Wednesday, September 05, 2012
A reveling romp through Rosemary Rogers' Wicked Loving Lies
I spent a good portion of my summer reading time this year with Wicked Loving Lies,a historical romance by Rosemary Rogers who was one of the big bestselling authors in this field back in the 1970s. Her name was familiar to me when I stumbled upon the gorgeously gaudy colored paperback at a local rummage sale(even the page ends have a purplish tint to them)but had never read anything by her before.
The time frame of the book is during the Napoleonic/Regency era and yes,Bonaparte and Josephine do pop up in the plot. The heroine of WLL is Marisa,a young woman whose mother died during the French Revolution and was shipped off to a convent in Spain by her father,who has a plantation in New Orleans.
Marisa is distressed to learn that her distant father has arranged a match for her,so she runs away with a gypsy gal pal of hers seeking freedom. That is just the start of the numerous trips that she makes in this book,starting in Spain and then making stops in England,Tripoli,Louisiana and of course,France where it turns out that Empress Josephine is her long lost godmother. I swear Marisa goes through more costume changes than Josie and the Pussycats in this narrative!:
During her travels,Marisa has constant run-ins with Dominic Challenger,a privateer with a troubled past who has a love-hate relationship with most of the women he encounters and particularly with Marisa.
He takes her virginity by force,with the excuse that he thought she was just a gypsy girl(great justification there,buddy!)and over the course of their mutual travels becomes her husband and the father of her son,who she was told had died at birth but was instead meant to be sold into slavery yet rescued at the last minute by Dominic. The twists and turns of this story line make a pretzel seem straightforward there.
It's hard to side with either one of these leading characters at times,because both of them persist in willfully misunderstanding one another and making rash decisions based on their preconceived notions of each other. Not to mention the whole Luke and Laura nature of their relationship,where Marisa is subjected to repeated acts of sexual violation(mainly by Dominic)and yet is still drawn to him and he to her:
Now,as a reader of historical fiction,I'm used to seeing women in jeopardy situations that would not meet modern day standards of acceptable behavior towards females and taking them in stride.
Plus,having read about the old school tropes of romance novels during the seventies both online and in books on the subject like Beyond Heaving Bosoms,I did have a notion of what to expect in a novel like this from that particular point of time in publishing.
Yet,I did pause in my reading of Wicked Loving Lies for awhile,due to not feeling comfortable with a work of fiction that bandied about the term rape as loosely as Todd Akin and his like minded ilk did recently. I'm not saying that Rosemary Rogers would have approved of those ignorant remarks or blame her in any way here,it was simply that I needed some space to let the pop culture air clear before taking up this book again.
I will say that despite such qualms,WLL was engaging enough to capture my interest so much that I had to see it through to the end. This novel is part of one of Rogers' most popular series,The Legend of Morgan-Challenger,with the best known of that bunch being Sweet Savage Love.
Wicked Loving Lies was the third installment and sold three million copies in it's first month of release,impressive numbers in those days. She's still putting out books and while I'm not sure if I'll try any of her other works,I can see why she became popular in the first place.
The lady knows how to create a strong narrative drive that pulls you and keeps the reader turning pages,no matter how over the top some of the situations that her characters find themselves landing in to be. Not an easy feat for any writer in any genre to handle well and I have to give it to Rosemary Rogers,she's a natural.
Books like hers were not just guilty pleasure reads,they also paved the way for others to go to the next level with the genre and create more independent heroines and sensitive male counterparts who sought healthy relationships,both emotional and physical. In addition,the genre acceptance for female friendly lit,more commonly labeled chick lit,was broadened and while we still have a ways to go in that department,some of those steps were made possible by those old school romances:
One thing that I learned from reading Wicked Loving Lies is that it's not enough just to read about a certain style of writing or genre to really know it. Immersing yourself into that realm can give you more of a true perspective on that type of book and how you honestly feel about it. My horizons were definitely broadened and I think that I'll be better able to appreciate other works in this genre after this.
Many readers out there are dreading the return of those dysfunctional leading men and women from those not so long ago days of yore,due to the multimedia buzz surrounding the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy(which I have no burning desire to check out). Even if that's the case,I wouldn't fret too much.
Pop culture trends do come and go,especially in the book world and soon enough,there will be another new overnight sensation for everyone to talk about. So,like Marisa and Dominic eventually realized,it's best to batten down the hatches and ride out the storm to your happily ever after. You may not have to go around the world to find your true love but a literary trip to love is always worth booking:
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