21st Cen­tury Rake

The Labradorian - - Classified - Harold Wal­ters Harold Wal­ters lives in Dunville, New­found­land, do­ing his damnedest to live Hap­pily Ever Af­ter. Reach him at gh­wal­ters663@gmail.com

As does Mar­guerite Gau­tier, tragic hero­ine of Alexan­dre Du­mas’ novel “Lady of the Camel­lias”, Grace Nolan, hero­ine of Vic­to­ria Bar­bour’s novel 21st Cen­tury Rake [Flanker Press], has a con­di­tion. Not the same con­di­tion, but a trou­ble­some con­di­tion, nonethe­less.

I’ll get back to Grace’s con­di­tion.

But first …

“21st Cen­tury Rake” is the fourth book in Vic­to­ria Bar­bour’s Heart’s Ease se­ries and — shame on me — some­how I missed it a cou­ple of years ago.

Any­way, a whole slew of movie-mak­ers are in Heart’s Ease for a pre-film­ing re­treat. They hope to get in char­ac­ter for a pe­riod biopic about the quin­tes­sen­tial English dandy Beau Brum­mel. Rock star Asher Corbin is cast as lead.

I’d heard of Beau Brum­mel and knew that in his time he rep­re­sented what was vogu­ish in men’s fash­ions and, b’ys, the style was not some­thing that would com­ple­ment my ro­tund con­tours.

I didn’t know much about the Regency Era dur­ing which Beau Brum­mel strut­ted his stuff, so I Wiki-ed in­for­ma­tion.

The Regency Pe­riod of Bri­tish his­tory was the time Lit­tle Ge­orgie, Prince Re­gent, ruled Eng­land in the 1800s — give or take an era — be­cause his Pappy, Ge­orgie III went off his rocker.

What?

No, I haven’t

Grace’s con­di­tion me, it’s a doozy.

To some de­gree, fa­mous English nov­el­ist, Jane Austin, is as­so­ci­ated with the Regency Era. I sus­pect that — ex­cept for the “bodice rip­ping” bits — Vic­to­ria Bar­bour has set the scene in Heart’s Ease to re­sem­ble the so­cial drama of a Jane Austin yarn.

But what do I know? I’ve never read a Jane Austin novel.

Oh, I’ve tried, but, b’ys, they’re way too bor­ing.

“21st Cen­tury Rake” is not bor­ing. The com­pli­ca­tions and con­flicts as­so­ci­ated with Grace’s con­di­tion keep the sto­ry­line mov­ing gal­lop-trot and keep the reader on the edge of … well — con­sid­er­ing there are mo­ments with se­ri­ous bodice rip­ping po­ten­tial — keep the reader on the edge of the bed.

When Grace meets Asher Corbin she doesn’t know who he is other than a cast mem­ber of the Beau Brum­mel movie. Al­though she re­buffs his ro­man­tic ad­vances — her con­di­tion, re­mem­ber — she does see him as a de­sir­able for­got­ten but, trust spec­i­men of hunk: “It was as if his lithe body was built to ful­fill ev­ery woman’s dream. At least ev­ery woman who dreamed of an ag­ile, sen­su­ous man who seemed able to turn you on with just a look and a grin.”

So, de­ter­mined not to let her con­di­tion keep her con­fined at home, Grace even­tu­ally rigs up like Cin­derella and at­tends the Regency Ball.

Yes, there are fairy­tale el­e­ments in this novel.

For in­stance: There’s a shack in the for­est that evokes im­ages of seven lit­tle fel­lows liv­ing in the woods …

… with a princess snooz­ing in their par­lor, or wher­ever.

Wearied from traips­ing around in the woods and wor­ried about how best to deal with the ram­i­fi­ca­tions if her con­di­tion should be­come known, Grace falls asleep in the shack.

Like a lat­ter day Prince Charm­ing — or pos­si­bly a 21st cen­tury rake — Asher finds Grace slum­ber­ing inside the cabin nes­tled in the wooded bower.

Sorry, is that last half a line a bit too ro­man­ti­cally sappy?

See, “21st Cen­tury Rake” is — dare I say it? — a woman’s book. I sus­pect, so are the Jane Austin nov­els I’ve never read. The Regency Era pro­duced an abun­dance of girly things I’m guess­ing — fancy gowns and the like.

I s’pose be­cause I was smoth­ered in Regency ro­mance, some­thing scary hap­pened while I read. Some of you know I doodle and scrib­ble in the mar­gins when I read. Half­way through 21st Cen­tury Rake I re­al­ized I was doo­dling tiny hearts above the “I’s” in my scrib­ble notes.

For frig sake!

The Lady of the Camel­lias’ con­di­tion is fa­tal. Grace’s con­di­tion is not.

There’s a scene, how­ever, at the afore­men­tioned shack, in which Asher vig­or­ously — rak­ishly? — ex­hibits in­ter­est in Grace as a woman. The pas­sion of the mo­ment in­flam­ing her, Grace re­al­izes she hadn’t been “aware of the pain build­ing in her lungs.”

Grace’s con­di­tion is cen­tral to the plot. At one point, Grace wryly ad­mits there is an “ick fac­tor” as­so­ci­ated with her con­di­tion. Con­sid­er­ing she’s 27, Grace wishes her con­di­tion was not such an en­cum­brance.

Mar­guerite Gau­tier’s con­di­tion in “Lady of the Camel­lias” is con­sump­tion.

Bet your virtue, Grace Nolan’s con­di­tion in “21st Cen­tury Rake” is not con­sump­tion.

Thank you for read­ing.

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