Friday, August 25, 2017

22. Brooding Mansion by Paulette Warren

This is the sub-genre where I hope to distinguish myself, modern gothic romance, but I suspect that is just the privileged white male in me being arrogantly ignorant of the wealth of thought by many women fans of the genre that have already been written.  And really I'm just a beginner in this area and grabbing books as they appear before my eyes, such as this one.

The cover really is pretty classic gothic romance, but the book itself falls a bit short to be totally in that genre.  It takes place in Manhattan, for one, albeit in a giant gloomy gothic house/manor.  The gloomy atmosphere and mystery get swept up very early in the book when the entire situation is basically explained (though everything in the book is accelerated as it is very short page-wise and a lot has to go down).  A young and competent Registered Nurse gets a job to serve an old wealthy man in his mansion but when she gets there, she finds that it is actually his out-of-control son that she is taking care of.  It was a bait and switch by the family's doctor, at first for truly medical reasons (he does have a badly broken leg from a car accident) but then as the plot thickens, we learn there was a more nefarious, criminal reason.

I won't go into the details of the plot too much as it is all kind of arbitrary and patched together (old man is actually a neo-nazi holding meetings in his ballroom, the doctor is trying to steal all the family money and the brother and sister are decadent but with good souls who need guidance).  What is interesting is how the book started with the heroine showing real promise. She is competent and smart and in control of herself, but unlike male protagonists, everything she does has to be justified and legitimized by a male.  So there is a really interesting crossplay between her being a cool character and the reactive need to constantly undermine that or block it.  All the men in the book are losers. It's when the romance plot takes over that everything sort of breaks down.  It's one of those pre-pre-marital sex worlds where people fall in love in a day and have those weird conversations about each other that have no meaning and make no sense but they are in love.  The main conflict in the second half of the book is whether the lame son will finally stand up to his dad and be a man.  It is entirely up to the protagonist to help him do this and she is basically constantly disappointed until the very end when he finally does something slightly independent and now she knows she made the right choice.  It's pretty depressing and annoying but at that point the plot has come so fast that you don't really care anyhow.

There is something here, though, and I suspect better writers (or ones who had more time) can take this female competence in a sexist world to a much more interesting place.  So I continue to seek out other examples of the gothic romance genre.

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