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.



Sultry Sunday #12 - The weekly "Pop Sensation" crossover

Celebrity edition! Sort of!


Paperback 170: Award Books A248X (PBO, 1967)

  • Title: A Korean Tiger
  • Author: Nick Carter (who is also the main character...? and who is also, btw, a Backstreet Boy)
  • Cover artist: Some McGinnis imitator

Best things about this cover:

  • Bring me the floating head of Nick Carter! Oh, nevermind. It's right there.
  • The disembodied head of Nick Carter thinks you're a swell-looking doll. {wink!}
  • If the book is trying to suggest to me that that lady is "Korean," I challenge. She looks like Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, only with somewhat smaller boobs and no shirt.
  • I like how she is taking a sidelong glance at the title, as if thinking "WTF?"
  • How is it possible that no rapper has picked up the name "Killmaster?" That would be my handle for sure. That, or "Optimum Slim" (a name I derived from the cereal I eat every morning)
  • Fake Korean Post-op Elvira Impersonator needs a refill, dammit!

Best things about this back cover.

  • Text! Who doesn't like ... that?
  • Oh my god, I am in love with this book - any book that features the word "slatternly" is hottt with three t's.
  • I hope the "dark underbelly of Asia" is just some really hairy Laotian guy.
  • Paragraph indentations are for suckas!

Page 123~

The wide green stare did not waver. Behind those basilisk eyes he thought he could detect a hint of something warmer. Desire? Plain old-fashioned lust? Was this creature really so human?

Oh please dear god don't let him be talking about the "Korean" woman. "Though she was Korean, she seemed oddly human."


P.S. this book is immaculate. As crisp and new and bright as the day it first hit the shelves. Maybe there's a tiny amount of scuffing, but it's quite negligible. Paperbacks rarely hold up this well.


The Exciting Conclusion of Sex, Straight Up!

Here’s the final episode of DocTurtle’s snarking of a contemporary category romance novel: a mathematician reads Kathleen O’Reilly’s Sex, Straight Up!

Almost there, folks.

It’s been a few weeks since I last snarked on this book, and even longer than that since I read the chapters I’m supposed to be snarking, so I’m finding myself re-reading the book trying to recapture my feel for it.

As I admitted in my last post, I finished reading the book in one sitting one morning before heading off to class. Although it would be a stretch to call the book’s ending thrilling, I found the story engaging enough to track down and tackle the denouement uninterruptedly. Kudos, Ms. O’Reilly!

Ultimately the book came together well for me, but more on that later. Here’s a chapter-by-chapter synopsis of the last 60 pages or so...

Chapter 13: Happy Birthday, Catherine!

Catherine’s birthday begins on page 161 and before the next ten pages are up becomes a bone of contention between our two protagonists, who can’t seem to leave bickering aside and fall in love already. This chapter is one of the book’s weakest.

The chapter’s high points:

1. The O’Sullivan Brothers bond over a heated game of racquetball (Daniel sees Sean as a “two-bit amateur”! What a cutely Cagneyian expression!).

2. Daniel realizes that he’s slept with his new love on his dead wife’s birthday (oops).

3. Brianna Taylor Kelley, “of the Seventy-first Street Kelleys” (granted I didn’t grow up anywhere near the elbow-rubbing range of the NYC social elite, but do people anywhere really talk like this?), is first mentioned: this is the selfsame Brianna Taylor Kelley whose initials adorned the ring found in the
O’Sullivan boys’ bar’s wall back in Chapter 6, and whom we’ll meet in person in the next chapter.

4. Page 161 brings further bouts of soi-disant hoo-haw busting sex!

And then on page 162 the birthday-themed game-playing commences when Catherine’s moms inadvertently reveals the special date to Daniel, from whom Catherine had heretofore hidden the occasion, thinking he’s only in it for the sex. “I didn’t know today was your birthday. Happy birthday.”

