Friday, April 10, 2015

Bluestockings and Rakes

I've just started reading The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan. The plot involves a female scientist who can only publish her theories by allowing a male friend to take the credit. The hero is a charming rake who wants to finally end the charade. It occurred to me that a good portion of my all-time favorite historical romances have a bluestocking + rake plot.

I can understand why that particular trope appeals to me. I am a nerdy introvert. In school, I was shy and awkward, with very few friends. As an adult, once I broadened by horizons and my social circle, I was drawn to extrovert friends of both sexes. Extroverts can compensate for my own social deficits. There are few awkward silences, and I do not have to worry about thinking of an interesting conversation-starter. At a party, if I have used up my social energy, I can retreat to the fringes of the group and allow my extrovert friends to hold court, with no one noticing my withdrawal.

I married another introvert. I do not know if I could live with an extrovert in real life. I fear that I would find it exhausting. However, in the pages of a romance novel, where a happily-ever-after is assured, I love the idea of a quiet bluestocking being swept off her feet by a charming rake.

Here are some of my very favorite bluestocking/rake romances:

Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase - Daphne is a scholar who is trying to decipher the Rosetta Stone. She encounters Rupert in Cairo, where they form a reluctant alliance. The set-up bears a resemblance to the beginning of the Brendan Fraser movie The Mummy (which I also love). No one expects much of Rupert (including his own family). He is unapologetic about his appetites and surprised by Daphne's inhibitions, but he treats her with respect. He is my favorite type of rake. I have never cared for the misogynist rake that one often finds in romance novels. That type has a general contempt for women, because either an ex or his mother behaved contemptibly in the past. I prefer the cheerful sort of rake who truly enjoys the company of women. I think that sort is a much better candidate for reform.

Confessions from an Arranged Marriage by Miranda Neville - Minerva's great ambition is to be a political hostess. She has studied history, diplomacy and the events of the day with an aim toward becoming a politician's wife. Blake is the rebellious heir of a Duke who shuns serious discussions and has no interest in books. They are forced to marry when a drunken Blake accidentally compromises Minerva at a party (after mistaking her for another woman). As the title says, this is a marriage of convenience romance, where the couple must learn to live together and fall in love after they are already married. Minerva feels contempt for Blake, whom she believes to be shallow and immature. She also resents having her life plans changed. Of course, she eventually discovers that there is far more to her husband than she assumed, and his charming rake persona hides a deep secret.

Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale - I almost didn't include this one, because it does not fit the usual model. The rakish hero, Christian, is a brilliant mathematician. The heroine, Maddy (short for Archimedea), is the daughter of another mathematician but is not as educated as the hero. She is quiet and reserved, however, and she thoroughly disapproves of the hero's dissipated lifestyle (she is a devout Quaker). They are thrown together through unusual circumstances, and Christian must overcome Maddy's reluctance to trust him and her vehement dislike of his priorities. It can also be classified as a marriage of convenience romance. This is one of those books that people remember for years after reading it. It includes a cameo by George IV, who doesn't seem like such a bad guy in this book.

A Week to Be Wicked by Tessa Dare - Another heroine named Minerva has discovered a dinosaur fossil. She wants to present her findings at an academic conference in Edinburgh, but her mother would never allow it. She bribes cash-strapped rake Colin to fake an elopement and get her there in time. This is a road trip romance, another trope that I enjoy. Their humorous misadventures often approach farce, which may not be to everyone's taste, but A Week to Be Wicked is the quintessential bluestocking/rake story. Colin loves women and sex. Minerva is sheltered but curious. They are forced into close proximity. It doesn't take a brilliant bluestocking to do the math.

No comments:

Post a Comment