oracne - Victoria Janssen (oracne) wrote,
oracne - Victoria Janssen


Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander: A Bisexual Regency Romance, Ann Herendeen.

The copy I have was published by AuthorHouse [self-pub], but the author's website notes, "Phyllida will be coming out as a Harper Paperback in summer 2008." I'm wondering if the Harper version will be edited down, as the original is quite a brick, and involves a number of standard plots [the Big Misunderstanding, the Virgin's Awakening/Man Gets a Clue, Spies for the French!, Woman Finds Her Backbone!, Adorable SubPlot Couples, SubPlot Villain Redeemed! (sort of)] that might be broken out into separate books. It's fun as a brick, though. All those plot standards had to be present in order to be subverted. Subversions happen with varying degrees of success.

The male protagonist, Andrew, belongs to a club called The Brotherhood of Philander, a safe space for its gay members not only to indulge in homosexual sex but to "be themselves." Sodomy is against the law in Regency England, and requires a degree of secrecy which the author acknowledges, but at many points the needs of the romance conveniently overlook this, as when Andrew, supposedly notorious as a sodomite, seems to have no trouble getting into any social gathering he likes. I was okay with that; I didn't want to read a depressing book, after all.

Andrew needs an heir, so decides to marry a woman, but he wants the woman to know about his proclivities and allow him to continue having male lovers. Phyllida, well-bred but poor, and incidentally a writer of smutty Gothic romance, is introduced by a friend of Andrew's. For a while, the story proceeds much like any other arranged marriage Regency on the "bad sex then good sex" axis, with the addition of some amusing moments in which Andrew's brother tries to explain the clitoris to him ("the little man in the boat"). Once good sex is achieved, Big Misunderstandings begin to fall from the sky. Most of them, I attribute to Andrew, who like many Alpha Male Heroes, can be a selfish prick, and is rather shockingly (and realistically) scornful of women and the poor at several points. I found his imperfections one of the book's good points. I liked very much that he wasn't Practically Perfect In Every Way.

Andrew's longtime lover, a soldier, breaks it off with him by mail, but not too long after, Andrew hooks up with Matthew, who in Big Misunderstanding #2, pretends to have less money than he actually does. Not nearly as much time is spent on Andrew and Matthew; they initially share the same expectations to a much greater degree than Andrew and Phyllida. Phyllida and Matthew form a strong friendship, but alas Matthew does not seem interested in women at all; this doesn't stop Andrew from being jealous, of course, at least until the end. I liked Matthew a lot better than Andrew.

Edited to add: I didn't say as much about Phyllida's role because she more closely follows standard romance tropes. Her writing is an issue between her and Andrew, and I think it's a commentary on genre, as well; I wasn't totally satisfied with the issue's resolution. Her intersection with the villain was promising, but I felt it petered out somewhat and didn't resolve in an interesting way, either.

I liked the male prostitute (probably straight) who ends up marrying and getting out of the business. I also liked the female character who turns out to look better in men's clothing.

Things that particularly annoyed me: Phyllida's pregnancy or nonpregnancy is drawn out far, far too long. Also, far too many people seem to care whether Andrew can impregnate her and bring the question up in conversation, when we the readers know from early on that he's perfectly capable. Also I found the villain boring and too terribly convenient at various plot moments.

It's worth a read; I'd love to see a romance scholar deconstruct this.

Tags: books, regency, romance
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