Monday, January 09, 2006

Secondary Characters and BEAUTY LIKE THE NIGHT

This entry might not make sense...I have a 10 minute break here at work and thought I would jot a few things down...had a rough weekend, crap!

Secondary characters, at times, serve only to spice up or speed up a storyline. Although they provide comic relief or set the moral tone of the story, they never run the risk of undermining the lead characters and robbing them of the affections of the audience. On some occasions, however, secondary characters are written with such passionate zeal and love that they steal the show…quite literally and leave the reader wondering who the book was about. We’ve seen this in movies several times. Prime example? Girl Interrupted with Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie, in a supporting role…does any really remember Winona Ryder being in that movie? Angelina quite stole the show; her character was a troubled one, almost as much as Ryder’s, but Angelina’s personality and clear talent blew Winona right out of the water.

The same occurs with Carlyle’s BEAUTY LIKE THE NIGHT. The story is overrun with secondary characters who will not sit still. Bentley “Hell-Bent” Rutledge and Ariane Rutledge, the hero's younger brother and daughter, respectively, have pages dedicated to them; the reader soon becomes engrossed in their lives, she (I'm assuming the reader is female) cannot help but want to hear about them more than the lead characters, Camden and Helene.

I thought BEAUTY LIKE THE NIGHT was OK...just was not one of my favorite Carlyle books. Camden and Helene’s story was constantly being interrupted by the presence of Ariane and Bentley and I couldn’t help but want it to continue. I never developed an attachment to Camden and Helene’s love story. I wanted them to succeed in their quest for happiness but honestly…well, I almost did give a fig about them. I knew this book was in trouble when I began skimming most of their scenes because I was so enthralled by those including Bentley.

Carlyle seemed torn between wanting to give Camden and Helene “their” story and wanting to pen one for Bentley at the same exact time. We know Bentley eventually gets his story in THE DEVIL YOU KNOW but I sometimes I felt it unfair for Carlyle not to have focused her attention more on Camden and Helene. Everytime I would read a scene including Camden and Helene, I almost thought it was an afterthought on her part...I had a picture of Carlyle sitting at her computer writing about Bentley or Ariane and then realizing the book was about Camden and Helene. At times, I felt frustrated because I wanted to know more about Bentley and the true source of his anger towards his perfect brother. THE DEVIL YOU KNOW explained everything to me and, having read it before this one, I knew all there was to know about Bentley BUT I wish BEAUTY had given the reader more of a hint as to what troubled good ole “Hell-Bent.”

Unfortunately, BEAUTY LIKE THE NIGHT seems more like a prequel (a long prequel) to THE DEVIL YOU KNOW and, quite possibly to Ariane’s future story (I HOPE!!! Carlyle hasn’t revealed whether she will write Ariane’s novel…yet).

It’s not only BEAUTY LIKE THE NIGHT which contains secondary characters who steal the story. Carlyle’s George Kimbel, valet to most of her heroes, begs for a story of his own and one cannot help but be enthralled by him. Unfortunately, Carlyle has firmly stated that Kimbel will not get his own story and this saddens me because, although he may not look like the typical romance novel hero, he definitely has the personality for it.

Most writers know the harm they will be placing their lead characters in if they choose to feature a magnetic secondary character. Kleypas knows well never to make Derek Craven an integral part of any novel (besides his own, of course). Unfortunately, she made the mistake of including Lord Westcliff in A SUMMER TO REMEMBER and nearly had him and his heroine’s spats (he has his own book, IT HAPPENED IN AUTUMN) steal all the thunder (SUMMER is my least favorite Kleypas book and, honestly, I loved every minute of Westcliff in that book).

I love secondary characters, but it frustrates me when the author takes it too far and dedicates an entire book to them…that was only one of the reasons I didn’t care for BEAUTY LIKE THE NIGHT…it could have been shorter! The book is better than others I’ve read but it’s a great disappointment after NO TRUE GENTLEMAN. I would still recommend the book…it contains characters worth the read, but don’t expect a masterpiece.


sybil said...

Have you read TDYK yet? I so fell in love with Rutledge. I sooooooo wanted his book.

Then it turned out to be the first LC I read and didn't like and caused me to not touch her books again until AWOV was reissued at such a great price and got my attention in the store. I liked it better after reading the other books and having more of a history on Bentley Rutledge but I am still miffed my fave character had what I thought was the weakest book.

Although I still need to get one... that I am so blanking on... crap it is the one to be reissued this year ;)

romancelover said...

The book coming out this year is called A WOMAN SCORNED...see my posting on Liz Carlyle's Big F-you to Amazon for dates et al.
Re: Bentley's story. How funny! The DEVIL YOU KNOW was my first Carlyle also. I liked it but I remember not liking the heroine too much. I thought he deserved a real woman and she just pissed me off. Despite this, I loved Rutledge and, luckily for me, kept on buying her books, but didn't read them...they would just end up in the TBR pile. All that stopped with THE DEVIL TO PAY which I loved...I finally finished AWOV (and I, too, was taken in by the very cheap price)and cannot believe I waited to read it. It was so good and I think I might read TDYK again only because I feel I know HELL-BENT so much better now. Don't forget A WOMAN SCORNED comes out in June of this year. I can't wait.

- Daniela