Tuesday, 15 March 2011

A love affair with antiquity...

Maybe it's because I studied Classical Civilisations at University, or maybe it was an early diet of Indiana Jones film (peppered with Clash of the Titans) but I do have a soft spot for novels featuring treasure hunters. Or Egyptologists. Or even the humble coptic script scholar. Frankly, having a heroine with a brain in her head and a modicum of practicality is a good start.

Here is a run down of my top three romances-with-a-touch-of-antiquity (in reverse order):

3. Louise Allen's The Notorious Mr Ravenhurst
I like Louise Allen and I've enjoyed pretty much all of the Ravenhurst series. But this one I love. I love the way Nell Ravenhurst blossoms and becomes her own woman; I love Theo Ravenhurst's broad-mindedness and good humour and I love their blossoming friendship which slips into passion. Both main protagonists are misfits in their own way but they are also brave, resourceful and funny. Furthermore the book's stuffed full of treasure-hunters, dungeons, priceless sex toys and the odd random minor royal. What's not to love?

2. Loretta Chase's Mr Impossible
I only just finished Loretta Chase's Mr Impossible which was absolutely top notch stuff - endearing characters, witty dialogue and pacy plotting. The minor characters are funny and well drawn, there are mummies and murders; crocodiles and corruption; a touching, sweetly unfurling and very funny love affair between two opposites who are a perfect fit. Loretta Chase at her absolute best. I'm now officially A Big Fan. It was a slowly kindled love affair with the Chase canon - I read Lord Perfect many moons ago and hadn't been that taken with it mainly because I felt that Bathsheba - the heroine - lacked gumption. Lord Perfect has hovered on my keepers shelf, because I'm not sure how I feel about it - I liked it, but I didn't love it. However, after all the raves on Smart Bitches Trashy Books and a sneaking suspicion that I was Missing Out on Something, I decided to give the lovely Loretta another whirl. It turns out benevolent fate was giving me second chance. A box of books from my big sister brought me Mr Impossible and I was hooked. Hurray for that! If you like your tomb raiding served with a side order of wit and verve, Loretta Chase is your woman. Straight in at number two.

1. Connie Brockway's As you Desire
Connie Brockway describes As you Desire as her favourite and also her least successful book. The latter I just do not understand. As Ms Brockway herself says: it's a damn fine book. Based on a romance between an egyptologist heroine and an dyselexic action hero, As you Desire caught me from the first few pages. Its beginning turns romantic conventions on their head, tickled my sense of humour from the offset (romantic dream hero turns out to be unromantic childhood friend who is secretly the romantic hero) and did a fantastic job of establishing romantic tension. Furthermore it contains the absolutely most romantic speech I have ever read a hero give to/or about a heroine. It sent shivers down my spine and butterflies to my stomach. I practically wept. I would have given my eyeteeth to have written it myself, but I am almost equally as delighted to have the pleasure of reading it. Highly recommended!

Of course I'm keen to immerse myself in that whole world now. I now have the following books on my 'to be read' shelf (and kindle virtual shelf):
Egypt: How a Lost Civilisation was Rediscovered, by Joyce Tyldesley
The Virago Book of Women Travellers, edited by Mary Morris with Lary O'Connor
Unsuitable for Ladies: An Anthology of Women Travellers by Jane Robinson
Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands by Mary Seacole

I'm trying to hold off from plunging into them because what I don't need is being sidetracked yet further from focusing on my work in progress. I get sidetracked into exciting new projects too easily and so I am repeating a mantra to myself: I WILL finish this one!

So far I have part written a romance about vampire spies; a romance about elven assassins; and a romance about a selkie and a witch. Sigh (you can guess where I rate on a Belbin Personality Test... 0 for completer finisher). And then there's my current work in progress; a romance about a methodist and a playwright.

I WILL finish this one!

To facilitate my writing progress, my trawl through anecdotes of women travellers and egyptologists will have to wait. However in the meantime, I would happily and gratefully receive any book recommendations for romances in this vein. Romance reading is of course not a distraction, it's crucial to the maintenance of a sanguine mind (especially when augmented by a hot bath). A good romance plus a hot bath is the formula for a relaxing evening: better than prozac, laughing gas and a tickle all rolled into one.

Especially if it features an egyptologist!

(Let me know if you've read any good ones)

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