Friday, May 19, 2017

Five books about bad girls

Ellen Klages's books include The Green Glass Sea and White Sands, Red Menace. One of her five books about bad girls who dance where they want to, as shared at
Point of Honour
Madeleine E. Robins

Madeleine and I roomed together at Interaction, the Glasgow WorldCon in 2005. Afterwards we rented a car (my credit card, her other-side-of-the-road driving skills), and motored down to London. It was a two-day journey that took us through Yorkshire, and the Moors, and to Whitby, places that, as far as I was concerned, were fictional, and were from books that I had not read, even in high school, when I was supposed to.

I have zero knowledge of classic English literature, and Mad has lots, and adores it. I asked questions, she told fascinating stories, and it was one of the great road trips of all time. We finally managed to give back the car at Enterprise’s tiny, hidden office in a mews near Hyde Park—we had no GPS and the petrol was down to fumes—breathed a great sigh of relief, and became gloriously pedestrian for another three days. Mad was researching her next book, set in London 200 years earlier, and we explored nooks and crannies and history—and pubs—as she pointed out the early-19th-century bits that lurked below and betwixt and between the rest of the 21st-century world.

Then she flew back home to kids and family, and I stayed on by myself for another few days. I’d known Mad for a couple of years, and had read a few of her short stories, but not her novels. So she left me with a paperback edition of Point of Honour, the first in the series of adventures of one Miss Sarah Tolerance.

I did not think it would be my cup of tea, really. I’m very much a 20th-century reader, have never read Jane Austen or any of the other Regency writers. But there I was, in London, with a book about the very long-ago London that the author had just been giving me a lovely guided tour of. Serendipity. Simply magic.

The premise of the book is, it seems to me, to deny its opening statement:
It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a fallen woman of good family must, sooner or later, descend to whoredom.
Miss Tolerance is a woman of a good family who fell in love and lost her virginity outside the sanctity of marriage and is therefore disgraced. But rather than become a whore, she becomes an agent of inquiry, an 1810 private eye. She is quick-witted, quite adept with a sword (or, if the occasion demands, a pistol), and dresses as a man when the laws of propriety and society hinder any forays she might make in the guise of her own gender. She rights wrongs, solves dilemmas, and when all has been settled, retires to her cottage for a meal and a refreshing cup of tea.

I’m still not wholly converted to the glories of Regency literature, but I do look forward to the continuing adventures of Miss Tolerance with great anticipation. (There are currently three books in the series, with a fourth still a WIP.)
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue