Saturday, April 17, 2010

"Share The Joy"

Share the joy:  That's what my husband said I should do when I told him how much I was enjoying Slightly Sinful, Book 5 in Balogh's Bedwyn series.  He meant blogging about it here, but I just shrugged.  You've all read the series, you know how nice they are.  I'm the one late to the party, the one just catching up on the joy.

The fact of the matter is that I *should* have been reading a contemporary.  My TBR bench is somewhat organized by categories (historicals, paranormals, contemporaries, mysteries, etc.), and within the historical section are specific series.  I try to mix things up, reading books from different sub-genres and by different authors so that I don't get the reading equivalent of brain freeze from gobbling ice cream.  I'd read Bedwyn book #4, Slightly Tempted, -- and blogged about it here -- just a few days ago.  I really intended not reading the final two Slightly books right away, but when I asked on Twitter if I should be virtuous and read a contemporary (or be indulgent and read a Slightly book), you could hear the crickets.  (It was like everyone left Twitter at the exact same time.  What -- d'you all have lives?)

Oh, but who am I kidding.  I didn't much care about Slightly Sinful; I just wanted to get to Slightly Dangerous, the book in which Wulfric finally makes his match.  Others had said it was wonderful, and -- for once -- a book exceeded its hype.  In fact, it made me do something I haven't done in a long time.  It made me behave as though I was single again.

I didn't marry until I was 42, and I really didn't date or have romances before then.  That meant I had lots of time that was mine to spend, or waste, any way I wanted.  I spent (or wasted, depending on your perspective) a lot of it reading.  And if I wanted to read all day long, and I wasn't obligated to be somewhere else, like working, then I could.

Yesterday evening, when I had finished Slightly Sinful and put Slightly Dangerous on the stairs to go to bed with me, I had an inkling it was going to be a fun read.  But I was as surprised as Ross was when he asked me this morning why I hadn't checked my email or even turned the computer on yet.  And when, slightly before noon, he asked if I was getting dressed (!) so that we could attend to some domestic chores, I murmured something about yes, but it wasn't going to be soon.  I then settled into bed -- my favored haunt as a single woman -- and finished Wulf's & Christine's story.  And yes, it was a joyous experience.  When a certain character dives into the lake, I cried joyous tears.  When I closed the cover, I opened the book immediately back to a certain scene in the side garden at Hyacinth Cottage and read the last 30 pages over again.

Can I share that joy?  I don't see how.  If you've read it, and if you loved it as I clearly did, you already know some version of the same joy.  But reading is such a solitary activity, I don't know how to scoop up some of my joy and parcel it out.  I can write about it, but without recreating in a blog post the bits that maybe gave you joy when you read it -- and that's only nudging you toward reliving your own joy -- all I can expect to do is report that yes, I felt joy.

That's when it hit me.  One person shared the joy -- Mary Balogh.  That's what writers do, isn't it?  They share the love and happiness they create for their characters, and by so doing, they also share the love and happiness their characters give them.  At least, I suspect that's what all writers are striving to do.

Funny.  We think of writing as this very solitary activity, but I think reading is much more insular.  Writing is like making the yummy food that you want people to gobble up and enjoy.  You won't be there when they do -- like Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield dreaming up a new ice cream flavor ("Slightly Decadent"?) while imagining customers someday eating it -- but you want to think they'll love your book.  So maybe writing is actually sharing the joy without spatial and temporal synchronicity.

Not every book gives every reader joy.  I daresay someone didn't actually like Slightly Dangerous.  I asked recently,
What book has it all:  well-drawn characters, a satisfying plot, skillful writing, a progressive attitude toward women, men & romance, moving (or funny) dialogue, and a happy ending?

and if I nominated Slightly Dangerous as just such a book, someone would have an objection.  But the only flaw I can see is its title, which is a bit generic for such a wonderful concluding volume of the Slighlyt series.  My choice would have been "Slightly Perfect."

And now comes my new problem:  What can I possibly read now that won't suffer by comparison?


  1. Janet here: You have been added to my Sunday "to-do" list ... what do you read after something so involving and marvelous? I am thinking you need something perfectly frothy and fun, but not stupid: I will return with some suggestions!

  2. I read the Bedwyn series several years ago and thoroughly enjoyed them. For whatever reason, I haven't read any of Mary Balogh's more recent books, though.

    I often find myself slipping into a temporary reading slump after I read a couple of excellent books in a row. It's as if no other book can live up to them and I'm hypercritical of books which I might have otherwise liked. In order to get myself past this slump, I usually try to re-read one of my favourite books, such as a Georgette Heyer.

  3. I actually made a good choice, I think. I read Linda Howard's "The Way Home," a short story in an anthology of romances where a baby is on the way or already in the picture. In Howard's story, Saxon only wants a relationship with sex and finances, no love. But we all know that he's just sublimating his need for connection and security. When Anna gets pregnant, he's got to face his own demons.

    So -- very contemporary and angsty: the perfect chaser to the more complex palate of Balogh's Slightly series.

    Mind you, the other two stories (by Emilie Richards and Sherryl Woods) are bland and uninteresting. I'm reading them, though -- and in their own way, they too are resetting my read-o-meter back to something other books can compete with.

