Thursday, January 15, 2009

My Favorite Kind of Romance

I’m anal, bitchy, and the most cynical creature about anything and everything. I assume most people don’t have this problem, making romance novels for them easier to digest than they are for me. See, I’m not very liberal with love—if anything, I’m completely, utterly exclusive about it (and everything else, really). Convincing me of love as a motivator? Making the whole plot center around love? You better be a hell of a storyteller, is all I’m saying.

With this in mind, I bring forth Bloom by Elizabeth Scott and Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta. They’re not alike on the surface, but if you dig deeper, there’s a very clear and distinctive connection to be made…

You know that thing about the first time sucking and it getting better each consecutive time? I never in a million years thought it could apply to books. But hell, what do I know? It does. I didn’t have the most favorable opinion on either of these the first time around, but here’s the thing: With Melina Marchetta, she’s one the authors I lurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrve (roll your eyes all you want, it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO true), and with Elizabeth Scott, it usually takes more than one read through her books for them to sink in. (Side note: I don’t mean it as a bad thing. I quite like her books. Just don’t absorb them as quickly!) By which I mean I couldn’t let it end there.

So like a good (little?) girl, I went back and reread them. And it’s a funny thing, falling in love with a love story. Falling in love with two of those? Aw, well damn.

Saving Francesca tells the story of how transformed Francesca’s life becomes when one day her mom won’t get out of bed. The setting is quite unique: a boys’ school that just decided to go co-ed. Many, many guys and only a handful of girls. Fun! Above that, it’s set in Australia, so you can hear all the orgasmic accents as the characters speak. If nothing else, there’s that. But aside from that, there’s the fact it’s a damn good, realistic book in how parental depression affects a family and how there’s a certain beauty—or at least a quality—in even the ugliest situations that keep you afloat. I want to say the tone of the novel is kind of like that of a chick-lit book’s, but that’s slightly inaccurate. Look, I don’t know. It’s something else altogether, and what it is makes the darkness in this book digestible, heartfelt, and ultimately hopeful.

I just have to say, what I love about Melina Marchetta is that she just never has any halfhearted characters. I could pick each and every one of the ones here apart, consider their portrayal in the book, and genuinely ask to read a book solely about them. Considering my review pile, that’s saying a lot.

But it’s the love element that makes this book distinguishable. Not only the romantic love, mind, but every other type: the amicable one, the familial one, etc. Usually these types of descriptions make me want to puke as, yeah, not my thing, but Francesca is just as cynical as me so she makes it work.

And now, Bloom. Bloom is not as all-encompassing as Francesca, but it’s every bit as wholesome, and it gives a deeper look into the romantic type of love in Francesca. It’s basically about a girl who has to choose between the love of her life, around whom she can’t control her feelings, and the guy who offers her stability and security, with whom everything is “nice”, quaint even, if that passes an insult. It’s the same type of situation Francesca finds herself in, except this is its reverse: In Francesca, it’s the guy who has to choose; here, as I mentioned, it’s the girl.

So anyway, what’s great about this is that I believed, very much so, in the chemistry between the characters. Above all other qualities, methinks, Bloom’s best aspect is the sexuality it depicts in an honest and forward, but not graphic, way. I have nothing against graphic, but it would really ruin the story here. The point is to be all-consuming and subtle.

Like the title says, I consider these two to be—very good—examples of my favoritest type of romance. Don’t get me wrong, I love the leading up to it stories all the same, but there’s a special place in my heart for those that don’t keep things tipsy-topsy up until the last page about whom the character will end up with. I mean, these do that nevertheless—one character or the other has to make a choice. But it’s a choice based on the circumstances and on the exploration of what it is you want, and I love it when authors take that plunge. They’re not created to be fanciful and memorable, and end up being just that because of their intention not to be. If that makes any sense.

I kind of think of these to be the underdog of the genre. The stakes are all internal and all center back to that conflict of security vs soul mates. (In fact, Elizabeth Scott did a lovely guest blog on this during Girl Week…)

Both = As.

Saving Francesca:
Knopf (US) | 256 pages | May 9th, 2006 (US) | Author Site | GoodReads | Amazon

Bloom:
Simon Pulse | 231 pages | April 24th, 2007 | Author Site | GoodReads | Amazon


And changing sides really quick: Anyone have any recommendations for me?