Catherine recovers over a two-martini lunch at Lever House! A quick internet search tells me that this Park Avenue eatery’s lunch menu currently features a 22-dollar hamburger with “hand cut french fries, gootessa cheddar, or maytag-burrata.” I’m a cheese fan, sure, but...huh? They also offer pork cheeks, “braised.” Hee hee! I’m showing my rustic roots again, aren’t I? (Incidentally, the trancelike and slinky aquatic sounds of the Lever House website’s theme music are going to be in my head for the next few hours...)

Random fact: the Maytag Dairy Farms, presumably makers of the maytag-burrata cheese adorning Lever’s selection above, were founded by the grandson of appliance maker Frederick L. Maytag. Whoda thunk it?

Anyway, back to our story...

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I don’t want you to think I’m, you know, expecting something from you because I’m trying very hard not to...A birthday’s a huge thing for me, and I’d rather you not know about it, because if you knew, then you’d think you have to make a big deal out of it, because I expect a big deal, and I don’t want you to feel like you have to.”

Ooooooooookay...so I guess it’s time to shut things down, now that Daniel’s finally started to show signs that he’s growing comfortable with the relationship?

Chapter 14: The stately town houses of Central Park

It’s going pretty well between Catherine and Daniel, and for several chapters it began to look as though the path from where they stood to everlasting bliss was uncluttered and clear.

Then came Brianna Taylor Kelley and her eye-popping classical décor (including a real Gainsborough). It appears that long ago Ms. Kelley’s husband of one year, a firefighter, died in an explosion while on duty, inexplicably embedding the ring in the wall of the bar. At this point things go south quickly for Catherine.

“You didn’t remarry, did you?” Daniel asks Ms. Kelley.

“No. Everyone wants to replace things, replace people, but this house is filled with irreplaceable things, and Samuel was irreplaceable, too.”

Well, shit.

We learn in the next few pages that Daniel’s only trying to let Catherine down gently, knowing full well that sparks will fly between the two of them when it comes out that he and Catherine can find absolutely no evidence showing Charles “Don’t Call Me Chuckie” Montefiore is not guilty of collusion. Of course, this doesn’t stop them from having YET MORE SEX.

This chapter closes at the Montefiore Auction House offices, where Catherine and Daniel get an F in “ferreting” as they fail to find even a scrap of evidence that might exonerate Grandpa, but an A in “exhibitionism” as their affair is discovered by house skulker and nogoodnik Foster Sykes. Foreshadowing? Naaaah...

One final note: Kathleen O’Reilly atones for her sinful “hoo-haw” and endears herself to me eternally in her use of the word “schlub.”

Chapter 15: Busted! [Warning: spoiler alerts!]

This short chapter’s packed full of action as the various plot lines begin to converge.

So, Daniel’s been pulled from the audit for “having an affair with someone closely connected to the client.” Worse yet, Daniel’s higher-ups are moving forward with his report, a scathing indictment of Charles “Auctionmeister” Montefiore.

In the time-honored tradition of adding insult to injury, Daniel dumps Catherine: “I thought I could have a relationship, but I can’t. I’ve loved the time we’ve had, and there’s absolutely no other woman that I would want to be with other than you, but this limbo isn’t fair to you, and I don’t think I can move past it.”

Well, hell.

The chapter’s ending passage includes another sly return to the Forgery motif: “With a flourish, Catherine slung her faux Prada bag over her shoulder and heard the seams rip even farther apart. Because at the most personal levels there were some things that just couldn’t be faked no matter what.” Not bad, Ms. O’Reilly!

Chapter 16: Tennessee Williams called, he wants his scene back [Oh, and more spoiler alerts...]

Drunk as hell and baited by his brothers (“transitional babe”?), Daniel leaves their Wednesday night poker game to do his best Stanley Kowalski impression. “Can you get me in the building?” he asks Catherine. “I need to get inside there.”

The clouds now part, revealing rainbows and fairy puppies and angels that poop chocolate and gumdrops.

