Saturday, November 14, 2015

VIXEN (THE FLAPPERS, #1) Recap: Chapter 5 "Clara" or "Why Couldn't the Author Just Focus On Clara's Story?"

Hi everyone,

Well it begins again. These chapter by chapter recaps of Vixen (The Flappers, #1). I'm actually excited about getting back into them.

Now as I am having intense editing sessions in order to get Kindred (The Birthrite Series, #2) ready to go for a January 1 release, these recaps will only be done every other week for the time being. Maybe after the release of Kindred and during the bleak winter months I will switch to weekly recaps, but for now, every other week is more doable.

So now, onto the recap of Chapter 5.

First, if you are new to these recaps (or you need a memory refresher from when the last was posted), here are the other recaps starting from the Prologue through Chapter 4.

Now when we left the world of 1923 Chicago, the uber priveleged Gloria shocked everyone by cutting her hair into a bob. Then it became a scene right out of Titanic with Gloria in the role of Rose. Only a much more annoying and very unlikable version of Rose.
But thankfully, we are back to Clara's story as so far, she remains the most tolerable and realistic main character in this story.

But I digress.

Chapter 5 opens with Clara lamenting over how bored she is in the Carmody home. She longs for New York and the life of excitement that living in an apartment filled with bohemians, artists, and other flappers and musicians brings.

Clara was bored. She'd been living in the Carmody home for almost a week, and the only evening activity so far had been cards (which she hadn't known could be played without stripping or drinking). Everyone had bought her country act so far, with the possible exception of Mrs. Carmody, who was always watching. No doubt waiting for Clara to make a mistake so she could ship her off to reform school.
Only, Clara wasn't going to give Mrs. Carmody that satisfaction.
Clara put down her book, La Vagabonde by Colette, about an actress who rejects men in order to retain her own independence--a fitting read for her current state of mind. To bad she hadn't read it back in New York; she could have saved herself the trouble of fall in love with the wrong man and getting her heart broken.

Now this is a very well-written introduction and says much about Clara's character and her life in New York. At this time, I'm starting to get the impression that even the author herself likes Clara better than the other two female leads. Because up to this point, the chapters concerning Clara are far better written than the chapters concerning Gloria and Lorraine.
Anyway, back to the recap.

Her thoughts of New York are then interrupted when she hears peels of laughter echoing from down the hall. Of course, the hyena-like laugh (the author's words) come from our favorite girl, Gloria. After thinking of how the two other girls wouldn't survive a day in her old New York life, an amused Clara goes to eavesdrop on her cousin and Lorraine. And of course, Gloria and Lorraine are thinking they are so terribly clever as they loudly gossip...about a girl who is living just down the hall from them...

Gloria: I'll bet she hasn't even been kissed before.
Lorraine: As if you've done so much more.
Gloria: Shut up. I mean, I'll bet she hasn't even, say, gone on a date.
Lorraine: Definitely not.
Gloria: Do you think she's (gasp) a lesbian?
Lorraine: Who knows what they do on that farm?

Glora: Oh, Raine. She's ridiculous. So polite. So annoying.
Lorraine: She's a fifty-year-old woman trapped in an eighteen-year-old's body.
Gloria: She's practically best friends with my mother.

Clara couldn't help smiling...

And Clara has every reason to smile and laugh at them. I mean seriously, Gloria and Lorraine have got to be the absolute worst gossips ever. The whole point with gossiping about someone (especially a person you have hatched some Mean Girls-esque against and want that person to remain in the dark about) is for them to NOT find out. And if you have the person of your disdain in the room down the hall from you, and you are under the impression that said person is generally a homebody (like Gloria thinks Clara is) wouldn't you first check to make sure that person is not within hearing range (large houses like the ones the Carmody's live in tend to reverberated noises like loud laughing) and second, maybe KEEP YOUR VOICES DOWN in case that person comes within hearing range?

I know that up until this point, Gloria and Lorraine have both proved to not be the brightest bulbs on the string, but still. Common sense, maybe?

