Library Book Sale Gems

Fresh off my latest gig as a romance reviewer (I'll post the last words on Georgette Heyer's An infamous army in the next couple of days), I thought I'd come back to the meat 'n' potatoes of Judge a Book by its Cover for some good old fashioned cover snark.

Today's pair come courtesy of our afternoon's perusal of the Swannanoa (NC) Library's ongoing book sale. (If you're ever in Swannanoa, stop in and say hi to the branch manager, she's as cool as librarians come!)

For the first course, it's...

Beating up on Baen is like taking candy from a baby, but damn. I think I once saw this rendered on black velvet at a flea market.

What's there to be said here? I'll pull a Rex Parker and count 'em off:

1. Dude, Chuck Norris is ripped. And pissed. I would be too, if someone stole my pupils.

2. This could be a still from one of the cheesier episodes of the original Star Trek. You know, one of those wherein all of the Enterprise's crucial crew members got caught in a tachyon inversion field and got time warped into feudal Japan?

3. How much did Yuengling shell out for this spot?

I'm almost sorry that I didn't take a look at page 123.

For our second course, it's...

I love the fact that the reviewer's last name is "Sturgeon." Hee hee! Ah, bell-bottoms. John Travolta's lookin' pretty raw.

1. "Run! Run! The Fontainebleau is gonna blow!"

2. I wonder how the cover artist got the rights to use the trademarked "Choose Your Own Adventure" font?

3. I'm sure the dilithium crystal's gonna come in handy for the warp drive, but what possible use is the chick on the right gonna find for that trifold presentation board? "I've got to finish my study on the effects of zero-gravity on gerbil sex for tomorrow's shipwide Science Fair!"

That's all I've got right now, folks. What can you come up with?


Hey there, hi there, Heyer! Part IV of An infamous army

DocTurtle’s Review of Georgette Heyer’s An infamous army

Part 4: Chapters 14 through 19

May it please the Bitchery to know that immediately after writing my previous post for SB Sarah and JaBBIC, I sat down to read the next chapters of Heyer’s novel and found chapters 14 and 15 to be positively delightful, by far the strongest so far. The first of this pair was genuinely hilarious, betraying hints of an almost farcical humor, perhaps not unlike that underlying Heyer’s other works the SBTB commenters are always talking about. The second of these chapters sees the maturing of Heyer’s subtly exquisite characterization of her two lead characters, which characterization has gone on for the whole length of the novel nearly unremarkably but which is now brought starkly to the fore in a heated exchange between Lady Barbara and Colonel Audley.

The remaining chapters in this review see the coming of war (finally!) and a good deal more action than the rest of the novel put together so far. It’s not so bad, but it took almost three hundred pages to get this far.

Let’s have a closer look, shall we?

Chapter 14. Ha!

The Ladies Barbara Childe and Harriet Taverner are at war. After Harriet’s public snubbing of Bab in the previous chapter, the two have another encounter at a party thrown by the Duchess of Richmond. Harriet remarks slyly to her husband on Bab’s outfit: “Perry, let me remove into the salon: I find this place a little too hot for me.”

Unperturbed, Peregrine replies, densely: “In a minute! I must say how do you do to Lady Bab first.” “Dude, you’re an idiot,” read my marginalia at this point, as Peregrine and Harriet part company for a bit. A page later I’ve scribbled “understatement of the century” as Heyer remarks that Perry Taverner is “never remarkable for his perception.”

A page later Judith Worth is consoling and counseling a heartbroken Harriet; Harriet declares “I hope I never set eyes on either of them again, and if Perry means to dine at home I shall lock myself in my room, and go home to Mama!”

“You might if you were silly enough, perform one of those actions,” says Judith reasonably, “but I do not see how you can accomplish both.” Delightful!

Unfazed by his wife’s state of utter discombobulation, Perry does not in fact dine at home but after a brief stop to change clothes, total idiot that he is, he’s off to dine with Bab. It will fall (in Chapter 15) on Charles Audley himself to smack some sense into Peregrine’s thick skull, but not before he and a few fellow staff officers take time off to mock a young colleague’s braggadocio.

