Guardian Series Retrospective #2 – Falling for Anthony (cont.)

Meljean’s note: This post is part of a series of entries about the Guardians paranormal romance series. As I write the last book in the series, I’m re-reading all of the books and novellas that came before and posting information, reactions, and pieces of trivia for each one. THESE POSTS WILL INCLUDE SOME SPOILERS, though I will try to keep the details of those spoilers to a minimum.

I’ve broken up the post into three sections: the writing section, which discusses why/how I choose settings and characters; the re-read section, where I’ll mention what I still like (and maybe what I would have done differently); and the series trivia section, where I’ll point out the parts that relate to other books, and that can act as a refresher for the series before you read Michael’s book next year.

Please understand that this means you will get a “behind the book” look at the series, which is not always awesome. After all, there is a person behind the books – me – and it’s often true that enjoying fiction is easier the less you know about the person writing it. With that in mind, I will try to keep comments about my intentions to a minimum.

These are not reviews of my books, but I might be critical of some aspects of the writing. It’s been years, after all, and my writing style and approach has evolved. If I say something critical about a part of a book that you loved, please don’t think that I’m bashing your opinion – it’s just that I’m already hyper-critical of my own work, and I can’t help but approach the stories with an eye toward “how would I write this differently now/how would I improve this?”

I also use bad words now and then.

Please feel free to comment below. If an answer to your question will spoil the final book in the series, however, please understand that I won’t answer it.

This post is about “Falling for Anthony,” and I’d like to focus on that story in the comments. If you ask a question about another book (or if your question will be answered in another post) I might just give a brief response and let you know a more complete answer is coming up. Please also feel free to leave your own reactions/responses to the book – and I’m not offended if you didn’t like it.

Falling for Anthony

Re-Reading “Falling for Anthony”

Okay, well — the tl;dr version of what follows is: It’s not as bad as I feared and not as awesome as I would like.

This isn’t going to be a review with a plot summary or anything. I’m going to assume that everyone has read this, because otherwise a lot of the stuff that I mention won’t make any sense at all. The trivia stuff is below, so if you are reading this as a refresher or to familiarize yourself with some of the story arc before reading Michael’s book, you’ll want to skip to that.

Things I Like About This Story

  • Anthony Ramsdell and Emily Ames-Beaumont
  • This is kind of a stupid thing to say, I think — but it’s also important to me. I don’t have to like characters in the stuff I write/read, but I do like for them to be interesting, and they still do interest me. I’m always kind of partial to heroes who are the quietly strong type, and Anthony falls in that category. He’s not the sort to give orders, but he’s the sort who will do whatever needs to be done and will take responsibility for his actions. I dunno, I like that.

    I do see why a lot of readers had problems with Emily in particular (more about that in my What I Would Change section) but I like their romance. I like that she’s kind of a selfish idiot at the beginning who grows throughout the story, and I like how she comes to accept Anthony for who he is rather than what she wanted him (or any husband) to be.

  • Lilith and Hugh
  • Okay, no surprise here, right? Part of the reason for the existence of this novella was to introduce the Guardian world, and to introduce the characters who would later appear in Demon Angel. I like Lilith. I like that she’s mean and that she hates everyone. But most of all, I love that she’s fun and that she causes so much trouble. I like Hugh’s long-suffering stoicism. They bring a bit of needed levity to a story that might have otherwise seemed all dire and awful.

  • The cover
  • I’m not a huge fan of man-titty, but this one is pretty. I gasped when my editor first sent it to me (although it was also my first cover, so I might have gasped and squealed even if it was butt-ugly). Of course, within a year or two the model was on EVERY SINGLE COVER, but I haven’t yet gotten tired of looking at this one.

Oh, that seems like a short list, but really, the interaction between those characters encompasses a lot of the story. There are bits of writing that I laughed over, too — the influence of Emily Dickinson in part of the description of Caelum (I’m not going to point it out, because it’s so silly), and the influence of a few other romance authors that I recognize now in the voice. I expect this is probably normal for new writers; some things are deliberate nods, but other things are just a part of developing your own style.

What I Would Do Differently Now

Okay, and let me preface the next section by saying that this is not the opposite of the “What I Like” section. I don’t dislike this stuff — but I can see where it would be better.

  • I would simplify the plot a bit.
  • For the most part, I actually like what I did with this story. I like that Michael’s sword is the catalyst for the external plot. I like the way that the nosferatu turns Colin. I like that his vampirism is the reason that Anthony returns to Earth. I like that the sword is the reason why the external plot is resolved and the romantic plot is resolved (i.e., it’s the reason Anthony can’t really be a Guardian and is allowed to Fall.) I like that it’s all related to the romantic conflict … but there’s a lot of plot noise in there, mostly stemming from the “where is the sword now?” question and Emily’s Daddy issues. I would clear up a lot of that noise, which leads me to…

  • I would develop Emily’s issues better
  • Like I said in the previous post, it doesn’t bother me that she has the Daddy issues/that she’s a bit stupid in the beginning of the story, because by the end of the story, she’s grown up. HOWEVER. She doesn’t really have an arc. She’s stupid and thoughtless in the first chapter, then the next time we see her, she’s already changed — and the reader doesn’t see that change and growth, so to them, she’s essentially the same person.

    I think the problem here is that she needs a POV section in the first chapters. We get Anthony’s POV, and I wouldn’t want to lose that … but we don’t really know what’s driving her, except that she’s hurt. And by the time that we find out later in the story, it’s something that she’s already gotten past. So there’s a real disconnect between the Emily we meet in Chapter 1 and Emily-the-heroine, and there’s no way to relate to her or to sympathize with her, even if Anthony does.

