Friday 15 November 2013

My Sweet Folly by Laura Kinsale - Book Review

From the Blurb:

"My dear girl! I could never fall in love by letter. Though I have no doubt you are a notorious breaker of hearts, not to mention a princess in disguise, and if I were a few miles closer to Toot-above-the-Batch I would be in great danger. From the safe distance of another continent, I will admit to a modest desire to see how your pearl becomes you, even to know the color of your hair and eyes, but this is mere curiosity, I assure you. -- Your knight, Robert"

Through their innocent correspondence, a lonely young wife grows to love an imaginary man thousands of miles away. But when Folie finally meets him in truth, reality is turned upside down. She cannot find her own cherished Robert in the frightening stranger who claims her love. MY SWEET FOLLY was a finalist from the Romance Writers of America for both Favorite Book of the Year and Best Long Historical Novel.

The Review:
How great does that blurb sound? I was really excited when I saw this one pop up on my suggested reads and bought it right away, but I could not have been more disappointed. And honestly, 'disappointed' is such an understatement. I couldn't finish this book, here's why:

My Sweet Folly started off with a sweet correspondence between Folie and Robert. I wasn't all that convinced that they could have fallen in love from such a short set of letters, and pretty much felt like an email slut as a result, but it was cute enough. The story then jumps ahead five years and Folie finally meets Robert, but he is mad. It's all intrigue and mystery and Robert trying to keep Folie captive... ok, that's fine. I suppose (this is my skeptical face). So I read on (or listened on as the case was, since I was listening to the audiobook edition), mostly propelled by the narration of Nicholas Boulton, who is actually amazing and can read me any other story at any other time and I will love him forever, but also because Folie is quite a cool heroine. Poor Folie.

Unfortunately, I had to give up nearly halfway through the novel when we discover that Robert is a rapist. I don't mean that this is a tale of forced seduction, in which the hero ravages the heroine without her consent - though it is that too. While this is a trope that I find both troubling and tired, I know that many romance readers find it appealing, so even though it is not my thing, it is usually something I note (and which will probably result in a less than favorable review), but not something for which I immediately write off a novel. No. What I mean is that mid way through one of Robert's narrative ramblings, he explains that because his previous wife wouldn't have sex in the way he wanted, he raped her. She struggled, and he raped her. Yes. That's right. Here's a very small snippet of the scene:

The more she had fought him, the more despair and fury had made him fierce. He had thrust himself in, deaf to her cries, handled her as the soldiers handled their whores, without mercy.

There was nothing redeeming about it. No love. No mutual desire. Just hatred. So... you know, I sort of find it really hard to find Robert an endearing hero. I just found him really disturbing and the idea that Folie could fall for him, or that the reader could fall in book-love for him, even more disturbing.

As the tale goes on we learn that his first wife was a psycho who did all sorts of *terrible* things to him, for which I basically don't blame her. But apparently because she is an adulterous bitch, we can forgive Robert for just being a rapist. What. The. Fuck.