Monday, March 02, 2015

New for 2015- Brentwood's Ward by Michelle Griep

 
Paperback, 314 Pages 
January 1st 2015, Shiloh Run Press

"Place an unpolished lawman named Nicholas Brentwood as guardian over a spoiled, pompous beauty named Emily Payne and what do you get? More trouble than Brentwood bargains for. She is determined to find a husband this season.
He just wants the large fee her father will pay him to help his ailing sister. After a series of dire mishaps, both their desires are thwarted, but each discovers that no matter what, God is in charge"
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I’ve read everything Michelle wrote reader since I discovered her first novel Gallimore a few years ago. Her books are not my favourites, admittedly, but tend to be moderately good. Brentwood’s Ward was on the way to becoming her best work in my opinion, with action, mystery, intrigue and a brilliantly dashing hero, a supporting cast of great characters and an original storyline, Seriously are there any other Christian novels about the Bow Street Runners, the fore-runners of today’s police force? Such a book could have all the makings of a 19th century detective thriller, echoing some of the literary greats.

In other words, I was rolling along and really liking the story- until the attempted rape scene. I’m seriously beginning to think such content is becoming far too common in Christian Fiction novels- and is often unnecessary, especially if its included just to rank up the tension, or to ram home some message about how horribly women were treated in the ‘olden days’, or how all the upper classes were dissolute rakes……etc…etc.
Now I’m not denying that things like that did happen, but for the lead character to be almost raped twice, in one year- once in the garden of her home just seemed incredible.
I don’t deny that the rich and powerful may have taken advantage of the lower classes in any age, but Emily Payne was meant to be a rich socialite, are we honestly supposed to believe that men of the upper classes could just go around raping wealthy young women at balls- and absolutely nothing would have been done about it?
 Seriously, I’m getting the decided impression that the past is universally being presented as some filthy, lawless quagmire- especially the non-American past- and rape as a far too common device to emphasize its supposed nastiness.

Afterwards, there was some degeneration into romantic cliché- I mean for a woman who had just been almost violently raped to be snogging in her carriage less than an hour later just does not seem like normal behavior. Those and the almost compulsory description of the stray lock of hair begging to be brushed aside- the 'rippling of muscles' underneath the heroes clothes---sigh... Honestly, how many times do you actually see than in real life...

The ending was satisfactory, and had its fair share of tension, and I will say that, all in all, this was a good story, with sounds messages woven in and not written in such a way as to seem preachy or contrived.
However, the above mentioned content issue, and a few Americanisms (which I might have overlooked generally, but some were jarring) result in the lower rating. I'm not trying to attack the author personally, the above could be seen as observations of the Christian Romance genre more generally....but it did sour the taste of what could otherwise have been an excellent book.

I received an electronic version of this novel free from Netgalley for review. I was not required to write a positive one and all opinions expressed are my own.....

2 comments:

  1. I love reading your reviews. I have followed this blog because I have agreed with a lot of your opinions. Not in everything, but in a good many.

    This book is on my possible TBR list. I started A Heart Deceived awhile back, but got sidetracked reading other books and haven't gotten back to it.

    I know exactly what you mean about rapes/almost rapes in Christian fiction becoming too common. How far "outside the box" are writers going to go? A few years ago they wouldn't have included that (in detail) in books at all. What was considered "outside the box" several decades ago is becoming the norm now. Do they think readers are getting bored if rape, torture, kidnapping, etc, aren't being written in books now days? I'm not saying I think it should be entirely avoided in some cases, but something traumatic needs to be treated as such. These heroines all think they are above and beyond emotional and physical damages. I know authors are using their imaginations, but I'm not fond of exaggerated heroes and heroines.

    Hah! I laughed at the "stray lock of hair" and "rippling muscles" comment. :) I so agree there. I don't mind some heroes with muscles (it is attractive), but lets have some who are are more brain than brawn. Some heroines who aren't beautiful and are flat as boards or have extra weight would be good too. People now days say they want "gritty realism" in their reading, so lets have some normal male and female leads.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comment. You absolutely do not have to agree with everything I say- disagreement can be positive.

      I had to address the issue of torture in a review I published just today of the new Medieval Fantasy novel 'An Uncertain Choice' by Jody Hedlund. Although it was YA, the mention of torture was very prominent in the storyline- albeit in a non-graphic way.
      Yet I felt that the representation of it was inaccurate, and really overdone, as the characters made out torture was like a normal part of life and a commonly used punishment, which could just be ordered by a Lord. It totally was not.
      Torture was actually banned under English common law, and was far less common then Hollywood makes it out to be- people certainly weren't in danger of being hung, drawn and quartered on the mere suspicion of murder, as was the case in the story.

      I think that it part, the problem is the assumptions people have about the past. If they view the pre-modern period, or non American societies as being defined by lawlessness, violence, filth and the abuse of the vulnerable- they will expect fictional representations of it to reflect this.

      If you think that the wealthy could summarily go around raping women in 15th or 19th century Europe and get away with it, you may come to expect that as a representation of realism- if your view of the Middle Ages that it was some kind of millennium long orgy of pillage, torture, violence and and abuse of women you will consider such depictions 'realistic'.
      So perhaps, the issue is what readers (and to some extent authors) define as 'realism' and how writers measure up to that.
      Perhaps the core issue is a very narrow, limited view of the past that emphasizes its 'otherness' or nastiness, and does not look at the positives?

      That said, thinking on this issue today, it seems that all of the above are generally considered to make for a good story, and so are probably used for dramatic effect. The architectural or scientific achievements of Medieval man just don't seem to make for a good story.

      I agree with your last remarks. I read an article a while ago suggesting that Americans like British TV shows, one reason If I recall being because they are not all inhabited by uber-glamourous people and the characters are more normal looking.
      If I ever write one of the books I plan to I tempted to have a vertically challenged, red-haired, buxom Maid Marion......

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