So right now, Clara is listening in on the not so carefully constructed gossip session between the village idiot and her lackey when she hears the two girls mention the plan in which Marcus is involved. That's also when she hears a deep, whispering voice behind her.

"Caught you!" a deep voice whispered to Clara.

That's not creepy at all.

Then turns around and discovers everyone's dreamboat, Marcus.

Now in a previous chapter recap, I had decided to give Marcus theme music anytime he enters a scene. It was going to be ZZTop's "Sharp Dressed Man" but as I read more of his character, I decided that the Bart Baker parody of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" is much more fitting.


Now in this case, I guess I can cut Marcus some slack with creeping around in the dark and sneaking up on Clara. It becomes obvious that he was here to see Gloria and Lorraine. In the process of heading to Gloria's room, he happened to catch Clara eavesdropping. Fair enough.

Well, Clara nearly loses herself upon seeing the gorgeous Greek god we all know as Marcus and 'Flapper Clara' comes close to re-emerging when she takes him by the hand and pulls him into her room. Marcus, in turn, is surprised by the supposedly prudish 'Country Clara's' behavior. This actually leads to the first exchange between Marcus and Clara.

"I wasn't eavesdropping, if that is what you are insinuating."
"I would never accuse you of such an immoral act."
"Good," she said, "because I would never think to commit one."
The boy tugged her toward the bed. She resisted slightly at first, but then happily yielded. She quickly crossed her legs, which she assumed was the sort of thing they taught in the etiquette classes she'd managed to skip in high school.
His hand was warm. "You've never been tempted to do an immoral thing?"
How she wanted to whisper into his ear what she wanted to do to him right then and there! Instead, she withdrew. "I think that is an outrageously inappropriate question to ask of a stranger."
The boy examined her slyly. "You certainly are a strange one, Clara."
Clara shot him a look of mock horror. "How did you know my name?"
"You're Glo's cousin." He tilted his head. "I'm Marcus."

Again, the author beautifully describes Clara's inner conflict and struggle with resisting Marcus. And he is actually pretty well-written throughout the entire passage and almost appealing.
I have also come to the conclusion that the loud gossip session between Gloria and Lorraine was used to get Clara out of her room in order to make the exchange with Marcus happen and find out that there is a plan of sorts that involves her. Okay. As I said in the recap of chapter 1, I understand that sometimes an author does need to use an easier or more convenient plot point in order to move the story along. There are times I've had to do it in my own stories. But maybe a better way of going about it could have been as follows:

Clara is in her room reminiscing about the good times she had in New York when she remembers that Gloria is having Lorraine over. Curious over what the two might be up to, she decides to amuse herself by eavesdropping on their conversation. She could hear their hushed voices, and while she has to strain to make out what the two are saying, she is able to hear them say her name, followed by something about a plan. Then Marcus comes sauntering in and the rest of the scene happens. Boom.
It is also during this conversation that Marcus mentions going to the Green Mill with Gloria and Lorraine. Clara is of course shocked to find this out. Not only is Gloria going to a speakeasy, but it is had for Clara to imagine her cousin going anywhere without Sebastian. Then Marcus tells her that it's a sort of bachelorette party for Gloria. He also tells her that he's taking her to the Green Mill. Clara also suspects that this could possibly be part of the plan she overheard.
Then Marcus leaves. Maybe I should give him exiting music too. I'll think about it.

After that, there is a section break.

When we return from the section break, we find out about the plan for Clara to meet Gloria in her room at eleven p.m.
As Clara makes final preparations and putting necessary items in her purse, she starts to remember her last time at a speakeasy in New York. The time she managed to escape a police raid at a speakeasy, steal a police wagon and go for a joyride. This is yet another well-written and very interesting and enjoyable look into her past:

Clara just laughed and laughed and gave the wagon more gas.
She never felt so free. She turned onto Fifth Avenue and flipped off the siren, watching the reflection of the wagon as she whooshed past the storefronts, then took a spin through Central Park, meandering past the reservoir, popping the siren on every now and then to see whom she could startle. She was coasting along Riverside Drive as the sun rose over the East Side. She found an empty intersection and parked the paddy wagon dead center, and removed the key from the ignition. She'd toss it in the Hudson when she got the chance.
It was foolish, of course, and totally reckless, but damn, it was exciting. She remembered wishing life could be like that always, a wild goose chase without a destination. A chase for the thrill of running.

