I’m starting with a novel that isn’t technically in the 18th century, but: 1. it’s in the Romantic period, which is my secondary focus; and 2. everyone knows that the long eighteenth century goes from, like, 1649 to 1832 anyway,* and longer if we find anything cool before or after that that we like. Maybe it’s our time period; it just puts us in that colonizing mood.
*Okay, not really, but kind of.
Our heroine is a young lady of moderate fortune who’s been educated (as a “puppet in the hands of others,” creepy) by her Aunt Stanhope, a woman known for matchmaking her nieces after molding them into coquettes. Belinda has come to stay in London with lady Delacour to get a husband. But lord Delacour is a drunk and lady Delacour only acts like she’s happy in her notoriety (theatre metaphors abound), and they’re basically super-bitchy to each other all the time EVEN IN FRONT OF BELINDA which is so so not done, so Belinda quickly figures out that she’s going to have to actually rely on herself. While she’s figuring that out, most of the whole first part of the novel is really about Lady Delacour, who is fantastic and talks too much and I love her.
Everyone (at least, on Amazon) compares this book to Jane Austen, and let me state for the record that that pisses me the hell off. Jane Austen is great. Of course she’s great. And of course they were writing at the same time and they read each other and blah blah blah. But the weird impulse to turn every book that’s by a female author or about a (nonwhoring) female character from the 1740s to the 1820s into Pride and Prejudice with Wigs means that you miss all the things in each book that aren’t Pride and Prejudice. Belinda’s rational like Elizabeth Bennett, but she’s a lot more into philosophy and conduct than being a wit. And neither of her love interests, Clarence Hervey the dandy genius or Mr. Vincent the sexy creole (meaning here English descent but born in West Indies), are remotely like Mr. Darcy or Mr. Mr. Darcy’s Friend. And seriously, there are other hunks in English literature besides Mr. Darcy.
Speaking of the Jane Austen treatment, let’s take a look at the cover of my copy and its inappropriate invitation to Look Inside!:
Yeah, it’s pretty, but honestly?–you look at this and you think, “Okay, this book is going to be about dresses and maybe booty.” I guess the booty part is exciting, but–look, I’m making a new cover, and by that I mean I’m stealing the Dangerous Liaisons movie poster and writing all over it.
It needs some work–there’s no brush tool to make John Malkovich creep me out slightly less–but at least you get the idea. Or how about something like this?
Then you’d be all, “Badass!” And maybe your badassery expectations would be too high for this novel, but at least that’s better than 0% badass. Plus, then you would be set up to think about Lady Delacour as a heroine . . . for reasons I’ll talk about in the next post? (Hint: look to Michelle Pfeiffer’s forehead.) (For both your edification and your enjoyment??)