First, after a cursory survey of the auction house’s phone logs, Daniel digs up the evidence he needs to exculpate Charles Montefiore and at the same time incriminate the company’s IT director.

Then, with the help of his loving mother-in-law, Daniel finally finally finally finally finally gets it through his thick skull: “Don’t wait too long, Daniel. I was married to my Bernard for forty-three years, and I wouldn’t get married again because I was too old, too set in my ways. You’re set in your ways, but you’re not too old, Daniel....Bring me the grandkids, and I’ll be happy.” No pressure, Daniel.

Finally, Daniel asks Catherine over to his apartment for the first time so that he can bare all, dumping his heart, soul, and everything else sloppily at her feet in a bucketful of emotional goo. What ensues is a well-written, entirely believable, and genuinely heartwarming dialogue in which Daniel begs Catherine to give him a chance, which she does.

Three pages later (and on the morning after 9/11, no less!) Daniel asks Catherine to marry him for the first of what will be 104 times (according to the book’s one-page Epilogue).

And it’s Happily...Ever...After.


My overall impression?

I’m sure it will come as no surprise to the SBTB regulars that I most definitely came to this book with various preconceived notions. Mea culpa. “Low-grade bodice-ripper” comments aside, I’m sure I undertook this reading assignment with expectations of purple prose and tenuous plot twists that served only to tie together various sex scenes that would ensue between the book’s protagonists.

I have to be honest that the first several chapters did little to sway me from these views; I felt the writing was overwrought and the characters a bit over-the-top. Much of the dialogue and description was simply silly (viz. “man-man,” “velvety hardness,” and “hoo-haw”), and the characters’ slowly-building relationship was limned in two scanty dimensions.

Chapter 11 was where things started to pick up for me. O’Reilly’s writing grew more zestful as the Forgery motif made itself known in the back of the Chinatown shop where Catherine and her friends had been trapped. As the characters became more real and more well-rounded, I had more sympathy for them, and more sympathy for their plight. I’m sure this newfound sympathy was evident in my slackened snark. The last sixty pages or so I read all at once, genuinely interested in the novel’s conclusion.

Ultimately, I was satisfied. As I’ve said before, Kathleen O’Reilly shows herself to be a solid and engaging writer: if she can get me to turn a few dozen of her pages without a pause, she’s got something going. While her style is not my cup of tea, it’s admittedly effective.

So, is category romance for me? I don’t think so, but I’m glad to have had a chance to learn a bit more about it. Nevertheless, I have to admit that I’m looking forward to my next reading assignment.

Please let me say that I am grateful for the overwhelmingly positive feedback I’ve received from the SBTB readers (and humbly chastened by the constructive criticism), and I’d like to give my sincerest thanks to Sarah for the opportunity to post my reviews on her blog. I hope you will all continue to follow my breakdown of Georgette Heyer’s classic, An infamous army, which is likely to cleave more closely to my own reading tastes.


My Baby's Daddy is a Jack Russell Terrier (or a Beagle, we don't know for sure!)

Dr. Phyllis L. Tucker Wicks? More like Dr. Moreau H. Frankenstein. Someone tell that woman that it's not nice to splice people in half and then set their hearts on fire. (Thanks to Patrick in Saint Looie, I must now set my eyes on fire!)

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers. Here's the cookbook I'll be using:

I'm giving thanks to Anna at Nerve.com who sent me this link: http://www.nerve.com/CS/blogs/modernmaterialist/archive/2008/11/21/I-Really-Hope-No-One-Makes-Recipes-From-This-Book.aspx. You're right, Anna. I do have a taste for the torrid. Just not a taste for body fluids that really should remain out of the kitchen...or at least safely cleaned up afterward!


Crackle Paint!

Ah, yes. Crackle finish. The fallback of any kitchy craft designer. And, apparently, book designers who want to add that special "thrift store painting" quality to their books.

