An Old Fashioned Arrangement by Susie Vereker

anoldfashionedarrangement

 

  • Series: Transita
  • Paperback: 311 pages
  • Publisher: Transita (2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905175280
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905175284

So much for pacing myself on this one, too.

I thought I had An Old-Fashioned Arrangement pegged as a sort of Anita Brookner-ish book featuring a mature main character who found the love of her life, shifted gears, and off they rode into the sunset. Well, not so much.

It started out that way, yes, but author Susie Verker took it in a different, more conventionally thrilling direction. It became a sort of international intrigue-ish endeavor, though without all those pesky details about double agents. It had that sort of thing in the background, but not in a John Le Carre sort of way. That’s fine with me, not being the sort who really needs to get all the technical details. It had just enough of the thriller in it to make me twist my hair in anxiety, without all the pesky acryonyms that hurt my brain.

It’s tricky saying a lot about this book without ruining the plot, but I will say my admiration for the main character, Kim, knows no bounds! Her husband, whom she doesn’t love and hasn’t for some time, mind, disappears in what seems to be a plane crash, then her uber-rich, older neighbor offers to be her sugar daddy. She’s inclined to say, “Gee, thanks, but no thanks.” At least until the bills start coming in. A girl must be practical, and it wasn’t long before she came to see the light. Game, set and match to uber-rich neighbor.

But then, she starts investigating the details of her husband’s death, and weird things start coming to light. Enter Mark, the dashing young man who works as a diplomat. He has the connections Kim needs in order to figure out what on earth happened to her husband in Indonesia, and things start mounting up suspiciously. In the meantime Mark, being a red-blooded man, notices she has rather nice legs.

Oh, what a tangled web.

An Old-Fashioned Arrangement was somewhat a surprise to me, not being what I’d at first assumed it was going to be, and I was impressed with all the twists and turns it took.  While it does follow the general romance formula of woman in loveless relationship meets perfect man while in transitional relationship, woman hopes to god her husband’s truly dead, woman inherits fortune, woman is now free to choose which man she really wants… Okay, not entirely formulaic, but the traditional romantic elements are there.

Women impatient with run of the mill romance would be most the most likely appreciative audience for this book, and also those who enjoy a good international intrigue going on in the background. I thought that element was good without being over the top. Really, a pretty good mix going on in this book.

FOUR BLUE STARS

 

lizziesiddalbook

 

  • Hardcover: 230 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books (August 22, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802715508
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802715500

 

Shifting gears entirely, I blew through the rest of Lizzie Siddal: Face of the Pre-Raphaelites, as well.

If it hadn’t been a library book on mere 14-day loan (NO RENEWALS!) I wouldn’t have felt as much need to rush through this. As it was, I thought it best to finish it before it fell behind the sofa and I started getting angry overdue notices from the library that was so naive kind as to let me borrow it.

What I knew of the Pre-Raphaelite movement consisted of a really fuzzy memory of what I’d read of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s poetry in my undergrad Victorian survey course. Not exactly a fount of knowledge, but I at least vaguely knew who they were. The art’s identifiable, of course. It’s very pretty and I’ve always liked it. So I went into this book with only the vaguest idea about the subject matter.
lizziesiddalLizzie Siddal was a girl plucked from a hat shop and turned into a supermodel. She was the love of poet/artist/Renaissance man Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a very naughty boy who liked the ladies in a big way. He loved her, it seems pretty apparent, but he spent all of their relationship promising to marry her then reneging. Not exactly honorable, but I don’t really think we have all the details on that. There’s not a lot of surviving correspondence, and relationships are way more complicated than anyone knows save the two principles. Dante did have the roving eye, but Lizzie had a lot of issues herself. She couldn’t have been easy to live with.

Lizzie seemed inclined toward being neurotic, and more than once, when she found she wasn’t getting her way she’d starve herself until Dante caved in and did whatever it was she wanted. Except marry her, at least until after she’d really almost died. Then he finally married her, she got pregnant and lost the baby, and it was a downhill slide until her eventual suicide.danterossetti

It’s generally well known that Rossetti (pretty portrait of him at RIGHT) (a bit TOO pretty, if you ask me) buried his last book of poetry with Lizzie, declaring he’d never  write again, and then several years later he thought better of that and had a friend of his retrieve the book. The legend goes that Lizzie still looked perfect and her flowing, red hair filled the coffin, but I’m thinking it wasn’t nearly that pretty.

Not nearly.

Still, it’s a pretty legend, hearts and flowers, let’s go with it.

Lucinda Hawksley’s written a very good history of the relationship between Lizzie and Dante, and if I had more time I’d explore more about the pre-Raphaelites. Until then, I’m at least content knowing more about the general subject. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the topic at all. It’s detailed enough without going off on too many tangents.

FOUR BLUE STARS

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6 thoughts on “An Old Fashioned Arrangement by Susie Vereker

  1. When I got to the Pre-Raphaelites, I always included that legend. Students love the grotesque, and the fact that Dante wanted the poems badly enough to dig her up was worth a great deal…the legend of her perfection was a bonus. 🙂 Students also tend to love the Pre-Raphaelite paintings, and as I do as well, it was always an enjoyable period.

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  2. Susie Vereker

    Delighted and honoured that you enjoyed An Old-Fashioned Arrangement, Bluestalking Reader. I guess I feel it’s more about international intrigue than espionage. No spies are involved, though there is an element of shady deals! As you say, it is hard to discuss without spoiling the plot for others.
    Anyway, thank you so much for your double review! Susie

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  3. Jenclair, I remember when I first heard the Rossetti legend, as an undergrad. The professor who taught that particular course was very anti-woman (it seemed he’d been hurt very badly in the past, according to what little he told us), and he told it with a degree of disdain. We all thought it was fascinating, of course, as it’s really a wonderfully morbid, yet romantic sort of legend.
    I wonder if that gent who first placated Rossetti with that tale knew we’d still be talking about it now? I wonder if that even crossed his mind.

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  4. Susie, thanks so much for stopping by! I did change the review to reflect the fact you’re right of course on the spy issue. Slip of the mind there, I guess, as I knew that yet still made the error.
    Ah well!
    I just liked Kim so very much. She’s a wonderful sort of character, so strong yet with her own share of insecurities that make her easy to identify with.
    I could very easily see this made into a film, and if that happens I must see who they cast as Mark… Speaking of interesting characters!
    Sorry, mind drifted off there for a minute.

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  5. Susie Vereker

    Great, thanks. Maybe you would enjoy my first novel ‘Pond Lane and Paris’? – see the Transita website for details.
    Of course I’d love it if they made a film of An Old Fashioned Arrangement but I am having a problem casting Kim!

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  6. Susie, I’ll check out ‘Pond Lane and Paris,’ thanks for telling me about it.
    As for Kim, you can’t go far wrong with Kate Winslet in any role. Kate Beckinsale may actually be good, too, though. I’d put those two on my “A” list.

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