The General’s Mistress by Jo Graham is out tomorrow. It’s based on the life of a real person, Maria Versfelt. I thought I’d post about it, since it has a crossdressing heroine!
Here’s the summary, which *heh* does not mention that very important story element:
A Dutch woman flees her marriage to become a courtesan against the backdrop of the French Revolution in this steamy historical novel described as Girl with a Pearl Earring meets Dangerous Liaisons.
As a spirit of change overturns Europe’s old order, strong-willed Elzelina Versfelt enters her own age of revolution. Married as a romantic young girl to a man who wanted only her money, but neither loves nor desires her, Elza refuses to be chained any longer. Leaving Amsterdam, her marriage, and her home, she flees to France–where the old rules no longer apply, debauchery is not a sin…and nothing is forbidden.
Yet Elza finds herself bound in a new way, to the ambitious General Moreau. And while they share pleasure, pain, and carnal adventures, she dreams of another man, an unruly red-haired soldier she first saw in the promise of a Tarot card. Drawn by this half-real, half-imagined hero, Elza defies her relationship with Moreau, and begins a perilous search across war-torn Europe…But will this woman with the instincts of a survivor, the passion of a courtesan, and the gift of second sight ever find the destiny for which she has risked it all?
Here’s a small excerpt:
Charles Van Aylde was not a nice young gentleman. His fair hair was powdered, swept back from a high, flawless brow. His eyes were blue. Blue eyes were common enough, but his were midnight, the color of sapphires, the color of secrets. His coat was midnight too, his collar reaching to his chin, the shoulders padded wide, the very height of fashion. His cravat was ruched with Valenciennes lace; his hands were long and white. He affected a small quizzing glass, and he wore a diamond on the last finger of his left hand. I considered him in the mirror, my own reflection, but no longer a girl. In the drawing rooms and spas of the waning eighteenth century, I knew I was prey. Men might play deadly games of war or passion or politics, but the role of a young woman was to be the prize, the lovely and innocent thing for which all others strove for good or ill, to take or defend her virtue and honor as though she were a castle perennially under siege. such was against my nature. If that was the lot of women, then I would become Charles instead.
There’s a lot going on in this book, and the crossdressing is just one element among many. However, I really like the reason Elzelina began – and continued – her masquerade; it was one I hadn’t seen before, and actually made sense, at least more sense than the crossdressing usually makes.
She’s a woman with reason to be embittered, yet she repeatedly takes action in her life, even risking danger to both reputation and physical safety to try and make a better life for herself. The erotic scenes are well-written; they show Elzelina using sex, one of her few weapons, to help her control the men around her in order to achieve her goals, in an interesting comparison to how she feels when she is disguised as a man. If you’re weary of standard-issue Spunky Romance Heroines, this is a welcome change (I would not consider the book a Romance).
I was mostly aware of Jo Graham as a fantasy novelist, so it will be interesting to me to see how this outing in historical fiction will work out – the novel has fantastic elements (the heroine has a psychic gift), and apparently some ties with Graham’s Numinous World books, but it seems as if it’s being sold as mainstream historical fiction.
I obtained a galley of this book from NetGalley.
(The American Spirit Speaks)
T0 the judge of Right and Wrong
With Whom fulfilment lies
Our purpose and our power belong,
Our faith and sacrifice.
Let Freedom’s Land rejoice!
Our ancient bonds are riven;
Once more to us the eternal choice
Of Good or Ill is given.
Not at a little cost,
Hardly by prayers or tears,
Shall we recover the road we lost
In the drugged and doubting years.
But after the fires and the wrath,
But, after searching and pain,
His Mercy opens us a path
To live with ourselves again.
In the Gates of Death rejoice!
We see and hold the good—
Bear witness, Earth, we have made our choice
With Freedom’s brotherhood!
Then praise the Lord Most High
Whose Strength hath saved us whole,
Who bade us choose that the Flesh should die
And not the living Soul!
To the God in man displayed—
Where e’er we see that Birth,
Be love and understanding paid
As never yet on earth!
To the Spirit that moves in Man,
On Whom all worlds depend,
Be Glory since our world began
And service to the end!
The October speaker will be unable to make it to the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society’s meeting this Friday night (October 19), so I was asked if I could substitute. You can read more here. My portion of the program begins at 9:00 pm.
More book-preview posts. I’ve been introduced to a lot of new authors this way!
Angel With A Bullet by M.C. Grant. A lighthearted noir mystery. Yes, I meant to use both adjectives!
Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan. A Young Adult take on the Gothic novel, with humor.
Luther: the Calling by Neil Cross. A tie-in to the tv series, by the series creator.
Bleeding Through by Sandra Parshall, fifth in the Rachel Goddard mystery series.
Hanging by a Thread by Sophie Littlefield. A paranormal Young Adult mystery.
Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed, a historical romance by Anna Campbell.
When the Duchess Said Yes, a historical romance by Isabella Bradford.
The Cutting Season by Attica Locke, a mystery/thriller set on a Louisiana sugar cane plantation that offers recreations of antebellum life.
