06 December, 2011
Review: The Wild Marquis by Miranda Neville
I'm not a Miranda Neville fan. That's okay. It's good to know things about yourself and post Agency Pricing it's good to know I don't have four or five of her books TBR'd on my shelf. I can see why people are raving about her so I'll break down what did and didn't work for me. In The Wild Marquis she brings together two damaged people from (seemingly) different classes. The Marquis has been couch surfing since his deranged father threw him out. With his father dead, he has (for some sort of martyr reason) continued his estrangement from his sister and equally deranged mother. Oh, and everyone else in his family. On the other side, Juliana is trying to make a go of her book business after the murder of her husband. Juliana collects books for rarity, not content. Their world's collide when Cain decides he has to restore a lost book to the family library. (Just go with it.) Soon they are immersed in the world of auctions and antiquities and accidentally solving her husband's murder.
Juliana is a weird hybrid. Raised mostly in seclusion (In fact, both of them spend way too much time giving noble motives to their absolutely horrible families. It's a subtext of the story that neither can see their own family flaws, just the others.) then marrying into the middle class, Juliana has somehow adopted the upper classes morals but the middle classes inferiority complex. I wasn't sure exactly who she was. Juliana reminded me of this girl I knew when I was a teen who would try to seduce men by fondling the stick shift of her car and licking her lips while giggling. (Pretty much all you have to do to seduce a willing guy is say "Hey, let's have sex now.") Unlike that girl, Juliana isn't sure if she wants to follow through. She wants to have casual sex with Cain, but not be his mistress. She wants to be free from promises, but have his fidelity. Juliana is all about the mixed message. She also deliberately sets out to sabotage a client for Cain's benefit, while holding her professional integrity tightly. I didn't get her at all.
Cain, on the other hand, has had some horrible accusations made against him by his father the nutjob. Since everyone believes he's morally bankrupt, he moves into a brothel and makes his life work the care and feeding of old hookers. (A decent way to spend your life.) He also has a weird grey area where he has a long term mistress with sons - she dies and the sons are raised by her friend (who becomes his housekeeper) until they are old enough to work, and thereafter they become his employees. It wasn't a greying of class areas so much as a complete confusion of them. Suddenly, through Juliana, Cain discovers that he really likes collecting books. I don't understand why. Both of them have come to book collecting in a harmful manner, both have the right to have negative associations with book collecting. Yet both of them decide the book is the thing.
I don't have any problem with the plot, resolution, or pacing of the story. All of my concerns with The Wild Marquis involve characterization. I spent too much time asking why characters were doing (or not doing) things and too little just going along for the ride. As an example, in one scene Juliana falls over trying to insert a birth control sponge. Why? Who did she ask about birth control? If it was her husband, why isn't she proficient in it's use? If it was after her husband, how did she come by the information? Did she read it in a book? She's already established that she is pretty ignorant of the erotic market. There were too many moments in The Wild Marquis like this. I'm not a reader who deals well with "because they did" unless the story is yanking me along too fast to examine it.
What did work for me was the skill of setting. Neville is great with place and time, she sets up original components in an old frame. Her plots are obviously considered, her characters are fairly diverse. If you don't roll your eyes at a heroine stroking a book jacket and cooing about how soft and slick it is, her sex scenes are in line with modern books. I feel like Miranda Neville could write a book to really grab me but I didn't walk away from The Wild Marquis wanting to know more about anyone in it.