This week you have the chance to win a digital copy of Joanne Renaud’s A Question of Time as well as an awesome Baggu bag. [NOTE: The winner of the bag is restricted to readers in the continental US due to cost of shipping overseas]
HERE IS HOW YOU WIN THESE THINGS:
This week, there will be four posts related to this contest (one each day, Monday – Thursday). They will all be labeled “WEEK-LONG CONTEST” in the post title. As long as you leave one comment on one of the posts before Thursday night at midnight (central time US), you will be included in the contest. Joanne will randomly pick on one of the names on Friday morning and we will announce it on the blog later that day.
Tuesday’s post was Renaud’s review of Judith O’Brien’s Ashton’s Bride.
Wednesday’s post was an interview I did with Renaud.
The Geek Girl and the Scandalous Earl, Gina Lamm‘s latest novel, was published on March 5, 2013. I received an advanced reader copy from Sourcebooks Casablanca.
An avid gamer, Jamie Marten loves to escape into online adventure. But when she falls through an antique mirror into a lavish bedchamber—200 years in the past!— she realizes she may have escaped a little too far.
Micah Axelby, Earl of Dunnington, has just kicked one mistress out of his bed, and isn’t looking to fill it with another—least of all this sassy, nearly naked girl who claims to be from the future. Yet something about her is undeniably enticing…
Jamie and Micah are worlds apart. He’s a peer of the realm. She can barely make rent. She’s wi-fi. He’s horse-drawn. But soon the pair will do anything to avoid a Game Over.
I am not the biggest time-travel fan but I liked the premise of this book, combining a kickass strong, modern US woman who is a geek with a rakish, handsome Earl in 1816 England. Overall, I thought Lamm pulled this off well.
I liked it from early on because Lamm did not shy away from establishing the heroine as a game-playing geek and showing what it means to be a woman in the gaming world. Here is Jamie playing a multi-player game (not that I understand the jargon since I’m not a gamer myself):
Jamie readied her character’s potions and spell rotation. Typical. They figured since she was the only girl in the guild, she should be the healer. She didn’t mind healing, especially in the more difficult dungeons, but she wanted to do her part to take down the bad guys too. It wasn’t fair. Men never took her seriously. That’s why she played these games. It was supposed to be a level field. But the game, like her life, was rarely ever exactly what she thought it would be.
Thanks to a magic piece of furniture and the machinations of a character on the English, regency period side of the mirror, Jamie gets pulled through to a world that is nothing like what she knows. She lands on the floor of Micah Axelby, Earl of Dunnington’s room. He assumes she is a courtesan in weird clothing that has somehow wandered into his bedroom.
At first, Jamie is convinced she is in a dream and has no problem explaining to Micah, whom she nicknames Mike, that she showed up by coming through the bureau: “I was in the storage unit and it was a billion degrees, and the dust cover fell on my head, and I touched the mirror on the floor and I got eaten by the damn bureau!” Mike knows not what to make of her.
Lamm has a good time dropping references to modern things in the midst of the very proper English regency period. Jamie’s only real connection to the time is from viewing “that A&E miniseries Leah had forced her to watch over and over again when they were twelve,” by which she means the Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice. She convinces Micah that she is a traveler from the future by showing him her iPhone and having him play Angry Birds: “The earl was completely transfixed by the little animated birds as they flew across the screen.” And in the end, he agrees to let her stay.
The clash of the times was well done. Jamie is easily exhausted by everyone’s fear about her reputation being ruined and constantly reminds people that she does not need to be protected.
I absolutely LOVED the way that Lamm dealt with a modern person not having the comforts that many of us take for granted:
Her request for a toothbrush only got her another blank stare from the maid. A clean rag dampened with water had to do. Her teeth still felt coated with flurries. Blecch. […]
They put her in bloomers. They put her in stays, which is apparently an English word for hellish deathtrap of boning and laces. By the time they’d stuffed her into the petticoats and long-sleeved gown, stabbed her skull with thousands of hairpins, and tied a perky green ribbon in her hair, she was planning to murder Wilhelmina in her sleep.
I also really enjoyed how Lamm played with many of the scenes that those of us who read regency romances are familiar with. For example, the discussion where a lady is told she is not allowed to talk about her body parts in front of others:
“How am I supposed to eat in this setup? I can’t even take a good breath. There’s no way I could make room for food. There’s not even room for my boobs.” Jamie poked at one of the pale mounds that peeked above the neckline of the dress. It jiggled in response. Much as she hated to admit it, that corset thing was doing pretty impressive stuff with her cleavage. […]
A shocked giggle escaped Muriel before could stifle it with a hand. Mrs. Knightbridge glared at the maid before turning her stink eye to Jamie.
“Ladies never refer to their, ahem, bosoms in such a manner. In fact, endeavor to forget that they even exist.”
“It’s going to be hard, since my chin is basically going to be resting on the all day.” Jamie hunched her shoulder and demonstrated.
More than anything else, I was appreciative that Lamm explained how toilets worked in 1816. Something you never read about in regency romance novels:
“Um, Muriel? What do I do if I need to, um, go?”
“Go?” The maid looked up from arranging the bottles on the table beside the tub.
“You know,” Jamie mimed the potty dance. “Go.”
“Oh. Behind the screen there, miss.” She pointed to the far corner.”
Jamie took a deep breath, marshaled her courage, and went to face her fate.
“Ho. Ly. Shit.”
It was a pot. A literal pot. Not a toilet but an actual, honest-to-God pot. What was she supposed to do? Squat over it? Sit on it? It’d be damn uncomfortable. And what was she supposed to wipe with? Ugh. Just…ugh.
She decided she’d hold it forever.
The maid eventually shows her what she uses to wipe (cloths) and how to squat.
As for Mike and Jamie, I liked their relationship okay. I felt like it seemed forced – at the point when Jamie starts declaring her love for Mike, I just didn’t feel like it made sense yet. I would have preferred a longer book with a more developed chemistry between the characters.
Jamie goes back and forth about whether she could stay in that time period and be a proper wife to an Earl:
How could she possibly marry a man in the past? How could she survive in a time where women were regarded as vessels for men’s pleasure and the propagation of the species? How could she honestly hope to make Mike happy when she couldn’t even manage to remember all the stupid rules that guided this society? She’d embarrass him.
This is a romance novel so there is a happy ending. How that happens, I won’t explain. The end did feel too quick, too tidy for how such a major choice would be so disruptive for the person who made it. I wanted to better understand what it would mean for the two characters, what the sacrifice truly was.
Still, this was a fun read. Lamm had such a wonderful grasp on the feel of 1816 England and the total awkwardness of that space for a woman from the US in 2012.
I give The Geek Girl and the Scandalous Earl 3 out of 5 stars.