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Category: Risky Regencies

This week, we’ve talked about classic books we should have read but didn’t, and books our Regency heroes would have read. (Advance apologies for no pictures; Blogger not so nice this morning).

Today I’d like to talk about books that no-one thinks everyone should read, except you. Yes, your Buried Treasure books, books that in your opinion are shockingly, shamefully overlooked in the canon of Great Literature.

I asked my Spouse which book he’d recommend, and after berating me for asking such a hard question, I answered for him, and he grunted a slight affirmative. It’s John HawkesWhistlejacket, which takes place in contemporary times and in flashback to when 18th century painter George Stubbs painted a portrait of a horse named Whistlejacket. It’s dark, intense, dangerously sexual, intricate writing that is not easy to read, but it is very, very compelling.

If posed the same question, I might answer Charles Willeford‘s Cockfighter. It’s a first person narrative by a mute cockfighter (and the story behind his muteness is amazing!), and again, it is incredibly written and powerfully compelling. Willeford is mildly famous for his Hoke Moseley series (Miami Blues, which was made into a movie), but his darker noir stuff is not as celebrated. If I could cheat, I’d also recommend his Burnt Orange Heresy, about art collectors in Florida.

In romance, I’d cite Kate Moore‘s Sweet Bargain, a traditional Regency with as much sexual tension as the most erotic of eroticas.

So what obscure book, romance or otherwise, would you recommend? And why?


Do you believe in fairies? Or, to be more specific, do you believe in fairy stories and/or archetypes?

Enough of the questions already. No, I don’t believe in fairies although my husband told me that once, when he was a child, a little man in green walked across the the landing outside his bedroom door. Yes, I believe in fairy stories or archetypes, purely because when I’m writing and it’s working, I’ll think Oh, of course, this is …. Cinderella…Sleeping Beauty and suddenly it all makes sense.

But the fairy story I ponder the most, and the one that fascinates me, is Beauty and the Beast. One of my favorite writers, Angela Carter, was intrigued enough by it to write several versions in her marvellous collection The Bloody Chamber. Cocteau made an amazing movie of it too. Beauty is a true heroine–no, she’s not some sort of kickasss type, but she’s her own person, which is both her strength and her weakness. If she’d asked her father to bring her home a length of silk or jewels, and not a white rose, she wouldn’t have started off the chain of events at the Beast’s castle. And she makes the decision to return to the Beast and brings about his transformation, her own heroic journey when she truly comes into her own.

I read a lot of illustrated versions aloud to my daughter when she was little, but I think this one by Marianna and Mercer Mayer was my favorite. This was long before I started writing myself. There was one illustration I found particularly captivating–Beauty, dressed in silk, sits at the window of a circular tower, surrounded by books, and with a bird, released from its cage, perched on her hand. She has a dreamy, contemplative expression on her face as though escaping into some inner world, the world of her imagination; she’s caged by the Beast, but she’s found a freedom beyond the stone walls of the tower. Now I see her as an allegory of a writer, invited into a fantastic world and bringing to it her own feelings and experience, and maybe that’s why that illustration in particular had such an appeal for me.

So what’s your favorite fairy story? Why? And do you think it influences what you like to read and write?


Great minds do think alike, because Cara’s post yesterday is the perfect lead-in to this one.

I am indeed ashamed to admit that I haven’t ready anywhere near enough of the sort of things our heroes and heroines would have had in their libraries. Now my sins are coming home to me, because I’m writing a hero who insists on being very well-read. I am hoping that reading more of what he has eagerly devoured will help me get into his head. (Or maybe I’m just procrastinating, but that’s another post!)

This is why I’m currently slogging through Paradise Lost. It’s something I’ve just heard referenced too many times and I feel a dunce for not knowing it. Some of it is slogging, especially the long passages full of more allusions that make me feel still more ignorant. But I am nothing if not stubborn and there are some rewarding gems in there.

Being slightly obsessive-compulsive (OK, maybe more than slightly!) I’m trying to come up with a list of works that will at least help me fake a broader knowledge of literature prior to 1820.

One area I need to brush up on is the classics. My O-C tendency isn’t quite strong enough to make me learn Greek or Latin but I’d like to read at least a few works in translation. Somehow I think having viewed some of those old Technicolor movies based on mythology isn’t going to help me here!

Re Shakespeare, I’ve read Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, Julius Caesar and Othello, and seen quite a few more, but there are quite a few plays I haven’t experienced either way. King Lear and The Tempest are a few that come to mind. (More shame on me!)

Another area is novels; this hero doesn’t despise a good novel. I’ve read everything by Austen and a goodly few by Scott but I haven’t read anything earlier. (It is a disgrace, I know.)

Re poetry–I’ve read some of the Lake poets but nothing by Byron. (Gasp!)

So two questions for the Riskies and visitors:

1) Which works would you recommend I read in the cause of developing my bookish hero? The ones that will help me look better-read than I am but are also the most interesting, thought-provoking?

2) Am I getting too obsessive-compulsive here? On second thought, maybe I don’t want to know! If it helps, it helps. I am writing, too.

LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE, RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Best Regency Romance of 2005

Do you remember those embarrassing games that other kids always wanted to play? Games like Truth or Dare? Well, here’s an embarrassing game for adults — for adults who read, that is. It’s called:


Or, at least, that’s what I’m calling it until someone thinks up a better name.

To play it, you name a category of fiction or literature (or if you want, make it film or something else) that you think you should be well versed in….or want to be….or pretend to be….or are, except for one or two (or thirty) embarrassing omissions. Then, of course, you name the most shocking omission you can think of.

Yes! Humilitation all round! And great fun to play at home, in the car, or at an academic conference (if you already have tenure).

Okay. I’ll go first.

BRITISH LITERATURE: As you may have guessed by the laughing Albert Finney pictured above, I have never read Fielding’s TOM JONES. There are many other greats of British lit that I haven’t read, but I think this is the one I most WANT to have read.

DRAMA: I try to have a basic working knowledge of the great plays….but I confess I’ve never seen (nor read) Chekhov’s THE THREE SISTERS. (Um, and while we’re on the subject, I can say the same about THE SEAGULL, UNCLE VANYA, and all but the first act of THE CHERRY ORCHARD — which I was supposed to read in high school. Don’t tell Mrs. Johnstone I never finished it, please. It was a busy week.) So when fellow drama lovers start talking about someone always wanting to go to Moscow…or maybe it was St Petersburg…I just nod my head and try to look intelligent.

WORLD LITERATURE: If you include American authors, I’ve never read (drumroll, please — long list coming): LES MISERABLES, WAR AND PEACE, DON QUIXOTE, THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA, THE GRAPES OF WRATH, MOBY DICK, and so much more!

ROMANCE:Okay, this is perhaps my most embarrassing omission of all, given that I am making it in the Risky Regencies blog…. I have never read Laura Kinsale’s FLOWERS FROM THE STORM. Yes, I know it’s great. Yes, I’m sure I’d love it. Yes, I have meant to read it for years. And yes, when I’m around other romance writers (particularly Regency writers) I always pretend I’ve read it. But I’m confessing to you now. I haven’t.

As for MOVIES: Hmm…I haven’t ever seen ANIMAL HOUSE, or THE MALTESE FALCON, or … wow, I’ve spent far too much time seeing movies — I can’t think of many really embarrassing omissions. (Guess I know what I was doing when I should have been reading TOM JONES!)

As for SCIENCE FICTION TV & MOVIES: — I’ve never seen a single episode of DR WHO! (Doesn’t he looked shocked!)

Okay, there, now that I’ve begun — who here has an embarrassing omission to make??? 🙂

Cara King —

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