Did you miss me? I’m sorry I told you to get lost three hours and forty-two minutes ago, but I wasn’t in my right mind. I had just opened my mailbox to find Private Arrangements waiting for me, and, of course, I had to read it.
Now that I’ve read it, I wish I hadn’t liked it quite so much. Perhaps then I wouldn’t have read it so quickly. And if I hadn’t read it so quickly, I would have had more time to enjoy it.
Private Arrangements is a grand book. Really, that’s the only word I can think of to describe it, except, perhaps, “delicious” and Delicious happens to be the title of Sherry Thomas’s next book, which I will be buying the day it comes out in August, 2008, so I really should conserve that word for further use this summer. And speaking of this summer, expect another terse blog post telling you to go away. I apologize, in advance, for my future rudeness, but if today was any indication, I won’t be in my right mind.
I should start by saying, this is not a review. I’m lousy at reviewing, and I’m suspect, besides, since Sherry Thomas wrote a lovely double review of my novellas Ember and Like a Thief in the Night for Dear Author back in January which probably sold more copies of Like a Thief than all of my confused, sorry little attempts to promote the story, combined. But please don’t think I am biased just because I have reason to be, because if you do, you will miss out on one of the best historical romances ever. Ever!
You think I’m exaggerating. I must admit, I’m prone to hyperbole. What I love, I love, and I can’t shut the hell up about it. Which usually leads people to nod and smile as they back away from me. So I try to tone it down. I try to mention any possible flaw in a book when I recommend it so that people won’t think I’m some sort of blindly rabid fan girl. So that people will think I’m reasonable.
This time, I’ll just admit it: I’m not reasonable. Technically speaking, Private Arrangements’ wind-up to the end was a little slow, and the end felt a little fast, but really, that’s just me grasping at straws trying to think of something critical to say about a book I devoured in three hours and forty-two minutes, and plan to start rereading at a more leisurely pace once I finish this post.
You must understand, when I read this book, I got shivers. The experience was akin to the first time I read a book by Judith Ivory, Loretta Chase or other authors from the very short list of names on my Read Everything They Ever Wrote list and Keeper Shelf (actually, it’s more of a cabinet…).
I didn’t think about the writing, or the plot, or wonder where it was going. I just read. Page after page. I was entranced, insatiable, totally p0wned. I could not put it down. To be blunt: Sherry Thomas made me her bitch, and I liked it!
I was swept away by the grand, Gilded-Age setting (note, I love this time period, and I wish there were more novels set in it), and the grand passion between Gigi and Camden. The hero and heroine are intelligent, beautiful, rich, passionate, larger-than-life…and they are idiots. Complete, utter idiots. They are complicated, proud and obsessed — and completely irrational because of it. I adored them.
The plot is this: When Gigi and Camden were young, they were terribly in love. But love made him stubbornly noble, and her passionately deceitful. When his nobility met her deceit, the clash of two such indomitable, unreasonable personalities drove them apart. Camden rejected Gigi and put an ocean between them.
The story begins eleven years later, when Gigi has filed for divorce. Camden returns to England from New York to tell Gigi that he will grant her a divorce–if she will give him an heir. Huh? That seems backwards and dumb and completely illogical. But I totally bought it because these characters are experts at deceiving themselves. They are each their own worst enemy.
Those two, their love is like a blues song; it’s like the tastiest type of tragedy–the kind where it isn’t fate or the actions of villains that keep the lovers apart, but their own human flaws and foolish pride. They push, they pull, they rage, plot and insult — and in every instant, in every action, it is achingly apparent to the reader that these two characters are still madly, passionately in love. Oh, the drama! It’s delicious.
As the story unfolds, they begin to relate to each other as grown-ups instead of hormonal, over-dramatic young people. Camden comes to understand why Gigi did what she did, and Gigi experiences a bit of Camden’s old stubborn nobility. It’s lovely.
Also lovely is the secondary plot involving Gigi’s social climbing mother. I love the nuances to her character. She could easily have been the villain of the piece, a wretched caricature of a modern-day stage mother in historical drag. Instead, she is complicated, intelligent, self-deprecating, and, eventually, self-aware. In fact, all of the secondary characters are wonderfully well-drawn, with flaws and virtues all their own.
This “not a review” is getting pretty long. I suppose I should wrap up the love fest so I can start my rereading, but first, I need to say a few words about the writing: it’s wonderful. Smooth, sophisticated, elegant and intelligent, the narrative carried me along, never talking down, never dumbing down (I’ll post examples later–I was so busy reading, I forgot to mark my favorite passages). And, oh, that vocabulary. :sigh:
Private Arrangements is all the things I’ve always loved about historical romance. It’s a vivid, intense, Technicolor-bright tale of compelling characters and dramatic love painted across the wide, glittering canvas of a fascinating historical era. It’s one of three books I’ve read this year that I’m going to press into the hands of friends who love to read as I say, “You must read this. It’s grand.“
Now, since I was lucky enough to win an early copy of this book in a contest on Dear Author, I’m holding a contest to give away the copy I would have bought at precisely 11 am on March 25 from the Borders on Lake Ave (no Amazon–I hate to wait.) to someone who comments on this post. The deadline is Friday, March 28, 2007. As with the Dear Author contest, the catch here is that the winner will have to mention the novel in a forum, or blog post.