Monday, March 4, 2013

Delightful Madness

I have a new hero. Megan Shepherd wrote her debut novel The Madman’s Daughter in only 9 months. Adams Literary in Charlotte accepted her immediately.  Today, Megan’s first book has been published, she has two different trilogies contracted with Harper Collins, and Paramount has optioned The Madman’s Daughter.
So what’s her big secret? It’s cause she’s pretty.  I met her, and it’s true. But really, Megan says the secret is to “spend 90% of your time on writing, and 10% on getting published.” She took a book to market that was absolutely bursting to see the world.
After her presentation this weekend at Spellbound Children’s Bookshop in Asheville, NC, I went home and read the book. I couldn’t put it down. I was planning to read two chapters before bed. Four hours later, I’d consumed the entire tale.
I’ll get the bad reviews out of the way first. Commenters who gave low ratings on Amazon and Goodreads are critical of the fact that any love triangle exists ever, or shocked by violence and mild cuss words, or very easily bored. Those people are stupid.
The Madman’s Daughter is a Victorian-era sci-fi thriller with a nice dose of bodice ripper romance. Juliet Moreau is left alone in London after her father’s scandalous disappearance and her mother’s death. She earns her lodging by cleaning up after medical students’ dissections. From the very beginning her thoughts drip with horror. “Dead flesh and sharpened scalpels didn't bother me. I was my father’s daughter, after all. My nightmares were made of darker things.”
She discovers a diagram that her father created which leads her to her father’s servant, Montgomery, and eventually to Dr. Moreau’s island. During the voyage, they rescue Edward, a proper gentlemen shipwrecked while fleeing from his overbearing father. Juliet reunites with her father and discovers that the scandalous rumors of his experiments are true, horrible, and awe-inspiring.
Once on the island, the narrative jumps from one danger to the next. There’s a monster killing the island creatures. Her father will do anything to continue his experiments. Juliet suspects her own madness. All the while, she can’t decide between her two men. She grew up with Montgomery and feels safe with him, but he’s a servant. Edward is proper, strong, and mysterious, but her father keeps pushing them together.
The end is a surprise, so I won’t spoil it. I will tell you Juliet is one of the best female protagonists I’ve seen. She has a strong sense of justice, insisting that surgery on a living creature is evil. The Victorian senses of propriety and prudishness seem to have entirely missed her; there’s even a steamy make out scene on a laboratory operating table. She repeatedly stands up to her father’s blatant misogyny. She’s intelligent, resourceful, strong, and stubborn, often eliciting a “You go gurl!” from the reader.
I do have one complaint. The book ended with a cliffhanger. I know trilogies are supposed to do that, but I mostly just want the rest of the story RIGHT NOW. As for the movie . . . If Kristen Stewart is cast in the lead, I will sob myself to sleep. If you’ve read the book, post your ideal cast for The Madman’s Daughter the movie in the comment section!

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