Seducing Mr. Knightly is Amazing

Posted on September 27, 2014 by Richard Goulter
Tags: , ,

I re-read through Maya Rodale’s “Seducing Mr Knightly” for the nth time recently. (Well, I read it again late August, and it’s now late September. I haven’t found the time to finish this writeup!).
It’s deservedly one of my favourite books.

Wtih the good books, I cherish the moments in narrative which are sweet and adorable and intimate, and all sorts of good things. This book gives me a bunch of such moments to treasure.

Well. I like Maya Rodale’s writing. I find her writing ‘voice’ adorable, and I think the way she plays with the orthography so as to convey thoughts is wonderful. (cf. her latest blogpost).

But notably, Maya also really writes really good characters.
Or, rather, characters who are on-par with each other; Heroes/Heroines who aren’t necessarily the same, but are very equal to each other. ‘Equality’ among the Hero/Heroine isn’t exactly a necessity; but it’s something I think a lot of authors try to aim for. Most seem to miss this mark somehow.
Now, while Maya’s Heroines are powerful figures; they’re also characters who suffer doubts and anxieties and are really going out of their comfort zone to do all these brave actions. (Anxieties more than just “my knees are weak at the sight of the Hero”).
- In that sense, I like these Heroines who aren’t just a fantasy-plaything for the author, a set of idealistic features in a Heroine. But I really, really like the Heroes that Maya writes. Like her Heroines, they’re characters who have faults.. but not in a cliche my-only-fault-is-how-dazzlingly-rich-and-handsome-and-kind-and-smart-I-am kind of way.
– Beyond just Hero/Heroine, Maya’s books are one of the few where I enjoy reading of the protagonists friendships. The Hero/Heroine’s friends are human! The relationships are human, with conflict and tension; but also endearingly charming at the same time.
I think Maya also hits along the lines of the town-as-a-character, a location with vitality quite well, also.

Erm. I really like Maya’s writing. :-)
And “Seducing Mr. Knightly” is probably her best to date.

But beyond this, part of why I love the book must be its meta nature.
The Heroine is a reader. Like, actually a reader, not one tiny mention of “I read books all the time” which some characters get.
The interaction the townspeople (the letters to Dear Annabelle they send) in the story totes fits in with IRL readers of the story. I see other readers say things like “Annabelle is silly for (not) rejecting Knightly like that!”, and the townspeople in the story shared similar thoughts.
And thirdly, the book is also self-similar. The book is about ~50 chapters.
The first 35 could be titled “Seducing Mr Knightly” (where Annabelle chases after Knightly), and the last ~17 “Seducing Dear Annabelle” (where Knightly chases Annabelle). This isn’t a profound observation, but I think it’s sufficiently different from a reader’s expectation that it seems strange. (Why not just cut the last ~20 chapters and have a nice wee story of Annabelle getting her man?).

I also adore that the Heroine here also has this “world gives her a tonne of shit, she holds” thing going on, which is a quality some of my other favourite books haveis a quality some of my other favourite. (‘Devil in Winter’, ‘Lord of Scoundrels’ would be good examples).

The author starts out at least the first ~10 chapters gunning hard. (At least the first ten, anyway). Having re-read it many times, I know that as soon as I start reading the start, then I can’t put it down until at least 10 chapters through.
It reminded me a lot of ‘Romancing Mr Bridgerton’, in the whole ‘shy anonymous writer popular with the town secretly adores some guy who doesn’t notice her’ nature. (Wallflowers abound, but why don’t I see more books like this?).
But the author goes on to have this character be more than simply a shy character; Annabelle ‘blooms’, and unveils her personality to be quite adventurous (and sexy!). (In some sense, I think Devil in Winter does this better, where it’s ok for the shy character to remain shy. On the other hand, Maya’s latest has a rule-loving girl be adventurous by breaking the rules (as a rule), before she realising she does really like the order which comes from following rules).
But more than “shy girl blooms”, you also have this character who … grows into herself and grows out of a “She Who Loves Knightly” definition of herself, to be someone more than that. (If romance-novels have to answer this question of “How can you have a character who is both strong & independent, as well as attached to somebody else?”, then I think SMK answers it pretty well).

And the sex? Last time I read SMK, I counted two sex scenes, and the second one didn’t “really” count since there were no details. (Right?). I forgot the narrator opts for narrating hot details and desires the characters feel.

And agenda?
After re-reading SMK many times,
and following Maya on twitter, and reading much of her blog…
I noticed, this time, the author’s attitude is alive in there. What I feel too commonly when reading is authors feel the need to preach something in their narrative. Naturally. I think many such authors aren’t all that great at communicating/arguing their point well to others if it’s noticeable. I don’t mean to say authors shouldn’t spout opinion, but I think it’s awesome that the agenda gets included without being all self-righteous and in-your-face about what the author thinks. (That is pretty much unlike pretty much every other author I’ve read, so far as I can tell).

Maya’s best? Well.
Her latest novel was pretty good. And next week she’s got a new book coming out which looks like it’ll be pretty good.

Ah well. I think that’s more than enough gushing over a really good book. (Enough for one blogpost, at least).
(This post isn’t particularly for you to care about; unless you see the adoration above as backhanded criticism of many other books. But, still).

Newer post Older post