Thursday, September 17, 2015

Improper English - Katie MacAlister

Improper EnglishI loved this book.  Many people did not.  I can understand that.  I, however, loved it, devoured it, thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was great.  Is it trashy?  Yes, yes, yes.  It is complete and utter trash.  Delicious trash.

Here are the reasons why people might not like this book.  They might find the main character obstinate.  Alix (which, I will admit, is a stupid way to spell a nickname for Alexandra) could be perceived as very, very annoying.  This is all a matter of taste, which I will admit can vary greatly.  She was definitely stubborn, to the point of obstinacy at many times, and she lashed out needlessly and hurt those close to her on purpose.  This frustrated a lot of people, as I can see by scanning some other reviews.  It didn't frustrate me, and there's a reason for that: I see a lot of myself in Alix.  A lot of self-doubt and insecurity, and a desire to push people away before they hurt her drives much of her behavior, just has it has, in the past, driven much of mine.  Part of her character development is getting over that insecurity, though it takes much of the book for her to get to that point--it all has to be pointed out to her, repeatedly, by various people, until she will listen and self-reflect enough to act.

People might also not like the amount of sex in this book.  As an avid reader of historical romances, I was a bit surprised by the amount.  Alix is certainly a girl in touch with what she wants physically, and she's not afraid to go for it.  Alix and Alex (her love interest; the naming is, I easily admit, trite) go at it fast and frequently.  I'm used to romances not having sex until at least a little later in the book, but I don't think it derailed anything and, in fact, was one of the things that fueled the conflict.  That conflict, by the way, largely revolved around Alix and Alex being wildly attracted to each other but wanting and expecting wildly different things out of their relationship.  It's not a hugely inventive conflict, but I liked it.  I found it realistic.  I maybe found the reconciliation a little less realistic, but a romance has to have a happy ending, amiright?  Because of that, it didn't sit poorly with me.  If MacAlister had been aiming for a more literary twist, maybe--but not in a pure romance.

Like I said, those things might bother some people; they didn't bother me.  I thought that, initially, there might be a mystery squeezed in somewhere to match Alex's occupation as a detective, but there wasn't, for which I was happy.  I often find that when people try sandwich side-plots into romances, it doesn't work out very well.  A few other things come to mind as worthy of mention, though.  Each chapter starts out with an astonishingly bad portion of a historical romance novel that Alix is trying to write.  These portions parallel parts of the story, but they also show Alix's shifting psyche.  I, personally, liked it.  Also, if you're picking up the Kindle edition, as I did, there's some wacky formatting going on in a few spots that looks positively bad.  This book was originally published in 2003, well before the advent of Kindle, and its conversion doesn't appear to have occurred without a few bumps in the road.  It had me nervous at first; I wasn't sure if the dialogue formatting and paragraph spacing would allow me to retain my sanity for the duration.  Luckily, they improved immensely with only a few rough spots later on.  The cast of supporting characters also sports a wide variety of sometimes-stereotypical building-mates that I thoroughly enjoyed but the easily-offended might find offensive.  (I admit it; I'm not a social justice warrior.  I'm also intelligent enough to realize that just because two lesbians in a book come across as stereotypical doesn't mean that all lesbians are.)

So, does this book have its flaws?  Yes.  Yes it does.  But I loved it anyway.  I found it light and funny, I devoured it in one sitting, and thought it was a perfect treat with which to end a long day.  And you know what?  I'd probably read it, and enjoy it again.  So there.

4 stars out of 5.

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