Sunday, June 30, 2013

Reader's Diary #1034- Carmel DeVine: Sedna's Passion


Marking my last book for the 6th Canadian Book Challenge is a bit of a rare book, Carmel DeVine's Sedna's Passion. Published in 2005 by Atlantic Romances, I can't find out much about the company or the author. From what I can tell, and feel free to correct me, Atlantic Romances was a short lived publisher of Newfoundland based romances. They only published three books, the others being Madlyn Fera's Love and Old Roses and Jo Blackmore's Man from La Manche, both of which were also published in 2005. Sure it was a niche market, and given the fate of publishing some would say doomed to fail, but I love that someone attempted this at all, even if romances aren't typically my thing. I moved back to Newfoundland for a year just as they were being published and the rumour at the time was that the authors were actually pseudonyms of more established Newfoundland authors, having a bit a fun exploring the romance market without tarnishing their otherwise literary reputations. I don't know how much truth there was to that but I can't find anything out about the supposed authors and it was a bit of fun trying to guess who it might actually be. In Sedna's Passion for instance, I thought the character of Enoch was suspiciously close to Donna Morrissey's Reverend Ropson (from Kit's Law). Likely the rumours weren't true but I hope it resulted in a few more sales (though clearly not enough).

Still, despite my admiration for the idea I can't say I was overly impressed with Sedna's Passion.  Granted I wasn't expecting Giller prize quality, but I was expecting to at least be entertained with a tawdry and perhaps even smutty tale set in a familiar setting. Alas, the only passion in the book is in the title.

It started out promising. The first paragraph is so chocked full of adjectives and adverbs (luxurious, golden, haughtily) I thought it would only be a matter of time that they'd be employed in describing naughty bits and what those naughty bits were doing. But before long, once I realized that the first intimate moment was skipped over all together, it seemed that the author was going for something else entirely. Sedna's Passion is supposed to revolve around Conor McLowrie, a young woman from poverty, and her relationship with Devon Radford, a young med student who is "old money." But there's also a whole bit about Conor trying to set up an artist retreat near St. Anthony but running into opposition in the form of a religious zealot and his followers. With the class angle and the (unlikely) art versus religion angle, it was as if DeVine abandoned all pretense of a romance novel and decided to go for literary instead. Unsuccessfully. Don't get me started on the bizarre fixation with Conor's metabolism.

Over at CBCBooks this past week they've been exploring the question as to whether or not a character needs to be likable. I'd easily weigh in that the answer is a resounding no (Humbert Humbert?) unless the author intends for the reader to like the character. In Sedna's Passion, Devon's family is presented as a bunch of rich snobs while Conor is presented as the victim. Nevermind that she seems as much prejudiced against rich people, nevermind that she not once employs actual honesty about her background to Devon, assuming he wouldn't accept her. At the end I found myself thinking, surely Devon can do better than this? Not exactly the sort of feeling the heroine of a romance novel should trigger.

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