This chapter’s wry, sly, and authentically funny in the respectfully derisive manner of Wilde or Wodehouse, Trollope, or Austen. Good stuff!

Chapter 15. Sweet sorrow

For an encore, Heyer produces a gallery of rich character portraits: Perry is shown as a little whipped pup, Barbara as a fearful widow who clings tightly to the freedoms her widowhood affords her, and Charles as a stoical love-smitten soldier who struggles to hold his composure while his true love slips away.

Charles gets the truth from Judith before calling on the Taverners. To Harriet: “I am going to have a talk with him, and I think you will find him only too ready to take you home.” Shortly thereafter he drops in on Peregrine and dresses him down.

“I am aware how my conduct must strike you,” Peregrine stiff-upper-lips. Honor must be served: “if you want satisfaction, of course I am ready to meet you.” Charles is delightfully remonstrative: “Don’t talk to me in that nonsensical fashion! Do you imagine that you’re a rival of mine?...You are merely an unconditioned cub in need of kicking, and the only satisfaction I could enjoy would be to have you under me for just one month!”

Oh, snap!

Two and a half pages later, Peregrine begins his plans to take his family back to Britain, and Charles returns to the Worths’ for a night of moody introspection.

The next evening finds him at a ball at Sir Charles Stuart’s. Things begin reasonably amicably, but as Bab and Charles share their first waltz on the dance floor, he tells her how he sent Perry packing. “I am charged with a message from Peregrine,” he tells her, “his apologies for not being able to take his leave of you in person.”

“It is your doing, in fact! Insufferable! My God, I could hit you!”

The two hasten to an empty adjoining parlor and commence the novel’s most passionate intercourse yet. Ever fearful of boredom, Bab banishes banality by living life out loud and worries that a new marriage will steal that life away from her as her first marriage did. Meanwhile Charles’s investment of emotion has crashed at his feet, cut to the quick by the woman he’s loved since his first sight of her.

Ouch. Life goes on, somehow. Life goes on.

Chapter 16. Separation and strife

As a dark storm of battle looms, the Prussian officers arrive to conference with their Anglo-Allied counterparts. But as yet the action is still primarily of the emotional sort. Charles now throws himself back into his duties while Barbara runs back to M. le Comte, as Colonel Fremantle calls him, “that Belgian fellow—what’s his name? Bylandt’s brigade: all teeth and eyes and black whiskers.”

Harry Alastair takes his older sister to task:
“The nicest fellow that was ever in love with you, and you jilt him for a damned frog!”

“If you mean Lavisse, he is a Belgian, and not a Frenchman, and I did not jilt Charles Audley. He was perfectly ready to let me go, you know,” replied Barbara candidly. (p. 277)
Will the coming war tear them apart once and for all?

Chapter 17. The storm breaks

It is the evening of June 15th, 1815. At last Bonaparte has crossed into Belgium. While the Duke had expected him to come from the west through the region of Mons, Boney has striven to split the Duke’s army and Blücher’s by coming in by Charleroi and points east. The advance has taken the army somewhat by surprise, word coming of Napoleon’s attacks as half of Brussels is engaged at a ball at the Duchess of Richmond’s house.

The Duke retains his composure and dispatches order after order to his generals before making an appearance at the ball, where the oncoming battle is the talk of the town (that and Lady Barbara’s couture: “who but Bab Childe would have the audacity to wear a gown like a bridal robe at a ball?”). The air is purely martial, and the assembled nobles are entertained by a demonstration by the 42nd Royal Highlanders and the 92nd Foot soldiery, whose pomp and circumstance steels the resolve of all.

All save Barbara, perhaps. Her cool is no longer cool:
“He is in Brussels? Yes, yes, he is still in Brussels! Tell me, confound you, tell me!”

There was a white agony in her face, but Judith was unmoved by it. She said: “He is not in Brussels, nor will he return. I wish you goodnight, Lady Barbara.” (p. 300)
Suddenly this is a much more interesting book. How long will that last?

