I know I said I was cutting back on fiction. And I am! But I had this major craving for chocolate last night, and anyway I’d easily made my daily minimum plus a little, so I did in fact start THE CHOCOLATE KISS by Florand. Oh, it is so smooth and delightful, reading it is almost as sensual an experience as letting great chocolate dissolve on your tongue.
It was a good day for princesses. The rain drove them inside, an amused little rain with long, cool fingers that heralded the winter to come and made people fear the drafts in their castles.
These are not literal princesses, I should add; that’s just how the aunts who own this chocolate shop refer to some of their female customers. Despite the non-literal princesses, this is a fantasy — barely; it’s a magical-realism story, which I love, since I personally find that a touch of magic really enhances a romance. Like this:
If a few more princesses had spines, it would do them a world of good, Magalie thought with a huff of irritation, and back in the kitchen she shook her head at the chocolate as she stirred it: May you love your life and seize it with both hands.
And also this bit:
Aunt Aja took the tray out, and just as she left the kitchen, the silver bell over the front door rang with a chime so sharp and true that it pierced Magalie straight through the heart. She clapped her hands over her ears to try and stop the sound, . . . but the tone kept vibrating inside her body, until she stamped her boots twice and slapped the counter to force it to stop.
The bell over the door rings with a different tone depending on who opens the door, see. Naturally that is Magalie’s ideal guy opening the door in that scene, and naturally neither of them has any idea.
Anyway, I’m finding that these books are not the kind you swallow in a gulp; they’re best savored slowly, a bit at a time. Ideal for nibbling your way through a stash of chocolate over several days, and also ideal for not interfering with your own work.
Now, contrast this with A BEAUTIFUL FRIENDSHIP by David Weber, which I’m listening to as I rip the knee-high (and sometimes hip-high, I’m embarrassed to admit) grass out of the vegetable garden and give the melons and okra a fighting chance.
“I mean it, Stephanie!” Richard Harrington said. “I don’t want you wandering off into those woods again without me or your mom along. Is that clear?”
“Oh, Daaaddy –!” Stephanie began, only to close her mouth sharply when her father folded his arms. Then the toe of his right foot started tapping lightly, and her heart sank.
Okay, while basically competent, is anything about this beginning the least bit interesting or special? Does any of it catch the ear like music or poetry? No. No amused little rain here. Plus, wow, folding the arms! Tapping the feet! It makes me laugh because I can’t help thinking of the Nac Mac Feegals in Terry Pratchett’s WEE FREE MEN, and the way they moan in terror if Jeanie shows the folding of the arms, much less the tapping of the feet.
I find Weber’s prose gets the job done, inasmuch as it communicates what’s going on — but I often do find his dialogue stiff and flat-sounding, his metaphors cliched, and his prose in general just uninteresting.
Having produced something of an indictment there, though, let me just add that I am enjoying listening to A BEAUTIFUL FRIENDSHIP anyway. I do think Weber can build a story that carries you along. But I also think that if Florand had written this particular space opera, it would be a more beautiful friendship because the prose itself would be beautiful.