Friday, 28 March 2014

“DESTINY” BY SALLY BEAUMAN




When I decided to venture into Sally Beauman’s mega-hit DESTINY, I was expecting to be mesmerized by its sheer effectiveness. How could one not be? This is the woman who’s managed to sell her novel for a million bucks. A million. Supposedly, the publishing house was so impressed that they handed her the money before she even had the time to finish it. Talk about a sure bet. And you know how I am with lengthy sagas of the rich, I just can’t turn my back on them. Oh, I’ve tried often, believe me, since concentrating on them takes so much time and energy, but the trooper that I am just couldn’t do it. Now I sort of wish I had.
 
Not that DESTINY is anything but grand. Ms. Beauman presents it all with a Panavision view worthy of any big-budget Hollywood movie. I mean, the woman can write her tail off. The first half of the novel breezes like you wouldn’t believe. Dead-on narrative, characterization and pace. You can’t imagine doing anything else but investing yourself in the lives of our two lovable protagonists, he, a rich but oh-so lonely man; she, a down on her luck beauty from the wrong side of the track. When they unite, which is a few times throughout the novel, fireworks. That’s how hot their union is, but we believe it, for Beauman is a skillful craftswoman.
 

But like any well-trained marathon runner, hitting the wall can be in one’s cards, and DESTINY does exactly that in its last third. What held me enthralled for 700 plus pages suddenly became a chore. Redundancy and a sudden lack of interest best describe its symptoms. The author, though passionate and dedicated still, just loses her touch. Nothing can bring back the happiness of yesteryear, not even a big well-thought out tearjerker of a climax. Call me insensible, but I just couldn’t wait for it to end so I could move on to another novel. Which is sad, really, for Sally Beauman deserves all the attention. Just perhaps not mine.


 

DESTINY is now available digitally from Open Road Media Romance. And for those interested, the author also wrote a couple of Harlequins under the pseudonym of Vanessa James.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Until next post—Martin
 
 

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

MEA CULPA, SHIRLEY CONRAN’S “LACE”


 


Rarely do I change my mind once a review is written and delivered. I make it a rule never to look back. Except when I feel I’ve been unfair. Like for this LACE novel here, which I need to discuss all over again. If you recall, I had been pretty harsh reviewing it, saying things like "far from being perfect", "a struggle", "dull". But let me stop right now before I run off at the mouth again, although I may be a little too late already. Yes, I did say all of those things but I must add to my defense that I made the big mistake of comparing the novel to the TV adaptation. Last spring I took the liberty of re-reading it all over again but with a new perspective: I was going to enjoy it for what it is and not for what it should be. Because, quite frankly, I always felt I was missing something. And suffice to say, the results were quite fruitful.
 

Starting with the added friend Kate who previously didn’t gel much with me. This time around I enjoyed her, especially for her faults which were many. Because let’s face it, the girl was a mess with a capital M. But I barely blame her. With a controlling dad and an abusing spouse, it’s surprising she didn’t off herself. Unlike before, I was able to identify with the character, and that’s saying something. In fact I was quite able to identify with all of the characters one way or the other. Because if you look closely enough, you’ll see there’s something keenly revealing about human nature in this novel, whatever the gender. Beyond the many struggles facing the characters there is strength, one that propels them to go on and get to that better place. Like in real life, however, not everyone in LACE gets there. But the novel does become a how-to guide to self-reliance, nonetheless. And maybe that’s one of the reasons why I much prefer reading a book like LACE. It enables me to connect with a part of myself that I sometimes take for granted because I’m a dude (who likes other dudes, I give you that).
 
 
 
My favorite part still’s got to be whenever Lili’s around. Hailed by the press as "Tiger-Lili" because of her wanton ways, her road to stardom is one heck of a bumpy ride, let me tell you. Used and abused mentally and physically, she goes at it with her head held high BUT with a pelvis open for business to survive. Conran dwells deeply into her life story, doing it with flair and realness, and the result is quite compelling to say the least. In the end, the "which one of you bitches is my mother?" line isn’t as grand as the high road the character takes to get to that question. But when she does ask it, in all of her spicy spunk, the reader still feels a certain empathy for her, even though she’s become one high-class beotch by then… Of course we can’t talk about Lili and LACE without mentioning the dirty parts. And there are aplenty. Judy with Nick. Lili with Abdulah. Pagan with Abdulah. Maxine with her Count. Kate with, well, about anyone. Conran goes at them with a fine-toothed comb, never omitting the importance of a woman’s personal satisfaction. Eloquence and kinkiness go hand in hand during those pivotal scenes, and to that we say, take notes E L James—please.
 
 
 
LACE is divided into many parts, all concentrating on different characters. Yes, some do end up being more rewarding than others but never did I feel blasé going at them this time around. I was able to taste the protagonists’ privileged lives to the fullest and without any qualms. Yes, it is a woman’s novel, there’s no doubt about that. But underneath all the glam and glamour and sex, lies a people novel. And that’s LACE’s biggest strength, in my opinion. That and its rich narrative, of course. So go on, call me unreliable, if you want to, for having changed my mind regarding this novel but I’ll tell you this, you become an adult when you stop caring what others think about you and start caring what YOU think about them. That’s how Judy sees it and, frankly, so do I.

 
 
 
LACE is still available through Canongate Books LTD with a new afterword ("LACE: THE TRUE STORY") by the author.



 
 
Until next post—Martin