Hey, look. Here's the image without all the text. Thanks, James Griffin who writes the blog Paint Layers and drew the image.

Wait, where'd the weird ghostface of Nostradamus go? Damn, I feel denied!


Sultry Sunday #11 - The weekly "Pop Sensation" crossover

I believe it's your (well, all of our) lucky day. Today's book (again, chosen randomly off my shelves) offers a veritable sensory explosion - a (literal) orgy. Behold the gloriousness that is ...


Paperback 167: Universal Giant no. 6 (1st ptg, 1953)

Title: The Private Life of Julius Caesar
Author: William Marston
Cover artist: George Geygan

Best things about this cover:

OK, stop. Hammer time. This book was written by the creator of "Wonder Woman." I Am Not Kidding. And yet none of the booksellers at abebooks mention the connection between this book and "Wonder Woman." You'd think that fact would be one of the main selling points. As I looked at the book, I thought "William Marston" sounded familiar, and then I looked inside and saw the author's middle name (Moulton), which rang even more bells. Then I googled. Holy Krap. From Wikipedia:

Dr. William Moulton Marston (May 9, 1893May 2, 1947) was an American psychologist, feminist theorist, inventor, and comic book author who created the character Wonder Woman. Two women, his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston and Olive Byrne, (who lived with the couple in a polyamorous relationship), served as exemplars for the character and greatly influenced her creation.[1][2]

He was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006.

  • "Polyamorous" pretty much describes this cover - I count five different sexual permutations on the front cover alone - and wait til you see the back cover (and the spine!)
  • I love that a "feminist theorist" inspired this (awesome) cover. I guess she who reclines on the bed with the chalice of viscous mauve goo makes the rules. "OK, you kneel! Now you, you kneel more! Kneel wheel!"
  • I love how the whipping scene is strategically placed for her (our) viewing pleasure.

Best things about this spine!!!!:

  • I love how the kinkiest (albeit minutest) scene in the whole tableau is on the spine - no matter how it's shelved, You Will See Flesh.

Best things about this back cover:

  • I know this is an odd thing to say, given the rampant nudity, but those are some well-drawn horses.
  • "Your calves are so smooth..." "Oh, that's just the satyr urine. It works wonders. Here, let us pour some on your back..."
  • Jeez, a crucifixion, too? It's like the painting's running out of ways to exploit the female form.

Page 123~

from a chapter titled, I swear to god, "Ladies' Night"

The pretty young neophyte walked straight to the golden gate, as she had been told to do, and gave her name and that of her sponsor to the door-slave who stood behind the golden bars.

And thus began the first recorded A.A. meeting.

P.S. "door-slave"?



Geese and Lace says love to me!

What is it about long-haired guys with guitars on fantasy covers? What about ghostly ladies? Let's combine them all together, shall we?

This guy's not only dead, he's lost all his blood (desanguinated?), too. Silver metal lover, indeed! (Link NSFW!!)

This cover has so many elements, it's just ugly and confusing. Opulently clothed guy in silver, guitar, cliff, ghostly (ghastly) lady, water, asteroid, sunset, but my all-time favorite part is the geese! 'Cause I don't know about you, but Canadian Geese makes me think of lurve.

Tanith, your books rock and I enjoy them, but your covers are frightening!


Sir Fotheringuy-Shrimpington and the Real Girl

She's dead. Dead I tell you! Look at her neck! And her eyes!! Who knew necrophilia was so mainstream?!

Thanks to the eagle eye of the tigerlibrarian!


Sultry Sunday #10 - The weekly "Pop Sensation" crossover

For those of you who like your cozies a little ... spicy, I offer you this cover. Enjoy.

