Thursday, July 19, 2007

Golden Fancy--Jennifer Blake

Sometimes, I read books that are just plain bad. What effect that has on me depends on why the book is bad. Some books are carelessly written, and I tend to feel insulted by those. Some books I just don't get. Some books are just weird. Some books are just past their time.

This is a book that's past its time. It was written back in the late 1970's, when there was a big trend towards rape/forced seduction in the romance genre. I counted four attempted rapes and one actual rape, and the hero and heroine's TRUE! LOVE! 4 EVA! starts with the rape.

It's not really worth reading, except for one thing:

Crazy. Evil. Mormons.

Oh, yeah. Crazy Evil Mormons elevate a book from a complete waste of time to a slightly interesting waste of time.

They beat flat the previous Best Evil Religious in a Romance Novel, the Obnoxious Jackass Quakers from Flowers from the Storm. The Quakers only had smugness and guiltmongering to use against that book's heroine. The Evil Mormon has blood atonement. And stalking.

Right, so plotwise we have the lovely, yet mostly personality-free, Serena Walsh who was on a wagon train with her parents to start a new life in a mining town. They die, and the Mormons force her to continue on with them, when she attracts the attention of Elder Greer, who wants her as his fourth wife. Serena fights him off on Rape Attempt #1, and gets tossed of the wagon train, where she then gets picked up by Wade Dunbar, a man with a past and various business interests in the mining boom town of Cripple Creek. He's the one who rapes her, but then makes her his mistress.

Serena does many stupid things throughout the book, and so does Wade. They are supposed to have a deep love, yet they never have a conversation. Wade also leaves her multiple times to the machinations of his nutty female business partner Pearlie, who hates Serena because Pearlie's in love with Wade, and his nutty male business partner, who's "in love" and obsessed with Serena.And tries to buy her from Wade. Oh, and the Crazy Evil Mormon is still stalking her. The men in this book are such catches.

Now, I don't know how one can be so out of it one manages to give birth and not recall it (but hey, there might have been laudanum involved). I also don't see how a marriage performed when a woman is too sick to consciously consent and recall the ceremony can be legal even in 1891, but hey. In the end the h/h wind up together with their kid, really rich, and no one's been convicted of murder. All's happy.

And I just shake my head and am glad for feminism.


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to find your blog, and this post in particular. I have very strong memories of reading this atrocious novel when I was a young teenager, but I couldn't remember the title or author - just the plot (rape-tastic) and the villains (Mormons! Prostitutes!) and the author's bizarre fixation on the heroine's paleness.

Googling "evil mormon romance novel" was surprisingly helpful. Hooray for the internet!

Thanks again.

Clara said...

Aw. I have a fondness for this one (huge Jennifer Blake fan) but will reluctantly admit it has its problems! My biggest is how effing passive Serena is. Blake makes a good case for *why* she is so passive--namely that the restrictions on women of the time enforced that, look at what happens to Lessie as an object lesson--but still. MONTHS of her just hanging around the apartment! Blake is such an elegant writer, she sells it but Serena must have been bored out of her skull! She actually doesn't accomplish anything on her own (i.e., it's not really a direct reaction such as fighting off a rapist) until Wade leaves her for the first time and after Pearlie/Otto scare off the food guy, she takes Wade's money and buys food and the other stuff. Baby steps, right?