Speaking of Gothics, Lydia Joyce is a Gothic/historical romance author who writes books set in Victorian England which are ALL BASICALLY TITLED the same thing. I have read ... two of them...? Their titles both end in 'night...'? (THERE IS TOTALLY ONE CALLED 'MUSIC OF THE NIGHT' AND I FEEL I HAVE TO READ IT.)
OK, research indicates that the first one I read and the one that was the most fun was Voices of the Night
, which is about a poor wannabe opera singer on the run from the Victorian mob and a rich dude who is trying to My Fair Lady
her for a bet and is really disgruntled when his whole plot keeps getting derailed by the TARGETED BY THE MOB thing.
My favorite thing about this book is that there's, like, maybe two chapters' worth of pretense that the hero has a level of backstory angst that can even compare to the heroine's before both he and the author just give up completely.
CHARLES: My dad was a jerk who never loved me and had affairs!
MAGGIE: That's nice. I didn't have parents. Or a house. Or meals.
CHARLES: I'm cold and untrusting and emotionally closed off!
MAGGIE: I literally killed a guy.
MAGGIE: So are you going to help me protect my plucky street orphan family from the mob or what?
CHARLES: ....yeah OK
Maggie is great and plucky street orphan family are great; it seems tragically rare to get lots of characters in this kind of book who are actually
lower-class (and not secret nobility/royalty in disguise). Of course it's a historical romance so they have to get married at the end, which I was actually kind of sad about because Maggie makes a really good case all through for why they shouldn't
get married and how annoying it would be for her to live a lie for the rest of her life, and I do not feel her legitimate issues were adequately addressed. They didn't have to get married! She could've been an opera singer! Shadows of the Night
meanwhile is not as much fun but is sort of more interesting in premise -- it starts out with demure protagonist Fern getting married, and then coming to a belated, depressing realization that VICTORIAN MARRIAGE IS THE WORST and she has just relinquished all control of her life AND THAT'S HORRIFYING.
Meanwhile, her new husband, Colin, is not, like, that
terrible, I guess, as Victorian husbands go (I mean. he's pretty solidly terrible) but super bored and doesn't understand why this marriage thing seems more difficult than it should be, and why his wife seems faintly resentful all the time.
So they kind of fake smile at each other for the first chapter or so and have a horrible honeymoon and a horrible wedding night (well, Colin thinks it's boring but fine; Fern, again, is viscerally creeped out and unhappy about the power dynamics inherent in the system) and eventually things build to a head and Fern smacks Colin in the face, and Colin's like !!! ... well that wasn't boring? ...I kind of liked it ...?? ... do it again maybe? and Fern is just like WELL THANK GOD PUNCHING YOU IN THE FACE IS SOMETHING I CAN HAVE CONTROL OVER AT LAST.
So then they run off to a big Gothic house in the country to sort out their marriage and have a whole plotline with secret history and attempted murder, which is all fine but distracts a little bit from the heart of the book, which is this exploration of the subtle horror that are the expected power dynamics of a Victorian marriage and whether there's any way within the system to rectify that and make it bearable.
And I mean, of course this is a romance novel, so of course they do, and having them become mystery-solving buddies through their Gothic travails -- while a fun plot in and of itself! -- allows the book to kind of cheat out on the question. ( I mean, I guess the Victorian marriage is the subtextual horror at the heart of the Gothic genre anyway, so maybe if you take it out and make it the actual, textual horror, the rest of the Gothic plot can't help but distract.) But man, I'm still kind of impressed the question was explicitly asked.This entry is cross-posted at Livejournal from http://skygiants.dreamwidth.org/390202.html. Please feel free to comment here or there! There are currently comments on Dreamwidth.