Book Review: Until You by Judith McNaught
Book number three in the Westmoreland Saga focuses on the younger Westmoreland brother, Stephen—yet another aristocratic asshole, but one a tad less intense on that spectrum—and Sheridan, a feisty American governess stricken with amnesia. Clayton and Whitney Westmoreland, once again, make an appearance as well as the couples of the McNaught Sequels trilogy. Nicki du Ville—one of the few men that isn’t an asshole and actually champions the women—returns and has an interesting arc with Sheridan.
This book has a lot of exposition at the beginning and yet, it is still a favorite. On rereads, I occasionally skip through about a third. It has an abundance of what I love about the six Judith McNaught historical romance novels that I’m reviewing—McNaught’s flair for the dramatic in addition to her passionate and flawed characters and her nuanced use of socio-political and economic differences. She creates a more realistic image (lacking as it may be still for us commoners then and now) of the historical aspects of the era as well as the creeping slow crawl of the evolution of feminism—white feminism if we are to be specific.
One of the things I tend to despise about the older romance novels is their ugly and unhealthy habit to be extreme about virginity and treating it like a puritanical sacrament for men at the high cost of women’s freedom and virtue. Additionally, some of the older novels tend to be vague and fastidious on the sex scenes, whereas the newer ones are more exact and daring—less prudish and more like well written fanfiction; they are also more educational forgoing those unnecessary symbolic virginity scenes.
I’ve never liked those scenes.
Is this one aspect of human nature (?) that is rather than what we wish it to be? I question the historical accuracy and significance of these symbolic scenes in regards to the dramatization patriarchal publishers require them portrayed within the books in an effort to manage how they continue to be a part of a history and a pattern to control—patriarchal propaganda, if you will. I recall in the past many publishers demanding this scene in submissions. I dunno if they still do.
If you resist the use of the word propaganda, I point you to the over abundance and litany of intelligence and police propaganda and procedurals in literature and television that has gradually transformed our country into becoming eventually what many consider a police state; the enormous amounts of money that flows into the police and pentagon at the cost and detriment to our country and her citizens and how that has become fundamental and expected almost without argument. Lately, I’ve also noticed a plethora of domesticated role-playing games in which cishet couples settle down and have babies returning women to the exclusive and oftentimes restrictive and dependent wife/mother role. I assume this is more propaganda to make America great again? The smallest and most nuanced acts of social manipulation can inevitably have enormous cost and consequences for marginalized. A reminder that women are still marginalized; some of us a lot more so than others.
Like Whitney, Sheridan tends to be more contemporary, independent and less likely to surrender, obey and conform to any man or the prevailing social restrictions of that era (though they eventually do a little for self-preservation reasons, and love). Their romantic partners adore and honor these characteristics about them encouraging and fostering that independence as an attribute preferable to the obsequious rigid standards of behavior of that generation. Although, I would say that Clayton Westmoreland was more paternalistic thus his ensuing asshole title, not to be confused with his other Ducal title.
This is a fun book and another I’d highly recommend. Like all books though, read it critically.
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