24 March 2011

This Miss Loves to Read - Five Favorite Romantic Reads

This Miss Loves to Read is a blog I enjoy because the author reviews an amazing number of books per week*, many that I'm interested in and many I have never heard of. She and I have apparent similarities and several differences, so it's nice to read reviews about books I might not have considered. Lately she tracked her five favorite romantic reads - I started trying to consider what would my five favorites be. Do I even have five favorites? (no) I didn't think listing all of Miss Austen's works, excepting Emma, would be the right thing to do. I also have a problem with books that don't have a happy ending. I know such books can be romantic, but what good is it, if it does not work out. I'm a sap. I know. So here is my attempt: 
My Five Four Favorite Romantic Reads
1. Persuasion - Jane Austen
I think this has something to do with age. I was older when I read Miss Austen for the first time (apparently the product of sub-standard public school education), just a bit older than Anne Elliot. It was so wonderful to have two people who never ever stopped loving each other finally to be together and be happy, mature, and realizing what they had gained. Of course, THE letter is probably some of the best writing I've ever read. And it follows so closely on the heals of Anne speaking with Captain Harville about who loves longest when hope is lost. It is so very touching and romantic. Oh, I can hear Ciaran Hinds saying it in my head. He's my Captain Wentworth.. yep, It's him. 

nne Elliot & Frederick Wentworth
Amanda Root & Ciaran Hind
"I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W.
"I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never."

2. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Gothic, mysterious, creepy setting, strange and resentful people, but a glorious ending nonetheless. Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester are iconic symbols of love, devotion, mistakes, and final happiness. Jane is a remarkable character of great resilience who rises from an extremely humble beginning and through great adversity makes her way to Thornfield to be governess to Mr. Rochester's ward Adele. Rochester is mysterious, but intelligent, kind, mostly, and finds Jane's intellect and directness refreshing. When she leaves him to protect herself she finds herself in company of St. John Rivers and his sisters where she tries to make a life for herself and forget him. But she cannot. 

All the house was still; for I believe all, except St. John and myself, were now retired to rest. The one candle was dying out: the room was full of moonlight. My heart beat fast and thick: I heard its throb. Suddenly it stood still to an inexpressible feeling that thrilled it through, and passed at once to my head and extremities. The feeling was not like an electric shock, but it was quite as sharp, as strange, as startling: it acted on my senses as if their utmost activity hitherto had been but torpor, from which they were now summoned and forced to wake. They rose expectant: eye and ear waited while the flesh quivered on my bones.
"What have you heard? What do you see?" asked St. John. I saw nothing, but I heard a voice somewhere cry
"Jane! Jane! Jane!"--nothing more.
"O God! what is it?" I gasped.
I might have said, "Where is it?" for it did not seem in the room-- nor in the house--nor in the garden; it did not come out of the air- -nor from under the earth--nor from overhead. I had heard it-- where, or whence, for ever impossible to know! And it was the voice of a human being--a known, loved, well-remembered voice--that of Edward Fairfax Rochester; and it spoke in pain and woe, wildly, eerily, urgently.
"I am coming!" I cried. "Wait for me! Oh, I will come!" I flew to the door and looked into the passage: it was dark. I ran out into the garden: it was void.
"Where are you?" I exclaimed.
The hills beyond Marsh Glen sent the answer faintly back--"Where are you?" I listened. The wind sighed low in the firs: all was moorland loneliness and midnight hush.
"Down superstition!" I commented, as that spectre rose up black by the black yew at the gate. "This is not thy deception, nor thy witchcraft: it is the work of nature. She was roused, and did--no miracle--but her best."

3. North & South - Elizabeth Gaskell
This was the first Elizabeth Gaskell novel I ever read and it's so wonderful. And knowing that Richard Armitage is Mr. Thornton (sigh) in the movie version makes rereading the book a lovely thought. Again, I love class implications. It's funny, class is still important, but not in the same way that was thought of in the 18th and 19th century. Having class now means having a certain sense of decorum no matter how much you make or inherit. We (at least in the United States) care a bit more about appearances than about actual money. Moving w/in classes is easy enough for us, but very difficult back then. The idea that a man earned his money in trade and was looked down at for it is just the opposite of how we think now. Here's my favorite part. Mr. Lennox is a rival for Miss Hale, but someone she had turned down once already.

