BINGO @ BlueCastle (or super flash 80s, morally shady 60s and depressingly realistic 00s…)

Last month I was COMPLETELY unorganised and ill-prepared and my BINGO-ing went by the wayside.

This month, even though I am still not the least bit prepared (I would never be allowed in Trixie Belden’s Bob Whites…); I am SLIGHTLY more organised, so I am doing it (!)

I wish to alert the judges that my reading this month consisted of basically re-reads, with the odd other book thrown in. Yup. I was in the midst of a re-glom:

AprilBINGO

First up:

Kathryn Blair, also known as Rosalind Brett, also known as Celine Conway who is actually Lilian Warren, author extraordinaire of many, many books and completely underrated as far as I am concerned. She wrote predominately through the 50s/60s/70s and has fallen a wee bit out of vogue, as her African-based romances tend to be a tad on the problematic side, due to the rather glib references to race and gender.

I am stating for the record here and now that these books are filled with casual racism, classism, sexism, and slut-shaming (albeit very politely stated). They most definitely fall in the Problematic Reading space.

So why read them??? Well, whilst these novels are definitely not RIGHT, I can over look their less-than-acceptable aspects, because the writing is so dang good, the stories are more interesting than the norm and the hero/heroine romance is delicious.

I allow them a free pass because they are very much a product of their time. Others may not. I completely understand.

I have been collecting these stories for years and every now and then, I will have a binge and read a dozen of them in a row:

The Blue Caribbean – (Token Wife)

Set in the Farando Cay, in the Bahamas. This beautiful island has been divided between three owners: Bryn Sherard, an uncompromising autocratic Englishman; Madame de Meulen, matriarchal ruler of an aristocratic French family; and Gray Murray, who died.

Gray’s widow Ann, travels to the island, along with her younger sister Julie (the heroine of the story) and brother, Noel.

Ann is now a plantation owner, but everyone is suspicious of her motives and her reasons for marrying Gray.

The setup for this story was unusual for the time period, in that the secondary characters had rather developed storylines, as well as romances for themselves: Noel, a promising writer, and Ann with her stubborn pride and resistance to asking for help, are all really interesting.

Julie, of course, our ingenue heroine, is matched with Bryn Sherard, the enigmatic, overbearing and bossy-boots hero. They really are the norm for this type of story, but the arguing and pretend indifference is all done quite well.

Flowering Wilderness – (Sleepless Nights)

This is not one of Blair’s best. Casual racism; the hero who believes that women are fundamentally incapable of looking after themselves and surviving in Africa; classism and slut-shaming – but I could NOT not read it.

The descriptions of daily life in Africa; the way they dealt with the heat, the plagues of insects, the domestic life in primitive housing, in addition to the business side of plantations, crops and import/export was simply fascinating. Blair knows her stuff (or at least gives a very good impression of knowledge of that sort of life in the 60s.)

It is a slow burn romance, with one of those reserved, curt and judgmental heroes, that seem to abound in the 60s/70s. Nicky is a fabulous heroine. Visiting as a type of general house helper, she cooks, cleans, preserves and manages the climate with unflinching optimism. Much to our hero’s dismay.

It gets me every time…

The Tulip Tree – (No Questions Asked)

So many of Blair/Conway/Brett’s plots seem to involve the impersonating of a sister/cousin/stepsister, etc. The Tulip Tree is an excellent example of this.

Sarah, blackmailed by her stepsister into impersonating her, moves from Johannesburg to the tiny village of Pietsdorp.

There is life, personalities, deceits and love…. And most of all Brent Milward. The lean, tall, brooding hero, who thinks she is someone else and despises her for it.

Le Sigh.

If only Sarah hadn’t fallen in love with him…

So cute.

Worth reading alone for the dramatic portrayal of the barren and non-flowering Tulip Tree; which I have since learned (Bless Google), is actually a type of Magnolia…

Lightning That Lingers – (Chasing the Light)

If there was a book that epitomised the excess of the eighties, with its star crossed lovers, random asides and serious portrayal of what we now know to be ridiculous, Lightning that Lingers would be a serious contender.

Like gold braiding on a Dynasty power suit; it was completely over the top and so far fetched…but took itself SO seriously – I loved every zany minute of it.

So. We have a Librarian. Jennifer: shy, bookish, innocent. Blushes at everything male.

We have a Stripper. Philip. Former rich, super-serious biologist, trying to save his house, and build an animal sanctuary…by stripping. (It helps that he looks like a rather dishy angel…)

They meet at one of his shows. Overpowered by his sheer masculinity, Jennifer almost faints.

There are serious info-dumps re animals and their habitats, and our hero, for a change of pace has pet owls (!)

There is a really nice sense of role reversal, with Philip being the stripper and really more of a Beta hero, with his sensitivity and thoughtfulness.

The love scenes are ridonkulously funny and basically just pages of euphemisms – but too sweet for words…

And whilst there is an element of insta-love, (which I usually hate), the eighties references more than make up for it….

Definitely worth reading if you come across it in your travels…

Ain’t she Sweet – (Now) I wrote about this here

Behold the Dreamers (Exploring)

Ahh. So did I mention I was invited to join a bookclub this year???

Well, I was.

Did I mention that said book club seems to only ever read WORTHY, LONG BOOKS that made me want to fall into a boredom coma???