Chapter 18. Making up is hard to do

June 16th now. In an interesting turn of events, Bab finds herself alone at home, the Vidals having left for England. She calls on Lord and Lady Worth, hoping the former might stable her horses to ensue they don’t get stolen in others’ mad rush to leave the city. “It will not do,” Worth tells Bab, “If you mean to remain in Brussels, you must stay here.”

And so Bab moves in, and at once she and Judith settle the old scores standing between them. As Judith scolds Barbara for her horrid behavior, Bab admits her ill treatment of Charles: “Everything of the most damnable on my part!” On the even of a conflict larger than their own, Judith and Barbara begin to make up.

Meanwhile the thunder of cannon can be heard in the south. In fits and starts further word of battle reaches the anxious town. Worth reports what he’s heard at their friend Creevey’s: “Young Hay has gone, too; but I heard of no one else whom we know.” At once Barbara is terrified for her brother Harry’s sake, as Harry was on staff with Hay’s colleague Maitland. There’s little word of Charles.

It was at this point that I realized that this book could be the basis for a wonderful tragic opera.

Chapter 19. Sisters of mercy

That evening passes quickly, and June 17th dawns on a scene of chaos: yet more citizens are fleeing, and those that remain brace for the arrival of the war’s first wounded. Once the casualties begin to come, Bab and Judith find themselves up to their elbows in blood and gauze and broken bones. They bond closely over their humanitarian efforts, and by the end of the chapter Judith brings herself to defend Bab while getting in a subtle dig on her erstwhile favorite Lucy Devenish (who had recoiled at the thought of helping the wounded):

Mr Fisher said: “Well, I am sure you are a pair of heroines, no less! But I wonder his lordship would permit it, I do indeed! A lady’s delicate sensibilities—”

“This is not a time for thinking of one’s sensibilities,” Judith interrupted. “But will you not be seated? I am glad to see you have not fled the town, like some of our compatriots.”

But is there more between Charles and Lucy than we’re yet to know? Lucy hints as much after asking of Charles: “You must wonder at my asking you, but there are circumstances which—”


I apologize to fans of my snark that there’s been precious little of it in this particular post. It’s just that, well, the book is suddenly pretty good: wry humor, good characterization, and real action combine to make the book a lot better than it was as recently as...oh...twenty pages back. Maybe it’ll change, we’ll see.


Motive: Post on the damn blog, already!

From my new favorite reader, Kenneth S. comes my new favorite category romance title, Motive: Secret Baby. As he says,

It’s really the title that gets me. Motive: Secret Baby – it’s supposed to be dramatic, but it’s like they couldn’t think of a title, so they just lifted something off the smudged corner of the author’s brainstorming notebook. Whose motive? Whose baby? Why is the baby secret? I suppose we can infer from the picture that the man carrying the baby has the motive. But just what is he motivated to do? Carry the baby away from the stormy lighthouse where it was secretly raised to age of seven months?

Thanks, Kenneth! From now on, whenever anyone asks me to justify something, my answer will be "Secret Baby."

"Maughta, why did you eat the last cupcake?"
Secret Baby

"Why are you shelving Bibles in the Fiction section?"

Secret Baby
Why were you getting fatter for the last nine months and suddenly you are so slim?"



Heyer's An infamous army, Part III

Hey, all! It's another edition of DocTurtle's review of Georgette Heyer's An infamous army! For more romance-related hilarity, visit SB Sarah and her friends at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

Part 3: Chapters 9 through 13

Oh, the intrigue! This most recent installment of my Regency Romance Cliff’s Notes finds Bab flirting with Peregrine Taverner, her brother flirting with Lucy Devenish, Charles more and more busied by the buzzing of a quick-coming war, and the Duke of Wellington continuing to bitch about how ill-prepared is his infamous army for Napoleon “Don’t Call Me ‘Boney’” Bonaparte’s onslaught of Belgium.

