Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Book Review - Tasha Alexander's The Adventuress

The Adventuress by Tasha Alexander
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: October 13th, 2015
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Jeremy, the Duke of Bainbridge, has dedicated his life to achieving the title of the most useless man in England. He wants to live a life of semi-debauchery and avoid all the society mothers trying to snare him for their daughters. He knows he will have to wed eventually, his younger brother Jack would never forgive him if he inherited the Dukedom due to Jeremy's licentious lifestyle. But Jeremy claims his dear friend Lady Emily holds his heart, and since she is happily married, his finding connubial bliss is never going to happen. Emily sees his infatuation as nothing more than hyperbole and is proven right when Jeremy falls victim to the wiles of an American buccaneer. Amity Wells is the dream woman, she might even be more debauched than Jeremy! She knows what he needs even before he does. So what if she's a little loud, a little beyond the pale, she's the girl for Jeremy. A girl who Emily realizes she will never be friends with within minutes of meeting her. Yet Jeremy is Emily's oldest and dearest friend and for him she will make an effort. She will stick her courage to the sticking place and celebrate his engagement in the extravagant manner to which Amity is accustomed.

Amity plans a grandiose engagement party on the French Riviera with her parents footing the bill. There are excursions everyday, on land and on sea, nightly walks along La Croisette, delicious dinners, and sumptuous breakfasts. Amity even prides herself on organizing a lads night for Jeremy and his friends at the local casino where there will be dancers direct from Paris. Though that particular festivity ends differently than anyone expected, with Jeremy's friend, Chauncey Neville, dead in Jeremy's suite of an apparent suicide. Emily isn't convinced this dear, sweet man would have ended his life in such a fashion. Yet Emily's husband Colin tells her that with suicide it's not like their murder investigations, they aren't neatly wrapped up, there will always be questions which they will never know the answers to. Emily isn't sure. Even if Colin doesn't want to investigate she feels it necessary to start a discreet investigation. This will at least distract her for the forced joviality of those remaining after Mr. Neville's funeral and Amity's brother Augustus who puts her on edge. But soon weird things start to happen to discredit Emily. Could she be getting close to a truth someone wants hidden? Or does Amity just want her out of the way?

Years and years ago I became obsessed with this miniseries I kept stumbling upon on one of the higher cable channels in the middle of the night. I had no idea what it was called because I would always find it after the opening credits and would usually fall asleep before the end credits rolled. Remember, this was the nineties. Not everyone had computers they could access and find the answers they sought in an instant. As for my trusty TV Guide, well... it didn't list the higher channels in some sick game it liked to play with me where it loved to leave me in ignorance. And yes, I fully believe it was sentient and thought this was funny. Therefore I spent years in ignorance clutching to the few facts I knew. The miniseries starred Carla Gugino, the star of the Thanksgiving Pauly Shore classic Son in Law, and that the house from the Brideshead Revisited miniseries was in it. It turns out I was watching the 1995 adaptation of Edith Wharton's unfinished novel The Buccaneers. The story is about four eligible and wealthy young American girls who go to England to marry into the aristocracy. If I had known these women were called buccaneers perhaps I would have figured out the title earlier. But as it was, all I knew is I wanted to be one, despite not being the daughter of a robber barren. I could become British through an advantageous marriage! And yes, this dream is still with me.

My obsession with these young buccaneers is what enthralled me with Tasha's The Adventuress. I was getting to read a murder mystery with a buccaneer at the center, Amity Wells! Dream come true! Like Emily, there was something I instantly disliked about Amity, but at the same time I was drawn to her. The little chapters spaced between Emily's narrative showed a different side to Amity. Could Emily be an unreliable narrator in this instance? Could Amity really want to befriend Emily? Amity being so "American" as the Victorian Brits would put it left an interesting impression in my mind. She's very layered, making her a far more worthy adversary for Emily than some of her past cases gave her. This is a girl who has a secret, yet at the same time her desire for freedom and to get out from under her parents makes her almost reckless in the way she's willing to morph herself into Jeremy's perfect mate. This made me think of her as a kind of Victorian mean girl. She's outside the pack, but also setting the rules. It's an interesting dichotomy. I couldn't help thinking of her as Emma Roberts from American Horror Story or Scream Queens. She comes into any situation and can be either the ringleader or the victim depending on how she decides to play it. But underneath there's iron. She's getting her way and just playing her part to get it.

