Thunder And Roses
by Mary Jo Putney, historical (2002, 1993 reissue)
Signet, $7.50, ISBN 0-451-20515-4


Ah, nostalgia. Thunder And Roses is my introduction to "It's all the woman's fault" indoctrination that is prevalent in romance novels. Still, it's a fine book as it is because boy, the chemistry, the chemistry!

This is the start of Mary Jo Putney's Fallen Angels series, and no, Thunder And Roses is not my favorite (it's Dancing On The Wind). Nonetheless, it's still a good introduction to what I always believe is one of the best series the romance genre has to offer.

Nicholas Davies, the Demon Earl ("Nick" - get it?), is a half-gypsy dude who inherits his title solely by luck. His grandfather is an asshole, Nick's late wife is a bitch, and that's why we are all supposed to sympathize over his slutting around like Monica Lewinsky and JFK's sluttier hyperactive love child. Go slut, Nicky, we Women of Virtue Understand. Unlike that slut dead wife of yours who dares have WILD SEX and EVIL ORGIES, you having merely wild sex and evil orgies are understandable. May that bitch burn in hell for forcing you to sin.

Echoing the orchestra for Bitch Lizzie's burning in hell is our Methodist vicar's daughter Clare Morgan. May the bitch burns in hell, she thinks after she hears of that Bitch's heinous sin on Nick - by the way, Bitch Dead Woman's accomplice in Evil gets his future romance novel, where Ms Putney romanticizes his sins as emotional drama. Bitch Wife burns in hell, forgotten.

Then again, why not? Clare wants Nick to help her save her village from Evil Corporate Mine Owners. Nick agrees, but he demands that she stays with him and, er, checks his account books or something. Clare agrees, but after getting her fellow villagers to agree too. Remember, she's not that Evil Wife. She's playing strip snooker with Nick because she wants to save the world. She's letting Nick poke her because she doesn't want young kids to die in the mines. She's letting Nick buy her pretty, pretty dresses because she's thinking of her beloved Daddy. Okay, the last one sounds obscene, but you know what I mean. Right?

I don't like Clare's judgemental, self-righteous attitude which is too much of a blame-the-slut mentality for me. Watching her befriending Dead Slut's Boyfriend even as she condemns the Slut is ridiculous as well as disturbing - I am reminded of too real occasions where the women are stoned for the very crimes we laugh at when men commit them. I don't like how this story lets Nick and Slut Boyfriend of Dead Wife off the hook, or how the story glorifies them as Wronged Men, as if they have no control over where they stick their penis into whatsoever.

What I do love is Clare and Nick when they are together. Nick is a damaged man, and Ms Putney knows how to bring out everything in Nick to make me soften for him. Nick's a more accessible Captain Nemo, the man who listens to chorale music with tears in his eyes, and he's all fake bark, really. All he needs is love, awww. I should know better, but like Clare, I can't resist the sexy, dark monster lover that is Nick. There was a time when Mary Jo Putney's wounded heroes have teeth and balls, and Nick is one of her finest creations (not as good as my Lucien, of course, but close).

Nick's hurt brings out some lovely, stormy emotional scenes that are breathtaking. He also brings out the best from an otherwise boringly moral brown cow that is Clare.

And yeah, the strip snooker scene is hot. The penguins are cool, although Ms Putney's idea of a threesome is laughably pathetic (don't worry, genteel reader, the threesome thing is just a throwaway statement of Nick saying how boring it actually is - yeah, Nick is not a real guy, how do you know that?). And when Clare is not being Queen of Right Wing Damn The Women, It's Eve's Fault that Adam Eats The Bloody Apple Mentality, she's actually an intelligent heroine when it comes to everything but sex.

So what will it be? There is much to love about Thunder And Roses. I'm sure other readers less picky and bitchy than me will do and have done so already. I love this book too, even when I'm not at all pleased with the Burn, Harlot Woman, Burn overtones that coexist side by side with Harlot Men Deserve A Second (And Third, And Fourth) Chance With Pure Methodist Women nonsense. Where I come from, there's a phrase for that: them freakin' hypocrites. Bah.

Rating: 76


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