Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Review(ish): BECAUSE YOU'RE MINE by Lisa Kleypas

because you're mine cover

Five reasons why you should read this awesome historical romance:

  1. "The theatre, the theatre, whatever happened to the theatre."  I LOVE the setting of Because You're Mine, which is a London theater called the Capital. Madeline, the heroine, runs away from school and heads straight for the Capital, where she wants to get a job. Not as an actress, but as a general assistant. I'm quite partial to books set in theaters, and Lisa Kleypas turns the Capital into its own little world, filling it with well-research details about theatrical production in the early 19th century. You all know I love research.
  2. Secondary characters  Naturally, if you set a novel in a theater, you need eccentric characters to fill it! I loved the secondary in Because You're Mine, from the supporting actors Arlyss Barry and Stephen Maitland, to Madeline's landlady, Mrs. Florence, who used to be an actress herself. They're all full of personality and make the story fun as well as bringing it to life.
  3. Logan  One of Kleypas' strengths is creating great romantic heroes, and Logan Scott, the director and lead actor at the Capital, is no exception. When we first meet him, Logan is hilariously grumbly, yet inspires loyalty and admiration in the entire company because he's fair and honorable. He expects a lot from other people, but he expects more from himself. He reminded me of a pirate captain, and the Capital definitely has the atmosphere of a ship that's a world unto itself and under his command, and for that reason alone he's a fascinating character.
  4. Madeline  By far my favorite character in Because You're Mine is Madeline. She's young and sweet, and she's anything but a "kick-ass heroine." I would argue she's a strong woman. Personally, I'm sick of encountering heroines who have no emotions and/or are total bitches, and somehow this is supposed to translate into a strong female character. Sorry, but I can't connect to characters like that. Maddy is guileless and extremely innocent, but she goes after what she wants and follows her dreams even when it's scary or the stakes are high, which to me is more evidence of a strong character than biting someone's head off. She's also no shrinking violet: she's the sexual aggressor in her relationship with Logan and is up-front about desiring him. How many female characters can you think of who do that and aren't villains?
  5. Feminism  I'm not about to say this book is a feminist treatise, but it does pass the Bechdel Test. AND IN A ROMANCE NOVEL, NO LESS! For those of you who aren't familiar, the Bechdel Test is a litmus test for fully-realized female characters and gender equality, mainly applied to TV shows and movies, but also books. It consists of three criteria: The story has 1. a female character who 2. talks to another female character about 3. something other than a dude. (For more about this, you should check out the excellent post, "A Question About the Bechdel Test," at Jenny's Books.) Think about the last few books you read and ask yourself if they pass the Bechdel Test; you'll be surprised at how many don't. Because You're Mine, however, does: Madeline gets Mrs. Florence to tell her stories about her family and working as an actress, and talks about pregnancy and party planning with her friend and Logan's business partner, Julia. Just to reiterate: this is a romance novel. If there's any type of book where it might be expected for two female characters to meet for the sole purpose of talking about the hero, it would be a romance. But Because You're Mine isn't just a romance, it's an adventure that centers around a woman. As good as Kleypas is about writing male characters, it's Madeline's story.
Because You're Mine isn't one of Kleypas' best novels--they are a few too many convenient plot devices and sometimes Logan's decisions don't make sense--but it is one of her (many) keepers.


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