Chapter 9. Le déjeuner sur l’herbe

We continue on a jaunty country outing with several of our story’s principles. Charles having been spirited away by his military duties, he entrusts Lady Barbara to his family in order that her going abroad with M. le Comte de Lavisse will not be misinterpreted by the prying public. And so to a charming Château near Merbe Braine on the Nivelles Road go Bab, Lady Judith, Peregrine Taverner and his Harriet, the Count, and all of their assorted footmen and retainers. What a way to go!

A hint of foreshadowing frames their merrymaking, as en route to their destination the party passes a small village named (dum dum DUUUUM!) Waterloo.

Oh, yeah, and Harriet’s miffed that should she permit him to do so Peregrine would gallop off after the ever-enchanting Bab.

Chapter 10. This book’s got more rakes than Home Depot’s lawn and garden section

When Lord George Alastair, Bab’s older brother, makes landfall in Belgium, his first stop is at his family’s home on the Rue Ducale. Finding his younger sister is out, he hunts her down at the Worth’s where yet another ball is taking place. He doesn’t make it past the foyer before setting his sights on that vision of unassuming loveliness, Lucy Devenish.

It would seem that George and Lucy had met before in Britain:

“It was a little more than that. I became acquainted with him when I was staying in Brighton with my cousins last year. There was a degree of intimacy which—which I could not avoid.” Her voice failed. Judith suspected that the attentions of a dashing young officer had not been wholly unwelcome. She had not doubt that Lord George has speedily overstepped the bounds of propriety, and understood, with ready sympathy, Lucy’s feelings upon being confronted with him again. (p. 165)

What, he saw her wrists?!? Oh noes!

All joking aside, our Lucy’s finding herself in quite the pretty pickle.

Chapter 11. Blücher!

I can’t be the only one who thinks of Young Frankenstein on mention of the Prussian General.

One of the commenters on Judge a Book By Its Cover found it hard to keep track of all of the names being bandied about. You ain’t kiddin’, sister! Chapter 11, in which we’re subjected to yet more war preparations and—quelle surprise!—a ball! piles on more names than the Book of Genesis.

But if you’re a fan of eye-gougingly, hair-pullingly punctilious (and doubtless historically accurate) description of military dress, this chapter’s for you. Ms. Heyer could outfit a member of the Brunswick Light Dragoons with her eyes closed.

Most amusing-when-taken-out-of-context line (a.k.a., Vietnamese cuisine only goes so far): “Pho! A precious lot of comfort we shall have when we go into action!”

Chapter 12. More o’ the same

We begin with twelve straight pages of military movements, army massings, and other assorted martial goings-on. The whole narrative is tied together with the Duke’s everlasting exasperated ejaculations: “I have got an infamous army, very weak, and ill-equipped, and a very inexperienced staff,” and “Matters look a little serious on the frontier.”

For once Bab says something agreeable: “I can’t think. I’m bored to tears, Charles!...I am tired of your duty, Charles. It is so tedious!” As Charles can’t bring himself to forgo an appearance at a cavalry party at Lord Uxbridge’s, he begs that Bab take Peregrine Taverner as her escort to a quiet suburban boîte in his stead. Oh, how the tongues will wag!

Meanwhile, the roué Lord George Alastair presses his case with Lucy Devenish, “that chit whose name I never can remember.”

Chapter 13. Girls just wanna have fun

Despite Charles’s assertion that married life will not prove an impediment to Lady Barbara’s helter-skelter social life, she’s out to get in all the fun she can before being burdened by the marital yoke. She fulfills her suburban assignation with Perry Taverner, and oh how the sparks do fly!

Harriet Taverner, having suspected Bab of trying to lure her hubby away since the picnic in Chapter 9, is piiiiiiissed. There are several pagefuls of back-and-forth and he-said-she-said, all amounting to little more than a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury. Things come to a head at the chapter’s close when Harriet publicly snubs Bab, and suddenly the suburban affair (which even Lady Judith Worth takes to “signify nothing”) is poised to become the stuff of Belgian backroom legend.

Oh, and Lord George Alastair is still a rake.

Uncle, uncle! Tell me, Smart Bitches, what have I done to deserve this? Is this the punishment I earned with my unfortunate “bodice-ripper” comments from so long ago?