(syndicated from "Pop Sensation")

Paperback 164: Dell D340
(1st ptg, 1960)

Title: The Boomerang Clue
Author: Agatha Christie
Cover artist: William Teason

Best things about this cover:

  • Well, there's something you don't normally associate with Agatha Christie: BONDAGE.
  • I love love love how her arms coupled with the back of the chair form a (very ironic) valentine! The red background only heightens the effect. Don't even get me started on how she kinda looks like a Catholic school girl who is at least mildly ashamed of the predicament she has gotten herself into... Or is that a look not of shame, or fear, but of coyness? Clearly, I have my own, private version of the story of how she came to be in that chair.
  • Most of my Teason covers (lots of late 50s/60s Dells) don't have people on them. Clearly he should have done more people. The hands alone are gorgeous.

Best things about this cover:

  • More broken windows!
  • Random rope - did she escape!?
  • I love how the copy on the back cover is typeset as if it were a poem

Page 123~

"To begin with," said Bobby, plunging [ed.: !?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!], "I'm not really a chauffeur although I do work in a garage in London. And my name isn't Hawkins - it's Jones - Bobby Jones. I come from Marchbolt in Wales."

The story of a golfing legend gone deep, deep undercover.



Mammary Monday: Special Thursday Edition

Eeeek! So...many....things...wrong...can't....function...must....use...ellipses....ENHANCE!

Wow, those are some round boobies. And manly hips. I'm having trouble combining them with the Pollyanna face, though. And why is it necessary for this woman's PIGTAILS to be armored, but NOT her thighs?

I'm not even gonna begin on the big-headed Medusa ghost. I'm sure y'all have some choice words about it!


More Sex!

The continuing adventures of a scornful mathematician’s journey through a category romance novel: DocTurtle reads Kathleen O’Reilly’s Sex, Straight Up, Part Four!

Chapter 11: A Literary Device Goes Off in Chinatown, Wounding Three

As this chapter opens our hero sifts through the photos of his wife he’d locked away in a storage unit in Queens. Balance is restored to his life as he painstakingly builds two piles of pictures, one for his mother-in-law, one for himself.

Meanwhile, Catherine joins her mother and her friend Sybil for a “pre-birthday birthday” run on a Canal Street back-room vendor of knock-off handbags.

It was in this scene I was first aware of Kathleen O’Reilly’s “imitation” motif, a theme which will be even more explicitly (but still subtly) expressed in a later chapter (yes, if you must know, I’ve finished reading the book at this point, and the fact that I’ve done so without heretofore releasing a torrent of snark must mean that I felt sufficiently intrigued by the story as to see it uninterruptedly to its end...happy?...happy?!?):

“Her hands stroked the buttery imitation leather, fondled the gold-plated trim and caressed the lopsided double CC logo. When you grew up in an auction house, forgery was one of the seven mortal sins. In Catherine’s world handling a fake was like watching an R-rated movie when she was thirteen, scarfing an extra three cookies from the cabinet or being so gullible as to believe that if it looked like a Gainsborough, it might actually be a Gainsborough.”

Clever literary devices aside, this chapter still delivers some corkers, most notably the following: “Is it so wrong to have a blood-pumping, bedpost-shaking, hoo-haw busting sexual experience and not be emotionally involved?”


Hoo-haw hoo-haw hoo-haw.

I could say that a thousand times over and not get tired of it. It comes in as a close second to “v-jay-jay” (a term I first heard from my friend Laura).

From the Oh, And Department we have this report: on page 135 Andrea Montefiore and Sybil Unsurnamed discover Catherine’s crush, on page 140 Daniel realizes the downside of game-playing.

Chapter 12: Sex!

“She heard the rasp of his zipper, heard the deafening rip of her panties, and then...”

Should I feel left out that, I’ve managed to reach the age of thirty-three without having had a sexual encounter in which clothing was destroyed, whether intentionally or inadvertently? Am I to believe this happens a lot?

This chapter begins with our heroes’ first fully-consummated sexual encounter since...Chapter 4. Wow. Talk about dry spells.

Then there’s more game-playing. Sayeth Daniel: “I know you think this is about the sex, and that’s great, but when I’m with you I want things that I never thought I’d be able to want again.” By now he’s clearly coming around, but he’s got the turning radius of the QE2.

