The blurb writer was confused; this is not a Gothic, but a regency. However, it does briefly turn into a Gothic for about ten pages toward the end, so I see how that could happen. I too struggled to categorize it, as, unsurprisingly considering the author, it's hard to categorize. It has the plot but not the substance of a romance; the heroine only displays brief flickers of romantic feelings for the hero, and they don't interact much. It's mostly a comedy with a lunatic excess of plot, about half of which is crammed into the last twenty pages.

The time is 1815. The heroine is Philadelphia "Delphie" Carteret, music teacher and caretaker for her sick and periodically delusional mother. The plot begins when she goes to some long-lost relatives to hit them up for money to take care of her mom, accompanied by her madcap neighbor Jenny. The relatives own a castle with a moat, into which Jenny cunningly flings herself and pretends to be drowning so the hero, Gareth Penistone, will (reluctantly) rescue her and ensconce her and Delphie at the castle, over the objections of cousin Mordred. Once ensconced, Delphie is astounded to find that the family thinks she's an imposter, because someone named Elaine has been claiming to be the Carteret daughter for the last twenty years.

This lunatic farrago of wackiness plus semi-random Arthurian references (there is also a notorious and deceased ancestor named Lancelot, and ten peppy children who all have Arthurian names) is completely typical of Joan Aiken. So are the funny names. I do not for a second believe that she was unaware of the implications of a hero named Penistone (yes, I know it's a village in Yorkshire), especially given this line of dialogue: "I don't like these angry voices and all this talk of Bollington and Penistone!"

Though a series of ridiculous events, Delphie fake-marries Gareth Penistone; needless to say, the fake marriage turns out to be real, to everyone's dismay. The ten Arthurian kids tend to a languid poet in debtor's prison, the hero poisons a sick mouse he's supposed to be nursing back to health, Mordred lives up to his name (name a kid Mordred, and you deserve what you get), and the last chapter consists of long blocks of text in which characters madly explain who secretly married who and why the impersonation-- all of which was so convoluted that I did not even try to follow it.

Funny, fluffy, utterly absurd. If it sounds fun, you will enjoy it. Some animals are collateral damage of villainous plotting.

Only $3.99 for the ebook on Amazon: The Five-Minute Marriage

Amazon has a number of similarly priced Aiken books on Kindle. Grab 'em if you want 'em!

If any of the people who wanted this book from me would rather have it in hard copy, I'll send my copy to the first who comments for Paypaled postage.
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
( May. 27th, 2017 12:22 pm)
How to play: Fling means I spend a single night of passion (or possibly passionate hatred) with the book, and write a review of it, or however much of it I managed to read. Marry means the book goes back on my shelves, to wait for me to get around to it. Kill is actually "sudden death" - I read a couple paragraphs or pages, then decide to donate or reshelf (or read) based on that. You don't have to have read or previously heard of the books to vote on them. Please feel free to explain your reasoning for your votes in comments.

Italics taken from the blurbs. Gothics have the best blurbs.

Poll #18418 FMK # 2: Houses Are Terrifying
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 48

Castle Barebane, by Joan Aiken. A series of lurid murders... a roofless ruin with crumbling battlements... nephew and niece callously abandoned in a slum... a man of mysterious origins and enigmatic habits... dark emanations from London's underworld... Mungo, an old sailor...

View Answers

24 (53.3%)

14 (31.1%)

7 (15.6%)

The Five-Minute Marriage, by Joan Aiken. An imposter has claimed her inheritance... a counterfeit marriage to the principle heir, her cousin... family rivalries festering for generations... a shocking episode of Cartaret family history will be repeated.

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27 (61.4%)

9 (20.5%)

8 (18.2%)

The Weeping Ash, by Joan Aiken. Sixteen-year-old Fanny Paget, newly married to the odious Captain Paget... in northern India, Scylla and Calormen Paget, twin cousins of the hateful Captain, have begun a seemingly impossible flight for their lives, pursued by a vengeful maharaja... elephant, camel, horse, raft... The writer has used her own two-hundred-year-old house in Sussex, England for the setting.

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19 (39.6%)

14 (29.2%)

15 (31.2%)

Winterwood, by Dorothy Eden. The moldering elegance of a decaying Venetian palazzo... pursued by memories of the scandalous trial that rocked London society... their daughter, Flora, crippled by a tragic accident... Charlotte's evil scheming... a series of letters in the deceased Lady Tameson's hand

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21 (52.5%)

4 (10.0%)

15 (37.5%)

The Place of Sapphires, by Florence Engel Randall. A demon-haunted house... two beautiful young sisters... the pain of a recent tragedy... a sinister and hateful force from the past... by the author of Hedgerow.