O’Reilly’s Sex, straight up wasn’t much to my taste, and it was often silly, but it was therefore fun. This? This is just dull. She’s more concerned with troop movements and hussars’ fringes and frogging than with putting together a plot more complicated than “oh yeah, Bab’s flirting causes chaos.” There’s not even all that much to snark.

Why couldn’t you have offered me one of Heyer’s more Wodehousian titles to read?

My next assignment had better be more...well, more something. I’m dyin’ over here!


Heyer II, Electric Waterloo

A joint Judge a Book By its Cover and Smart Bitches, Trashy Books production, DocTurtle’s Review of Georgette Heyer’s An infamous army continues! with

Part 2: Chapters 4 through 8

Onward, ho! In more ways than one. In the chapters currently under consideration, the rakish Lady Barbara Childe plays a central role as, with no effort at all, she lures upstanding military man Colonel Charles Audley to the center of her wicked web. Before the play-by-play commences, a bit of color commentary in the form of a mea culpa: Audley is indeed the brother-in-law of Lady Judith Worth, and not her brother. My bad. I must have lost my eyes in Bab Childe’s cleavage.

Chapter 4. Where were we? Ah, yes! A ball...

The soirée at the Hôtel de Ville continues. Colonel Charles Audley takes Lady Barbara “Bab” Childe for a spin around the dance floor. Once there, homeboy wastes no time in coming right to the point: “ ‘I love you,’ replied the Colonel.”

Wow...these two have said a whole...let’s see...twelve lines to one another before this one.

Of course, eight pages later he’s helping the much plainer Lucy Devenish with the lace of her gown (“I made sure you would prick me at least!” Hee hee! Yes, I do have the mind of a twelve-year-old sometimes), which had come undone in the heat of her parting with her besotted escort. But after the party’s over, morning comes, and Charles tracks Bab down in the Allée Verte, where she is wont to take her matinal ride. Here he meets Bab’s suitor, Monsieur le Comte de Lavisse, and they share a civil three-way exchange the subtext of which can be summed as follows:

“Yo, honey.”

“Yo, Count.”

“Yo. Back off.”

The chapter ends with Bab more smitten with Charles than she’d like to admit...have we a shrew-taming in the works?

Chapter 5. War! Huh! Good God, y’all! What is it good for?

The next thirteen pages consist almost entirely of meticulous preparations for the imminent battle, as the Duke of Wellington, with unrivaled patriotic fervor, continually excoriates every soldier but the British soldier: “Besides all these foreign troops, there were the British, who must be used as a stiffening for the whole.” Blah blah blah. Et cetera. I’ll spare the Bitchery the details, as many of y’all have confessed to skimming such chapters in order to get to the more juicy stuff. Speaking of which...

Chapter 6. More juicy stuff

Bab makes a showing at another swanky ball, and, true to form, finds herself at the center of a gang of suitors who attempt to snatch a rose from her fingertips. Who succeeds? Why, our classy Colonel, of course. “I did not bargain on a man of you inches,” says Bab. Surely no double entendre was intended?

Bab is intent on showing just how bad she can be, flirting, sassing, throwing around such dastardly unladylike language as “dashed” and “deuce” and “curst.” How awful! However, her half-hearted attempt to parry Audley’s amorous thrusts meets with failure as she finds herself engaged to the Colonel by the chapter’s end.

My question for my readers: can anyone make sense of the metaphor “to squint like a bag of nails”?

Chapter 7. The friends and families of the happy couple rejoice

Ha ha, just kidding! No one, yet no one, thinks the affair is bound to last. Bab’s and Charles’s friends and family waste no time in showering the newly betrothed with suitable well-wishings and assorted felicitations:

“Impossible! No, no, you’re joking!” insists Judith Worth.

“What’s that? Engaged? Nonsense!” offers Lord Vidal, Bab’s brother.

“Barbara! The disastrous Lady Barbara Childe!” declares the Prince himself.

Nevertheless, the pair proceed to sell the arrangement as best they can, which isn’t very well at first, seeing as she’s a consummate flirt and he’s a penniless staff officer.

