Princess Cimorene of Linderwall has very proper parents. She is nothing like her six elder sisters. Her hair is black and unruly. She avoids her dancing classes to fence with the castle armsmaster, learn magic with the court magician, practice economics with the court treasurer, or bake in the castle kitchens. Bored out of her mind, she summons her fairy godmother, who is no help whatsoever. So she runs away. Cimorene takes up the perfectly acceptable life of being a dragon’s princess, but she is nothing like the other captive princesses. She finds a place where her abilities (math, declining latin, cooking, baking, cleaning, magic) are welcomed and even useful. Now if only the knights and princes would stop showing up trying to fight Kazul and carry Cimorene off to live happily ever after.
Every year when International Women’s Day rolls around, I think of Cimorene. Wrede didn’t write her as a feminist. Equality is something that Cimorene takes as a given, not something she has to fight for. Anything that isn’t based in equality is just absurd, regardless of what is deemed ‘proper’ by the governing bodies. Cimorene is strong, smart, curious, and stubborn. She is, in short, my favorite literary character ever created and I hope I can write characters half as cool as her someday. I read this book at least once a year, usually more, and it is one of the biggest inspirations in my writing, equal to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time and Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted. I bring a copy with me any time I babysit and read it to my charges regardless of age and gender because it never fails. This book is pure magic.
Dealing With Dragons is not a romance. It is about Cimorene finding her place in the world and turning it into her best life. When life gives you lemons, make fresh-scented soapy water. Trust me, it can solve most of your problems.
Viola Kingsley has suffered a lot in the three years since the death of the man she thought was her husband. True, there has been much happiness as well; she has gained friends, a son-in-law, grandchildren, and found real love from a family she wishes she could claim as her own. But she still feels isolated in her misery, unable to process and move past the horrific events that she has been forced to live through. So she runs. She meant to go straight home and hide out alone for a month or so, but fate had other plans.
Marcel Lamarr is a haunted man. After the death of his young wife, he took up a life of frivolity and womanizing, unable to look after his two young children for more than a few days at a time. Over the past seventeen years, he has hidden from his obligations in every way he knows how. Until he runs into Viola, the woman who spurned his love fourteen years earlier. He tries to leave her in peace but instead finds himself running away with her, fleeing their lives entirely. As Marcel and Viola find their true selves again, their lives start to creep back in, and a split moment’s decision might cost them everything they’ve ever wanted.
Mary Balogh does a wonderful job bringing Marcel and Viola to life in this fourth book of the Westcott series. Whereas I felt disconnected from everyone in the last installment, I felt the emotions acutely in this volume. Viola and Marcel’s problems run deep. This is not a simple miscommunication mix-up. They have both glimpsed happiness and had all they hold dear taken away from them in the blink of an eye. These are not wounds that can be healed through any of the common methods, and Balogh goes above and beyond to bring the characters to the roots of their problems.
I am thrilled that Viola’s book went so well, and I can’t wait to see how Elizabeth fares in the next installment, due out at the end of this month.