Sap is for Bears

I finally started reading the White Queen series by Phillipa Gregory.  I was quite enamoured with the television show White Queen when I watched it last year.  Of course I realized that the relationships, the drama, even the actors chosen to represent the historical figures were all nowhere near the originals of English history.  This awareness did not stop me from thoroughly enjoying the show.

As I began reading the book, I looked forward to the scenes where Elizabeth first meets King Edward.  On the show, they fell instantly in love and proceeded to marry immediately after only having met three or four times for less than an hour each time.  I expected the book to have a longer, more drawn out series of events in which Elizabeth and Edward get to know each other over the course of time and fall deeply in love.  After all, historical records indicate they were very much in love throughout their marriage, which lasted until Edward’s death.  Surely, this means their love had a solid foundation upon which to grow.

To my surprise. when I arrived at the first meeting between Elizabeth and Edward, at the oak tree on the side of the road where she waits to plead her case to him for the restoration of her lands, it was almost the same.  The dialogue in the show is added as is the presence of Warwick at the house, but for all intents and purposes, their meeting is relatively brief and impersonal.  It wasn’t exactly the ‘getting to know all about you’ type meeting or in depth discussion I would expect between two people who fall immediately in love.

It is in fact, a sappy, overly romanticized meeting between Elizabeth and Edward.  There is a lot of instant, unexplainable attraction – also known in the real world as infatuation.  They gaze into each others eyes and find an immediate and powerful connection.  There is a love potion involved.  A kiss into her palm by Edward’s soft lips and Elizabeth longingly watching Edward ride away end the scene.  To the author’s credit, there is a great deal of holding back on the part of both characters due to English customs and beliefs at the time.  It is clear that both want each other but refrain from any overt shows of such due to propriety and image.

The following encounters between Elizabeth and Edward are much the same.  He unpins her hair to let it cascade down into his hands.  There is breath on the neck, passionate kisses and panting and desire for sex.  No sex occurs, however, as Elizabeth refuses to dishonor herself.  This is the first conflict between these characters and they part on angry terms only to reunite later once again in overwhelming love.  After this series of interactions, I had the distinct feeling that the brief encounters were more of a condensed version of what would normally take months for a couple to experience.  It is pure undiluted sap.

Sap of course is nothing more than romance without all of the boring parts. I say that sap is for bears yet as I read, I found myself greedily devouring it and wanting more.  The more warmth of breath to skin, the more slight touches, the more desire, all added to the anticipation of what anyone beyond puberty knows will happen eventually. The ever so brief, tantalizingly restrained actions were addicting.  My knowledge of the reality of development of love was suspended and I was swept up in the emotional flood.

For me, this is superior writing as I do not normally become so affected by overly romantic interludes.  Usually I find them to be far too contrived, too convenient, too rushed or too filled with absolute sexual interaction.  I cannot say for certain, however, if it was the writing alone.  Having a visual image of the characters due to having watched the show most likely added to the reading of the scene.

Overall, I say I have changed my view of sappy writing.  It can be successful if done correctly.


2 thoughts on “Sap is for Bears

  1. I like Phillipa Gregory’s books because of their historical perspective and I don’t find the sap too slushy. There’s quite a bit of blood and gore too, but mostly political intrigue with some romantic fantasy. But there is an awful lot to go at and they are best read in historical order, not the order written, ie., the Cousin’s War series from “The Lady of the Rivers” to “The King’s Curse” and the Tudor Court Series from “The Constant Princess” to “The Other Queen”. But before these, I would recommend “Katherine” by Anya Seton, which you will probably have to find second-hand. It is a precursor to all of these novels and explains a lot about this period of English history. Enjoy the read!

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