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20 (47.6%)

7 (16.7%)

15 (35.7%)

Shadow of the Past, by Daoma Winston. An unseen presence... fled to Devil's Dunes... strange "accidents..." it seemed insane... the threads of the mysterious, menacing net cast over her life... What invisible hand threatened destruction?

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13 (34.2%)

2 (5.3%)

23 (60.5%)

This was similar to but not quite as cracktastic as Aiken's A Cluster of Separate Sparks: an adult suspense/Gothic thriller featuring irritating "humorous" racial stereotyping or possibly parodies of racial stereotyping, I seriously could not tell which, that keeps the form of a thriller while subverting the tone of one at every step, and has a completely and deliberately ridiculous plot and a pro-forma romantic subplot, though possibly its pro-forma nature was also part of the joke.

Martha works at an advertising agency, a job which provides some pricelessly funny bits involving explosive self-heating soup cans and Bom the Meat'n Milk drink. The eponymous bouquet refers to the new perfume she concocts an advertising campaign for, and which somehow leads her a decaying Cornwall castle, her long-lost insane ex-husband who is now a monk, more monks, one repulsive baby, one adorable baby, a phosphorescent dead seal, a black widow spider whose bite proves that Aiken did not even attempt to research its actual effects, and some ravenous slugs which, like the wind in Treasure of the Sierra Madre, destroy the McGuffin that the entire plot revolved around.

If this is the kind of thing you like, you will certainly like this book; I have a number of Aiken's other and hopefully even more cracktastic thrillers on my Book Mooch wish list, and plan to instantly mooch them should they turn up.

Thanks [ profile] cija!
I read one of Aiken's Gothics, Nightfall, a while back and was startled that it was not merely bad but conventional; but this one is exactly what one would expect from the sentence, "The author of the totally insane Dido Twite books, in which pink whales are spotted off New England and sinister plots to roll St. Paul's into the ocean are foiled by a girl on an elephant, writes a Gothic."

It functions perfectly well as a Gothic in the atmospheric and well-written Mary Stewart style: a young woman with a tragic past arrives in a gorgeously described Greece, and immediately something violent happens, attempts are made on her life, and romantic interests who might be villains appear. It's extremely page-turny.

It's also a hilarious parody of the form. The attempts on the heroine's life are extraordinary inventive and frequent. No one seems to care that people they supposedly love, or just people they know, are dropping like flies. The hero/villains are not physically attractive. There is an oubliette in the kitchen, and a sauna covered in bees; the heroine sings the bees to sleep, allowing her to make her escape. At one point I thought there was an army of clones, but that turned out to be a misunderstanding.

If you obtain this, do not read the inside or outside cover; my single favorite bizarre plot twist occurs on page 37.

Also, if you obtain this, standard warning for mysteries or Gothics written before 1980, ie, mild racial stereotyping (in this case, largely or possibly entirely parodying racial stereotyping in other Gothics) and now-offensive terminology like "Mongol" for "Downs syndrome."

So, on page 37 )
Nightfall, by Joan Aiken. I would never have guessed she'd written this if her name wasn't on the cover. Short, readable, yet intensely stupid thriller about a woman trying to regain lost memories of a childhood trauma and so getting involved in an old unsolved mystery. The plot depends on everyone in it being an idiot-- not realizing, for instance, that twins commonly look alike.

Reforming Lord Ragsdale, by Carla Kelly. A sweet, touching Regency romance about an English aristocrat who's been depressed and drinking heavily since losing an eye in the war in Ireland, and Emma, the strong-willed Irish indentured servant who drives a bargain with him (when he's dead drunk) that he'll free her if she can reform him and get him married off. You can see where that's going.

The appeal of this is that the characters are the opposite of the ones in Aiken's book: they behave intelligently and out of reasonable motives. Perhaps Lord Ragsdale's slow growth of a social conscience is totally historically implausible, but it was portrayed believably, and I liked that Kelly tackled the social issues of the time rather than pretending they didn't exist. The power imbalance between the romantic couple is handled thoughtfully and well, and I liked that they genuinely cared for each other and that Kelly didn't resort to random nastiness or contrived misunderstandings to keep them apart. And the scene when he tells Emma he's taking her to Mass really got to me.


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