As some longtime Beatrice readers may recall, once Thanksgiving’s over, I like to read Christmas stories. This year, after a recommendation by my friend Sarah, I decided I wanted to check out Theresa Romain’s Season for Surrender. I actually started with Romain’s first novel, Season for Temptation, which was put forward as a holiday-themed story—with the tag line “Mistletoe can lead to more than kissing…”—but it turns out that the Christmas element only takes up a few chapters in a story that spans months. That story, about a young aristocrat who arranges an engagement to a suitable lady only to realize that he’s attracted to her younger sister (and she to him, although of course he doesn’t know that for a good long while), has a lot to recommend it, although it’s a bit rough around the edges in a debut novel-ish sort of way. The second time around, Romain seems to feel a bit more confident, and it makes for a much more sustained pleasure.
Season for Surrender picks up just about where its predecessor left off: Louisa, the unsuccessful fiancée of the first novel, is looking for some excitement in her life and accepts an invitation to a ten-day holiday party at the estate of Alexander, Lord Xavier. She accidentally overhears a conversation between Xavier and her cousin and learns that she’s the subject of a wager between the two of them as to whether she can last ten days in the company of such a notorious rake. So she decides to turn the tables on them… Meanwhile, Xavier, who was portrayed as a bit of a dick in the first novel, is now shown to be a sensitive fellow, ill at ease with the role he has come to play in society, but unsure of how to reinvent himself—or whether anyone would take him seriously if he did.
The slow burn of Louisa and Alex’s relationship is handled quite well, and the firm boundaries of the holiday period and the country estate also work in the story’s favor. I liked that Romain didn’t lean as heavily on the “unconventional aunt” character as she did in Temptation; Lady Irving is a fun character, but a little of her can go a long way—and with two leads this strong, the supporting cast can be used less to supply “color” and more as interesting personalities in their own right (some, admittedly, more interesting than others). I would actually recommend starting with this novel, then circling back to its predecessor if you want to spend some more time in Romain’s world.
13 December 2012 | read this |
John Harris for Tor
I’m excited to reveal one of my first big projects for 2013: I’ll be leading a weekly “readalong” at Tor.com for my friend John Scalzi’s serial, The Human Division, about a team of diplomats and their efforts to preserve humanity’s standing in the interstellar community—and to keep the people of Earth from abandoning ties to their colonies. I don’t want to say “serialized novel,” exactly, because it’s more like a string of self-contained episodes with an overarching narrative; as Scalzi says, “two novellas, five novelettes and six short stories,” which will be released and sold individually in digital format before being collected into a single volume.
The way the readalong will work is that each week, as a new episode comes out, I’ll have a post at Tor.com where I can ask Scalzi about some of the latest plot developments, or maybe explore some technical aspects of doing a story the way he’s doing it, and then I’ll segue into a broader discussion of the stories that will encourage other readers to chime in with their theories, enthusiasms, or pet peeves. Some weeks, I might not talk to Scalzi; I could talk to his editor, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, or to other SF authors I know are following the story avidly, or maybe to some television folks who have thoughts about the episodic format. There’s a lot of ways we could go with this!
One person I’m almost positive I’ll be talking to at some point, if I have my way, is John Harris, who will be doing all the cover art for each installment. The Human Division is set in a fictional universe that Scalzi began delineating with his debut novel, Old Man’s War; Harris did the cover for that, and for every book in the series that followed. I’ve been given the opportunity to share with you the artwork for the seventh episode, “The Dog King,” which really sets a fantastic, “big science fiction” tone. “I’m just tremendously excited to show off Harris’ work to everyone,” Scalzi emailed me earlier this week, when I asked him about the artwork:
“Seriously, I did little kid squees at each of them. Harris had access to the stories as I was writing them, so the images are inspired by stories, with extra Harrisosity added (as it were). So, for example with ‘The Dog King,’ there’s a cave system in the story, so Harris conjured up these really amazing cave images that you’ll see on the cover. Harris excels at epic images, so most of them are in that vein, but there are a couple that are more intimate scenes as well.”
I haven’t seen any of The Human Division yet, although I did hear Scalzi read a brief section from the first episode this summer when he was on tour for Redshirts. So I know it’s likely to make me laugh out loud in some spots and cry in others, quite possibly within the same episode. I can’t wait to get hold of it, or to start talking about it with other Scalzi fans—and maybe, along the way, recruit a few new fans to the cause.
6 December 2012 | read this |