Michille: Just Have a Conversation

Spoiler Alert – I totally give away the plot, the conflict and the conclusion of two books.

First ImpressionsI recently read two books (actually, I’m struggling to finish the second). Both had the same trope – mistaken identity. But in both cases, it was one person knowing the other didn’t know who they were. Not the mistaken identity of one looking remarkably like the real culprit thing, or the twin thing, or the wrong place/wrong time thing in which part of the book is about the one trying to convince the other of their identity. This was “I know you think I’m one thing but I’m this other thing and I’m just not going to tell you” which leads to the dark moment being about NOT HAVING THE **** CONVERSATION (if I were Chuck Wendig that would be an expletive). I hate that. But here’s the thing – I could tolerate it in the one and in fact purposefully sought out the book for a second read and am still struggling to finish the other (I just can’t not finish a book but I did have to skip the end when they finally HAD THE **** CONVERSATION and then go back to the middle).

The book I sought out for a second read was Nora Robert’s First Impressions. The first line of the book blurb is: Escaping the rat race and the lure of gold-digging women, wealthy businessman Vance Banning moves to a small, rural retreat, telling the townsfolk that he’s an out-of-work carpenter. When he first meets the heroine, he is attracted but fights it and continues to do so through part of the story. I don’t usually like this plot line either but in his case, he has a good reason. His first wife was a conniving, cheating, biatch who ends up getting killed by an obsessive lover. Yeah, that could make you doubt your judgement of the opposite sex. When he and the heroine first hook up, he decides that just for that night, he wants it to be fab and not insert his baggage in their first night together. I can buy that, especially when he tells her he loves her and that he has some stuff she needs to know but not right now and can she take him as he is and she says yes. The next morning, the world goes to hell for the heroine and he doesn’t want to dump on her, which I can also buy. So the annoying “you lied” dark moment is annoying, but short and I was able to overlook it.

The other story is Eloisa James’ Seven Minutes in Heaven. I would normally not name a book I’m about to bash, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who intends to read it by masking the story (because as soon as you start reading, you’ll know) and I usually love Eloisa James’ stories which is why I rushed to get this one. A woman runs a governess placement business. She is the daughter of marquis and the widow of the son of a viscount. She’s ridiculously wealthy. He rightfully, by societal mores of the time, believes that she is a former governess of respectable birth, likely a vicar’s daughter. She knows that’s what he thinks. He makes references to it numerous times. She knows her father knows his father (he is a bastard, by the way, but his father is a duke and he was raised in the duke’s household). And she NEVER HAS THE CONVERSATION. “My father knows your father.” “No, that’s actually not why I’m in this business.” “My dead husband, that WE ARE CURRENTLY DISCUSSING was the So-and-So, the son of Viscount So-and-So.”

Do you find that you can tolerate some authors tropes and hate the same interpreted a different way?

7 thoughts on “Michille: Just Have a Conversation

  1. ALL THE TIME! Michille, I think you are onto something. I’ve thought for a long time that it’s not really the plot — it’s the execution of it. I wish I could think of some examples, but I’m only coming up with songs. But on one of the writing forums I’m on, there are some very young writers who want to know if it’s OK to write vampires, or magical schools, or whatever that’s already been done. And of course, it’s OK. It’s how you do it.

    Oh, there you go. I normally loathe vampires. With Anne Rice, in her trilogies, I loved book one, thought book two was OK, and hated the third book — it was always like that until I started to cut my losses in the beginning and not read her. There are a lot of problems with vampires, beginning with their theological and theoretical basis. But, I adored the Betsy the Vampire series that MaryJanice Davidson series until I got fed up with the love story which went too slowly. On the third hand, I bet that Jilly hates/would hate the MaryJanice series because the heroine is very fluffy and brainless.

    Even with the same author, the way they do things can be spot on in one book, and horribly off in another. I think, on the whole, that’s OK. There’s the freedom to experiment, but still make enough money to pay the rent. As long as they have a 60 percent satisfying rate, I can put up with a klunker or two. (And to be honest, sometimes a book is a klunker on the first read, but then turns out to be quite powerful on later reads — maybe I’m in a different space, or maybe I see book in the context of the series and start to love it.)

    I like spy stories, and the point where the spy has to reveal his/her real identity is usually something I love, if it’s done well. A lot of supernatural stories (like paranormal romance) involves someone hiding their identity, at least at first. I don’t think a story should depend on that tension, though. Superman probably got really boring for the faithful readers who loved a good romance. “When is he going to tell Lois? He’s never going to tell her.” Eventually, like Carrie Fisher’s character in When Harry Met Sally, the reader will give up and find a wonderful book that will give her/him what s/he needs.

