Posted by girluknow
Standish is a lush, intensely romantic love story between scholarly Ambrose Standish and worldly Rafe Goshawk. Though the men are thoroughly unalike, the author does an excellent job of persuading the reader that theirs is a love almost predestined in its depth and steadfastness. Never once did I doubt that Ambrose and Rafe loved each other and continued to love each other, despite brief entanglements with other men in the course of the story. This was the story’s strength; the author has a distinct talent for conveying the passion between his characters.
At the same time, the various driving forces in the relationship are realistic. Jealousy and doubt cause separation, but the greater force of their love eventually brings them back into contact with each other. The two men behave as men, not communicating when they need to most, acting rashly when they shouldn’t, allowing pride to make a difficult situation worse, and occasionally succumbing to pure lust. The author did a good job of making me want to smack both men at various moments in the story. I was emotionally invested and if an author can make that happen, he gets big points from me, no matter what other errors I felt existed in the work.
The point of view switching was a little frustrating. Just when I was beginning to involve myself with the reactions of one character, I was abruptly handed over to another character’s internal musings. This prevented me from getting as attached to the characters as I could have been. I think Standish would be a more powerful reading experience had the author switched points of view chapter to chapter or at least scene to scene.
The author has a good grasp of realistic character development. I enjoyed seeing how much Ambrose changed from start to finish. I liked him much better as a person by the end of the story. He was stronger and wiser without entirely losing his romantic heart. His words to Rafe at the end revealed how much he’d changed and how much he hadn’t. I especially liked his last line of dialogue; both romantic and matter-of-fact. I felt the ways in which he’d changed did make him better suited to a lifetime with a man like Rafe. Rafe changed more slowly or was still the process of changing for the better by the story’s end. That was to be expected, considering his upbringing. He had much more to overcome, but I did feel he was beginning to overcome it just in time.
The author made character motivations clear to me in all but one instance. Alvisi’s motivations remained something of a mystery, so I felt perplexed by his involvement. I also found it bothersome that Rafe put up with Alvisi as long as he did. I understand that Rafe felt like a debased creature who deserved to fall into darkness, but most of the time, that seemed nothing more than a personal justification for satiating himself. He might have been suffering emotionally but he wasn’t suffering physically–to say the least. His grief and self-abasement would have made more of an impression on me if he had denied himself pleasure instead. Of course that wouldn’t have been as realistic, so maybe I’m being unfair. I just wanted to see a little more nobility on Rafe’s part, I guess. I wanted a sense that he was cleaning up his act, so to speak, instead of wallowing in debauchery disguised as some sort of penitence. I was mad at Rafe for that and mad at Ambrose for not really being fair to Rafe earlier on, though they were both just being human.
That the author made me care enough to be angry with her characters’ behavior says a lot about her ability as a writer. One other thing I wanted to briefly note is the author’s way with intimate scenes. The sex in Standish was scorching and yet did not go into so much mechanical detail that I got tired of it and wanted to skim. The author included the right amount of description and all the emotion needed to make such scenes meaningful. Rafe and Ambrose were very sweet together, when they were together. I really liked that Ambrose brought out the best in Rafe. I think that was part of why I was irked at Ambrose when he was upset with Rafe, though I appreciated that Ambrose needed to have a taste of the hard realities of life in order to come to a better understanding of Rafe’s frailties. I felt the author expressed all this exceptionally well and that made the ending all the more poignant.
The author included details throughout that provided a strong verisimilitude and evoked the era without overburdening the story. The characters behaved true to their time period in speech and manners (as far as I know) and yet they stayed accessible to the modern reader. That’s another difficult balance to achieve but I felt the author was successful in this instance. Despite the problems I’ve mentioned, I enjoyed the book. It was told with the sort of passion necessary in good story-telling, a passion that kept me reading despite point of view problems. I think if the author overcomes the frenetic point of view switching in future works, he has wonderful potential for continued success.