Well, they do.

This month’s read was Imbola Mbue’s Behold the Dreamer.

Not a bad book by any stretch of imagination. At all. In fact, I am very sure it is one of the super important literary books that (much more serious) bloggers probably wax lyrical over for days on end.

Set in the fall of 2007, the story splits itself mostly between four characters. Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem; Neni, his wife; Clark Edwards, Jende’s boss, whom he chauffeurs everywhere and Clark’s wife, Cindy.

The story is all about The American Dream and the reality of it: for those that have it and aren’t happy and those that want it, and also aren’t happy… It’s about power and privilege, immigration, class and the impacts of the recession. A quiet book, edged in sadness; it is interesting and very well written.

But to be completely honest, it was waaay to real-to-life for me. I have enough crap in my life already, that I don’t really feel like reading about the turbulent, changeable and painfully realistic lives of book people…

I was super relieved to finish it, because it meant I could go back to reading romances. Because THEY end well, and usually everyone is happy.

Sincerely,

Valancy: Planting her own Tulip Tree…because it is just TOO pretty for words…

🙂

Header Image: Flowers, Jan Baptist van Fornenburgh,1585-1650

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10 thoughts on “BINGO @ BlueCastle (or super flash 80s, morally shady 60s and depressingly realistic 00s…)

  1. Oh, I’m glad you liked Behold the Dreamers. (It sounds like you liked it?) I liked it but wasn’t sure of my feelings until I finished. There was a stretch in the first half of the book where it felt just a bit too long and I almost lost interest. It’s one of those books I’m glad I read, but I probably won’t read it again – unless it’s for my book group, ha ha! But it had a really good heart at its center.

    I totally understand about books that feel too real. I alternate “heavier” reads with lighter ones and murder mysteries for my sanity!

    And I understand also about giving books a “pass” sometimes based on the time they were written. There are some things in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House In the Big Woods, which I reread not too long ago, which made me cringe. But I still consider that series a classic and worth reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really did like it!! And I totally agree, the first half was soo drawn out, and then it did pick up – which was a bit of a relief… I don’t think I would read it again – but it was a revealing picture of people’s lives that was so interesting!

      Ooh – and I feel the same was about the Little House books – I remember having to read them at school – and never thinking much about them, but then I reread them the other year and was a little bit horrified (!)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I read the Little House books to my son before he was really talking, but I did talk about concerns as I got to them. And, I’ll admit it, some stuff I just skipped over outright.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Good Lord, yes – Lightning That Lingers is totally ridonkulous and I swear the only reason it’s beloved by romance readers is because “they” all read it in 1980-whatever or when they were 15-years-old and a dishy stripper who lets a pet owl fly all over his decrepit mansion (seriously, wouldn’t the owl poop all over everything?!?!) was viewed the height of romanticism. Also, it’s really darn impressive how much purple prose Sharon and Tom crammed into 180 pages. I mean, it’s EPIC! (“sore petals of her femininity” anyone?)

    That said, I read it for the first (and only) time when I was in my early 30s – so I was well on the other side of jaded. I firmly recognize that had I read the book when I was 16 I would have been a swooning mess of teenage emo hormones. Present day grade was around a C for me. Teenage Super Librarian In Training Grade would be OMG SQUEEEEEE BESTEST BOOK EVER A++++++.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read Lightning that Lingers maybe 5 years ago, for the first time, and ADORED it. So there. 😉 Then again, I’m the middle age woman with the sparkly purple office.

      I love those impersonation/thinks she’s the baddie stories! WIsh they had more of her at open library…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL. Sparkly is AWESOME and purple should never be underestimated! I really did like the book – though probably NOT for the reasons it was intended – and I definitely think it’s going on my -read-when-you-need-cheering-up-about-the-terribleness-of-life-in-general shelf…

        Those old-skool impersonation stories are SO delighful – I love reading them – but I know – the 6 available on open library are JUST NOT enough.

        I keep scrounging 2nd hand bookshops, but they’re getting scarcer and scarcer, and the one’s on ebay average around the $10 mark…which can get expensive really quickly.

        Le Sigh.

        Like

    2. The POO!!!! I was got completely sidetracked by the owl poo – even to the point that I actually googled potty training owls…(it *can* be done – but oh the complications…. shudder)
      Plus the keeping of the chickens in the pantry???? Only a boy would think was a good idea have all that manure near a food preparation area….

      And the purple prose – not even with the love scenes – just in general: ‘He wanted to shower her sensitivity with gifts, to crowd her memories with so much joy that the blackness would draw back like a tide and tremble at its own lack of significance…’

      Snort.

      But I totally agree – It was such a cute, ridiculous read, which is probably not quite how it was supposed to come across – BUT if I had read this when I was a teenager, I definitely would have squeed like a banshee, and bought an owlette. Or 3…

      🙂

      Like

  3. How have I never heard of Lightning that Lingers! I love your review but the comments here have me snorting at uni while I am trying to be all studious.

    And I’m so glad you got to play Bingo! I only just sat down to attempt to blog something. I’m time poor!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes – stricken with time poverty… that is me exactly – the days just seem to rush by and merge into a huge puddly mess!

      But, if you come across it, LTL it is worth read on the hilarity factor alone… The Owlettes. The stripping. The descriptions of the deflowering bedroom.
      I die.
      🙂

      Like

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