I shouldn’t leave this chapter behind without mentioning that much of the action here takes place at another goddamned ball with all of Brussels’s best and brightest in attendance. Don’t these people get tired of dancing?

Chapter 8. A family affair

Charles will soon be off on an inspection tour, but not before he has a chance to join his fiancée and family for a stroll in the park. M. Comte de Lavisse comes along too, hoping to place a fly in the cooing couple’s ointment. The Colonel’s coolness throws him off, though, and the Count’s attempts to provoke his rival’s jealousy (aided by Bab’s attempts to do the same) fail miserably.

This chapter’s literary highlight comes on pages 126-127, in which Heyer executes her most skillful literary device yet, comparing the three lovers to the swans to which they throw cake crumbs.

So, how’s it going so far? Meh. The writing is exquisite, the story dull. This is almost the antithesis of my last read, in which earthy, often pedestrian language told a fast-paced action-packed story whose conclusion had to be reached in 40% of the pages An infamous army has got. It’s entertaining enough, and I’ll surely see it to its end, but I can’t help thinking there’s something else out there that can offer a creditable mix of the two genres the kindly folks at SBTB have inflicted on me.


Sultry Sunday #15 - The weekly "Pop Sensation" crossover

Paperback 179: Dell First Edition B178 (PBO, 1960)

Title: Kill Now, Pay Later
Author: Robert Kyle (pen name of Robert Terrall)
Cover artist: Robert McGinnis

Yours for: $9

Best things about this cover:

  • Nearly everything. It's quintessential. It expresses everything I love about this era - a sense of cool combined with a sense of something fading, something ending ... a kind of twilight. These two look like their best days are behind them, just behind them, and it is only beginning to dawn on them. Look, she's already forgotten how to hold a martini glass. And he seems bemused by his gun. Poor, poor, hot people.
  • "Remember when we used to find wandering daughters, fight thugs, and have hot sex in my mid-century modern apartment? ... good times ..."
  • Love the whimsical font - great contrast with the smoky, languid, gin-laden miasma of grief and nostalgia that pervades the bar scene
  • Robert McGinnis could draw the hell out of a woman when he wanted to. He and Maguire are the kings of Great Girl Art. That bare foot ... I'm not a foot man, myself, but man that is cute bordering on adorable.
  • Honey, I officially want a padded white semicircular wet bar for Christmas. I'll take up drinking and shooting, and you take up cigarettes, and we'll be in business. I'm not sure what we do about the kid ...

Best things about this back cover:

  • Ben Gates is Looking At You
  • "Dacron and worsted" - wtf? That sounds like a buddy cop show waiting to happen.
  • "Contact was total" - HA ha. That kind of writing takes balls.
  • So ... she tasted like a caterpillar soaked in champagne? I don't want to know how anyone would know what that tastes like.
  • The back cover is ... continued on page 1!? That's a very interesting sales technique that I've seen only once before.

Page 123~

What she saw in her living room cured her of the giggles.

That is a great line - the opening line of a new chapter. How could you not read on?


PS Thanks to Duane Swierczynski for pointing out that McGinnis also painted the cover for the recent reprint of this title (published by Hard Case Crime). I prefer the original cover, but the new one definitely has its charms:


Celebrate! It's Pick-on-Marion-Zimmer-Bradley Day!!!

Don't you wish every day were Pick-on-Marion-Zimmer-Bradley day? I know I do! Although I guess I wouldn't have time to pick on Baen. Or bodice-ripping romances (yell at me now, Sarah from Smart Bitches, I said BODICE-RIPPER!!! Ah hah hah hah!!!). Okay, so I don't wish every day were Pick-on-Marion-Zimmer-Bradley day, but I sure am glad today is, 'cause we've been seeing a few stinkers around here, let me tell ya!

First up we see our hero wielding his sword in Land of the Giant Salt Shakers.

Hmmmm, that looks familiar to me. Where have I seen that before? Oh, I remember...

Ah, Phallic Phriday. Without you I would be bereft and 1000s of books with GIANT SHINY PHLAMING PHALLUSES on the cover would go unremarked.

