REVIEW: Emma Barry’s PARTY LINES, Or The Best Minds of a Generation

Party_LinesEmma Barry writes Miss Bates’ favourite kind of romance novel: rich in context, with characters immersed in a definitive place and time, uniquely themselves, but also emerging out of that place and time. Barry sets her contemporary romances in the arena of contemporary American politics. It was the stew that bubbled forth the first in the Easy Part trilogy, Special Interests, and second, Private Politics. Barry’s third “politically-set” romance, Party Lines, is her most “politically dense” novel yet, but it also offers a gloriously interesting romance. It contains a delicious irony in premise and title. Party politics/lines, especially modern party politics, are constantly in the public eye in this social-media age. How to carve space for intimacy, friendship, love, for “private spaces” in the midst of an election campaign as a key organizing player? That is the story of Democratic campaign manager, Michael Picetti, and Republican assistant to the deputy campaign manager, Lydia Reales. What if the furthering of one’s career hinges on this performance? What if the object of one’s love and desire is on the opposing side? Ideology, conviction, ambition, loyalty come into play and clash with desire, friendship, love, fulfillment, when political affiliations draw the line on what lines can’t be crossed for love. Continue reading

MOSTLY A READING, Bit of a Review: Rose Lerner’s SWEET DISORDER “Does More Bewitch”

MedSweetDisorderReading Rose Lerner’s Sweet Disorder, first in her Regency-Era-set Lively St. Lemeston series, Miss Bates recognized Lerner’s connection to Georgette Heyer and what Miss Bates calls the “nouvelle vague” of romance writers, such as Emma Barry: educated, erudite, both entrenched in the romance tradition and bringing new elements to it. Like Heyer, to whose influence Lerner admits in her author bio, she writes a combination of adventure with touches of farcical comedy, also glimmers of pathos, in an ensemble cast, with nuanced villains and – mai oui – a central couple’s romance. (Sweet Disorder feels like a departure from the sombre tone of Lerner’s previous novel, A Lily Among Thorns, and this lighter touch suits her. Miss Bates hopes she keeps it.) Like Barry’s latest series, The Easy Part, Lerner unfolds the romance couple’s relationship in a political arena. The day’s politics inform the hero and heroine’s courtship, bringing them together, setting them apart. They serve as coalescence and disruption. Sweet Disorder, set in the West Sussex riding of Lively St. Lemeston in an election year, 1812, sees hero’s, Nick Dymond’s, brother, Tony, struggle to beat the Tory candidate. The stakes are high for the Whig Dymonds, as they are, it turns out, for their loyal voters, the Knight family, one of whom, writer of sensational tales for Girl’s Companion, Phoebe, now the widow Sparks, is our heroine. (It’s safe to keep reading, Miss Bates has gone out of her way to avoid spoilers. Sweet Disorder‘s plot is vulnerable to them, so there’s not much summary either.) Continue reading

REVIEW: Emma Barry’s SPECIAL INTERESTS, Or Negotiating Love In a World of Realpolitik

Special InterestsEmma Barry’s Brave In Heart was one of Miss Bates’ favourite 2013 reads. She was happy to see that some were disappointed that Barry wasn’t a Rita mention this year, as she deserved to be. Brave In Heart captured Miss Bates’ love and interest from its opening sentence: ” ‘I wish to release you from our engagement.’ ” Dramatic, succinct, utterly hook-able. Special Interests, set amidst the divisive, acrimonious politics of present-day Washington DC, took longer to win her loyalty, but win it it did. Witness Special Interests‘ opening line: ” ‘Oh good, it’s not too crowded.’ ” Less élan, wouldn’t you say, dear reader? The historical context of Brave In Heart was a winning canvas to hero and heroine, Theo and Margaret: the American Civil Brave In HeartWar, life and death, men leaving, women left behind, a nation rent. The protagonists, Theo and Margaret, were seasoned, a couple taking a second-chance at love and commitment, working out old hurts and antagonisms, separation, loss, anxiety, and … drumroll, please … correspondence.  Beautiful, moving letters, the like of which we listened to on Ken Burns’ The Civil War, enthralled. How can text messages, cell calls, memos, and the cynical shenanigans of contemporary American politics compare? Special Interests had the greater challenge: to build a love story out of the mundane and build it Ms Barry did: with humour and pathos. Continue reading