Elmore Leonard said: I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances ''full of rape and adverbs.''

Saturday, 28 March 2009


Amazon chief Jeff Bezos has gone back to the floor, working in a company warehouse (or 'fulfillment center'...) for a week.

According to The Guardian:

And you know what Amazon is like about work in its warehouses. Back in April 2001, the Guardian noted that the retailer had been accused of running "the worst of old economy working practices" by staff in the UK...

...the issue surfaced again last Christmas, when the Sunday Times reported that staff at the same location - Marston Gate near Milton Keynes - were required to work seven days a week and "punished" for being ill (where staff with a sick note received a "penalty" point; six points meant dismissal). The quotas for packing - 140 items an hour, which is only slightly below the 5 items per two minutes of 2001. Collecting items for packing can mean walking up to 14 miles during a shift.

Now, I've been wondering if my anti-Amazon stance, which includes total boycott of the store, was a little extreme. This article has firmed my resolve for a little longer. Thanks!

Sunday, 15 March 2009



Passion and angst seethe in equal measure from the tortured hero of Lisa Kleypas’s latest historical. Kev Merripen is a gypsy taken in by the generous and loving Hathaway family when his own tribe left him for dead. Feral, miserable, sullen and instinctively violent, the only light in Kev’s black existence is the beautiful and angelic Winnifred Hathaway. Despite the strong connection between them, Kev is determined to keep their relationship platonic, for Winifred is an invalid. Moreover, Kev hates himself (no low-born Kleypas hero thinks he’s good enough for the pure-bred Kleypas heroine…) and doesn’t consider himself worthy of Win.

Of course, Winifred is equally in love with Kev, and so she resolves to get better and win him over. The story takes off when Winifred returns from a two-year sojourn in a French clinic, restored to rude health and towing with her a handsome and admiring doctor…

For all that Kev Merripen is a larger than life, angst-ridden hero very much in the mould of Heathcliff, for me, Winifred is the standout character. Despite her delicate frame, fragility and ‘purity of character’– this girl is a total minx. In the first chapter alone she has maneovered Kev into kissing her and then – seconds later – she’s groping his man-bits like a seasoned pro. Honestly, at times, it’s as though Kev is the delicate virgin.

With such a decisive, take-charge heroine and a completely bonkers (though endearingly so) hero, there’s plenty to like here. Let’s say, 85% of this book is excellent and deserves praise for it’s relatively fresh storyline (it’s unusual, I think, in a romance when both characters are completely and intensely in love right from the beginning). On top of that Kleypas is amusing and deft with her plotting - I read this book in one sitting.

So, naturally, I’m just going to concentrate on the negatives.

Once in a lifetime love…

For this story to really work, we have to believe that Kev and Winifred are soulmates – connected powerfully, almost preternaturally. Their passion must be surpassing; one cannot live without the other. This is done wonderfully by Kleypas – when Win is close to death, Kev is pretty much on the brink of ending his own existence, Romeo and Juliet style (see: bonkers). They are both given to grand declarations –

“I love you,” she said, wretchedly. “And if I were well, no power on earth could keep me away from you. If I were well, I would take you into my bed, and I would show you as much passion as any woman could -”


He jerked her upward. “All the fires of hell could burn for a thousand years and it wouldn’t equal what I feel for you in one minute of the day. I love you so much there is no pleasure in it. Nothing but torment."

When they kiss and mess around, it’s suitably hot and theatrical. But the effect is diluted considerably by the fact that there are at least four other couples who feel exactly the same way. How are we supposed to believe in the rabid, all-consuming, once-in-a-lifetime, Heathcliff-on-the-moors type love when everyone’s at it? It becomes a little – yes, pedestrian.

And therein lies my second gripe. The recurring couples from previous novels – AKA the Authorial Cash Cow.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’m one of those readers who is quite happy to leave a couple to their happy ever after – no drippy epilogue for me, thank you. I’ve enjoyed the journey, but I’m happy to get off the train once everything is neatly tied up. So it’s endlessly boring for me when characters from previous books turn up blissfully in love, often swelling with child, sharing tender looks and having (totally boring) sex, and generally chewing up the scenery – because here’s the thing: I don’t care. You’re married, you’re happy, you’re boring. Where’s the drama? Where’s the tension, where’s the story progression?

At best, it’s indulgent. At worst, it’s cynical.

I’m talking to you, SEP, Laurens, Kleypas, Balogh and [insert culprit of your choice].

The only time I would be interested if there was trouble in paradise.

Or is it just me?

Anyway, a B+ and a thank you to Ms Kleypas for such a pleasant first step back into romance.

Thursday, 12 March 2009


I have a guilty confession to make.

It’s been two months since I read my last romance.

I have no explanation for this, except that I’ve been very busy, and perhaps I needed a break from reading. When I do read, I feel like short things, like short stories, or news articles, or better yet, magazines with lots of pictures… (The US Vogue with Michelle Obama, fyi, was deeply disappointing).

And, reading less, I haven’t been blogging or doing my regular blog checks. So I feel as though I’ve fallen off the face of the earth.

I identify myself as a reader, but I’m not reading anymore. What does that make me?

In a panic, I have picked up a couple of books. I’ve got Dreams from my Father, which is very hard to avoid at the moment. I did my best, but it’s my book group’s latest choice, so -. Then there’s 2066 (I can already tell it’s going to be one of those books, the ones that sit, untouched, on my shelf, forever weighing on my conscience). I’m also determined to finish Watchmen before I go and see the movie…

But what about romance?

There are different kinds of romance readers. I fit into the always-read-it category. Not the other kind, the fully grown adult finding a genre they had hitherto overlooked. I read my first romance was I was indecently young. It has had an indelible effect on my tastes.

These days, I find that I’m less interested in following a story from beginning to end; I’m skimming. I look for high concepts, high stakes and lots of gratuitous sex. Naturally, this doesn’t lend itself to quality reading, so I end up feeling more jaded than ever.

I feel like the hero in an old school romance: burned out, tired of empty, meaningless sex with women (books) whose names (title) he can't remember the morning after. He just wants the love of a good woman. I just want to read general fiction.

Do I need a break? Am I done with this genre?

Well, despite all my angsting, I don’t think so. I think I needed this break, but I’ve found my curiousity piquing this past week – Nalini Singh’s latest release sounds intriguing. I agree with Tumperkin’s assessment of her Psy books ("Good author. Excellent writer. Not for me"), and never ventured beyond the first. A new series might bring a fresh dynamic between the heroine and hero, which was my biggest gripe with her last one.

What about Carolyn Jewel? The premise of Scandal sounds interesting.

More promising yet, I picked up a Kleypas today and I’m tentatively looking forward to reading it. (Don't let me down, Kleypas!)

I'm not ready to quit yet, but I wonder if it's possible to reach saturation with a preferred genre. Has it happened to anyone else? Is there a remedy for this, the mother of all reading ruts?