Miss Bates loved Emma Barry’s The Easy Part trilogy of political romances. Its trio of committed, intelligent, patriotic couples can serve as an antidote to the awfulness of the present election campaign. If you haven’t, you should read it. Though Barry was tried and true for Miss Bates, she had doubts about Barry’s dual writing effort with Gen Turner. Miss B’s wariness was dispelled with the first title in the Fly Me To the Moon series, Star Dust. Earth Bound‘s hero featured there as the shouting, unsmiling, mean engineer Eugene Parsons. Neither Parsons nor his heroine Dr. Charlie Eason are sunshine and light. Parsons hires Charlie as part of the team trying to beat the Soviets to the moon in 1960s America. As a woman in a man’s world, Barry-Turner make real the viscerally painful experience of being dismissed and overlooked even when you’re the smartest person in the room. Miss Bates felt Charlie’s anger and frustration as she would were she right there being smart and ignored. MissB burned up for Charlie on so many occasions while reading Earth Bound. Navigating the male world while playing the beautiful woman card and hiding your intellectual light is all too familiar to women. Except for demanding, insufferable Eugene, with whom Charlie embarks on an illicit and seemingly sordid, anonymous affair. Only to the hypocrites. Charlie and Eugene may at first only give and take bodily pleasure, but the heart and head of two compatible, beautiful loner-outsiders will have their way.
Earth Bound is a peculiar romance-read: it doesn’t contain the sheer fun and banter of Star Dust, but its gravitas is yet charming and powerful. Eugene and Charlie are intense brainiacs. They’re workaholics. They’re older. They’re self-contained and self-sufficient. They’re driven and focussed and dedicated to the mission. They’re single-minded and closed-off. Miss Bates loved them both very much. Which is why what she’s going to say next will sound contradictory: it took her an awfully long time to warm up to the novel. She didn’t really start loving it till past the half way point. And if it wasn’t for her enjoyment of Star Dust and The Easy Part trilogy, she might have abandoned it.
Like most emotionally-reticent workaholics, driven by mission rather than ambition, because Charlie and Eugene love what they do, they think they don’t need love. Barry-Turner did something quite interesting with this: while Charlie and Eugene work night-and-day to put a man on the moon, they carry on an affair in a seedy motel. Yes, it is wise, given their positions at the American Space Department, to keep their professional propriety, but that’s not really why they have an anonymous affair. Rather, it suits their natures. They live under the illusion that to satisfy the body is enough. They go on like this for over a year: meeting for a few hours, returning to work the next day and continuing their sometimes antagonistic, sometimes sublimely in sync, work relationship. (Miss Bates has a theory that it’s the work relationship that drives them to engage in some emotional intimacy. Because, through their work and co-operation, they learn to respect each other.) Miss Bates’s problem with Earth Bound, she suspects, has to do with the lack of conversational exchanges that are so important to the developping romance relationship. Eugene and Charlie, hmm, just don’t talk enough. And Barry-Turner, therefore, leave the first half of their romance novel to exposition.
Ah, but the second half … is worth every moment that the reader invests in the first. Is there anything more beautiful than a closed-mouthed, close-offed hero and heroine suddenly at their emotions’ mercies? Eugene and Charlie fall so hard for each other and yet exist under the illusion that they haven’t. It’s delicious romantic poetry: how their need for each other creeps up and in to them. How they stumble and fall and trip and really really really mess up.
Despite Miss Bates’s criticism of Barry-Turner’s excessive exposition, she admires them for the elegance of their prose. Miss Bates loved their figure for Charlie and Eugene’s growing attraction: “The moment had happened as smooth and slow as honey dripping from a spoon.” And she loved the torment of Eugene’s realization of his love for Charlie: “As the ache within him bloomed fully into pain, grew petals of agony and thorns of yearning, he knew – he loved her.” In the end, Earth Bound won over Miss Bates and her reading companion, Miss Austen, and together they say this romance novel is evidence of “a mind lively and at ease,” Emma.
Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner’s Earth Bound released on May 11th. It’s self-published and readily available at your preferred vendors. Miss Bates is grateful to the authors for an e-ARC.