Saturday, 10 August 2013

Review: A Brooding Beauty

A Brooding Beauty by Jillian Eaton is a short adult book with adult content. While I think a few readers may start reading (or be put off reading) this because of the erotic elements implied by the blurb, I think this novella has merits well beyond that.

A Short Summary: Catherine and Marcus married and were very much in love. Poor communication and general stubbornness, foolishness and sometimes even cruelty, lead Catherine to pursue her husband for a divorce. As a man at the end of his tether Marcus eventually agrees under the condition that she produces an heir. Their journey to eventual reconciliation is heartfelt and passionate.

Descriptions of the heroine, beautiful beyond compare, can often sound a little worn. There are certain features which are often considered attractive and are often written about. These can make characters seem rather boring, despite the fact that they should seem excitingly captivating. Small, slender builds with soft 'feminine' curves, shapely lips and musical voices typically come up in what author's build as a dream woman in their novels. While Eaton does draw on this stock appearance I feel for the purposes of this book it suits, this is helped by the fact that it's told from the male protagonist's point of view in the beginning.

Eaton utilises a strong vocabulary which helps to flesh out the novel, without which it could have been a weak book. Her use of bold, emotional vocabulary makes this story captivating and enables the reader to plunge straight into a story of a warring husband and wife. It is because of this that Eaton's characters have so much life and vitality.

Having the first chapter split into two with first the husband's, Marcus, perspective followed by Catherine's allows the reader to see both sides of the story. Eaton has explored the thoughts and feelings of both character's allowing the reader to see what the characters cannot: that both love each other dearly. I think this works well as a device, because it reminds the reader that love can be spoiled by couples failing to communicate and withholding the truth of things to each other.

One of the things I disliked about this book was the ever typical sex language 'yes, just like that'. It seems like those words have become synonymous with sexual intercourse and feel that perhaps Eaton could have found some other way to describe the fact that the first sexual encounter of the two main characters was surprisingly pleasurable and went perfectly swell without any problems. It could just be me that finds those sorts of lines over used and a little cringe worthy. In all fairness this spanned only a few lines - it's just one of my pet hates, though it hardly ruined the novella.

This novella is set in the past.  As far as I'm aware there's no direct mention to a time period. To be honest, the exact time period of this novella does not matter too much. The time period merely allows the Eaton to employ conventions of the past (such as divorce and adultery being scandalous) and also rids the fictional world of things like pants (or panties if you're American). It also allows Eaton to play with the strong gender roles of the past where the male is gruff and dominant, while the female attempts to gain control in the relationship, but ultimately allows herself to become the submissive which, to this day continues to be a popular base for romance and erotic literature.

While I don't think it really matters when this novella is set (I believe the details are vague for a reason), keen readers of historical novels may be left a little underwhelmed. In this book there is reference to a 'Mathew Twinning' and tea shop, however Thomas Twinning was the first tea Twinning and his heir was Daniel. The Twinning's London (Strand to be exact) tea shop was first opened in 1706. Around that time, however, coffee houses were popular and they were a men only establishment. I don't know a lot about English history, but I would guess this book to be set around the early or pre-Victorian period. There's no mention of electricity, but divorce is a (disagreeable) possibility and women in the novel walk alone and visit tearooms. A little more research suggests these novels are set in the Regency period, not sure if that is accurate or not. In many ways Catherine breaks many social conventions of past eras (from what my brief research tells me) such as refuses confinement when pregnant, desire for a divorce and her general attitude. Her behaviour is scandalous, to say the least, however as this novel centres almost exclusively around Catherine and her husband the wider social implications of her behaviour are rarely commented on. However, I'm sure many readers are happy to allow history to be twisted in fiction because 'it's just a story' and because the time period doesn't play a major role in the book.

In terms of general quality I would say this novella is of a high standard. The front cover is attractive and matches the story (though I personally imagined Catherine to look softer in the face, the model looks a little sharp to me). From my second read I saw only one possible typo ('her red hair is wild disarray' was perhaps meant to be 'in' instead of 'is'). In short, this novella was written in a wonderfully dramatic and passionate style, which captures the personality of Eaton's equally spirited two main characters. Not one word was wasted and even an epilogue was employed to give the reader a more wholesome end to the story as opposed to simply leaving it at the reconciliation stage.

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