they were intended as you read them, not as commentary on Darius’s previous lovers, but I couldn’t help my interpretation, and it cast a slight shadow on the book for me. Though I’ll repeat that I adored this book overall. It might have been an A rather than an A- if not for some of these nitpicks that I’m bringing up here.
Oh my, that was one of the most powerful things in the book for me, Charlotte’s emotional fraying. I thought she didn’t struggle to reaffirm her commitment to remain unattached exactly because she was coming apart and couldn’t hold it together any longer. Pip’s presence in her vicinity brought her grief to the surface and that was why she couldn’t resist the intimacy, and the distraction, that Darius offered. It was exactly what she needed most emotionally.
Also, once they’d made love, and she confessed she wasn’t a virgin, the reasons for remaining unattached crumbled, because Darius didn’t reject her as she had feared a husband would. It was the discovery of her missing virginity and of what she’d done that she’d always feared, and since it didn’t make Darius love her any less, or judge her, I wouldn’t expect her to want to remain unattached after that.
How so? My feeling was that Chase wanted Lizzie to be perceptive and sensitive enough to realize that Charlotte was pregnant and help her hide that fact. But it became a problem for the book because had Lizzie also been sensitive to Charlotte’s grieving and trauma, the answer would have been for Lizzie to encourage Charlotte to reveal her secret to her father much sooner and to trust a suitor with the truth. For Lizzie to encourage Charlotte to keep the secret would have been selfish and unfair, don’t you think?
What I wonder is that since Chase is purportedly writing Olivia and Peregrine’s story (this is what I hear, but I haven’t checked anywhere to see if it’s true) that she doesn’t want to create a sense of familial connection between the two of them too closely. So the fact that Olivia refers to “Aunt Daphne and Uncle Rupert” and “Uncle Darius” in her final letter to Benedict might make it seem strange to have her pair up romantically with someone we also associate with “Uncle Darius.”
What I meant there was that in this series Chase tends to pair a more emotional character with a more “logical” one (one of the thematic connections between the books), and Alistair and Charlotte are the “romantics” in their respective books (and both suffered from a form of melancholia), with Mirabel and Darius being more “rational” — of course Chase mixes all that up, which is part of the fun, especially in watching the less emotional character struggle with his or her feelings (I still chuckle thinking about how Rupert had to have Miles tell him he was in love with Daphne) — but I loved, actually, that it wasn’t always the women who started off as the more emotional/romantic partner.
I’m not sure it would have had to proceed that way. If Lizzie were that perceptive, and if she could broach the subject with Charlotte over those ten years, then I would think she would understand how Charlotte was afraid of her father’s disappointment and had only in her mind to live up to his expectations. She could understand Charlotte’s fears, even if she could not assuage them. I could see her encouraging Charlotte to tell her father, and not telling him herself because she made a promise to Charlotte. I could see Charlotte resisting and Lizzie worrying about it herself but standing back and perhaps letting things go on, hoping that Charlotte would eventually “come to her senses” so to speak. Had I been able to see that kind of awareness from Lizzie, it might have given me more to go on in accepting that Charlotte made so many changes in such a short period of time. In other words, Lizzie could have provided some backstory and some context that might have made that rapid shift less troubling to me.
I don’t know what the heck I was thinking when I wrote that sentence, because I actually do think both LP and MI are very emotional books. What I was trying to say is that there a much greater sense of distance between the narrative voice of MW and the emotional content — more distance than in the other books. And I guess I see MW and NQAL as the “darker” of the four books, but that IMO the darkness of MW isn’t as superficially apparent, perhaps because we are not in on the “secret” of the past trauma right away in MW as we are in NQAL.
From what I read on her site, she is not writing it now, but planning to write it eventually.
That’s very possible, but this point didn’t bother me at all.
Ah, I see what you are saying now. But if all the books have an emotional partner and purportedly logical partner, how does this really make NQAL any more similiar to Miss Wonderful than to the other two books? I still don’t see much similarity between Alistair and Charlotte since their painful pasts are vastly different (and Charlotte’s is more wrenching for me).
SPOILERS BELOW >>>>>>>>>
I think that it would have been very painful to Charlotte to have Lizzie asking her to consider telling her father the truth over and over. My reading is that in that case, Charlotte would have broken down and told her father the truth much sooner. Or if not, she would have enjoined Lizzie never to bring it up again. Charlotte’s feelings about giving up her child were so raw, that I don’t see how she could have sustained a decade of Lizzie bringing it up without fraying (as she did when Pip turned up) much sooner.
