Monday, December 30, 2013
The title: Christmas Carol
The author: Flora Speer
Publication: Love Spell, 1994
Got it from: Sony Reader Store, 2013
Argh, I thought as I read this. And argh again. Because I am so confused as to what I think of this book. In some ways I enjoyed it. In other ways I was extremely frustrated by it.
This book is essentially about a modern-day lady Scrooge. Carol Simmons lives in 1993 London. The lady she was employed to be a companion to, Lady Augusta Marlowe, has just died. Carol is an extremely bitter young woman. Her dad was a businessman who committed suicide after losing his money in the 1980's financial crash and she was badly used in a previous relationship. Carol has cut herself off from the world, refusing to help anyone in need or even make her own life pleasant or comfortable in any way. Just after the funeral and during the Christmas season she is visited by the ghost of Lady Augusta, who was just as cold-hearted as Carol, in order for Carol to see the error of her ways.
In the first half of the book, Carol visits Regency London and inhabits the body of a woman very much like herself, Lady Caroline. She falls in love with Caroline's fiancee, Lord Nicholas, a man who at first seems indifferent but later reveals another side. In the second half of the book, Carol travels to a dystopian 22nd century London where she meets another version of Lord Nicholas and helps him and and his friends take down a corrupt autocratic regime.
The insanity of old school romance time-travel plots wasn't my problem. The weirdness of going from Regency London to Terminator 2: Judgement Day didn't bother me. My problem was that this book seemed to be written by two different people. I thought Carol's relationships with the various Nicholases she meets and the world-building of the past, present and future were very good. I enjoyed those aspects. But oh my goodness, this book needed an editor. There was so much extraneous detail and repetition that didn't need to be there. There were so many detailed descriptions of clothing and food that I kept wondering if there was some sort of hidden meaning to it all, only to find out that no, it was just superfluous padding. And oh my lord some of the dialogue was so, so bad in the, "as you know...let me now tell you in painstaking detail something you would already know if you were a character, but it's actually for the reader," kind of way. And I'm sorry, the Scrooge story and Carol's subsequent transformation just didn't feel organic. Outside of Victorian London, the giving selflessly to the poor thing just feels like the author is beating the poor reader over and over with a kindness stick. As for the ending, the plot packages were wrapped up so tightly that even the jaws of life couldn't pry them open.*
Was it a guilty Christmas pleasure? The answer is...sort of. As I say, I did think some of the atmospheric stuff was good, especially Carol's first ghostly appearance in the future and the visits from Lady Augusta. But the pacing just seemed so strange, and the book felt way too long. I don't know, I just finished it today so maybe I will need to revise my opinion in the future.
My Past Self: 3 1/2 stars and one duke
My Present Self: 2 1/2 stars and a can of Cranberry Gingerale
My Future Self: 4 stars and a robot servant
*And that's not a good thing.