Monday, June 1, 2015

Mondays on the Margins: In Which My Mind Remains Stubbornly Closed

I went to the gym. I was going to literally just do that - step over the threshold just to see if I still could. I was in a good routine up until Christmas. Then I skipped January because I never go to the gym in January - all the new people plus the mid-winter blahs just make it a completely untenable situation. Then, due to various injuries and concomitant mood flattening, and getting the puppy, January just stretched out... and out.... and out...

So today I got up, got dressed, then told myself as long as I got INTO the gym, I could turn around and leave and get groceries and go home, if I wanted to. Since I didn't burst into flame or become magically surrounded by a pointing-and-mocking mob the instant I stepped in the door, I thought I'd do a few arm weights. It's a start. Sometimes it feels like all I'm ever doing is starting over and over, but I guess that's marginally better than just stopping and never starting again.

A woman approached me in the change room as I was getting ready to leave and asked if I could help her. I was worried that helping her would require some kind of arcane gym knowledge which clearly I do not possess, but she had put on a heavy backpack and all she needed was someone to reach the clips and join them together for her. She was extremely grateful and I was thinking that, when someone asks you to help them in a way that's extremely easy, it's like they're giving you a gift.

Then I came home and finished my second book review assignment. The instructor has encouraged us to be open to trying out genres we don't usually read, so I decided to combine two of those and read a Cowboy Romance. I could have piled even more genres on - there are Cowboy Mystery Romances, Western Christian Romances, Gay Cowboy Romances - probably not  Christian Gay Cowboy Romances, I guess - but I thought I'd start simple.

"Be open-minded", I thought. "Maybe you'll be pleasantly surprised", I thought.

A Western Romance: Paul Yancey: Taking the High Road (Book 8). So, it's a series. They're ALL called A Western Romance, with a different first name inserted, because they're about a family of NINE BROTHERS, and each book details the pairing up and marrying off of a different brother. I guess for every book that transcends its genre there has to be a whole lot of other books lying there being untranscendedly genre-ish.

Real actual book cover
Our hero (because in this book, he is not just a protagonist - he's a hero): "In common with every other member of the Yancey clan, Paul's character encompassed many sterling qualities, born and bred into him by conscientious but loving parents blessed with more money than time to spend on their rambunctious sons. He possessed the ability to take charge and prevail during any dicey situation; a practical, no-nonsense approach to problems; a compassionate helping hand when the situation warranted; and, most of all, the capacity to learn and adapt to events as necessary."

Conscientious but loving? Shouldn't that be conscientious AND loving? Blessed with more money than time to spend on their rambunctious sons? Was that supposed to be the opposite?

"There ain't nothin' like bein' out there, one with nature, fightin' the elements, risin' to every challenge." Dropping every g that threatens to pretty up the end of a word too much...

Paul needs a team to guide him through the Sierra Nevadas, so he settles on Ezra Ferguson and his son, Teddy... damn, Teddy has pretty eyes, and that strawberry blonde hair.. WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME? Oh, thank God, he has BOOBS. "The twin mounds of a prominent and quite obviously feminine torso", to be exact. "You can't bring a girl up int' that rough country, not when --" Oh, fine, she can come, otherwise how will I I ever fulfill the tediously formulaic requirements of this series, without turning it into a Gay Cowboy Western Romance?

Teddy's fairly kick-ass, actually. Shoots a rabid wolf, slings the heavy saddlebags, and makes a mean campfire cherry cobbler. And Paul? He...DRIES THE DISHES, at one point, which probably would have had Teddy right out of her buckskins except her Paw was right alongside. To be fair, Paul does admire her intelligence, self-reliance, humour and ability to field strip a rifle almost as much as her begging-to-be-explored breasts. But then, just so we don't get any wrong-headed ideas about his manhood, we are assured that "he was a normal red-blooded American male, after all, not some eunuch stuck in an Oriental harem". Ahem. *Checks that the book WAS actually published in 2015*. 

All this I could sit comfortably with. It's a western, after all. A western romance. That takes place sometime not too long after the Civil War. But THEN, the whole group is attacked by a bounty hunter who has clear intentions of raping Teddy. She dispatches him with a cast iron frying pan - all good. THEN, as she's about to kick him, her father says "Ain't right t' go kickin' a man when he's already down, though, is it? Haven't I taught you better'n that?" SERIOUSLY? Yeah, I'm out. 

The whole thing had this curious way of meandering along in a courtly, old-fashioned vein and then suddenly jabbing you (hee) with a sudden shocking crudeness. The author bio says he was born to a poor family in the Fiji Islands, but "thanks to his own grit, determination and the support of his loving parents, he was able to embark on a journey that has seen him attain a good education and work in many parts of the world", and that he writes "drawing on his experiences in life and emulating the styles of his favorite authors". So maybe he's had some really weird experiences, or maybe he emulates really different authors in quick succession. Or maybe that's just how westerns roll these days, I wouldn't know. This book was certainly not a gateway drug. 


Magpie said...


in my office, i have a file of "other people's bad reviews".

Steph Lovelady said...

Well, it sounds as if it had some entertainment value. I taught a class on genre fiction back in the day and the romances were my least favorite, Western or otherwise.

Swistle said...

YES about the easy helping/gift. Sometimes someone in a store will ask me to reach something from a high shelf for them. I LOVE IT.

"Twin mounds"? Ick.

Loved: "Ahem. *Checks that the book WAS actually published in 2015*."

Nicole said...

I have never read a Western, so I didn't realize there were whole series of them. Hmm. Well. I can't say this makes me want to read it...

Okay, I liked your gym story. I always think the hardest part is GETTING there. Once you're there, it's okay.

Hannah said...

This had me giggling uncontrollably. As a teenager I read way more of these than I should have. Sounds like you gave up before we were able to get acquainted with Paul's throbbing manhood (I assure you it was in there, somewhere).

Alison said...

Not that I was planning to read any kind of Cowboy Romance, gay, Christian, or otherwise, but thank you for saving me time in case I ever wondered if I should try one! I love it when a reviewer points out when writing just plain doesn't make sense.