It's back to All Kinsale All the Time, folks! Huzzah!
Today we'll debut the B and C Teams. Lest we forget, there's no such thing as a bad Laura Kinsale book! The Kinsale awesomeness, it overflows, but it was requested that I rank them in some manner and so I chose to do teams. Click here if you missed out on the A Team.
For clarification I'll explain how a book might not end up on the A Team (you know, those bundles of perfection in book form:). I put any book on the B Team to which I had some sort of reaction that took me out of the story. I don't feel like this is a reflection on the book but on myself as a reader. I put any book on the C Team that I felt had a minor flaw** in craft that took me out of the story.
**flaw in a Kinsale novel???? sgwordy, surely you jest!!!! ^^
And now to the teams:
The B Team (listed in no particular order):
Uncertain Magic - Roderica can read minds which makes her family a bit wary of her and makes her a bit wary of crowds. She's led a relatively sheltered life due to this and is convinced she will follow in the footsteps of her forebears that have had this gift/curse and live isolated with her family. At a horse race she meets the "Devil Earl" and is tickled pink when his mind is closed to her. He's got a reputation to make Lucifer squick but Roderica feels it's her only chance at a family of her own. The "Devil Earl" can't believe a (really! rich) heiress will have him with his reputation but he's jumping at the chance before she can change her mind.
This is a great pairing of protags and Kinsale perfectly captures the doubts these two would have in each other. I really enjoyed watching them develop trust for each other and how hard they worked to rebuild his manor. In fact, I enjoyed the manor building bit so much that the challenges they faced in that became just as heartbreaking for me as the tension between them personally. What took me out of the story is totally spoilerish so highlight if interested: "Devil Earl's" mom was definitely intriguing to me - and I thought made for a great history with the mystery regarding his father - but that she then spent the rest of her son's life following him around causing his blackouts and then pinning nefarious deeds on him was a bit much for me.
My Sweet Folly - Despite herself Folie falls for Robert via their correspondence while he is in India. They have never met in person and it is only by chance that they begin to write. When she is left a widow she has hopes for a possible future with him but there is more to Robert than the whimsy of his letters.
If for no other reason this book must be read for the letters. Holy heroin, they be some major crack! (and the epilogue - sigh:) And I quite enjoyed the mystery of just what the shit was going on with Robert. Folie has a great sense of, well, life really and has such a fun outlook on things that I almost always smiled while she was making her observations on what went on around her. I really liked getting to know more about Robert as he had encounters with the people from his past but the wild plot connections took me out of the story. They weren't contrived, just really ambitious and for some reason weren't smooth for me.
The Hidden Heart - Tess is making her way back to England after years with her father in the Amazon. She's returning to fulfill the promise she made to him before he died of making a good marriage. Captain Gryph is to transport her and her samples home and, bizarrely, is tasked with keeping an eye on her suitors for eligibility. Gryph is a little torn on this as he's quite taken with Tess himself but does not feel he can court her himself. Their friendship grows but is tested when Gryph discourages a match between her and a man Gryph knows to be psychopathic fuckwit.
This is an absolutely sweet love story and I love Tess's determination. Gryph is more inclined to passively take what comes his way but Tess works pretty hard to get what she wants. It's fun to watch her interact with Gryph since they approach situations so differently. What took me out of the story here was Gryph not using his spine when it came to telling Tess about the aforementioned fuckwit. I mean, seriously, this guy was bad news and Gryph let what I would consider a misunderstanding of decidedly non-epic proportions completely floor him when he should have explained about the psychopath.
Shadowheart - The intriguing Allegreto from For My Lady's Heart is back. He's exiled from his home but about to make an aggressive return. Into his path is thrown the Princess Elena. Through her he makes an even bolder claim to his homeland. It turns out Elena is much more than a pawn to be used in political games, she's a woman more than willing to make plans of her own and do whatever it takes to enact those plans.
This book is a total mind-blower. Holy shitballs it will throw you for a loop, and just when you've got your stomach settled it's time for a few more loops. Buckle up, folks, it's safer if you do. I would never have thought there could be a match for Allegreto but Elena is incredible. In fact, there's too much to say about these two so I'm going to let them have their own post (and the illustration of the value of the feminine AND masculine working together in this book is so fucking awesome that that will be part of the other post as well) so for here I'll just say this book only very barely didn't make the A Team. It's a 100% failing on my part as the reader because Kinsale hits it out of the park with the awesome writing and characterization here. Anyway, it was the BDSM that took me out of the story. I didn't think it was offensive or anything, in fact, it was so totally dead-on for the characters that I can't imagine the book in any other way but it still bumped me out of the story.
The C Team:
Midsummer Moon - Absent-minded Merlin is a genius inventor and only wants to be left alone to work on her flying machine. Ransom is one pompous Duke in His Majesty's service with very specific instructions where Merlin is concerned. Merlin really couldn't give two shits for what Ransom says she has to do but after some funny "salt" leaves them in a compromising situation Ransom now has two reasons to officiously order her about.
This is a lighthearted book with, again, two well-matched protags. Their interactions are hilarious and fun, even if the Duke has a corn cob up his butt most of the time. I love how he is constantly ordering Merlin about and she is constantly ignoring him. And the hedgehog pet that Merlin keeps is worth his weight in comedic gold - and might just be the best "hero support" of all time. The supporting characters are fantastic and interesting additions to the story. There's also some wonderfully quotable lines in this book. Merlin has this tendency to make direct and honest observations that really make you stop and think. She's so much fun (I think she and Folie would have been great friends). For all this yumminess, though, the book is too long. Comedy is so much harder to sustain than drama (so extra kudos here for making a comedic romp work) and if the book had been shorter it would have been absolutely bang-up. However, the length makes the plot drag a bit so you want to start skipping to the end.
The Dream Hunter - Zenia has been raised by her eccentric English mother in the desert. She dreams of a home in "green" England and hopes to go there after her mother's death. Without resources she ends up having to guide Lord Winter deep into the desert, somewhere she really doesn't want to go again, in exchange for passage to England. Lord Winter isn't a total dick, Zenia's dressed as a "Bedui boy" as a disguise and so he thinks he's taking a boy of the desert as a guide.
I like Lord Winter as a hero and I think his character is a very interesting contrast with Zenia and his family in England. It's incredible to see the way he faces things in the desert in comparison to how he faces up to his filial obligations at home. Zenia never evened out for me. I found her to be passive with incredible endurance in the desert but when in England she became belligerent and shrill. I couldn't reconcile her earlier passivity with her later obstinacy. Her behavior constantly took me out of the story [Further comments spoilerish so highlight if interested: It's quite possible if she hadn't been so shrill and so damn batshit crazy about the child I might not have found such fault with the inconsistency but batshit crazy due to child is one of my least favorite tropes. Also, her suddenly turning into her mother didn't work for me as an explanation because it had so often been described earlier that she was conditioned to serve due to her upbringing. I think the batshit crazy due to child was supposed to have affected the change but I just didn't buy it].
Sadly, that's the lot of them. *sniff* It's hard to be out of Kinsale... but I can always re-read and her newest, Lessons in French, will be out in February. Can't wait!
[ETA: Actually, I think this will be out the end of Jan so even better!]
I'd also like to take just a moment to send out a cyber THANK YOU to Kinsale for all the hours of enjoyment I've had with her books!