Miss Hale, I would rather not hear Mr. Lennox's opinion of my affairs. Those who are happy and successful themselves are too apt to make light of the misfortunes of others.'
'You are unjust,' said Margaret, gently. 'Mr. Lennox has only spoken of the great probability which he believes there to be of your redeeming—your more than redeeming what you have lost—don't speak till I have ended—pray don't!' And collecting herself once more, she went on rapidly turning over some law papers, and statements of accounts in a trembling hurried manner. 'Oh! here it is! and—she drew me out a proposal—I wish he was here to explain it—showing that if you would take some money of mine, eighteen thousand and fifty-seven pounds, lying just at this moment unused in the bank, and bringing me in only two and a half per cent.—you could pay me much better interest, and might go on working Marlborough Mills.' Her voice had cleared itself and become more steady. Mr. Thornton did not speak, and she went on looking for some paper on which were written down the proposals for security; for she was most anxious to have it all looked upon in the light of a mere business arrangement, in which the principal advantage would be on her side. While she sought for this paper, her very heart-pulse was arrested by the tone in which Mr. Thornton spoke. His voice was hoarse, and trembling with tender passion, as he said:—
For an instant she looked up; and then sought to veil her luminous eyes by dropping her forehead on her hands. Again, stepping nearer, he besought her with another tremulous eager call upon her name.
Still lower went the head; more closely hidden was the face, almost resting on the table before her. He came close to her. He knelt by her side, to bring his face to a level with her ear; and whispered-panted out the words:—
'Take care.—If you do not speak—I shall claim you as my own in some strange presumptuous way.—Send me away at once, if I must go;—Margaret!—'
At that third call she turned her face, still covered with her small white hands, towards him, and laid it on his shoulder, hiding it even there; and it was too delicious to feel her soft cheek against his, for him to wish to see either deep blushes or loving eyes. He clasped her close. But they both kept silence. At length she murmured in a broken voice:
'Oh, Mr. Thornton, I am not good enough!'
'Not good enough! Don't mock my own deep feeling of unworthiness.'
After a minute or two, he gently disengaged her hands from her face, and laid her arms as they had once before been placed to protect him from the rioters.
'Do you remember, love?' he murmured. 'And how I requited you with my insolence the next day?'
'I remember how wrongly I spoke to you,—that is all.'
'Look here! Lift up your head. I have something to show you!' She slowly faced him, glowing with beautiful shame.
'Do you know these roses?' he said, drawing out his pocket-book, in which were treasured up some dead flowers.
'No!' she replied, with innocent curiosity. 'Did I give them to you?'
'No! Vanity; you did not. You may have worn sister roses very probably.'
She looked at them, wondering for a minute, then she smiled a little as she said—
'They are from Helstone, are they not? I know the deep indentations round the leaves. Oh! have you been there? When were you there?'
'I wanted to see the place where Margaret grew to what she is, even at the worst time of all, when I had no hope of ever calling her mine. I went there on my return from Havre.'
'You must give them to me,' she said, trying to take them out of his hand with gentle violence.
'Very well. Only you must pay me for them!'

4. Devil's Cub - Georgette Heyer
I'm so in a crush, really. 
Not a proper romance to be sure, but one of my favorite Heyer couples of all time. Dominic Alistair, Marquis of Vidal, is a rake, used to getting what he wants, and banished from England after a duel. He meets Mary Challoner when Mary is trying to save her younger sister from Vidal's seductions. They couldn't be more opposite, so of course they each fall for the other. Mary, realizing it would be a degradation for Vidal to marry beneath his station, keeps her love to herself. Vidal realizes Mary's infinite superiority of character, morals, intellect, and stability when he thinks he's lost her to another man. The scene below is Vidal confronting Mr. Comyn who he believes is married to Mary.  
"His (Vidal's) eye fell on Mr. Comyn again, and hardened. He removed his arm from Miss Challoner, but stood up. "You may have married her," he said fiercely, "but she is mine, do you hear me? She was always mine! You - ! do you think I shall let you take her? She may be ten times your wife, but, by God, you shall never have her."

* How does one get time to read so many books? I'm lucky to get in what I do ... and I read at work, at home, in the car on my drive to and from work, while waiting for appointments (thank you kindle), and anywhere else I can get away with it. I still could not cover the number of books Irena does. It's apparent that I am jealous. 

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