Friday, October 12, 2012

Book Review - Paul Magrs' Conjugal Rites

Conjugal Rites (Brenda and Effie Book 3) by Paul MagrsPublished by: Headline Publishing
Publication Date: 2008
Format: Paperback, 352 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy
"You are mine. And I want to see you. All these years. Years and years. We've never really met. But you are mine. And I have rites. Conjugal rites. You are mine and I am coming to see you. I know where you are now. I have been looking. Now I know where you are. And I am on my way. Your husband is coming to get you."

So Brenda is warned at the end of Something Borrowed. Her husband is coming home. Though for the pragmatic Brenda, thinking about what might come in the future, sometimes torches and lynch mobs if history where to serve, are not as immediate as dealing with the overflow from the Masked Hero Convention up at the Christmas Hotel. The old age pensioners trying to relive the good-old-days means nothing when her nemesis, Mr. Danby reappears. While he claims to be hosting an innocent late night call in show, "Night Owls," Brenda is sure that something is afoot. After all, even Effie and Robert are calling in and revealing deep, dark secrets about themselves and others. They even almost reveal who, or what, Brenda is to everyone listening, which happens to be all of Witby. Mr. Danby is up to no good. How is he getting these people to spill their souls over the airwaves?

After a dust up with Danby, Brenda gets the surprise of her life. She knew one day HE would come for her, she had fair warning, but she didn't expect it to end with a scuffle and a fall over the Western cliff straight into hell. Effie and Robert are at a lose. Brenda was the glue between them and now everyone says she's dead. But Robert and Effie won't lose hope so easily. Effie has had first hand experience with the gateway to hell the resides in Witby. Perhaps Brenda is in hell and not gone forever. If Effie's ex Alucard could go in, perhaps they could too... only they plan on coming back. Headed to the old Abbey one night, with Shelia Manchu tagging alone, they ask the old Abbess to help them rescue their friend. Whether their plan will work is anyone's guess.

I have a feeling that my reviews for all the Brenda and Effie books will start "Yet another wonderful entry in Paul Magrs's Brenda and Effie series." Literally, there has not been a misstep! Granted, I've only finished the first three, but the teaser for book four almost made me abandon my organized reading list for the month and rush to pick up the next one. Each one is witty and fun and develops off the previous installment in a natural way but expands the story and the universe logically, so that each book is something more instead of just treading the same ground over and over again, like some series are wont to do, especially of the supernatural variety (*cough* Sookie Stackhouse *cough*).

Conjugal Rites deals with the big elephant in the room when it comes to Brenda. She is "The Bride of Frankenstein," emphasis on the "Bride." While she has mentioned in passing her creation and her mate that she was literally made for, the fact that her long-lived spouse hasn't come calling has always been hanging there in the corner. Now he has finally arrived. I liked that it acknowledged Frank and brought a bit of closure to this chapter of her life. If Frank never showed up, we would always be left wondering. I also loved that while he is a bit of a brute of a man, what with the neck bolts and strong Northern accent, there is something that draws Brenda to him. Not just the fate, but there is something else there. A kindred goodness deep down that makes it right for them to be together. I for one am excited to see how their relationship develops, I view it as a kind of supernatural Wuthering Heights.

Speaking of relationships... while I was sad that Brenda was off in the wings for a good portion of the book, what I loved was the bonding between Effie and Robert. Everyone has, at some point in their life, had someone they hung out with a lot, but aren't exactly friends with. It's not for any logical reason, it's just that they are a friend of a friend. For Effie and Robert, Brenda has always been the one that bonded their group. Effie and Robert always viewed Brenda as their friend and the other as Brenda's friend, not their own. Yet, because they had to come together in order to rescue Brenda, their relationship naturally changed, and they have started to form a friendship without Brenda. I was cheering on this fledgling friendship. Some of my strongest friendships have started in this round about manner, and I really have the highest hopes that Effie will no longer look slightly askance at Robert and Robert won't view Effie as the odd lady with the junk. Going to hell and back together, it's the best bonding there is, like a cross country road trip, you really get to know the other person and hopefully, at the end of the day, you're better friends than ever.

While these reasons for loving the book are more on the "deeper" side, dealing with love and life and the connections between disparate people on this earth we call home, it's the zaniness that balances it. The pensioners in superhero costumes, the fact that the first level of hell is 24/7 Christmas. The ingenious realization that our favorite clothes that we loved and lost really where just dragged to hell. Perhaps that's where missing socks go as well? Is the sock monster perhaps a being from a hell dimension? I think so. Also Paul's obvious love of the B-movie genre, with the very green Frank, the return of Dracula, oh, I mean Alucard, and a Monkey's Paw playing a crucial deus ex machina, not to mention Sheila's long gone husband, Mumu, a very hilarious reference to Fu Manchu, led to a B-movie extravaganza of fun! Also, back to the more serious side, I liked Sheila finally being confronted by the actuality of her husband Mumu, her "God," and realizing, that perhaps, she was idolizing him and romanticizing her past a little too much. Ok, back to the funny... an escalator to hell! Now I have to go read the next one, whose review will most likely start "Yet another wonderful entry in Paul Magrs's Brenda and Effie series."


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