Catherine’s inner thoughts reveal the recurrence of the “imitation” motif: “she didn’t want to hope, because hope was a Gainsborough landscape that was still fake no matter how badly she wanted it to be real.”

Libidinal impulses satisfied, the two dive into the auction house’s records in an attempt to unearth evidence that Charles “Grandpa” Montefiore is indeed innocent. The going is slow, and their sluggish progress makes for good plot exposition as it becomes more and more obvious that someone is (gasp!) setting Grandpa up for a fall.

I have to hand it to Kathleen O’Reilly for being able to weave together deftly several narrative strands, including both characters’ inner voices, the growing sexual tension of the two’s more and more frequent and open encounters, and the integumentary material of the auction house plotline. The writing is solid if not soaring, though every now and then an ambitious metaphor peters out (“Her eyes were starting to blur as if she’d been staring at a Vasarely for too long”).

Random extra-textual musings. I’m certain that the readers will notice that my comments on these last two chapters have taken a less scornful tone. I believe this is in part because, not surprisingly, the book’s protagonists have become less comical and more real and therefore more sympathetic as the text has progressed. I still maintain that they’re a couple of game-playing dingbats, but they’re likable game-playing dingbats nonetheless. I think many commenters were right on the money in indicating that this genre’s greatest shortcoming is its brevity, leaving the author insufficient space to develop deep characters and intricate plot while delivering requisite amounts of hoo-haw busting.

I also have to admit to being in a decidedly less-snarky-then-usual mood overall. As I’ve said to my colleagues and students (many of whom have been going about their daily doings soporifically for the past several weeks), I feel as though the world has been holding its breath.

Finally, I’d like to say thank you to all of the readers on Smart Bitches and Judge a Book who have commented on my posts. I’m having a blast reading the book and writing about it, and I’m truly gratified by the posts’ popularity, particularly over on Sarah’s blog.

Coming soon: Chapters 13 through 16, and the must-read Epilogue. Then it’s on to An Infamous Army!


Sultry Sunday #9 - The weekly "Pop Sensation" crossover

Slow week here at "Judge a Book" ... here's another cover from "Pop Sensation" to tide you over. Enjoy.


Paperback 161: Amazing Stories (December, 1956)

  • Contains: "A World of His Own" by Robert Silverberg and "Tracking Level" by Harlan Ellison
  • Cover artist: Ed Valigursky

Best things about this cover:

  • In the future, "Deal or No Deal" is a lot more interesting.
  • I'm pretty sure those ladies were not born ladies - it's nice to see that, in the future, transsexual and transgendered people will have steady work as game show hostesses
  • Man, that guy really wants to kill Howie Mandel. But then who doesn't?
  • This picture does not make it appear as if "Women Were His Pawns." Unless he's forcing them to act out some adolescent fantasy of his - I guess that's possible

Best things about this back cover:

  • I own one of these books!
  • Never before has the word "ANY" looked so exciting
  • If you don't look closely, you can almost miss the flying saucer mountain scape in the background
  • Love the unnecessary quotation marks around "top drawer" - do not love the quotation marks that open with "Handsome ... and then never close. Spine-tingling!
  • Ad copy always hyphenates "science-fiction," while the book covers themselves Never do. Eeeeerie.
  • I love how specific they are about the amount I would normally be paying ... "$8.65, you say ... oh my."

Page 123~

[click image to enlarge]
  • "Would you ... become a peeping tom?" - they really know their audience, I think
  • "The Space Club" appears to be a kind of asexual personals section for the Nerdiest People On Earth.



Sultry Sunday #8 - The weekly "Pop Sensation" crossover

Greetings from "Pop Sensation." Here is your weekly dose of syndication - a little gem that I recently picked up at a public library book sale ... enjoy!