24 comments:

inkspatters said...

Haha, you think Australians have orgasmic accents? As an Aussie, I don't quite understand that. I love British and Irish accents.

I loved Saving Francesca, you're right about Melina Marchetta's never being halfhearted. I'll have to get myself a copy of Bloom :)

Steph said...

HOW DO YOU NOT???

It's only the best kind of accent, ever.

And yes, get Bloom. ;)

Steph

Amee said...

Lol, I've always thought of Australian accents as a weak version of a British accent. Nothing against them though. :P

I want to read these two! They're on my wish list(s) of course.

Carol said...

You should read The Summoning by Kelly Armstrong and um...some other book. :)

Ana said...

These two books are some of my favorites. If you want some ideas of other great romances, check out this list I created:

http://yaromancereviews.blogspot.com/

I totally agree about Lauren and Evan -- they ooze sexual attraction (in a non-graph as you mentioned).

Ana

Melissa Walker said...

I love that you re-read BLOOM--and you're right, it's the way the chemistry comes across that really makes the story sing. Sigh.

Becky said...

I love both of these as well.

Becky

Bookworm said...

Ooh I really want to read Saving Francesca--it looks so good. And I love the cover, too...

Reader Rabbit said...

I don't have any bloom like reccomendations. But if you ever have extra space on a book order or something, try Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas.

Then tell me if I'm insane for really liking it :)

Thao said...

I have to get these two books as soon as possible.

Darling Diva said...

You've made this books sound amazing and I now have them on my TBR list. As for a recommendation, A Certain Slant of Light is one of my favorites.

Adele said...

A weak English accent? We Aussies do not sound anything like the English! LOL

Saving Francesca is divine. (I am currently trying to convince Melina's agent to let me talk to her asap). Interestingly the book that MM is working on now is Piper's Son - a somewhat sequel to Saving Francesca but from Tom Mackee's point of view. Sign me up!

inkspatters said...

I guess since I hear Aussie accents all-day-every-day they're too common for me to find orgasmic.

Adele, I agree completely, we do not sound English. At all.

Elizabeth Scott said...

Oh! This is just lovely--thank you :-)

Anonymous said...

Adele, you should email Melina, as she's one author who will reply personally. So, do email her! :) Sign me up for The Piper's Son as well, I say!

Amee said...

Well I sometimes mix the accents up. The only genuine Australian ones I've heard have always been really soft and nothing like when someone is hamming it up and talking about cooking shrimp on the barbie. So yeah, non-English and non-Australians might not have as easy a time identifying the difference in accents. People tell me I sound southern but I don't. Not like people who actually live in the south. They just don't live here so they can't tell.

Adele said...

Hey Amee, I own one of those softer accents and I have been accused of having a plummy accent so don't worry.
As for emailing Melina, I will send it to the address on the website. I just finished re-watching the Looking for Alibrandi movie and reviewing for my blog a couple of hours ago. I am in the midst of a Marchetta-marathon!

Nymeth said...

I just have to say that you write amazing reviews. And I'm not just saying this because you made me want to read both of these books.

katayoun said...

any maureen johnson, though i would recommend 13 little envelopes or develish!

ellie_enchanted said...

I haven't read either book, or a book by either author, but I REALLY want to. Hopefully soon...

Anyway, a fantastic book that's more like the "leading up to it" type is Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith. Don't know if anyone here has read it, but I'm hoping people have.
It's one of the best lesser-known YA books, IMO.

m-stiefvater said...

Okay, LOVE Saving Francesca. I bought four copies and gave them away at Christmas time, so deep was my love.

*swoon*

So now I'm going to go get BLOOM.

Lisa said...

I loved Bloom, so now I have to get Saving Francesca. I just got Jellicoe Road from the library, so it's possible they have this too, right?

Your review of Bloom says what I wanted to say in mine, but better.

Kelly said...

I just finished Broken Soup, and it reminded me a bit of Francesca. Check it out, I think you'll like it!

Audrey (holes In My brain) said...

hahaha this post makes me laugh. why? (and please don't hate me!) but I am in loooove with Saving Francesca (and Melina Marcehtta in general) but I really really really disliked Bloom. cool post :)

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