>> Friday, January 30, 2004
Rare-book dealer Alina Corey decided to live like the heroine of her favorite Renaissance book, presiding over a court of glittering literati, a witty distance from love. It worked . . . until Jared Troy, a combative Renaissance scholar she knew only through his letters, suddenly appeared in the flesh, challenging her to a passion as grand as her dream But he was real: a stranger soulmate who stirred her to anger, ecstasy and love….Renaissance Man was much, much better than those. A B.
The romance was wonderfully satisfying. Jared was a bit overbearing sometimes, but he never crossed the line into dominating bully. And man, he needed her! He confessed this freely, that his life was empty without her, that she had the power to hurt him, and so on and so forth. The love scenes were correspondingly tender and emotional.
Alina was hesitant to have anything to do with Jared, and unlike in some cases, when I just couldn't understand why the heroine rejected a wonderful guy she was attracted to, her doubts made sense. She's carefully built up a life she finds satisfying, and here comes a guy trying to pressure her into chucking everything away for him. Who wouldn't resist?
What was good was that she didn't simply let him steamroll over her objections (like the heroine of Golden Goddess, for instance). No, she stood her ground, and it wasn't until Jared saw it wasn't working and was forced to try another tack that she relented.
I liked almost everything about this relationship. The only thing that felt very weird and didn't work for me at all and threw me out of the fantasy at times, was his constant half-joking threats that he should beat her, he should be excused if he beat her, etc. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think that's something I'd tolerate a man to say to me, even if he was completely joking.
I enjoyed the Renaissance theme. The details were interesting, and the parallel between Alina and Jared and the story of Battista and Francesco worked to enrich the story.
The suspense subplot was uncharacteristically well-handled. The only problem it had was that it set the stage for Alina to behave very stupidly. Could she be any more stupid than near the end, when it becomes clear that it is very possible that her partner is engaged in illegal activities, and that he's set her up to take the fall if there's any problem, and she insists that it's he duty to warn him of a plan to catch him in the act? Even if he's guilty, she says she owes it to him to warn him, because he was her friend and mentor. Huh? I would suppose that by being willing to throw he to the wolves if necessary, he had forfeited that kind of right. This does end well, with the consequences of her warning her former partner all positive, but still, I just didn't buy those rationalizations.
Something I should mention is that this is very early work (1982), from when JAK was still in her awkward dialogue tags stage here. In only 2 pages, Jared "sooths", "interrups gruffly" and "breathes", while Alina "storms", "yelps" and "hisses". This was actually funny at times!