And finally, we have...umm...

Play-Doh gone horribly awry! Words cannot express how creeped out I am by this cover. I need to go huddle under the blankies with the doggies now! Either that, or surf some Cute Overload. Or some Not-so-Cute Overload. Cheers!


History for Heyer: Chapters 1 -- 3 of Georgette Heyer's An infamous army

Well, folks, it’s time I moved onto the second book on my SBTB-assigned reading list, Georgette Heyer’s classic historical romance novel An infamous army, described by the cover as “a novel of love, war, Wellington, and Waterloo”:

Waterloo...I’m finally facing my Waterloo...

To the contrary, I don’t feel bested or beaten, and I’m heading into this new assignment with alacrity: it should be more up my alley than the contemporary category romance y’all inflicted on me before. It did take finding a good half hour of uninterrupted reading time to get into the first chapter of this next novel, but since I gained a bit of traction, the going’s been smooth so far.

As I did for my last read, I’ll do my best to keep up with the liveblogging, offering folks on both Smart Bitches and Judge a Book chapter-by-chapter accounts that include my favorite phrases and my insights on the characters’ actions and motives. Without any more flim-flam or foofaraw, then, let’s head into

Chapter 1. In which every soul in Brussels is enumerated, one by one

It is Brussels, early in 1815. The Congress at Vienna has just, unshockingly, declared Napoleon an outlaw. Half of the British peers living in Belgium have assembled in the Earl of Worth’s drawing room to make confusing cross-talk on the political and military goings-on.

Sorting out who’s saying what in this Tolstoyesque opening chapter made it hard to find a foothold. What can be surmised from the start is

1. The Duke of Wellington is pretty much God,
2. Ms. Heyer’s professed fears of being compared to Thackeray (whose Vanity fair also centers in part on Napoleon’s final campaign) are unfounded; their writing styles are entirely dissimilar, and
3. Ms. Heyer loved her some exclamation points. You’d swear these people are a hundred feet apart from one another for all the yelling they’re doing.

Aside from the first page’s careful description of a buxom Belgian babe strutting down the sidewalk and Lady Worth’s marriage-minded connivance at the chapter’s close, you wouldn’t at all suspect this is a “romance” novel.

Chapter 2. Heyer swipes Austen

If the first chapter read like the first of War and peace, the second reads more like Pride and prejudice. There’s even mention of a Darcy (Philip, no relation, presumably). This chapter exists mostly to introduce two no-doubt-soon-to-be-rival love interests, Lucy Devenish and Barbara “Bab” Childe.

In this chapter Lady Judith Worth leads her young charge Lucy Devenish to a party at Lady Charlotte Greville’s, where a startling and gasp-making entrance is made by the widow Lady Barbara Childe (who, if one must compare Heyer to Thackeray, one might consider the Becky Sharp to Lucy’s Amelia Sedley). Got that?

Said Lady Barbara appears sporting (quel horreur!) gold-painted toenails. Lady Sarah Lennox, Lady Worth’s bosom companion remarks, “she learned that trick in Paris, of course.”

Ah, those decadent French people.

Chapter 3. Enter the Duke

Another day, another ball.

As if we’d not yet had our fill of British peerage, we’re now introduced to Colonel Charles Audley, Judith Worth’s brother, who serves on the Duke of Wellington’s personal staff. He’s just flown in from Vienna, and boy are his epauletted arms tired.

“I got in last night, too late to knock you up,” he tells his sister. Hee hee! Truly this is one of my favorite divergences between British and American slang.

A few pages later and we find ourselves at the Hôtel de Ville, site of a tremendous ball at which will appear the King and Queen of Netherlands, their sons (including William, the Prince of Orange and for the time being the commander of the British Forces in the Low Countries), and most importantly of all, the Duke of Wellington, a man whose appearance may as well be as shoddy as Lieutenant Columbo’s, for all the pains Heyer takes to place his garb in the shadow of the other officers’. The Duke shows his amiability by shaking a few hands and slapping a few backs...were there babies to be kissed, he’d have seen to that as well.

