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Victorian dandy Lord Geoffroy Loveall is faced with a dilemma. As heir apparent to Love Hall, he must produce an heir of his own; but his obsessive love for his long-dead sister has rendered him a paralytic in matters of the heart. Adding to Geoffroy's troubles is his difficult mother, Lady Loveall, who mercilessly castigates her effeminate son, and a circling mob of greedy relatives anxious to wrest Love Hall from his grasp.
Then, a miracle occurs. As his carriage passes a trash dump, Geoffroy spies an abandoned baby in the jaws of a cur. He saves the child, names her Rose, and declares her his rightful heir. The shock fells Lady Loveall on the spot, and Rose becomes the pampered daughter of Lord Loveall and his bride of convenience, the resident librarian Anonyma. This joyful period lasts until Rose's adolescence, when it becomes increasingly difficult to hide the one great secret of Love Hall: namely, that Rose, now in the position of fending off suitors for her titled hand, is in fact a boy.
Rose's whiskers, deepening voice, and affection for the daughter of a courtier have not gone unnoticed. Armed with the new revelation, the Loveall's unscrupulous relatives launch a coup, and a desperately confused Rose is cast adrift -- until he finds the renewed vitality that comes from the love of true family and realizes that he can and must go home. (Summer 2005 Selection)
In this debut novel, Stace uncorks a ripping transsexual romp set in Romantic-era England, and it reads like some inspired collaboration between Charles Dickens and Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar: full of orphans, decadence, flouncy skirts, greed, deception, amnesia, incest, murder, religious and social intolerance, ballads, books, letters, wild farce and all manner of meditation on sexual identity. It calls to mind another regal androgyne, Virginia Woolf's Orlando, though not as literary or as tiresome. This is a fun book.
The Washington Post
It is a misfortune that Stace (musician John Wesley Harding) turned from writing music to writing fiction, for his first novel traps us in an unruly, and unrelenting, postmodern quagmire from which we yearn to be released soon after the opening pages. In an effort to combine the foundlings of Fielding with the comic atmosphere of Dickens and the stream-of-consciousness of Joyce, the book recounts the misadventures of a young orphan who is rescued from certain death by benefactor Lord Geoffroy Loveall of Love Hall. Lord Geoffroy determines to raise this young baby as a girl and names "her" Rose Old (an anagram of Dolores) in memory of his sister. Eventually, Rose discovers her true sexual identity, thus beginning a series of escapades in which Rose tries to find a new persona and understand where she fits into her family and society. Too long by half, the novel fails to encourage any sympathy for Rose, and the precious attempts to provide symbolism prove tiresome. Not recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/04.]-Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Lancaster, PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
I'm a boy, but my mother won't admit it: an entertaining yet philosophically inclined stroll along some decidedly little-visited lanes and mews in Georgian England. It makes sense, at least of a sort, that British musician Stace-whose nom de guitare is John Wesley Harding-should pick up a tip from Pete Townshend, and perhaps Mick Jagger, about gender-bending and its associated dysfunctions and malfunctions and then let the story roll. That story is, superficially, simple: a youngish English lord named, with all due symbolism, Geoffrey Loveall, is out on an errand that takes him through the back streets of London. Though he "had no curiosity about his surroundings," Loveall "knew to keep half an eye on the passing world to soothe the tottering of his carriage," and with that half-eye open finds an abandoned baby. His mother, the arch Lady Loveall, is a little suspicious of the discovery: "Have you read this baby into being? Found it in the library? Did you bring it to life in your dollhouse? I cannot believe for a moment that you have created it in a natural way." Ah, natural ways just won't do in aristocratic circles, and with the help of a mysterious governess, the foundling boy is on his way to being raised as a girl to meet a perceived gap in the makeup of the Loveall household. Adventures and misadventures ensue, and Stace pulls off a neat trick by shifting narrators in midstream, keeping the reader guessing and on his (or, dare we say, her) toes as Lady Rose Loveall does his thing. Stace's abundant cleverness sometimes slips into preciousness, but the narrative is full of surprises, mixing up an utterly modern-and even postmodern-story of sexual awakening and self-discovery with aquirky but believable portrait of life, at least of a kind, in early modern England, all very well done. Blend Tristram Shandy with, say, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and you have something of the spirit of this spirited tale: a most promising debut. Author tour