    What I read next -- maybe a non-romance even before I start Redbreast...?

    Thanks, Janet W. and Sarah! (And Janet, I'll still be taking suggestions. I'm always taking suggestions. And while I have you here, what did you think of the suggestion that, barring the title, Slightly Dangerous is a "perfect book"?)

  4. That is a very tough question: it is an excellent book ... and I particularly like the layers and layers of unpeeling of both Wulf and Christine. And each time I read it, and re-read it, I get more out of it. I also like that it takes place over a looooooooong period of time. Very realistic for the two of them.

    The Baloghs that I re-read most often have a sexual tension that I don't find here. Perhaps I'm not explaining that well but LoL, I know what I mean.

  5. Janet -- I know what you mean about there not being a lot of sexual tension, but I would counter thusly: The way Balogh keeps the details about the dovecote hidden seems a more than adequate substitute for loin-based yearnings. By the time we (and Christine) learn what Wulf's been thinking about for an entire year, it's not explicit, but it's very effective.

    Just my two cents...

  6. Hmmmm, my inadequacies as a writer being my downfall again. The books I most often re-read (Heartless, The Temporary Wife, even her first book, A Masked Encounter) ... they are not at all about loin-based yearnings (nice turn of phrase though!) ... they are about relationships where the sexual encounters evolve and change as the relationship evolves and changes. Maybe it's my old fave, a marriage of convenience (because all these couples are married) and Christine and Wulf are not. I didn't say there wasn't sexual tension because clearly there was ... but it's not the type of sexual tension that I think Balogh writes about so well.

  7. Love this book (Slightly Dangerous)- in fact it's a contender for my favourite Balogh - but it was the only one in the Slightly series I loved. My next best was prob the first one with Aiden (who, on reflection, is the most like Wulfric. Predictable? Moi?) I do quite like Balogh's younger heroes too though, like Alleyne and Peter in Simply Magic.

    Have you read any of the Simply series? I have an extremely soft spot for Simply Love. And my other contender for poss favourite Balogh ever is One Night for Live which is the REAL number 1 book in the whole wider series, (not A Summer to Remember). I really must finish that post about the whole series that I wrote in car once. It's in one of my notebooks...

  8. Tumperkin, we must have an online fight: you ready? I can barely re-read One Night for Love because (and I think many people fall into this position), I read A Summer to Remember first. I cannot get past Lauren's gut-wrenching unhappiness in ASTR and it colours how I feel about the h/h in One Night for Love. Anyone experience this?

    And please post that series blog ... I would love to read it.

  9. Tumperkin -- I have the Simplys, I think I was waiting until I'd read the Slightlys before I got to them. I did know that about One Night for Love and A Summer to Remember, but I haven't read them yet. I have to say, I really liked Freya's story a lot -- it seemed to present a woman who was of her time but also aware that her options were different (sexually, for example) because she was older and independently well off. My least favorite was Alleyne's story because of the cliffhanger at the end of Morgan's romance. All the while reading about Alleyne and Rachel, I'm thinking: Get to the terrace at Lindsay Hall, damn you!

    Janet -- Amazon should really be giving you a kick-back, because I swear I've ordered more books because of you. Off now to order even more...

  10. Haha ... so how does everyone feel about Lady Muir's story? Mary is writing that after Angie's prequel. Some have said she was married to a wife-beater (and the hardest-to-read Baloghs have that trope, in my opinion!). I wonder who she'll end up with. I always had a soft spot for Viscount Kimble (More than a Mistress).

  11. I just ordered a boatload of Baloghs (that alliterates nicely, doesn't it?) but will have to locate a used bookstore with better rates to get them all -- some of them are WICKED expensive at Amazon!

  12. Don't do this: stop and cancel: go to Rainy Day Paperback exchange in CT (I can give you a link): they always have Baloghs and what they don't have they'll get -- free shipping for $25 worth of books. But now I need to know: what did you order?

  13. Um, okay, so the single titles I ordered are: Secret Pearl, Tangled, Truly, Snow Angel & Under the Mistletoe. Both One Night for Love and A Summer to Remember. The two Simply Books I hadn't ordered already. Irresistible (but I haven't ordered the other two in that series); Silent Melody to go with Heartless, which I already have; First Comes Marriage, Then Comes Seduction, At Long Last Love (the last two will be reprinted this year, I think); and an anthology: A Regency Valentine.

    I went to Rainy Day and they have three Baloghs, but they range in price from $17 to $27. At some point, I just figure I'll wait until you're traveling, then I'll come "house-sit" and oh-so-delicately (like, with gloves on) read yours! The money saved on buying used will most likely cover the cost of airfare...

  14. So maybe writing is actually sharing the joy without spatial and temporal synchronicity.

    I like that A LOT.

    Yay for A SUMMER TO REMEMBER! That's one of my favorite Baloghs (I have a lot of favorite Baloghs...).

  15. Slightly late for a comment. Share the Joy? Just knowing you enjoyed the series as much as I did fills me with joy. I believe that is a kind of sharing the joy. I just the Slighlty series. Wulf & Christine's story is my favourite. I get upset everytime she turns down his first proposal (of marriage). I feel so bad for him. What a fun read.
    Betty Anonymous


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