Paperback 158: Manor Books 15232 (PBO, 1977)

Title: Dionysus: The Ultimate Experiment
Author: William S. Ruben
Cover artist: Uncredited

Best things about this cover:

  • This is possibly the most boob-oriented cover I own.
"Do you like them, Steve? I electroded them especially for you?"
"Well ... oh my ... I say ... they're quite ... I'll just ... how does one ... is this ... do I ... like so? ... or ..."
  • She is so arched and ecstatic and ready to go, and he is Totally killing the vibe.
  • He seems to have made eye contact with the boobs, but his hand!? WTF!? Hey, buddy, you're not supposed to wave at them!
  • His junk, while barely visible, is not invisible enough for my, uh, taste.
  • Whatever "human emotion" this is, I don't think I care to "experience" it, thanks.

Best things about this back cover:

All this rigmarole about weightless sex is just a front. The REAL "unreportable project" is embedded in the title itself:

Ronnie James DIO will play the New York State (NYS) Fair causing a mass conflagration of rocking out that will engulf the US in madness, allowing a Black Sabbath reunion ... at the highest levels of government! No one can resist the heavy metal keyboard strains of "Rainbow in the Dark!"

Page 123~

This was the time of Eldridge and Grainly, born into a world which accepted without conscience an acknowledgment of the underground. They simply did not think of this sustained nether world.

Funny, I'd rather not think of it either.

"This was the time of Eldridge and Grainly ... Attorneys at Law!"



How do sharks smell? Terrible!

Okay, so I've been staring at this cover for the last ten minutes or so and I'm pretty sure the person on the cover has no nose.

Fortunately (s) he has a gun to hide the deformity.


DocTurtle Reads Romance, Part III

The continuing adventures of a scornful mathematician’s journey through a category romance novel: DocTurtle reads Kathleen O’Reilly’s Sex, Straight Up, Part the Third...see Smart Bitches, Trashy Books for more coverage!

Chapter 6: In Which the Plot Moves Forward Like Napoleon Into a Winter-Wet Russia

The first eye-catcher in this chapter was a comment about one of the O’Sullivan boys’ bar’s regulars: “He [an engineer for the MTA] talked like a professor, carried his tall frame like a professor and had two ex-wives, who wish he’d been paid like a professor.” So do I! Oh, wait...hmm. Fact is, university faculty don’t get paid nearly as much as the general public thinks they do. Don’t get me wrong, we do pretty well, and I ain’t complaining, but not many faculty get into it for the money.


This chapter is distinguished primarily by the Mother of All Plot Twists, in which Daniel’s brother Gabe, undertaking renovations on one of the brothers’ bar’s walls, finds a mid-century engagement ring buried inside the wall. The ring falls into Daniel’s hands (the question he’s to answer: “whose finger does it fit?”), offering him the perfect excuse to track down a jewelry expert of the sort as might be retained by a major auction house.

Of course, this excuse proves unnecessary, as he’s soon tapped to head the team of outsiders tasked with performing an independent audit of Montefiore’s. Poor Catherine doesn’t even have a chance to Google Daniel (although she thinks about it on page 73) before he shows up in her building’s elevator.

Move along, folks, nothing to snark here...

Chapter 7: Our Hero Undumbasses Himself and Places the Ball Squarely in Her Court...No, Not That Again, Not Yet Anyway...Get Your Mind Out of the Gutter, You!


“Don’t talk to me.”

“You need to listen...Please.”

“No, I don’t think there’s anything to say.”

“I should have told you.”

“Yes. You should. I never would have...would have...if you had.”

“That’s not what I’m trying to say.”

“I don’t want to listen. I’ve never done anything like that in my life, and now I’m going to have eto live with it.”

“Catherine. I’m widowed.”

There it is, folks! It’s out! And it’s only page 77! That leaves...[thumbs through book]...[what, this thing has an Epilogue?!]...137 pages to go! Man, what are we going to do for conflict now?