Ultimately, the destination that early morning had been jail.

 After Clara revisits the night that was cause for her to be sent to live with her aunt, there is a section break.

Then we see Clara knocking on the door to Gloria's bedroom.

Gloria lets her in and we are treated to her grace, wit, and charm.

Actually, no. Gloria still is a self-entitled brat.

But we are given privilege to how - after a single awkward visit to a speakeasy - she is suddenly an expert in all things regarding speakeasies the flapper lifestyle. Or she's the world's biggest poser. I guess we'll find out.

Anyway, after a continuity error with Gloria's dress (in one passage it's described as gold and in the other it's described as red), Gloria pretends she's being generous by giving Clara a less than flattering dress to where to the Green Mill. It is then we find out about one of Clara's day jobs in New York:

Little did Gloria know that in New York, Clara's clothes had been the fabric of legend. If Clara wore a new outfit on Saturday night, flappers would storm Madison Avenue the next day in search of it. Once of her day jobs had been working as a fitting model for Bergdorf Goodman's new ready-to-wear line. All irregular or damaged clothes - European or American - were hers to keep. Clara didn't just set new trends, she set chic ones.

While this does start putting Clara into "Mary Sue" territory, I suppose that sometimes characters do need to have larger than life qualities to keep them interesting so long as they are well-placed. I can let this one go.

Then Clara puts on the dress.

She picked the peach dress up off the bed and slipped it over her head.

Now normally there wouldn't be anything wrong with that sentence, but the way it is written in the context of the passage, it reads as if Clara slipped the dress on over the clothes she is already wearing. No "Clara quickly took off her skirt and blouse before picking the peach dress up off the bed and slipping it over her head." Nope, she just goes into Gloria's room, helps Gloria finish getting ready and then slips the dress on. Therefore I am going to assume our fashionista will be rolling up into the speakeasy wearing the peach chiffon dress over her skirt and blouse. Fancy. 

Gloria and Clara make small talk about Lorraine and Marcus as they fix their makeup at Gloria's vanity table. Clara asks if Marcus and Lorraine are together. Gloria says they are not.
I'm going to breeze through this part because every time Gloria is in the room, it's all about Gloria. And now Gloria is the bestest flapper badass ever. EVER.

After getting ready, Clara returns to her room to get her purse. Before turning on the light, she hears something fall to the floor, thinking it's her cash, she turns the light on. But it isn't her cash. It is a folded piece of paper.

She picked up the small piece of thick, cream writing paper folded lengthwise. Where had it come from?
Tentatively, she opened the note. Scrawled in elegant black cursive were three words:

I found you

Obviously this freaks Clara out. She is paralyzed with fear until Gloria barges in and demands that they leave now. Because it's all about Gloria. Overnight badass flapper chick sensation, Gloria. And don't you forget it.

Clara manages to fend Gloria off by promising she'll be ready once she spritzes on some perfume. While she's alone again, she tries to think of who the note could be from. Surely it must be a prank? Maybe something between Marcus, Lorraine, and Gloria.

The thought peeves Clara, but something still isn't right. This ends the chapter.

Deep down, Clara knew the note was not a joke. It was the exact opposite - devastatingly serious. She spritzed the Chanel perfume into the air before her, walking through it and out the door. The mist settled onto her skin, the top floral note masking the darker ones that lay hidden beneath.

A beautifully written end to a chapter, actually. If only the entire book could be like this. As of now, I'm wishing Ms. Larkin would have made Clara's story the only focus of the book. up is Lorraine.

At least it's not Gloria. For now, at least.


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