Sacrifice the Wicked by Karina Cooper – paranormal romance meets conspiracy thriller.
The Jewels of Paradise by Donna Leon – a mystery for baroque music geeks!
Mate Claimed by Jennifer Ashley – a paranormal romance.
Mortal Ties by Eileen Wilks – the newest in my favorite Urban Fantasy series.
No Matter What by Janice Kay Johnson – latest of this prolific author’s emotionally complex contemporary romances.
Angel’s Ink by Jocelynn Drake – I liked the idea behind the magic system in this.
Princess Elizabeth’s Spy by Susan Elia McNeal – a WWII historical mystery that I think would work well for a YA audience.
Scorched by Laura Griffin, a romantic suspense novel.
I’ll be at Capclave this weekend! Here’s my schedule. Full schedule here.
The Future of YA
Saturday, 12:00 pm, Rockville/Potomac
Warren Buff, Victoria Janssen, Sherin Nicole, Diana Peterfreund
What is the next big trend in YA now that Vampires and Dystopias have had their big hits? Will the audience for YA continue to build or has it overexpanded? As YA books get longer and more sophisticated, is there really a need for a separate YA label?
Romancing the Paranormal
Saturday, 3:00 pm, Salons A & B
Victoria Janssen (M), Sherin Nicole, Jean Marie Ward
Witches and werewolves and vampires in love. Why has paranormal romance become so popular? Is this a fad or a lasting subgenre? Have publishers started cutting back? How much romance needs to be in the book for it to be paranormal as opposed to urban/modern fantasy?
Young, Adult, or Both?
Saturday, 4:00 pm, Salons A & B
Andrew Fox, Ron Garner, Victoria Janssen (M), Morgan Keyes, Diana Peterfreund
How does YA differ from a children’s book or an adult book? How are the pacing, characterization, and language different, or the same? Are there things you can do with one age level and not the other? Are these distinctions needed? And what about series like Harry Potter in which the children grow up?
Dressed for Success
Saturday, 6:00 pm, Bethesda
Ron Garner, Laura Anne Gilman (M), Victoria Janssen, Diana Peterfreund
How detailed should your clothing descriptions be in your story? Does the clothing have anything to do with the character? Does it describe them, or allow them to do certain things? Do the readers care?
Sunday, 11:00 am, Bethesda
Andrew Fox, John G. Hemry, Victoria Janssen (M), Jean Marie Ward
It has been nearly a hundred years since the War to end all wars. Is this a setting that still has potential? Will the movie “War Horse” and the tv show “Downton Abbey” spark a new interest in fiction set during World War One?
To My Brother
Give me your hand, my brother, search my face;
Look in these eyes lest I should think of shame;
For we have made an end of all things base.
We are returning by the road we came.
Your lot is with the ghosts of soldiers dead,
And I am in the field where men must fight.
But in the gloom I see your laurell’d head
And through your victory I shall win the light.
The Old Huntsman and Other Poems, 1918.
Morning, Noon and Night: Erotica for Couples, edited by Alison Tyler, is out November 13, 2012 from Cleis Press. It’s an anthology with a nifty concept: one story for each hour of the day (plus one more for lagniappe). My story is the 8:00 pm one, and I was really pleased that the story immediately following mine was by Kate Pearce.
Kate and I have actually met, you see, and we chat a bit online. Though many of the other authors with whom I share anthology pages are familiar to me from their work, or their blogs, I’ve met very few of them in person (for this anthology, I’d only met Kate, and once I very briefly met Alison). It feels very homey to be snuggled up next to Kate! Virtually, that is.
The other thing about Kate is that I love her books. I have many writer-friends, and some of their books I admire, some aren’t to my taste, and some I pre-order in print as soon as I know about them. Kate is in that last category; I love her series of erotic romances set in the English Regency. My favorite is Simply Sinful, which I refer to as “the blue one,” because all of the titles begin with “Simply” and I get confused. A quick check for online editions tells me you can get the first three in that series bundled for Kindle and Nook at a discount (Simply Sinful is in the bundle).
But back to Morning, Noon, and Night. Alison, the editor, suggested that the contributors write up mini-reviews of other stories in the anthology, so of course I immediately chose “9 p.m., Victoria Coach Station” by Kate Pearce.
Kate’s story is a really nice piece of work.
She sets a mood that’s a bit scary and uncomfortable as the female point-of-view character waits, in the dark and cold, for a bus to arrive. Since this is erotica, you’re expecting her to have sex at some point, and she does, but it’s clear the entire time that the sex for this particular couple means many, many different things, most of them emotionally painful. Looming over it all is a third character, whom we never see but who is a vital part of the on-screen interaction; that’s the aspect I liked most.
“9 p.m., Victoria Coach Station” is one of those stories that is a lot more than it appears to be on the page. I was left wondering about these three characters’ relationships and lives, and what would happen to them next, and how their web of tensions might be resolved, or if there would be an explosion. It’s a thought-provoking story, and a great example of how erotica can be used to illuminate characters. Even the characters who aren’t even present.
Thanks for writing it, Kate, so I could read it!