Storm Winds—Iris Johansen
"I shall probably never marry. Who would marry me? I'm not at all pretty and I have no dowry." Juliette lifted her chin defiantly. "Besides, I see no advantage in being a man's chattel. It seems to me Madame de Pomadour and Madame Du Barry lived much more interesting lives than mere wives would." She suddenly grinned. "I'll be no man's slave." (97)This second in Johansen's Wind Dancer series was the alt pick for July in Vaginal Fantasy. I made the mistake of reading the book before this, The Wind Dancer, which is the first in the series, in preparation for this book. Poor choice I made there. I'm too much of a completionist not to have done so, but the first one was so abysmal, this one didn't really stand a chance in my mind. (Click here to read my thoughts on The Wind Dancer.)
Set during the French Revolution, the through line in this series is an ethereal sculpture of a horse. Jean-Marc is attempting to purchase the statue from Marie Antoinette, to whom it was gifted, in order for his father to see it one last time before he dies. After all, the statue had been in his family for centuries before then. Juliette is a young girl when she meets Jean-Marc, but she's stubborn and hardened already, certain that she'll never love or let a man be her master. (Oh, how little you know, Juliette. Young women in historical fiction, especially romantic historical fiction, always let men be their masters.) Unloved by her mother, she agrees to accompany Jean-Marc's ward, Catherine, to a convent in order to keep her company and maybe gain a bit of education herself. When the convent is set upon by rebels and the nuns and Catherine are raped, Juliette uses her wits and a bit of assistance from a kind rebel, Francois, to get them back to Jean-Marc in Paris. Using her previous acquaintance with Marie Antoinette, Juliette makes an arrangement to help Marie and her young son escape from the Bastille in exchange for information about where Marie has hidden the Wind Dancer.
Number one, this book could have been at least 100 pages shorter. Big chunks of it were completely unnecessary. (Although, to be fair, I found the whole thing almost completely unnecessary, but it's got a 4.05 average star rating on Goodreads, so what do I know?)
Many of the issues that I had with the first book recurred in this one. The treatment in relationships of these women, in addition to the constant threat and realities of rape, are reprehensible. I think there's something to be said for attempting to represent an historically accurate mindset, especially when it furthers the plot of the book. (Spoiler: It didn't in this case.) But there's a difference between utilizing an anachronistic support for rape victims and then actively going out of your way to perpetuate the jackass ideas that people had centuries ago. For example, when Francois first encounters Catherine and Juliette at the convent, directly after Catherine has just been raped by two men, he says to her, "You lay there like a dead woman. The pain will go away. Woman is made to take a man into her body. You will heal." (134) Really? That's what you want to say right now? The fact that he later becomes Catherine's love interest and we're meant to feel that he's a good guy only makes those comments even more troubling.
A scene where all of the nuns are being raped in the courtyard by scores of the rebels is likewise disturbing. If this was a hardcore historical fiction about the events surrounding the French Revolution, then I would more understand this representation of what may very well be actual historical events. But since it's a romance disguised as historical fiction, and serves actually no plot point—other than to provide an opportunity for Catherine to be raped so she can be "saved" and later fall in love with Francois—it doesn't seem appropriate.
Other than that, there was just nothing positively memorable about the book. This month in VagFan was pretty meh for me, with the main, The Spymaster's Lady, falling flat during it's final third. (More on that later.)
You can watch the Hangout with the VagFan ladies and super special guest Tom Lenk, below. Yay! As much as I love the core four, I am really digging have guests lately.