Opening-Line Mini-Review: Charlotte Lamb’s LOVE IS A FRENZY

Love_Is_FrenzyIf you scroll down this page, you’ll see that Miss Bates took part in a “Quote Challenge,” thanks to Willaful’s Three-Day Quote Challenge. Miss Bates opted to write mini-reviews based on her impressions of a romance novel’s opening line. If you follow Miss Bates on Twitter, you’ll also know she indulges in spinsterish bubble-bath romance reading every night (you can follow her musings under the hashtag #bathtubromreading). She loved the quote format and opportunity to be succinct (not too often, mind you) šŸ˜‰ . Hashtag and quote review married and are ready to have babies. Thus, she’ll occasionally abandon herself to an opening-line mini-review of her bathtubromread. Her latest was Charlotte Lamb’s 1979 Love Is A Frenzy. Like most great romance novels, its opening line is simple and sublime:

She recognized him at once.

Beautiful. And mysterious. Who is she? What previous knowledge does she have of him allowing her to recognize him “at once”? And how clever of Lamb to use personal pronouns instead of the heroine and hero’s first name? Adding to the mystique. Working the reader’s curiosity, drawing her in without being coy, silly, or manipulative.

She is Rachel Austen, night-club singer, and he is Mark Hammond, wealthy, widowed businessman. Nicky Hammond, Mark’s son and sole heir, is head over heels in love with the older woman and Mark will do anything to save him from her clutches. Thus begins a compelling moral dance between Mark and his stereotypical view of women as gold-diggers and mercenary opportunists and Rachel’s ethical core, built of integrity, honesty, and strength. Mark throws everything at her: money, insults, power. He manipulates her career, bribes her with outlandish cheques, and snatches at her to press punishing kisses upon her – because Mark can’t fathom that her interest in Nicky is simple and pure: sheĀ likesĀ him, sheĀ caresĀ about him. He tests her over and over again, and she passes every time by showing him what’s right, what’s true, dignified, and compassionate.

Miss Bates has read quite a bit of Lamb and none have moved her as this one did. The prose was always sublime, but the characterization had something opaque to it. She’s thinking in particular of a novel likeĀ Temptation, with its angry young heroine and older man hero; or,Ā Compulsion, with the tragedy of a lost baby, the heroine’s postpartum depression, and hero’s stoic silence. Brilliant all. But not endearing. Not like this one. Miss Bates thinks she felt for this Lamb novel unlike the others because neither heroine, especially the heroine, nor hero were broken. Their clashes were philosophical and borne of their morality, or amorality, in the hero’s case. Rachel is MissB’s favourite Lamb heroine because she’s thought about life and how she wants to treat people. She’s not an innocent, or a victim, or so hurt by the hero’s actions that she’s embittered, or enraged. She understands what she feels for him, but she won’t give him what he wants because her moral integrity is more important than her heart. Her virginity may be physical – this is an HP, after all – but it’s not the basis of her virtue. The hero too is sexy and, as the line that follows the opening says of him, “An absolute bastard,” but he’s given a sympathetic backstory that is neither melodramatic, nor so hidden it’s brought to light only in the HEA. His “bastardry” stems from the business milieu, an amoral, expedient, exploitative world that has eaten his heart and sense of right and wrong. Rachel’s “unbuyability” foils his sense of the world and returns him to a state of innocence when he blurts out that he loves her. As for what comes in between, dear reader, I’ll leave that up to you to discover.

6 thoughts on “Opening-Line Mini-Review: Charlotte Lamb’s LOVE IS A FRENZY

  1. Great mini-review and an absolutely wonderful opening line! Sort of the written equivalent of a “come hither” look but CL follows through and builds on it so expertly, reeling me in. It was the same feeling in Temptation and many many others.

    Have you read Stranger In The Night? That is possibly my favorite CL of all. CL dared go where no HP writer before had ever gone in so many books. This book stretches those boundaries even more as she did in Dark Dominion. The back blurb is a bit misleading about the heroine’s issue, but despite that the hero is one of my favorites – an “alpha minor” suffering (well, as much as an alpha will allow himself to suffer quietly) from unrequited love, and there’s some terrific dialogue between the two MCs. This little bit from SITN just struck me as funny and heartbreaking and so brilliant:

    She did not want to talk about Luke Murry again. ‘What did you say to Rowena?’ she asked.

    ‘Damn Rowena,’ Macey muttered. ‘You are in love with Murry, aren’t you Clare?’

    ‘I hate him,’ she said fiercely.

    ‘Hate me like that,’ Macey came back with a bitter smile. ‘Look at me the way you look at him.'”

    Isn’t that marvelous?

    I hope you will review more Charlotte Lamb books.

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    • Thank you! Yes, I plan to do these opening-line reviews for them as they’re all in the bathtubromreading TBR. Lamb’s really the rom nonpareil: she uses the parameters of the rom without flailing against them, or whimpering like a rom-love-hater, to really break the genre open in so many interesting ways. You’ve reeled me in with Stranger In the Night! *scrambles off to check TBR*

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  2. What a wonderful review! Thank you for your insight. After reading your review I rushed to my beloved Lamb shelf just to find that I don’t own this book. But I will track down a copy!

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    • Oh, thank you! It’s really going to become a favourite for me! Love the heroine so much! Sadly, copies not easy to find, but used is super-cheap. Let me know what you think when you read it!

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  3. You make this sound so good, it makes me sad I didn’t like it much. šŸ˜¦ I was stuck on how derivative it seemed and so perhaps missed the aspects you describe.

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    • I agree, the opening and the stereotypical male/female roles felt tired to me too. But I stuck with it, was having a disjointed reading week, and came out the other side to note how Stacey kinda worked through those for something much better, fresher. But I didn’t start to feel that way until 40% in, so that’s definitely problematic. Let’s see what she’s do with the second book in the series, Controlled Burn.

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