Here’s a rhetorical question: have you ever seen a fanfic or novel where you could identify the Stu in the first few sentences of the first page?
REUBEN WAS A TALL MAN, well over six feet, with brown curly hair and deep-set blue eyes. “Sunshine Boy” was his nickname and he hated it; so he tended to repress what the world called an irresistible smile. But he was a little too happy right now to put on his studious expression, and try to look older than his twenty-three years.
Okay, not so rhetorical.
This is our main character, Reuben. Allow me to quickly list what we’re told about him in just the first couple pages:
- “Irresistible smile”
- Only 23 years old
- Dresses like an Oxford professor
- Actually, no. Oxford professors don’t usually dress this nicely. He dresses like a STEREOTYPICAL Oxford don.
- Old money
- Grew up in a luxurious giant house… in San Francisco. The city with the highest real estate prices IN THE ENTIRE FRICKING COUNTRY.
- Went to Berkeley. I suspect he was too genteel to protest social injustices, though.
- TWENTY FUCKING THREE.
- He works as a journalist for the San Francisco Observer, where he writes actual feature articles. No silly coffee-fetching or obituary-writing for this guy just out of college! And I’m sure he got his position through merit alone and not because his family is fabulously wealthy. At 23.
I’d like to mention that I am not resentful of people who have money, including old money. Life is unfair, and it gives people advantages and disadvantages of all kinds – and money is just one of them.
What I have a problem with is what Reuben is a symptom of: Rice’s classist snobbery wherein the wealthy, noble aristocrats must care for the poor dumb peasantry because they are naturally smarter and more refined. Basically the rich people in this book are just like Rice’s vampires, but while you could sorta ignore the undertones with the vampires because they were immortal and not human, this just trumpets RICH PEOPLE ARE SPESHUL AND WONDERFUL AND CULTURED AND YOU SHOULD ADMIRE THEM FOR BEING RICH.
And it really cracks me up that she puts old-money brats on a pedestal when she herself is nouveau riche.
He was walking up a steep hill in the fierce ocean wind with an exotic and elegant older woman named Marchent Nideck
Clearly Rice has been googling old aristocratic legends… legends that are unimportant to the story.
that kind of yellow hair that never fades.
The dyed kind.
And this introduces us to Marchent, the first of two Rice self-inserts in this book… and yes, Reuben has sex with both of them. We’re assured that she’s super-pretty and elegant and has a mysterious cosmopolitan accent (which Rice calls the accent of a child of the world, whatever the fuck that means), and therefore worthy of Reuben’s golden wiener.
He was doing a story for the San Francisco Observer on the giant house and her hopes of selling it
Other feature news included: a rabbit got run over by a car, and a celebrity wore a pretty dress. More details at 11!
Seriously, this is not a news feature. It might be a human interest feature if there was some historical or personal interest in the mansion… but a feature just because the owner wants to sell it? NO.
So it turns out Marchent just inherited the house because her great-uncle Felix has been declared legally dead… after 20 years instead of the seven it USUALLY takes. Apparently nobody bothered to open the will until just recently. As a result, the house is kind of in a shambles.
“The real thing,” he’d said under his breath the moment he’d seen it. “Look at those slate roofs, and those must be copper gutters.”
That is totally the way a 23-year-old talks.
Reuben has an even bigger boner for the house than he does for Marchent; he even sat in his car and ogled it. No, seriously: dreaming of owning a place like this someday when he was a famous writer and the world beat too broad a path to his door. Yes, he’s already aware that he’s such a genius that he will definitely be a writer SO FAMOUS that he’ll need an idyllic retreat to avoid the adoring public. NO IRONY.
“Oh, I know it’s beautiful. I know it’s like no place else on the California coast. I know. I know.”
But Marchent feels she has to get rid of the house. At first I thought it meant that she was skint and the house is a money pit, but no. Her reason is “There comes a time when a house owns you and you know how have to get free of it” – because nobody elegant and smart in a Rice novel could be POOR. Or even just strapped. No, she wants to sell off this massive white elephant because she feels too OWNED by it.
Reuben wants to fuck buy the house himself, but claims he can’t. After all, the house is ridiculously expensive, and the land alone must be worth an insane amount of money. For a guy just starting out in a journalism career – which is not a very stable way of making a living – it’s just not feasible to go out and buy a