- The Paid Companion by Amanda Quick
This was a typical Quick novel, I'm learning. Strong, linguistically-blessed heroine meets domineering alpha male. Then they have adventures fixing some problem with a bad guy. The plots are interchangeable and fairly predictable, although she does hold out on identifying the villain until the latter half. What makes AQ a real standout is her writing and her heroines. They rock, and they rock all the more because she creates an authentic world with her writing. AQ has mastered the Regency historical's language and style, without sacrificing wit or believability.
- Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong by Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow
You know, I really want to like the French. I learned the language and still retain more than I have any right to considering I prefer German and only fudged French in high school. Still, the country, the history, the language - they're all so romantic and inspiring. So why do the people and their way of doing things rub others the wrong way? This book, which is deeper than a travelogue but not really an academic text, is a crash course in all things francais.
I think I respect the French more having read Sixty Million Frenchmen, although I'm not one iota closer to liking them. It is extremely difficult to empathize with the French side because there is no compromise in their stance. This was not helped by the authors' nearly belligerent tone towards the US in any comparison with the French. Perhaps they were writing for their audience with a view they can relate to, but I got the impression that they used the US as a model when it showed France to an advantage and the former in a negative light. I understood and even admired the French ways, but rarely agreed with them. At any rate, Nadeau and Barlow embrace the idea of French superiority, but are mostly objective because they are bound by historical facts to prove their points.
The development of the French national personality is a product of many tumultuous years, from the amalgamation of tiny ethnic groups to the Revolution to WWII and to the colonial conflict in Algeria. Their obsession with federalism, linguistic purity, and Paris is explained in a cohesive way. The political and educational aspects of French society are explored in great detail, but was a bit tedious. I've been reading this intermittently since May, but found the subject fascinating enough to keep at it, even through the dry patches. All in all, the theories they put forth about understanding the French character and spirit are built on sound logic and offer an illuminating, if smug, read. I can honestly say, Vive la France!