Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cards & Caravans (Gaslight Chronicles #5) by Cindy Spencer Pape

Connor McKay has resigned himself the fact that Wink, the woman he loved is now happily married to someone else.  He has done his best to keep busy to avoid thinking about it.  When he gets a call that Belinda Danvers has been convicted of being a witch and is about to be burned to death he decides to investigate.  After meeting Belinda, Connor quickly realises that she has little real power and seems incapable of murdering the children she has been accused of killing.  Unable to get through to authorities, Connor breaks Belinda out of jail and takes her back to his family home.  In order to keep her safe, Connor decides to marry Belinda in order to invalidate any warrant for her arrest.  All is not happy ever after however, because someone is still determined to see Belinda dead.

The reason behind the romance between Connor and Belinda is once again thin.  Connor knows her for approximately 48 hours before he proposes marriage.  His family is quick to go alone because, well, woo woo.  I don't understand why it's so damn hard to base a romance in a little bit of reality.  At 48 hours, what people have is lust, most certainly not love.   Just because this love at first woo is a staple of paranormal romance, does not make it any less irritating.  In truth, I am becoming less enamored with this series with each book that I read.

Both Nell and Belinda are women of colour.  Belinda is Romani and it has been suggested in the past that Nell is of Indian descent.  Looking at the image of Belinda on the front of the cover, she hardly looks like a woman with a dusty complexion. On this I give Cindy Spencer Pape a pass, as most authors have little to no say on the covers of their books. I do however hold her accountable for the two women being labelled as exotic.

"Nell was exotic enough to be from Persia or India."

"Without Madame Zara, there won't be a fortune-teller." Wink said.  "I wonder if I could pretend to do that."

"Or me." Nell bit her lip."I have the exotic looks, remember."

Belinda shook her head"No I'll do the fortune telling.  Madame Zara is my great-aunt, after all, and I am a Rom, so I look the part too.
 Even in the 1800's the U.K. was not a White utopia and I am sick and tired of Cindy Spencer Pape calling her characters of colour exotic.  It's coded language and is absolutely racist.

Though a GLBT character has been included in this series from the beginning, she has never been more than a token and amounted to even less than that in this fifth installment of this series. In this book we got the briefest mention of Aunt Julian and her lover Maggie.  Miss Julian actually spoke two lines in the entire novel and Connor confirmed she and Maggie are indeed a lesbian couple, as a way to show Belinda just how tolerant his family is. Yes, they allow lesbians to join them and a werewolf has even married in.  It's such an accepting family.

What I can say about the Gaslight Chronicles is that Pape at least continues to write strong female characters.  They go to battle alongside their husbands.  Connor makes a point of telling Belinda with pride that the women in his organization and family are high educated, skilled and trained.  He even muses that it is possible for the knights to be fully integrated in terms of gender within her lifetime. No matter how eye roll inducing some of the romances in this series have been, Pape has made sure that the female love interest is never secondary to the male love interest.  The relationship is always equal.  In Cards & Caravans, the book starts with Connor saving Belinda but by the end of the story, Belinda had saved his life twice.  This is not to say that Connor's desire to be protective was nonexistent but that Belinda always followed her instincts even if it meant endangering herself to protect him.

To read these novels, you kind of have to accept them for the limitations built into the genre and suspend one's beliefs.  That said, it shows a lack of originality on Pape's part that she continues to rely on these tropes to build a story around.  For all of the interesting situations Pape sets up in her novels, at times it feels like she is following a pre written script. Clearly there is always going to be an element of boy meets girl, woo occurs and then love, but with the world Pape she has created there could be so much more.