02 October, 2011
Postponed Review: Lord & Lady Spy by Shana Galen
Recently Dear Author has seen a few discussions evolve that are (at their core) about Authorial Choice and the reader's willingness to accept that choice or not. Authors have weighed in with mixed results. I've become interested in authors I never would have considered. Authors in my TBR pile shifted to my Do Not Buy list. Authorial Choice is about taste. You can't tell a reader they must like something. You cannot counter a lack of enjoyment with a lecture on historical plausibility.
Which brings us to Lord And Lady Spy. Historical plausibility is pretty much out the window on this one, leaving the reader with the choice to enjoy or not enjoy. Taking the Mr. And Mrs. Smith concept back to Romanceland, Shana Galen sets up an interesting conflict with two spies cut loose from their assignments. Married, yet blind to their shared profession, the challenge is to transfer the attention and thrill that espionage gave them into their life together. Add in emotional distance caused by a miscarriage and Galen has given herself plenty to work with.
Fairly early there is a scene that will be familiar to many - an afternoon with the in-laws. Sophia is stuck entertaining her husband's family, people she doesn't particularly like. (Many women can relate to that dynamic.) Through a series of events the family assumes Sophia is pregnant. When Adrian returns home this is the news that greets him. Sophia does not correct this misinformation and here I make the Reader's Choice to hate her. My exact thought was "What a vicious selfish bitch." I no longer care what Sophia has or has not had happen to her, I no longer care what will or won't evolve for her, I just hate her. Adrian now believes his wife has been unfaithful, Adrian's family now believes an heir could be on the way and Sophia stands silent. Why should she correct what she never claimed, she thinks. Why should she have to? Why wouldn't Adrian simply know it to be untrue? She wraps herself tightly in her passive aggressive victimhood and stalks out. I want her to get hit by a carriage, die quickly, and clear the path for a heroine to take the stage.
This is an example of a completely valid choice by the author meeting the equally valid choice of a reader. It may be utterly necessary for Sophia to carry her injured pride forward, it may be necessary for Adrian to believe she's slept about. I don't care. I don't want to have him in pain, reacting against her or choosing to forgive her when all she had to do was utter three small words. "It's not true." By keeping her mouth shut she's unleashing emotional pain on herself and those around her. I don't care why she does it. I can't overcome the action. If the hero ultimately forgives, I won't. As a reader, I was unable to set that aside. A book succeeds when it carries a reader past those stumbling blocks, when the author's choices are presented in a way that overcomes the reader objection. For one reader, the heroine should never sleep with her brother. For another reader, the heroine can't be a sexual puppet without repercussions. For this reader, once I think your heroine is a vicious selfish bitch, it's hard to stay with her. Sophia's silence is completely plausible, it's historically accurate and it may be a good choice by Shana Galen for the plot she's crafting. Many other readers had no difficulty with it at all. Sophia and I, we had to break up over it. Amazon is selling it for 90% off for a limited time - for 79 cents you can see how you feel. (I don't mind having paid full price, I try to buy my go-to authors on release day as a show of support.)