Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Kilts & Kraken by Cindy Spencer Pape Book 3 of the Gaslight Chronicles

This time, the Gaslight Chronicles moves to the highlands.  A young Lord, Magnus, Baron Findlay, washes up from the sea nearly dead after fighting a kraken.  Dr. Geneva MacKay is dispatched by the order to see to his care.  Though she is not pleased to once again leave her practice behind even briefly after struggling to establish herself as one of the few female physicians in Edinburgh, she assents to her father's wish. Geneva does what she can for Magnus but fears that it won't be enough and decides to help fulfill his dying wish  to return home.  Once in Torkholm, much to her surprise, the magic of the island quickly heals Magnus.  Though his health has returned, they must still deal with the fact that krakens continue to leave the deep to attack the tiny island.  Can Magnus and Geneva discover the source of the attacks? How will the two deal with their deepening attraction, when Magnus cannot leave the island?

Kilts & Kraken is an exceedingly quick read coming in at one hundred and eleven pages.  I actually found the mystery itself quite interesting and which that it had been expanded.  In many ways, the mystery of the kraken attacks was too often displaced to center the romance between Magnus and Geneva. We did get some of the legend that has been customary from this series with Magnus clearly being a descendant of the vikings and the name Torkholm being derived from Thor. The people of Torkholm are still very suspicious and there is a strong belief that the Gods are angry about the modernization of the island as the cause of attacks, making Kilts & Kraken and age old story of superstition and old religion versus progress.

 In some ways the character of Geneva is progressive.  She becomes one of the first female doctors and is not shy about being sarcastic when there is a suggestion that her gender disqualifies her from being a good doctor. While Magnus is brandishing weapons to fight the kraken, it is Geneva who uses her intelligence to get to the root of the mystery.  Many of the weapon in Kilts and Kraken are employed in some way and are not waiting on a man to make their life complete.  Geneva in fact makes it clear that her practice is her life.  

Sexually, though Geneva has not had intercourse, she does have some experience.  Magnus however views himself as having taken her innocence, because Geneva's hymen was intact.  This of course privileges intercourse as the only kind of sex that matters and is problematic given that once again, there are not GLBT characters in this series. Geneva even admits to masturbating but is too embarrassed to admit it to Magnus though he has no problem acknowledging that he self pleasures during his time of abstinence.  This casts a veneer of shame and over Geneva' desires. The following passage was further troubling:
"This was what her body had been made for.  Much of her life, she'd felt mannish and ungainly because she was tall, sturdy and interested in science.  With Magnus, she was pure woman, and that sensation was almost as blissful as the feel of his body lodged so deeply inside her it seemed he'd filled her very soul." (pages 70-71)
Right, so the sudden presence of a penis inside her vagina makes Geneva fulfilled.  Why then did she spend all of this years becoming educated, going to medical school and building up a practice if all it took was a little dick to make her whole? In this one phrase, Pape destroyed much of the independence she had imparted to Geneva. If further does not help that of course Geneva and Magnus fall passionately in love after only knowing each other for a short time.  Though this is a staple of the romance genre, I wish that romance writers would begin to make a separation between love and lust. The latter is most certainly not like the former, even when magic is used to authenticate it, as it was in this case.

For what it is, Kilts and Kraken is not a bad book per say and it is certainly better than Photographs & Phantoms, book 2 of this series but it fell short and I believe that is because once again, the story was to short to adequately deal with the interesting themes which Pape introduced. The ending was so neatly wrapped it belied the conflict that the antagonists and the villagers were feeling and why. In fact the antagonist was mainly just written off as crazy, which is absolutely ableist.  The citizens of Torkholm, having little relationship with the outside world would naturally feel fear and skepticism with the direction that Magnus planned to move the tiny island in. This conflict could have been explored in greater detail and it would have added great depth to this story. Once again Pape missed the mark and it really is a shame because the structure was present for a detailed and involved story.