Fortunately for us (but not so for them) this bodacious beau has been hired on to investigate her grandpa, making it unlikely the pair will be able to engage in much carefree nookie. Not to mention the fact that Daniel’s dead wife keeps getting in the way of their clumsy semi-romantic advances.

You should rest assured that by now Maggie’s informed me of the romance novel’s convention of misunderstanding and miscommunication that leads to protagonist conflict. Nevertheless, being a pretty straight shooter myself, I find the game-playing these two are going through to be pretty silly. For sure, I understand that human emotions are fragile, subtle, chimerical creatures, and that very often human interaction is not all that it seems to be. And for sure I understand that love is the most tortuous and tempestuous of all human emotions, and that sometimes it takes a skilled navigator to map a course through its throes. (At this very moment I’m helping a young friend try to figure out just what in the hell this one guy she’s got her eye on is thinking.)

But come on! Sheesh...

I’m sure the SBTB readers will be happy to hear that by the time

Chapter 8: Rolls Around

I’m actually cheering for these two numbskulls (huzzah, Ms. O’Reilly!), which is why their continued attempts to sabotage their own happiness are so damned frustrating.

By now we can add to the list of things we know about Daniel (erenow he was a cut [bodily, not phallically], dark, brooding, mysterious accountant-cum-widower): he’s now revealed to be a nice Catholic boy who loves his mother-in-law, even though he and her daughter were only married for a few months.

Moreover, on page 91 we find I wasn’t far from the mark when I surmised that Catherine’s a dynamite cook, too.

This chapter’s action carries the two to a date at a nice trattoria. A relationship malfunction at an adjacent table allows us to learn a bit more about our heroes’ altruistic characters, and then they skulk off into the lobby of an office building and boink publicly to Barry Manilow. Well, pseudoboink. Or quasiboink. Or whatever. They never make it to the finish line.

“You want an affair? No emotional commitment, no sharing, no ties?” Catherine asks on page 99 after coitus interruptus.

“That’s all I can do.” Oy! Like I said, I’m actually cheering for these two, but my neck is sore from watching the ball bounce back and forth.

Chapter 9: But This Can’t Be Tennis...

...for our hero is allowed a bump, set, and spike of dumbassitude. After his insistence at the last chapter’s close that all he has to offer is sex sex sex, he now asks for Catherine’s help in tracking down the immured engagement ring’s true owner. You can’t have it both ways, partner.

By me, nothing else of considerable interest goes on in this chapter: the couple schlep the ring down to the jeweler who’s most likely to have made it, and just outside this Park Avenue proprietor’s they help a young girl find her way back to her father. (Aha! Mark your scorecards, ladies and gentlemen: Daniel would make an excellent father.)

In the “Oh, And” column we can place a few suspicious e-mails between Charles “Grandpa” Montefiore and the head of one of the rival auction houses: is Gramps in collusion after all? Oh noes!

The chapter’s highlight? Catherine’s mother Andrea’s use of the word “puddleglum.” I’ll take “puddleglum” over “man-man” any day.

Chapter 10: Awkward Moments and Feverish Masturbation

Hey, everybody! It’s the long-awaited Italian Renaissance art reception and auction!

Hilarity ensues when Catherine and Daniel feign unfamiliarity while being introduced to one another by Charles “Grandpa” Montefiore. Well, maybe not hilarity...mild unease, at least.

It’s nothing compared to the torture Daniel goes through in spending the night at Catherine’s side, unable to keep his eyes off of her “silk-covered ass” (“the curves made for a man’s hands”), her “lush bountiful breasts,” and her “nipples perked against her dress.”

After all, “seven years of celibacy took a hard, hard, nail-chewingly hard toll on a man.”

At the day’s end, the couple find themselves lonely and alone in their respective domiciles, Catherine fingering herself beneath her covers and Daniel whacking off in the shower, coming with a “long and anguished roar.”

Hee hee!

“Why would it be anguished?” Maggie asks. “I’m pretty happy when I come.”

“He’s masturbating.”