I didn’t think Mr. Impossible was that emotional. Charming yes; emotional, maybe somewhat, but not very.
My emotional response to MW wasn’t as strong, and I think not being in on the trauma was only one of the reasons why. Partly it’s that a woman’s separation from her child is something that seems more painful to me, partly it’s that Charlotte’s grief had lasted a whole decade, partly it’s that she had no one she could share her experiences with, but also, I think that Chase did an even better job of balancing humor and sadness in this book.
Additionally, no matter what happiness they find, Charlotte will never be able to get back the ten years of Pip’s life that she lost, or change his workhouse experiences and the other things he suffered, so to me, this was a more poignant book, and not just “superficially” so. I thought it was a brave book, to take on something like this, and I also liked the way Chase took the trope of the selfless heroine who sacrficies herself for her family and showed that self-sacrifice, even at it’s most well-meaning, can sometimes be destructive.
I’ve actually been kind of skimming back through it since this discussion, and I am finding it even better for me than it was the first time around. I love the scene where Rupert comes to Daphne’s cabin and tells her how much he misses her, and they make love to the sounds of the love song that’s interspersed throughout the scene. And I love Rupert’s speech to Daphne at the end where he tells her how much he loved it when she bargained for him as if he were an old rug, admitting his feelings for the first time. Or when he went into her cabin and smelled all of her things when she was missing because he loved that “goddess scent” of her. Yes it’s a charming book, and blithely humorous, too, but I also found it unexpectedly touching without being manipulatively so (not that I’m saying NQAL was manipulative — just that I found MI more emotional than I expected to).
I think that one of the things that cut against the emotional impact of everything you’re saying here (even though to some degree I agree with you) was Pip’s incredibly persistent good naturedness. He seems undamaged by his negative experiences, and at the end, when he’s in bed at Charlotte’s home, he’s cheerful and completely understanding, it seems. Not that I expected him to cry and wail and hate Charlotte, but the way he talks about the workhouse as a bad dream, the way he seems merely amused at Charlotte’s emotional reaction to his homecoming, the very fact that this woman is his mother — all of it seemed almost the opposite emotionally of the suffering Charlotte underwent. Not that I wanted her to feel more guilty — absolutely not. But it just seemed like Pip wasn’t really “worse for the wear” of everything he endured, and everything that I would think he might feel emotionally at the revelation of Charlotte’s true identity, and I found myself sort of annoyed at what seemed a lack of depth in Pip’s character and his relationship with Charlotte in comparison to what Charlotte suffers and the incredibly serious nature of what Charlotte did and the incredible price one would expect *everyone* to pay for that. A little more Dickens and a little less Wilde, I guess, is what I expected there.
OTOH, I agree with you that what Chase did in crafting Charlotte’s character was a wonderful break with Romancelandia historical heroines, and overall, I really loved Charlotte as a heroine. By no means did I find NQAL a bad or inferior book; it just wasn’t my favorite of the series, and for some reason, it didn’t hit me with the emotional impact I anticipated from the first scene. Who knows why, because I certainly wanted to love it as much as you did.
I understand what you are saying, but I didn’t feel a need to see the trauma Pip suffered reflected more significantly in his character, because I felt that his new situation had not entirely sunk in for him yet when the book ended.
I thought he was a brave kid who did his best to roll with the punches and accept his situation, but I also felt that his ability to do so was based partly on having the support that Darius had given him, and partly on the fact that he’d never expected his mother to turn up and claim him.
He had a tough life, yes, but so did the people that he’d spent his childhood around. To have his mother turn out to be alive and take him to a life of relative luxury must have been a dream come true to a child like Pip. At the point that it happened, he must have felt like he’d won some cosmic lottery.
So my opinion is that it wouldn’t make sense to have him react with anger or hurt at that point. He had a lot to be happy about, and every reason to want to start out on a good foot with Charlotte and Darius. That doesn’t mean he won’t ever feel more complicated emotions, perhaps even some kind of post traumatic stuff, but I think Chase was right to delay that reaction.
Any more focus on Pip’s relationship to Charlotte, and the book probably would have become something like historical women’s fiction. But beyond that, I think it’s simply psychologically accurate for Pip to feel happy at the end of the book, and I didn’t take that to mean that it was the end of his story or all he would ever feel. I think he paid a high price for Charlotte’s decision, as did Charlotte herself, and I think that will always be with them.