Saturday, December 28, 2013

THOUGHTS on Amanda Quick's "Rendezvous" and "Mistress"

RendezvousRendezvous by Amanda Quick
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This review is structured as a comparison/contrast between "Rendezvous" and another Quick novel, "Mistress."

Amanda Quick's "Mistress" is one of the first romance novels I've ever read, and it spurred me on to read Amanda Quick's entire backlist. "Rendezvous" has a somewhat similar dynamic between the hero and heroine, in that the hero prides himself on using reason and logic to guide his choices, while the heroine is an "original" more driven by emotions and intuition. However, while "Mistress" is an enjoyable comfort reread for me, my reread of "Rendezvous" left me unconvinced of the love story, and hence unsatisfied.

I liked the heroines of both books: the heroine of "Rendezvous," Augusta Ballinger, however, was slightly more difficult for me to relate to. Iphiginia Bright, the heroine of "Mistress," makes her decisions after a careful consideration of both her emotions and a logical, objective assessment of her circumstances (insofar as objectivity is possible). Augusta, on the other hand, prides herself on being a reckless Northumberland Ballinger, and often expresses her disdain for the the logical/objective approach. This made it harder for me to relate to her, since I personally value the ability to use logic as a tool for making decisions, and think that disdaining logic would be just as blind an approach as disdaining emotion. I still liked Augusta, however, particularly for how she emphasizes the importance of imagination and fun in life, and for how she fights for the inclusion of activities that encourage such values in her stepdaughter's curriculum.

It is often the case that Quick has "logical/scientific/academic" heroes who consider logic/reason/science and imagination/hypotheticals to be mutually exclusive. For instance, the hero of "Mistress," Marcus Cloud, the Earl of Masters, is a science/logic-driven hero who at one point in the book refuses to consider might-have-beens, and is only willing to consider "cold hard facts" in his arguments with Iphiginia. This annoyed me at first, since hypothetical reasoning is an important part of the scientific method, and Marcus, as a scientist and inventor, should know that! On further consideration, because Marcus does not seem to be a poor scientist, I ended up interpreting his refusal to consider the might-have-beens as poor argumentation skills driven by (i) his initial emotion immaturity and (ii) new emotions he didn't understand or acknowledge. This brings me to the most important point: Despite his arrogance in how he believes his reasoning always leads to the right conclusions, I still fell in love with Marcus because he seemed vulnerable to me in his loneliness, and in his fear for his brother's livelihood. I also loved how he was mature enough to understand that he would have to sacrifice his pride and change his long-established "rules" if he wanted to be with Iphiginia, and even better, that he was mature enough to admit this to Iphiginia. I feel like I would have fallen in love with Marcus if I was Iphiginia, and so I totally bought the love story. I also liked Marcus' dry humour, and even found his amusement at Iphiginia's innocence to be cute, as opposed to condescending, probably because he never took her ignorance as a reason to lessen his respect for her intellect.

In contrast, "Rendezvous" didn't work for me, primarily because I found the hero, Harry, the Earl of Graystone, to be unjustifiably overbearing and condescending to the point of being cruel to the heroine. For instance, at one point, when the heroine brings up her worries regarding their upcoming marriage, the following exchange ensues:

"I'm glad you find it so amusing," she whispered.

"Not amusing so much as a waste of time. I have seen you attempting to grapple with this sort of thing before, if you will recall. Your reasoning gets muddled quickly, my dear."

The way I read this, the hero manages to both

(i) imply that Augusta is incapable of logical reasoning, and

(ii) say that her concerns about her future are a waste of his time.

I would be furious at anyone that said I was incapable of logical reasoning and I would seriously re-consider marrying anyone who felt that my concerns were a waste of his time. And although there was a point where Harry supposedly realized he loved Augusta (i.e., that their relationship involved emotion, and not logic), I didn't really see any change in the way he treated Augusta afterwards. So I really couldn't understand how Augusta could fall in love with Harry, and thus didn't really believe in the love story.

Writing this up now, I realize that Augusta might not consider Harry's words above to be as much of an insult as I would consider them to be, since she is more disdainful of logic and reason than I am, and hence might not care if someone thought she was incapable of reason. But the disrespect he shows her in the above passage is still too blatant for me to swallow. So despite my view that people should at least try to consider facts objectively when assessing the merit of a thing (or future action), the Anaïs Nin quote "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are" plays a big role in why "Rendezvous" didn't work for me, while "Mistress" remains one of my favourite romance re-reads.

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