Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4926-0229-3
Historical Romance, 2015
Lady Emily’s Exotic Journey sees our heroine, hero, and their entourage moving through Turkey to visit some old ruins, and I admit, it’s my fault for immediately setting my hopes up for a swashbuckling, adventure-packed story. Don’t be like me if you want to read this one – adjust your expectations, because this is one very talk-heavy story moving at a snail’s pace, with the main characters more intent on being noble for mundane and annoying reasons.
Our heroine, Emily Tremaine, and her sister-in-law Julia follow Emily’s parents to Constantinople, and from there, they will make a trip through some unstable places – due to political unrest and all that – to see some ruins. Whenever people warn Emily and Julia that the journey is dangerous, they immediately go, oh no, men are always so patronizing and condescending towards women, immediately thinking that women are all helpless and useless, we need a hashtag for this overt misogyny. The hero Lucien Chambertin – who gets Emily – and his friend David Oliphant say the same things to them too, but because they are all hot and sexy with abs and TV show pretty boy looks, those guys are more than alright.
And that’s about it, basically. These people go from Point A to Point B and so forth, and Lucien’s conversations with Emily often feel like exposition to describe the scenery and the current situation of that place to Emily, who turns out to be far less knowledgeable about Turkey than she’d like to believe. Normally, such things aren’t necessarily bad, but I’m waiting for something, anything, to happen, to break the talky monotony. What these people are talking about aren’t interesting enough to hold my attention, I often find myself putting this book aside for more interesting diversions, such as washing my hair and flossing my teeth.
These characters do feel like people of their time, I’d give the author that. They don’t see themselves as interlopers or colonists at all, and a lot of time Emily doesn’t understand why the natives may not cozy up to her immediately. I don’t have an issue with this, as any other behavior would feel tad too unrealistic for a time when white people believe that it was their burden to enlighten the barbaric non-white people of the world by subjugating them and making them adopt these white people’s culture. (And before we start, I better remind everyone that such behavior is not restricted to white people – the Hans and the Mongols did this too, as did many other Asian races whenever they went all expansionist throughout history.)
I do wonder at Lucian’s attitude at times, though, with his statements like this one, when he compared the charms of Emily to other women of other countries:
That was the most he had ever enjoyed with the ladies of his acquaintance in France, who were interested in no conversation more profound than the latest gossip. As for the women of the Ottaman empire, they were no difference than the ladies of France, too ignorant to converse on any topic. Were the English different, or only Emily?
I know, we romance readers are supposed to be die-hard Anglophiles, reading Jane Austen’s books by day, having tea while dressed up in corsets and lace gowns, and watching Downton Abbey at night before going to bed cursing that our spouses are not Colin Firth, so I am supposed to be applauding to such “England is the best!” sentiment. But come on, Lucian’s broad generalizations make him look like a dumb wide-eyed exchange student in his first brothel rather than a worldly man.
But then again, these characters often come off more like children than adults. Julia’s angst, you see, is that her mother believed in loving the boys in town a little too much, so now she can never be with any man because that man may be a son of some bloke who might have shagged her mother or – god forbid – be a half-brother. Don’t laugh, I’m not joking. Oliphant’s angst is that his mother is a native, so that means he is automatically out of Julia’s league. In a way, he’s right, but Lucian – who is of noble birth like Julia and Emily – thinks that ranks shouldn’t matter. Of course he would think that – Lucian isn’t exactly the most self-aware bloke in town, and the ladies he found ignorant most likely were smart, but they ignored him and talked to him only because there was no way to avoid him. As for Emily, she can’t be with Lucian no matter how much he makes the plumbing in her basement leak, because he’s a worldly man and she can’t hold him back from seeing the world!
Are these people for real? Unfortunately, they are. This story is all about them moving from here to there like a bunch of cows on pasture, often thinking and mentally lusting like they are teenagers who are seeing members of the opposite sex for the first time, and even the villains are tedious, Where are the adventures, the explosions? These people are in a rarely-used locale, and they are boring me to tears with their silly yammering and tedious “Oh, I’m such a noble fellow! No, no, you’re more noble, so I’m not good enough for you!” whinging. What’s the point? They can do all this in London or Bath, so why waste a complete setting like this?
Oh, and watch out for the fourteen-year old crazy wench who wants a piece of Lucian’s meat because she really wants to get married and ditch her present life. That is one terrifying creature, shudder.
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