The Mad Marquis
by Fiona Carr, historical (2003)
Leisure, $5.99, ISBN 0-8439-5186-9


I guess when the author's writing style is so unappealing to me, there's very little she can do to improve the situation. In this case, Fiona Carr's The Mad Marquis also suffers from one-dimensional characters and Disneyfication of serious issues. All in all, a really annoying book from page one to end.

Julia Westfall doesn't want to marry because marrying means she will have to have children, and she believes that (a) she will be a lousy mother (don't ask), (b) she has no time for kids or anything because her life is consumed by her passion for horses, and (c) er, there's no (c). The hero Henry Pelham believes that he will go mad one day, thanks for his aunt and uncle. But he needs a mommy for his daughter - yes, that type of daughter - so he'll marry Julia. He doesn't want kids, she doesn't want kids, they marry, then he wants, she doesn't, then she wants, he doesn't, and so they go.

It is bad enough that the author portrays insanity like some dotty happy peacecakes thing, but her writing style is what really turns me off this book. Ms Carr writes in a way that her words come together in a clomp-clomp-clomp staccato way when I read the words out in my mind. Am I making sense here? The author's sentences are simple. Like this. While her sentences aren't as short as Robin Schone's, for example, her use of simple sentences to the exclusion of other forms of sentences give me the impression that I am reading a long, long Ladybird's Reading For Beginners book with sex in it. If I'm still not making sense, maybe the following paragraphs will make my point. Also, I hope the following paragraphs make another point of contention I have with this story: the heroine is really obsessed with horses to the point of creepy.

Frills and fripperies! Lady Julia Westfall tapped an impatient foot on her father's dance floor. She would have exchanged it all - the bejeweled guests, the fancy dress, the throng of happy tenants - for her beloved stableyard. For muck and clatter and the sweet smell of a hot horse. ("A hot horse... What on earth?!!" - Mrs G) For large, mute friends who accepted what she was. (Page 1)

She couldn't help assessing him like an equine offering at auction. His ground-covering stride promised speed. His easy carriage boded well for balance over fences. Broad shoulders and a deep chest signaled stamina and heart. The muscles of his iron-hard legs bunched with each nearing stride, bunched and lengthened, and... Oh!... his private attributes... (The man is not naked, in case you're wondering. Julia must have X-ray vision or something. - Mrs G) (page 3)

There's just something about the cadence, the pacing, and the length of the sentences in this book that really irritate me. This rarely happens to me when I am reading a book, but the author's reliance of a repetitious pattern in her sentences and the way her sentences always feel truncated - everything throws me off. I'm also not enamored of the lack of proper pacing in the story. The author doesn't know how to build up a scene. She just lays everything out. Yes, Julia feels this. She thinks Henry looks like a hot horse. She likes the kid. She wants to be a mother now. But the why and how are never shown in the story. Because of the lack of scene build-up or subtle character-building - everything just moves from point A to B, as if the author is plotting a shopping list - the story never flows as well as it should.

And of course, if the above two paragraphs don't make you wonder whether they have legalized bestiality while you weren't looking, I have a feeling you will enjoy this book better.

The very flat writing that is devoid of any style or hook is bad enough, but the author also applies her Point A to Point B linear techniques to the characters as well. In the end, The Mad Marquis is a very difficult book to like because everything about it feels wrong to me. I can't very well in good conscience be "fair" in this instance, even if Julia's unintentional bestiality tendencies provide a few moments of pure comedy gold. The author will do well to develop a smoother writing style and learn to slowly build up her story and characters instead of laying everything out to the reader before she tries anything more.

Rating: 40


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