The romantic plot creeps forward and inch or two when Audley, to Judith Worth’s chagrin, looks beyond young Lucy and is struck upside the head (and in other parts, too, no doubt) by Bab’s scandalously-low-cut beauty.

The plot thickens! No sex yet, though. Unless you’re a foot fetishist with a thing for Bab’s gold-plated toes.

Sultry Sunday #14 - The weekly "Pop Sensation" crossover

In this latest installment of "Pop Sensation" ... Meet Joe Gall ...

Paperback 176: Gold Medal D1976 (PBO?, 1966)

Title: The Irish Beauty Contract
Author: Philip Atlee
Cover artist: uncredited

Best things about this cover:

  • Well, Joe Gall, obviously. Look at his tough-guy mug up there in the corner. "I Approve This Counterespionage Adventure"
  • I was hoping and praying that the picture of Joe Gall in the corner meant that there was some TV show or something that featured his character ... but no. Not that I can see. Just some model ... ? Which is weird. I want to say "unprecedented." It's like they want you to think he's some kind of TV star, or that the book might be a TV tie-in. I guess that was a selling point in the 60s.
  • The tagline for this non-existent TV show would be someone saying: "You've got some gall!" and then Joe would turn and smile knowingly into the camera. Magic!
  • I'm guessing the dead girl is the "Irish Beauty." I say this because of her lush, cascading red hair. Something tells me those ruins are not in Ireland. Meanwhile, our hero is dressed oddly like Joan Crawford. Cross her with Norma Desmond descending the staircase at the end of "Sunset Boulevard." Now cross that with Frankenstein's monster. That's our hero.
  • Love the blurb from Chandler. Legitimacy! The quote kind of trails off there. There's a longer one inside that continues: "... the hard economy of style, the characterizations ..." but that one trails off too. I'll be kind and assume that Chandler doesn't introduce a "but" in the next phrase.

Best things about this back cover:
  • Joe Gall montage! See the many sides of Joe Gall! Wry look, followed by slightly less wry look, followed by the same look at a slightly different angle, followed by the cool pleasures of Chesterton, followed by exhale. Joe Gall!
  • "The Nullifier," HA ha. Best name ever. It's very non-terrifying.
  • Joe is not afraid of "hairy ones." I've heard of guys like that. I think they are called "bears." Or "cubs," I forget.

Page 123~

Screw that, here's page 1, line 1:

"You're most depressing," the Irish Beauty said. She was nude except for a solar topi and a riding crop.

Topi (n.): A pith helmet worn for protection against sun and heat.

At least I assume he means the pith helmet. The other "topi" is an antelope.



Sultry Sunday #13 - The weekly "Pop Sensation" crossover

Your weekly syndicated "Pop Sensation" installment ...


Paperback 173: Signet J2334 (1st ptg, 1962)
Title: Too Many Clients
Author: Rex Stout
Cover artist: Bill Johnson

Best things about this cover:

  • "I love my blankie!"
  • This is more mustard than any one cover should have to endure.
  • The floating head of Nero Wolfe looks none too pleased with this flirtatious, naked hussy. It's as if he's thinking "So this is what selling books has come to - PFUI!"
  • Good example of how paperback sellers learned to develop brand recognition - the whole left panel, with huge author name and logo Nero head, will get repeated on a whole series of Rex Stout mysteries. Thus cover art gets squished - the title seems almost irrelevant.

Best things about this back cover:

  • "Sex wasn't Nero Wolfe's specialty" - yeah, we can pretty much tell from his expression on the cover
  • Someone should win an award for the phrase "satin-upholstered bower of carnality."
  • An ad for a John O'Hara book! I Love John O'Hara, and he used to be Ridiculously popular.
  • Bantam is one of the few publishers I can think of who would use their back covers to advertise books Not by the author of the book itself - though this ad seems oddly placed and poorly demarcated, with nothing but a font color change and a black bar to let you know the bottom half of the back cover is unrelated to the top.
Page 123~

"They killed him. That's obvious. They killed him."

Well of course they killed him. That's obvious.