    So if I had to do it all over again, I’d have shown Emily after she hears that Anthony was killed on the battlefield and as she’s sending the sword to her father’s mistress. It would have allowed us to see her grief and regret and pain, and also cleared up the plot noise that comes later, when she’s explaining to Anthony how she felt when her Daddy ruined all of her silly dreams about love. (Also, again, moving the story forward instead of wallowing in the past as she does in a scene or two with Anthony later.)

  • I’d get rid of the prostitutes
  • I mean, really. I wanted Emily to be sexually experienced, and this also tied in to her need to lash out … but, really. This is one of those details that I laugh at myself for now, because I was very deliberately trying to do something different than I’d seen in other romances. But, yeah. I probably could have gone about it in another way. 😀

Favorite Scene

  • The one where Colin is crawling on the floor toward Emily, and Anthony saves her.
  • That’s here, actually.

    It’s just that the image of pitiful Colin cracks me up every time. Plus, I like the slight horror aspects of it, and the surprise rescue. Ah, that was a fun scene.

Stuff That Relates To Other Books in the Series

SPOILERS!!!!

There is some “Behind the Story” trivia here, as well, but the following directly relates to other books in the series, not just different research/writing bits.

  • Michael’s Sword
  • Imbued with power after Michael used it to kill a dragon, it cuts through stone in the first scene, and slices open a nosferatu later. It plays an important part in the resolution of Demon Angel and ends up in Belial’s possession. He uses it in Hell in Demon Bound to torture Jake and Alice.

    Being cut with the sword taints the person’s blood — usually this is followed by a fever. In Anthony’s case, it interfered with his full transformation to Guardian. His and Emily’s descendants have developed different powers as a result of this (and two examples can be seen in Must Love Hellhounds.)

    The taint is why Colin is different from every other vampire, as well.

    Though we don’t see any symbols in this story, any glyph carved into flesh with this sword will make a more powerful spell than one carved by any old sword (which is why Khavi uses Irena’s dragon-tainted weapon to carve the symbols into Michael in Demon Forged, and why Belial uses it on Alice in Demon Bound — and why it is so painful to remove later).

    The sword is a flaming sword when wielded correctly by someone who also is tainted by the dragon in some way.

    For Michael’s book: We find out in this story that the sword was in the Ames-Beaumont family’s possession because Michael lost it. We don’t know yet how he lost it. And of course the sword shows up again.

  • The Doyen Scrolls
  • These are essentially the guidelines for Guardians (but not the Rules; those are different.) We see how they are written in Demon Moon. We know that they can’t be vanished into a Guardian’s cache or carried through the Gates, except by Michael — and in Demon Marked, by Taylor.

    The Scrolls show up in almost every Guardian novel — they are either referenced or consulted for various reasons. One of the most important quotes from the Scrolls (from this novella) is

    Appearances are almost always deceiving.

    That will show up again and again and again in the series.

    For Michael’s book: Yep, it will show up again. Taylor already knows the bit about appearances being deceiving … but Michael really, really brings that truth home to her.

  • Anthony’s Fall
  • Hugh is right when he said that Michael planned for Anthony to Fall (but of course he wanted Anthony to actually do all of the work himself.) Anthony consults the Doyen Scrolls to find the loophole that allows him to be transformed back into a human before the typical 100 years have passed.

    For Michael’s book: Someone else uses the same loophole.

  • Hugh’s Vow to Protect Colin/Lilith bargaining with a kiss
  • Is referenced in both Demon Angel and Demon Moon. A scene during Part I of Demon Angel takes place only a few years after “Falling for Anthony,” and they specifically reference events in the story (especially the part where Lilith stabs Hugh) and discuss whether Hugh will keep that vow if Colin commits evil acts.

    The “bargaining with a kiss” bit is something that shows up a lot in Demon Angel, but this is the first time we see her do it.

  • Anthony and Emily’s mortality
  • Their fate is discussed in Demon Moon, which in turn leads to one of my favorite scenes in that book. *sniffle* This is also why the rest of the series takes place primarily in San Francisco — Colin moved there because his BFFs eventually passed away and he couldn’t bear to stay in England.

  • Anthony as a physician
  • This is the starting point for Ramsdell Pharmaceuticals, which by contemporary times is an international corporation (and why Colin is so rich — he can thank Anthony, the poor gentry guy who married his sister).

  • Gift – A Guardian’s Unique Power
  • I introduce Hugh’s, which is forcing Truth from anyone. Anthony’s is the ability to heal. We see Michael use a Gift that he hasn’t used in the series since (looking without permission into Anthony’s memories.) Every Guardian develops their own gift, and as the Doyen Scrolls say

    A Guardian’s Gift will come to him when he is ready for it. The Gift is a reflection of a Guardian’s human life, but not always a welcome one.

    For Michael’s book: We’ll see more of Michael’s Gifts. And Taylor will develop hers … and it’s not a welcome one.

Conclusion

I like this novella. Of course I would do some things differently, but in terms of worldbuilding, it’s not a bad little prequel for the rest of the series, and I like how it all ties together. And I still like the romance.

I’m also giving away two copies of the Hot Spell anthology here. Enter before June 30, 2012.

Up Next… Demon Angel. But that will probably be at least a week or two away, because that book is long, and there’s a lot to say (but I’ll try to limit myself to the really important stuff).