Friday, June 11, 2010

My dubious urge regarding Thomas's 'His at Night'

I so enjoy a good historical. Sometimes, with an especially excellent one like Sherry Thomas’s His at Night, I have this urge to pull out all the pages and throw them up in the air and lay in the grass and sun and let them flutter over me, and just be covered in them, and maybe even roll in them.

But, that would be bizarre, and a terrible waste of a book, so instead, I keep the book intact and reread. Or, in the case of this one, I sent it overseas to my critique partner, because I had an advance copy and she HAD TO READ IT NOW BECAUSE IT IS SO AMAZING!

The hero, one Marquess of Vere, is this sort of Regency James Bond, and he goes around pretending to be an idiot (he has for years - that's his cover! - he's given up everything to play this role in service to the crown. He says dorky annoying things and spills food on himself. Etc.). Needless to say, no women ever wanted to marry him.

The heroine Ellisande is this woman who's been kept in this kind of Gothic isolation along with her aunt by an evil uncle. For years. The uncle, however, also happens to be the very elusive subject of a Team Vere investigation.

At the start of the book, Vere and his Regency spy comrades stage a rat infestation in a neighboring manor as an excuse to impose upon Ellisande and her aunt, as soon as the evil uncle leaves for a trip.

Nobody from the outside ever comes to the manor, and Ellisande recognizes this as a rare chance for freedom for herself and her aunt - if only she could get one of the guys to marry her. Here, Ellisande is contemplating the allowing the visitors to stay—so dangerous if it doesn't work and evil uncle finds out, which of course, he will.

The chance of success: infinitesimal. The cost of failure: unthinkable.

She rose from her seat. The windows of the drawing room gave a clear view of the gates of the estate. It had been years since she last ventured past those gates. It had been at least twice as long since her aunt last left the manor itself.

Her lungs labored against the suddenly thin air. Her stomach wanted very much to eject her lunch. She gripped the edge of the window frame, dizzy and ill, while behind her Lady Kingsley went on and on about her guests’ civility and amiability, about the wonderful time to be had by all. Why, Elissande didn’t even need to worry about securing provisions for them. The kitchen at Woodley Manor, well removed from the house, had been spared from the rats.

Slowly, Elissande turned around. And then she smiled the kind of smile she gave her uncle when he annouced that, no, he wouldn’t go to South Africa after all, when she’d finally come to believe that he truly would, following months of preparations she’d witnessed with her own eyes.

Lady Kingsley fell quiet before this smile.

“We shall be only too glad to help,” said Elissande.
I love how this passage builds up and up, with energy and meaning and momentum, sweeping upward to a high, still point. Thomas is so great at making these little whirlwinds within a book.

The smile is also key here. Ellisande’s smile is a kind of expert camouflage for her true feelings, and it’s a powerful, glorious smile that fools even the brilliant Vere. At first.

She ends up entrapping Vere in a marriage, of course. She was going for his brother, but she'll settle for the idiot, as she just has to get OUT of there.

I love the anticipation for things being revealed, or figured out by the characters - the fun of the eureka moment -and this book so delivered on those moments, over and over as both of these characters’ deceptions unravelled. I love the angry brilliance of Vere, and how upset he is to have been caught by Ellisande. I love Ellisande’s mettle.

Another thing: Lord Fredrick makes a reappearance! Remember him as the spurned suitor from Private Arrangements? Lord Fredrick is an artist, and he is not only the subject of the subplot, but there is a cool little interweaving of art.

I loved this thing to pieces. While I was reading it, I never wanted it to end. Love love love. Pages fluttering. Roll roll roll.

Image: Detail from "A Quiet Pet' by John William Godward, from Wikimedia.


Anonymous said...

I agree. Completely.
You have summed up my feelings 100%. I loved it.

Chris said...


Jacqueline C. said...

This one had already caught my eye, but you just sold me on it. I so want it now!

Anonymous said...

oooh, so when does this come out? Is it already out?

SonomaLass said...

Me too! I LOVED this book.

Carolyn Crane said...

Anon: oh, thanks!

Jacqueline: It's a ton of fun. I hope you like!

Mireyah: It came out last month. Ooh, I shouldve said that.

Sonoma: bond bond.

Sullivan McPig said...

Hmmm, having heard you raving about this novel a few times now, I think I should try to find it. My owner will probably love it.

GlamKitty said...

Well, hot damn! I've been looking... and looking... and LOOKING (grr, argh) for something different/fun/interesting to read. If a spy whose cover is playing the idiot doesn't qualify, I don't know what would. Yay!! :D

Carolyn Crane said...

Sully: Well, if she likes historicals! Or even if not. I didn't like historicals until I did. Now...yah!

Glam: Hey! Welcome! The spy idiot thing is SO delightful!

Lea said...

wow CJ, I have Private Arrangements in the stacks and haven't read it. You make me want to read it so I can read this one.

You have a good weekend.

Leslie said...

It sounds great but... are there flashbacks like in Private Arrangements? I'm not a fan of long flashbacks and couldn't finish PA.

Fiction Vixen said...

Alrighty then. I have a strong desire to roll and flutter now. I've added this book to my list of books-to-read-soon. If do happen to rip the pages from the book and roll in the yard naked (yes, I'd do it naked) I will be calling you to bail me out. My husband will no longer answer my calls from jail. :)

Carolyn Crane said...

Lea: Hey you. PA languishing in your TBR! Even though these share a character, they are very different, but both so wonderful.

Leslie: oh, funny! No flashbacks. Ever?? No, this one is straight chronological.

FicVIX: Lol. I will come and bail you out! I will come to the police station and flutter book pages on the guards, and they will suddenly want to let you free.

Renee said...

Oh, lovely post, CJ!

While I've been off of historicals for the last few months, your post makes me want to pick this one up.

Leslie said...

I'm find with short flashbacks, it's the long ones(multiple pages) that I'm usually not crazy about.

I'm glad His at Night doesn't have them since I really want to read it. I think Kristie got this one at RT and loved it too.

Kristie (J) said...

LOL - I can relate to the desire to rip out pages and just roll around in them. And this is one I'd do it with. But, as you say, it makes more sense to keep them intact so that we can read them over and over and over again.
And yes - I did get it at RT. I could not believe a whole bunch of them were just sitting there on a table - free to take!!

Rebecca @ DSB said...

Hi CJ - What a lovely rave. Next month I'm going to gorge on historicals - like eating a whole box of chocolates by myself. I'll have to add this to the list.

orannia said...

I have this on my TBR list. Of all the Sherry Thomas books I've been dithering over reading (yes, I haven't actually read one...yet :) this grabs my interest the most! Maybe I need to read it sooner *races off to check the library catalogue*

*races back*

I have this urge to pull out all the pages and throw them up in the air...

*shocked* *speechless*

Christine said...

How could I not comply after that endorsement?

Kaetrin said...

I totally agree. What an excellent book this was! My only regret was that it ended. I'm sure I'll re-read it and love it again but it's never quite the same as the first time. Plus I emailed the author with a little question I had and she was very gracious in her reply so kudos for that also.

Tumperkin said...

Thanks for sending it. I had a delayed reaction but ended up loving it too and I love your pages fluttering down thing. I love to hear that other people have similarly emotional and frankly weird reactions to me when they read books (which is my major gripe with standard book reviews)