Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Swashbuckling Romantic Fantasy

The house has now been totally de-Christmassed, aside from all those artificial pine needles that never seem to go away. Since today is Epiphany, I'll take down the Nativity scene tomorrow. So I guess I'm back to normal. I also got a good start on copyedits yesterday and will try to finish today so I can spend the rest of the week giving it one more once-over as a proofread.

I did a fair amount of reading over the holidays, but much of it was re-reading, along with more books in the Phryne Fisher series. I've started thinking of these as Nancy Drew for adults, since just about every book shows off some random skill or knowledge Phyrne has. At least with her, she's an adult who's lived a really full life, so it's more believable that she's a trick rider, pilot, race driver, cricket expert, etc., than it was for Nancy to be able to do all that stuff at 18. And then there's a touch of a gender-switched James Bond thrown in, as she tends to collect attractive men and has at least one new lover per book, most of whom are quickly forgotten.

Last Friday was cold and rainy, and I wrapped up my holidays by curling up with what turned out to be a really wonderful book, Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen, which is a fantasy/romance for adults about Captain Hook from Peter Pan. I will confess that my choice of this book had a bit to do with my slight crush on the version of Captain Hook on Once Upon a Time, and this take probably gets closer to that than to the original, as it's essentially a redemption story. It also fits the Once Upon a Time story structure, with a present-day story interspersed with backstory flashbacks.

In this take on the story, Hook was cursed into Neverland when he chose revenge and his reputation as a pirate over love (the other pirates would have thought he'd gone soft if he gave up piracy for a woman). He's made immortal, so he can't be killed. He just suffers through and heals from wounds that should have been fatal. He and Pan are the only immortals on the island, so the Lost Boys are sent home when they get too old and the pirates get killed in the ongoing fights with the Lost Boys. The pirate crew keeps getting replenished by former Lost Boys who return to Neverland when they can't handle the transition back to the real world and never actually grow up, in spite of being adults. After a couple of centuries of this, Hook is getting really, really tired of it all. And then an adult woman shows up, something that's never happened before (since Pan thinks grown women are icky). She's a war widow who longed to escape the gloom of 1950 London, and she might just be Hook's last chance to escape Neverland.

This is one of those books that manages to be a lot of things, all at once. It's an adventure story, there's a mystery, there are a lot of fantasy elements, and there's a love story. But it's also a meditation on what it is to grow up and be an adult -- about taking responsibility, about standing up for yourself and not following the crowd, about knowing what's right and not being swayed from it, about recognizing consequences. Hook may have been a man in his 40s when he was sent to Neverland, but he wasn't a grown-up. He was just as arrested as Pan himself. So this is also a belated coming-of-age story.

It was the perfect thing to read on a cold, rainy night, and I almost couldn't put it down. This is definitely one I'll be rereading eventually, and I may even end up with a keeper copy (after I move and get some bookshelf space). Now I want to write a good swashbuckling romantic fantasy. But first I have to finish copyedits on this book, then finish writing book 3 in that series, and then I want to get a start on my second steampunk book, and then I have something pretty ambitious that I want to tackle.

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