So I just read Laura Lee Guhrke’s AND THEN HE KISSED HER (and thought it was very good, and so, so romantic at the end, happy sigh). And I love the setting.
But this isn’t a review, because I’m not really good at those, but just a quick note that what I found myself thinking of while I was taking quick breaks from reading the book wasn’t really romance at all, but W. D. Howells’ THE RISE OF SILAS LAPHAM, and in particular, this really fabulous scene in which Lapham frets and frets about wearing gloves to a dinner party (ah, etiquette).
And it’s odd, because there’s a lot about Howells that I don’t like, which may be just a gut reaction to his disdain for the sentimental novel, even though I have a similar reaction to American sentimentalism and lean toward realism in my (re)reading choices. RUTH HALL? Nah, nuh uh, not again. I’d a million times rather read anything by Howells. *g* Yeah, it must be that gut reaction.
But I really love that scene, and all that it manages to say about class and expectations, and how completely painful it is.
And, entirely unrelated to Guhrke, it is actually SILAS LAPHAM that influenced my thinking on a lot of romance novels, and what I’ll stand for in a heroine and/or hero. The whole, “I’ll sacrifice our love so that I don’t hurt anyone” thing that Howells calls ridiculous … well, I agree. And when I see it in a romance novel, I usually cringe and just want to bang my head against a wall. (I think that Valdez’s PASSION was an exception to this.) Although, in hindsight and from a purely storytelling standpoint, next to Silas, that self-sacrificing romance was also one of the more compelling aspects of the book. So I’m not sure what it means that the very sub-plot and sentimentality that Howells had such a hate-on for made it all that much more readable (and, for me, re-readable.)
Uh, but AND THEN HE KISSED HER didn’t have that kind of romantic plot … I’m just wandering here, because it’s 2am, and I can’t get Howells out of my head, and I’m also wondering if it’s because I’ve been reading so much Twain and Whitman lately, and Howells is just the next step on the 19th c. American voice tour I’ve been taking to nail down my current hero’s voice.