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on September 11, 2001
There is a growing trend to rewrite and revise fairy tales as romances. For example, Julia Quinn's latest book in the Bridgerton series, at least two books by Katherine Kingsley, and several books by Judith Ivory. In some senses, the romance novel (or novella) can be viewed as a modern day fairy tale for women, with the Happily Ever After (HEA) ending. [Well, it is true that a very few fairy tales have unhappy endings...]. If you think of this point, reading and appreciating Judith Ivory's works becomes much easier, as does appreciating the romance genre in general.
From the point of realism (and I tend to be a bit of one), this novel has plenty of faults, beginning with Edwina's lack of wealth, her social status, her lack of family, and the knowledge of the author about the peerage in general. The contrived ending is a major problem, as is the idea that a ratcatcher, even a highly intelligent one, can be converted into a gentleman within a few weeks - a process that takes even Professor Henry Higgins (MY FAIR LADY, PYGMALION) several months.
If you set these problems aside, the story is quite enjoyable and also rather unusual. While one of Christina Dodd's books and a book by Stephanie Laurens both feature finishing governesses of good birth as heroines, this book differs in making the hero not a peer but - a ratcatcher. Some readers will react with disgust, but that made the story intriguing enough for me (coupled with the excerpt featuring the bet about the legs) to pick the book up. The first half is indeed quite interesting, although Edwina is too quick to agree to the bet (ladies were usually far more prudish, especially when Mick makes an even more outrageous suggestion). That she accedes quickly suggests that she is more than willing to go along, which says all kinds of things about her, Mick, and their relationship.
The book drags a bit in the middle. The real problem I had was with the ending. Firstly, the hero is oh-so-conveniently the lost grandson of the mean cousin who has succeeded Edwina's father. Secondly, it is oh-so-easy for this Duke to name Mick as his heir, and assume that it will be easy for Mick to prove his claim. [Such a claim would usually drag on for years, with the Tichborne case being one example. And there, the claimant had inside help from a member of the family. Same here, except that Edwina supposedly has no big desire to be a duchess, or does she?].
While I enjoyed the first half of this book (even swallowing the various incongruities initially), I cannot say that I was happy with the ending. While I love a happy ending, I also want the ending to be realistic. It is curious, though, that I was willing to accept that the hero in A LONDON SEASON (Joan Wolf) was actually an earl's lost heir, but not so willing to believe the same of the hero of this book. Perhaps the difference lies in the circumstances - the hero of the former was discovered by his features and by the place of his birth and his mother's maiden name; there are no such details for THE PROPOSITION's hero to make this believable. Nor is it easy to believe that the law and polite society would look as kindly on Mick's claim. Alas, reality intrudes into my fairy tale visions of Edwina and Mick.
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on January 5, 2000
Winnie the linguist, tries to correct the manners, elocution, of Mick the ratcatcher. Two brothers bid Winnie and Mick do this in time for an important ball, which is to be hosted by Winnie's cousin. Winnie doesn't like her cousin; and, she is thrilled with the thought of fooling him. Mick likes Winnie, and the possibility of earning a good deal of money.
I've been reading Ms. Ivory since she started writing as Judy Cuevas. I always like her books. And, to say that she has improved with each book, is something I would agree with. The first page, tells you that you're reading a "masterpiece". But, it's just not my kind of "masterpiece". And, I'll try to explain why....
Maybe, because Ms. Ivory is such a good writer; her characterizations done so well, I could never forget Winnie's spinsterish persona, her seemingly uptight personality. And, I had the same problem with Mick. Handsome as he is, sweet as his personality seems, ladies' man that he is, I never forget his occupation. As a result, I never learn to like Winnie or Mick.
The story itself, is too contained for me. It has very few supporting players--the strongest support coming from the butler, Milton, and Mick's "pets". Also, I found my attention wandering, and kept waiting for something to happen. I understand that most readers found the relationship itself, that "something". For me, it's just not quite enough. I saw a book about mores, and the effects they have on relationships. But, I also saw it as a book about sexual tension. And, when I got to the part about the consumation of that tension--well, to be honest, I really disliked the sound effects, and even the descriptions used in the love scene. Once again, Ms. Ivory just may have done too good a a job with her writing, for me.
Finally, like others whom have read this book, I found the ending to be too convenient, and unlikely.
Will I recommend this book to friends? No, probably not. Will I recommend this author? Yes. I will always be a fan of such skill, in storytelling.
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on March 2, 2000
Mick and Edwina as 'my fair lady' in this case the lady is a 'gentleman'. Very unique? I don't know why but I didn't latch on to the story as I expected since it was so loved by all other reviewers. I agree that it is a refreshing change to see a hero not as dark, mean, rough person. Mick was a gentle person with a loving attitude. However, perhaps I have a problem with his profession as a ratcatcher that I just didn't fall in love with him. Edwina's is a strong and intelligent heroine, but her lack of self-esteem on her appearance bothered me. The book started well enough, however, I found the middle section to be slow. The roles of the twin brothers were not well-defined and could have been more interesting. The revelation at the end of the book did not transition the characters well at all. I like the way Ms. Ivory wrote so I am going to try reading 'sleeping beauty' next to see if it was just the characters I didn't like in this book.
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on February 3, 2001
As much as I enjoyed Judith Ivory's main characters and her sense of humor in "The Proposition," I felt that playwright George Bernard Shaw must be spinning in his grave! Mick Tremore is the masculine counterpart of Eliza Doolittle, and Lady Edwina Bollash is the feminine version of Henry Higgins of "Pygmalion" fame. Because of a bet, Edwina has the preposterous job of transforming Mick into a gentleman in six weeks. (I believe Shaw gave Henry Higgins more time.) In "Pygmalion," Eliza protested when given a bath, and Mick replayed the scene (with the addition of the butler being thrown in the tub!) Ms.Ivory adds her own touch in a scene involving Mick's enchantment with Edwina's legs,but the majority of the book is predictable once you've read Shaw. I think I'll stick to Nora Roberts, Judith McNaught...and Shaw.
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on April 24, 2000
When a bet is made that Lady Edwin Bollash can't make a gentleman out of ratcatcher Mick Tremore, it turns out to be a lesson in diction and grammar. Lady Bollash is a sort of 'ugly ducking' while Mick is a handsome hero too good looking for his own good. She finally teaches him how to speak properly, act like gentry, and he pulls is off. He on the other hand teaches her to let go of her up-tightness and fly free and enjoy life and not worry so much. I liked the basic content of this story, but the action and romance were a little slow and I really had to push myself to finish this book.
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