Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Title: The Windflower
Author: Laura London
Published: 1984, Dell
Category: Historical Romance
Yes, you read that right. I'm giving this book a 10/10. I never give 10s! But then this just might be the best romance I've ever read. I've heard about this book ever since I started reading romance--it always comes up as a classic old favorite. And now I know why.
Merry Wilding is an 18-year-old living in rural Virginia during the War of 1812. She's a bit sheltered and a little naive. Her brother is a spy for the Americans and he asks Merry to come with him to a tavern so that she can draw sketches (she's a very good artist) of a few men--men who turn out to be pirates. Merry and one of the pirates--the extremely handsome, godlike Devon--have a little interlude, though Devon lets her go without too much bother. Several months later, Merry is setting out on a trip to England with her aunt, when she is abducted by the same pirates (for reasons that are too complicated to go into here). Merry is held on the ship for months, has many adventures, befriends a crew of pirates, grows up a lot, and of course falls in love with one of her captors.
[sidenote] Isn't there a condition where victims fall in love with their captors? And I've just been to Wiki--it's called the Stockholm Syndrome. Like Patty Hearst! There are definite shades of that here. She hates the pirates/she loves the pirates. She wants to go home/she wants to adventure. She is never really beaten or molested, though the pirates are quite cruel to her at times. And surprisingly kind at other times. [/sidenote]
And now I will gush like a rabid fangirl.
This really is classic romance. The 1980s were sort of the glory days of the big historical romance novel. Everything was big in the 1980s--LOL. The story is big and complicated, the characters are complex and interesting. People may complain that Merry is naive and annoying, but I thought her reactions to her situation was spot-on and fabulous. You would be scared and confused and resentful, but she gets over it. She learns and you really can see her grow up. I liked Devon too, though he was a little bland compared with some of the other characters. Um, like Cat?! Yeah! I've heard people calling for Cat's story and I will join them because he's f*ing FANTASTIC. He's so clever--I think he and Morgan definitely have some of the best lines in the book. And lovable Raven!
The prose is lush, florid, slightly overblown, with adjectives dripping from every sentence--just the kind of writing that usually drives me nuts. An example: "The kindly fates, after separating Merry and Devon in experience and temperament, had looked back with regretful sighs and cast camelia garlands of warm conversation on the ill-omened pair." Ah! It's so over-the-top, and yet it's original and so part-and-parcel with the whole epic, ultra-romantic feeling of the novel that it's perfect. My general preference may be for spare, straightforward writing, but that would never have worked here.
There's so much to this book that I can see myself re-reading it many times and finding something new every time. A joke I missed, an aspect of a character that I hadn't seen before. And to be honest, (though I love romance, don't get me wrong) subtlety and complexity are the two things I find most annoyingly lacking in romance novels. So when I find a book like this, it makes me all the more appreciative.
Have I gushed enough? I will just end by saying that this was 450 pages of a helluva good time. Must-read for anyone who likes romance!