    • Michaeline–you got me bang to rights re MaryJanice. I tried the first book and the fluffy/brainless combo made me froth at the mouth. Well-written, but so not my catnip 😉 .

      • I am with you Michaeline on the MaryJanice Davidson. I read a couple and thought they were fun and campy even though I don’t really like vampire stories, but I too got tired of the romance part taking so long. There is another hidden identity book that I love – Kathleen Woodiwiss’ A Rose in Winter. Spoiler again – he knows what he’s doing, she doesn’t, but it has a higher purpose so I can buy that one (and not throw the book against the wall).

      • Yes, MaryJanice writes so well. I hated her werewolves, which were basically giant dogs who thought mostly about sex and eating, IIRC. And of course, when you think about it, that’s exactly what they should be! Dogs are very simple, sweet creatures until they go vicious. But it just wasn’t something I wanted to continue reading. I have dog issues that have only gotten better slowly (mostly by helping raise puppies and realizing that they are not all stereotypes, and they have reasons for being the way they are).

  2. What Michaeline said. I can’t tolerate stories where the entire book is based around a hidden identity and the big reveal is them owning up. It means every interaction between the H&H was based on a lie, and that’s no basis for a HEA. If I put myself in the H/H’s shoes, even if I could overcome the Reason for the deception, I couldn’t overcome the systematic deception itself. Makes me wonder what he/she will hide the next time–I lost my job a year ago, but I didn’t tell you? I’m terminally ill, but I don’t want to upset you? Gah.

    Also, in many of those plots, the trope feels like a wasted opportunity. Much more fun to get the Montague/Capulet connection established upfront, make them work together anyway and have to overcome their prejudices. THAT’s a great basis for a compelling HEA.

    I do enjoy spy stories, or cop stories, or paranormals, where one of the characters has a good reason for hiding their identity, but ideally I’d like the love interest to figure it out by (say) a third or at most halfway through the book. Then they have the rest of the book to deal with the fall-out, including the deception. Like Rachel Gibson’s Sex, Lies and Online Dating. The hero is an undercover cop looking for a woman who’s using online dating to select men to murder. I really enjoyed the whole book–the part where the hero is lying and even more, the part where he has to own up and deal with the consequences. That’s one of my favorite Rachel Gibsons.

    Or: I can’t think of any examples, but if one character’s hiding their identity and the other person figures it out but doesn’t let on, just to see what the other will do and how far they’ll go–if it was done right, I’d absolutely love that. Then it’s a battle of wits or a battle of deceptions, and I could imagine how the two characters would suit one another.

    Or: one of my favorite books of all time is Georgette Heyer’s The Unknown Ajax, where Hugo, the retired soldier hero, meets his stuffy, upper-class family for the first time. They have a whole catalogue of unflattering preconceptions about him, which he plays up to outrageously. Gradually, over the course of the story, they start to figure him out, and by the end, he is revealed. It’s all very good-natured, and the heroine starts to figure him out quite quickly. Hugo is smart and kind, and he has a wicked sense of humor. And he doesn’t lie. He tells people the truth, knows they have jumped to the wrong conclusion, and eggs them on. Love Hugo, love that book!

    • I’ll have to try The Unknown Ajax. That sounds fun. And I loved Sex, Lies, and Online Dating, too. That was my first Rachel Gibson and might have been my first contemporary. I used to be all-in for historicals. I wish I could remember which book, but I recently read a story in which someone figured out who the other was and let it ride. For the big reveal, the hidden character had a great deal of angst so when it was revealed, and the other character says, “yeah, I knew that,” the hidden character is all, “well, you could have let on and saved me a lot of worry.”

    • Miles Vorkosigan in Komarr has a great reason to hide a lot of his emotions. Well, several. First, he’s fallen for a married woman, and he doesn’t want to sully his honor and hers. He’s also a former spy and agent provacateur, so he’s used to hiding his real feelings. It’s lovely how it all plays in. About 1/3 to 1/2 of the way in, though, he’s a free man, and it’s untangling the mess that got snarled up in the first third of the book.

      (-: I’m on vacation as of this afternoon, so I’m going to take the time to find my copy of The Unknown Ajax, and also maybe do a little re-read of the Komarr/A Civil Campaign books. Hooray!

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