Reader's Response to "At the Duke's Wedding", Pt. 2

Posted on August 3, 2013 by richardgoulter
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I was quite impressed reading Miranda Neville’s novella in “At the Duke’s Wedding”.

To discuss why it’s so neat necessitates spoiling. (Well, spoiler: the hero and heroine end up happily-ever-after. If that kindof thing spoils a romance-novel for you, I’m rather surprised..).

Within the novella, one key trope the plot relies on is falling-for-your-mate’s-girl. There’re probably other things to be analysed that the author did; perhaps just as important is the H/H fall in love over correspondence. (I’m not sure if describing a narrative as a composition of tropes is a good or a bad thing, btw).

In short, the conflict of which guy the girl ends up with is turkey-shoot. (The clever-and-witty Hero, or the dimwit mate she thought she was corresponding with..).
So the happily-ever-after isn’t, I don’t think, in any way surprising or interesting in itself.

I did find the novella interesting in that it had me thinking.
Perhaps this is just because I like to think. I dunno. (Doesn’t particularly matter so much as that thought occurred).

See, the most striking thing is how amazingly unsympathetic I am as a reader to the-dude’s-mate in the aforementioned story. (I mean: Of course our Hero who secretly loves the Heroine, who unknowingly loves the Hero… of course that’s what the ending ought to be in a romance-novel..).
The-dude’s-mate happens to be strikingly-handsome (in comparison to Hero’s marred appearance), is as thick as peas (in comparison to Hero’s sharp wit), is an awful kisser (…), pays the lady no attention (…), and can’t even hold a half-decent conversation with her when he’s about (again, stark contrast with Hero still holds).
Maybe “turkey shoot” is the wrong phrase, and “fish in a barrel” would be more apt.*

Critical as that sounds of Neville’s work - if it really is an awful construct of narrative, then the excuse is the story is so damn short, so things have to be simple.. - I suspect I found it so extreme that you just have to have a bit of sympathy for the poor guy.
But like, I was engaged so as to wonder, consider and question.
Clearly the moral of “character over appearance” is an important part of this wee narrative. But it’s almost supported to such an extreme so as to be rude to “dumb people”; Why can’t the dumb fella have a chance at getting the girl? (Is it such an awful crime to be dumb, or to be handsome?). Here it’s damn-clear which guy is “right for her”; or, it just seems, which one is the better guy. There has to be the question lingering in the mind as to, “so what things are valuable and important for a hero to have?”** (The genre somewhat comes to the defense with some things, here, in that a romance-novel where the Hero wasn’t a good lover wouldn’t be so cute; or if the Hero’s conversation were awkward and inarticulate, it wouldn’t be fun to read..).

Because the ‘justice’ of the situation is clear here, it’s also not a tough call for the reader to decide “Okay, Heroine should split from her boyfriend, and get with Mr. Hero”; which is a bit of a cold-hearted thing to think. (The-dude’s-mate was quite upset with such an outcome, for what it’s worth).
Here it seems clear that the heroine is doing the right thing jumping ship for a better deal, so to speak. Which would be more interesting with a more complex conflict of ‘what a good hero ought to be’, for one..

But also: if the narratives we digest are at all to inspire thought and consideration, then this is a statement about what’s healthy and right in relationships. Rather, I’ve read at least one story*** where, after an initial rough start where the Hero totally pines for some other chick (not the Heroine), it comes to be that the H/H are in a strong & steady relationship.
In Neville’s novella, it’s important that the H/H are compatible right-up-front; otherwise the relationship is worthless. (Again, maybe it would be hard to discuss otherwise in a novella..).
In contrast, perhaps it’s possible that the value of the relationship isn’t so much where it starts so much as the journey it takes. (Or something like that).

Unfortunately, it’s all rather too vague and abstract to bother arguing so much about, when the details of each case would be so important.

(* As an aside, it’s worth noting here that Neville’s not too dim about this: Her characters seem quite human rather than fantastic. Her heroine has agency: taking action to get her Hero; and she objects to being thought of as a prize to be won.
I mean the fish is the HEA, not the Heroine).

(** Perhaps one part of the romance-novel is discussing/pursuing ideals. I think it’s superficially clear that good qualities are handsome/kind/clever/strong/etc. but altogether this never makes for a relatable, interesting character. Heroes which have flaws are inevitably more interesting. Unfortunately for this novella, I don’t reckon “being a bit ugly” counts as a big character flaw. Fortunately, Neville is also much more subtle than that. :-) )

(*** Okay, I lie.. I’m specifically thinking of Sherry Thomas’ fantastic “Ravishing the Heiress”).

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