Sherry Thomas’s Beguiling the Beauty has just been released, and two more books are scheduled to be released in 2012. Why is she so freaking awesome? Let’s explain:
Reason 1: She’s a bilingual badass
As a young woman, I got most of my admittedly flawed relationship education from reading romance novels (hot tip: Steve and Ginny from Sweet Savage Love are not appropriate role models.) However, Sherry Thomas famously taught herself English (her first language being Chinese) by reading romance novels. Personally, I think this likely gave her the meaning of words like “throbbing” and “manhood” before other more salient ones for life such as “milk” but I can’t fault her source material. Or do anything less than admired her tenacity and determination.
Reason 2: Her elegant prose
I believe we are experiencing one of the richest eras of lyrical prose in historical romance fiction. Sherry Thomas is at the forefront of this new wave, along with Joanna Bourne and Meredith Duran, to name but two more. Her elegant turn of phrase lifts the storytelling to new heights. Her novels are a lexicon of delight. Her unique word choice is that one step to the left that eschews the boring in favor of the unexpected; “unsighted” rather than the mere “blind” or “a high castle wall of a smile,” wholly original and yet instantly recognizable. The cadence of her sentences seduce a reader as surely as any romantic hero until you want to lay down on the nearest flat surface and simply succumb as her prose takes you, Calagon-like, away.
“But she had never spoken of it, not even to her mother. Had hidden it, along with her ravenous love, in the deepest recesses of her heart, a secret prisoner in the dungeon whose clanking chains and whimpers of despair only she heard in the witching hours of the night.”
“It was neither the lofty, delicate kiss she’d envisioned as a nubile girl, nor the sin-drenched osculation that had lately dominated her imagination. He kissed her with gusto and delight, a man at last achieving his heart’s desire. She melted accordingly, in complete contentment. He pulled away after too short a time. “Now say yes,” he urged."
Reason 3: Her unconventional, unapologetic heroines
These are not easy ladies. One’s a renowned doctor. Another’s a master chef. A third’s a financial wunderkind and proud master manipulator. Beyond their unique professions, given the era, these are not biddable ladies but nor are they the standard feisty heroines of romantic fiction. They are not all that likeable, yet always devastatingly compelling. They are as wondrously flawed as their heroes and all the more fascinating for it. They know what they want—even if it’s not what they really want—and they’re not afraid to reach for it. I particularly love Gigi from Private Arrangements (from which I’m quoting here) because she is so blatantly ballsy. At the start of the novel, she is engaged to a duke, a fiancé she wrangled by buying up all his debts and forcing him to the altar and she makes no bones about it. When he dies, her biggest regret is the time she wasted wrangling him. This is romantic-hero behavior. We’re accustomed to seeing Dukes and titans of the ton make such marital power plays. But such a level of relationship ruthlessness is not the usual heroine trait, however clever and managing she may be. Perhaps that is the appeal; the heroines in Sherry Thomas’ novels are the heroes of their own stories and it’s up to their men to keep up, which in Sherry’s novels may involve a literal chase around the world (see His at Night).
Reason 4: She fearlessly breaks the rules
In Private Arrangements, Gigi and Camden fall in love fast and passionately, a meeting of like minds, wit, and hearts. They spend the rest of their tumultuous relationship actively wounding one another, often viciously. Their vitriol is rooted in the deep emotional pain of their back story, but it is no less scathing—or apropos. During their estrangement, both Gigi and Camden take other lovers, a big no-no in Romancelandia, but it only serves to invest the story with verisimilitude. These are not gentle characters; these are raw, passionate, articulate, engaging, unpredictable people. Their relationships heave with emotional angst, calling to mind the great heyday of historical romance in the late 80s/early 90s. I used to dread starting a new Judith McNaught novel because I was confident it would rip my heart from my chest but was likewise knew the HEA denouement would be well worth the agony. Ditto Sherry’s novels. Yet this is not reinvention; rather, Sherry Thomas is writing old skool romances with new skool sensibilities in a marriage of no amount of convenience but one guaranteed to bring hours and hours of reading delight. Perversely, you’ll love and thank her for wrecking your heart.
Reason 5: Her novels heave with sensuality, a lyrical sexuality that makes her character’s raw candor ever more seductive. The books are hot, people. Seriously.
In 2012, Sherry Thomas will publish not one, not two, but three luscious new romances. Beguiling the Beauty is in stores and online now, Ravishing the Heiress will follow at the end of June, and Tempting the Bride falls into place in October. Go. Get it and any others you can get your hands on. You’ll thank me later, probably in about two weeks when you finally come up for air.
Have you read Thomas yet? What do you think?
Kiersten Hallie Krum writes smart, sharp & sexy romantic suspense. Find her snarking her way across social media as @kierstenkrum and on her web site and blog at www.kierstenkrum.com.