UPDATE: Bethany House, the publishers of For Such A Time, issued a statement in response to the complaints they have received about the book. The statement is a classic, eminently teachable, example of a non-apology. I’m not going to link to the official post. Instead, here a couple of posts that offer both the original statement and responses:
KK Hendin: Bethany House’s Statement, Rewritten
Jackie Barbosa: Bethany House’s Statement and Our Response (the “our” refers to the group of us who read the book together)
Janine’s and my joint discussion of For Such a Time is up at Dear Author. In addition, there have been several excellent posts that summarize, critique, and give you an idea of what it was like to read this book. I was part of a group of readers who took on the project at the same time, and I can honestly say that I don’t think I could have finished otherwise (some of us read the whole thing, others didn’t). They helped me understand aspects of the story that I was less familiar with, and we commiserated. A lot. I encourage you to read their takes, and I’ll update the list as necessary:
Kelly Instalove: Just Because You Can … Doesn’t Mean You Should
Jackie Barbosa: About *That* Book (AKA the Nazi Romance Everyone’s Talking About
Laura Curtis: Yes I Read “That Book” So You Don’t Have To (Trigger Warning)
Ros Clarke: Not A Review of That Book
Janine and me: Joint Discussion: For Such A Time by Kate Breslin
Emily Hubbard: A Sad (but not angry) Letter to Bethany House
Joanne Renaud: For Such a Time: I Discuss THAT BOOK
Janine read 35 percent of the book before she had to stop. As I said in the post, I’m in awe that she was able to get that far, given her family background and her childhood in Israel. We tried to address various misconceptions and inaccuracies that have been floating around the intertubes. Some are straightforward.
- No, the heroine was not presumed to be non-Jewish because of her blonde hair and blue eyes, but because she had false papers. It is probable that her features helped make the claim more credible, but what mattered to the Nazis was Jewish blood, not looks.
- No, the heroine is not converted by the end of the book, or at least not in the sense of explicitly accepting Jesus as her lord and savior. However, no supposedly Jewish character thinks or practices religion in a way that reflects actual Judaism. They all feel kind of Christian. 21stC Christian at that. Think of them as Christianized rather than actively converted.
- No, the Nazi hero is not engaged in genocidal activities while romance blossoms. The text goes into many contortions to exculpate the hero from such a charge. It’s very odd to read: he is on familiar terms with Himmler and Eichmann, but somehow he’s kept away from tangible acts (except for one, which winds up having our heroine feel sorrier for him than she does for herself).
- No, the hero doesn’t rape the heroine. This is an inspirational. The heroine isn’t allowed to have sex of any kind. She’s coerced and imprisoned and her romantic feelings are indistinguishable from Stockholm Syndrome, but the book is not “rapey.” The only people having rapey thoughts are the villainous Nazis (as opposed to the two Good Nazis) and they don’t get to act on them (see above: Inspirational Romance).
I’ve gone back and forth on whether to add to the cacophony around the RITA nomination of Kate Breslin’s inspirational historical romance, For Such A Time. This is a book set in 1944, primarily at the Theresienstadt camp, with a love story between the camp Kommandant and a Jewish young woman at its core.
I’ve written and rewritten paragraphs about the book, the controversy, etc., but I don’t think I really have much to add to that part. If you’re on Twitter, if you follow major blogs, or if you read online magazines, you’ve come across the debate. Many of the contributors to the debate have not read the book. There are all kinds of things being stated as fact, sometimes after reading the book, sometimes not. There is also a lot of “well, that’s what inspirational romance is.”
I am almost finished reading the book and will be participating in a joint discussion/review of it at Dear Author. I’ll link to that post when it is published, and for people who don’t read DA, I’ll provide a brief summary here and we can talk about it in comments if people are interested.
In the meantime, I want to talk about where this book fits in the larger historical romance (and historical fiction with romantic elements) category. This book clearly brings together a number of volatile, offensive, and arguably beyond-the-pale factors. However, when we take each of these factors in turn, it appears that they are all fairly well established in the romance genre (or at least the part of the romantic fiction genre that is reviewed and recognized by romance-centric sites and organizations).
I have no desire to defend the book, either in terms of its premise or its execution. I am interested in challenging the idea that this book is a unique specimen. To the extent it is unique, its uniqueness lies in combining elements which have gone relatively unremarked (and often praised) in other romance and romantic novels when they appear individually.
I signed myself up for SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge as part of my effort to read more of the books I already have. I’ve reviewed the first three months’ books at Dear Author, and I’d planned to do the same for this one. April’s category is Contemporary Romance, which means I had a lot to choose from, so I chose a contemporary Harlequin romance that also filled a category in my PopSugar Challenge. It was by a new-to-me author, Sophie Pembroke, and it was her first book for Harlequin after a contemporary trilogy at a smaller press. I used to read a lot in the Harlequin Romance line but then fell away from it, so I looked forward to seeing what the more recent books looked like (this was a September 2013 release).
Spoilers for the book follow, so don’t read if you don’t want to know.
Stranded With the Tycoon started out promisingly. Lucinda (Luce) is a university lecturer who runs into an old acquaintance from college when she’s attending a conference in Chester. The hotel has lost her reservation, but Ben is providentially standing by when it happens. This is providential because Ben’s company owns the hotel, and he just happens to be booked into a suite with two bedrooms. He offers one of them, she accepts, they spend a chaste night together, and they make plans to drive Luce to her home in Cardiff the next day. But a snowstorm requires them to divert to Ben’s cozy cottage in the Brecon Beacons.
Luce is academic, uptight, and the rock of her family. Ben is carefree, never spends two nights in a row with a woman, and does his hotel job well but it’s just a job (despite being the family business he runs with his brother). Opposites attract indeed. But Pembroke’s writing is smooth and she does the familiar with just enough individual touches to make it a good read.
I was enjoying this until the last quarter. The academic parts didn’t ring quite true, but they were close enough that it wasn’t a big deal. Luce and Ben’s will-they-won’t-they was augmented with plenty of scenes that brought them to life as individuals. I enjoyed when they finally got together (mostly fade to black, since the book is in Harlequin’s sweet-romance line), and I was glad Luce made it home to make a slapdash but well-received Christmas Eve dinner for her family.
And then there was a plot twist that made me stop reading. Completely. As in, I may have yelled, and I certainly put the book down. Then I reread to make sure that it was what I thought it was. And it was.