Though Amity's most interesting purpose within the story is not how she affects Emily as a person with all her Americanness, but how just her presence will forever change Emily's relationship with Jeremy. Even if Emily doesn't believe for an instant that Jeremy is hopelessly in love with her and is convinced he's using it as an excuse to avoid marriage, losing his constant attention and devotion that she is constantly plied with is a blow. She views that she is losing the Jeremy that she's always known. He's not flirting with her, he's not as attentive, he's not pissing off Colin with comments about how he and Em would make the perfect couple. In other words, his attentions are firmly on his fiance and Emily has to come to the cold hard conclusion that this annoys her. She liked being the center of Jeremy's world. She liked all the attention she was getting. Whenever she was feeling down Jeremy could boost her ego with a few remarks. And throughout the story she views this change as a negative. The fact is that Jeremy has grown up and Emily hasn't. You can see the lie clearly when Emily tells Amity that Emily's relationship with Jeremy will be in flux until it settles into the new pattern of them both being married. We've followed Emily on all her adventures and her behavior to Jeremy has never changed. Luckily for Em things turn out all right for her in the end.

But this change in Emily and Jeremy's relationship brings to the fore one very important question. Does Jeremy really love Emily? Yes, he obviously loves her as his closest and dearest friend as she does him, but could Emily be so blind that she's never realized that Jeremy is indeed in love with her? I think she is. What's more, I think Colin knows and is a bit exasperated that Emily, his astute wife who is able to see murder where everyone else sees suicide, can not see behind the flirtatious ways of Jeremy to see his real feelings are a deep and abiding love. I don't just have my observations that I've coupled with Colin's, oh no, for the first time in Amity's storyline we see how Jeremy felt about an incident that happened in A Fatal Waltz: "That kiss. That kiss. Could it be that, at last, he had found someone who could make him forget another kiss, on a cold day in Vienna? A kiss that ought never have happened, but that still consumed him, even after all these years?" He was CONSUMED by his kiss with Emily! CONSUMED! If he hadn't loved her before he obviously has been in love since that day and it makes me pity Jeremy and just want the best for him. To have a love that is never to be? He deserves some happiness. He deserves someone who loves him like Emily loves Colin. Oh, how my heart breaks for him.

And because I don't feel like ending this review on a sad "Poor Jeremy" note I'll end it on the Roman Feast that Amity was planning for the excursion to Nice and the visit to the ruins at Cimiez. Everyone was throwing themselves into this feast that would let them live in the decadent style of a Roman if just for a night. Well, everyone except Colin, who would not be caught dead in a toga, and Emily, who prefers Greece to Rome. There's a part of me that awhile back would have been all for it. I didn't know anything about Roman feasts, except vomitoriums, because obviously growing up kids remember the disgusting stuff. Within the story they mainly talk about the clothes and that eating is done while reclining, something I can never believe is good for the digestion. But I know OH so much more all thanks to Sue Perkins, Giles Coren, and their show, which used to be available on Hulu, The Supersizers. The Supersizers "went" to different time periods and "ate" different decades, and the weird title shift is what happened between season one and two. For the finale of season two they "ate" Ancient Rome. I was fully nauseated by the whole episode. Seeing as a feast might start with such "tasty" dishes as brain and rose petal patina I'm saying right now, you are NEVER getting me to EVER participate in any kind of authentic Roman Feast. You can see why Emily wants to stick to Greek foods!


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