Audiobook Review: Competence by Gail Carriger (The Custard Protocol, #3)

 

 

From New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger comes the delightful sequel to Imprudence.

Accidentally abandoned!

All alone in Singapore, proper Miss Primrose Tunstell must steal helium to save her airship, the Spotted Custard, in a scheme involving a lovesick werecat and a fake fish tail.

When she uncovers rumors of a new kind of vampire, Prim and the Custard crew embark on a mission to Peru. There, they encounter airship pirates and strange atmospheric phenomena, and are mistaken for representatives of the Spanish Inquisition. Forced into extreme subterfuge (and some rather ridiculous outfits) Prim must also answer three of life’s most challenging questions:

Can the perfect book club give a man back his soul?

Will her brother ever stop wearing his idiotic velvet fez?

And can the amount of lard in Christmas pudding save an entire species?

Picture yourself floating through the air, with a ladybug-spotted balloon overhead, surrounded by your best friends and some adoring crew members. Picture yourself floating above India, Africa, even the Pacific Ocean. Picture yourself with fancy hats, stylish traveling dresses, and oversized parasols.

Fun, right?

Did all that imagining make you feel light and bubbly, maybe even a little giddy? Well, that’s a bit what reading the Custard Protocol books feels like, start to finish. The books in this delightful series are clearly fantasy, feel-good adventures, featuring exotic locales and extravagant fashion mixed with plenty of tea, camaraderie, and mid-air shenanigans.

As Competence is the third book in the series (with one more still to come), it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on the story so far. In book #1, Prudence, we’re introduced to the young leading lady, Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama, daughter of a preternatural and a werewolf (who themselves are the stars of the phenomenal Parasol Protectorate series). Known as Rue, she’s feisty, independent, and itching for adventure. When her adoptive father, the vampire Lord Akeldama, gives her her very own dirigible, Rue takes to the skies with her best friend Primrose, Prim’s twin brother Percy, the flirty Frenchman Quesnel as ship’s engineer, and a crew full of oddball characters. All sorts of chaotic escapades ensue, including run-ins with weremonkeys and a very attractive werelioness.

In the 2nd book, Imprudence, the crew once again floats off on adventure, this time to Egypt, where they’re pursued by various bad guys, meet a ghost, and befriend some airborne nomadic tribes, And in the midst of all this, Rue discovers the pleasures of physical intimacy and love, and enjoys both immensely.

Competence picks up the story just a little while later, but this time around, Primrose takes over as lead character, occasionally ceding the POV spotlight to her brother Percy. Through their eyes, we continue on to new adventures on board the Spotted Custard (Rue’s dirigible), first in Singapore and then across the ocean to Peru. Prim is a very proper young woman, a steadfast friend to Rue and one heck of a ship’s purser, responsible for keeping the dirigible stocked, fueled, and ready to float off at a moment’s notice. Despite being determined to achieve a society-approved good marriage, Prim finds herself increasingly drawn to Tasherit, the exotically beautiful werelioness who is now a full member of the crew. Prim can’t quite bring herself to venture so far outside the bounds of approved English standards as to enter into a relationship with a woman, but there’s no denying the spark between the two, and as Prim acknowledges, cats can be very persistent about getting what they want.

Meanwhile, the Spotted Custard’s adventures include the discovery of a strange and endangered breed of vampires, unusual weather patterns and weird pirate ships, and a spontaneous heist of helium from an unsuspecting tourist vehicle. Plus, the usual shipboard quibbles and romances, as well as philosophical discussion groups and scientific theorizing.

Competence is just as much fun as the first two books in the series. In this book, the romances in focus do not fit the mold of Victorian social acceptability — but the author’s depiction makes it clear that Rue and friends are open-minded and refuse to be bound by meaningless judgment. On the Spotted Custard, love is love, period… and that’s a very good thing, for the characters as well as for the readers. Prim takes a very long time to make up her mind, but the banter and flirtation between her and Tasherit light up the page, so you know it’s just a matter of time…

Looking back, I’m a little shocked at myself to discover that on first read, I didn’t fall in love with Prudence. It makes me itch to go back and rewrite my original review! Sometimes, though, it’s just a question of mood and timing. Maybe I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to appreciate the Custard Protocol when I first read the first book. When I revisited book 1 as an audiobook, I adored it, and loved the 2nd book just as much.

A note on the audiobooks: They’re amazing! Narrator Moira Quirk does an outstanding job with the characters, capturing their voices, their accents, and their personalities, and making each one distinct and instantly recognizable. She’s also great with the action scenes, and really brings out the humor of Gail Carriger’s fantastically quippy dialogue.

The Custard Protocol series is truly delectable, and Competence is a wonderful addition. And now, we wait… Book #4, Reticence, is due out in 2019.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Competence (The Custard Protocol, #3)
Author: Gail Carriger
Narrator: Moira Quirk
Publisher: Orbit
Publication date: July 17, 2018
Length (print): 309 pages
Length (audiobook): 11 hours, 52 minutes
Genre: Fantasy/steampunk
Source: Purchased

Save

Save

Save

Save

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten books (or series) I can count on to lift my spirits

TTT summer

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Books to Pull You Out of a Reading Slump. I’m not sure I actually have reading slumps — I mean, I can ALWAYS find something that gives me a reading energy boost! So, twisting the theme just a bit, here are ten books that make me happy (even though their stories are not only rainbows and kitties.)

1) The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon: Sure, terrible things happen to the characters throughout the series, but there’s just something so wonderful about spending time with them all, no matter how dire the circumstances.

2) The Parasol Protectorate books by Gail Carriger: Supernatural shenanigans plus Victorian manners — definitely a winning combination.

3) Alpha & Omega by Patricia Briggs: I love the Mercy Thompson series as well as the Alpha & Omega series by Patricia Briggs. This novella in particular is one that I love reading and re-reading. It’s short and sharp and just so perfect.

4) Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling — need I say more?

5) Pretty much anything by Jane Austen: I love them all, and they always make me smile. The audiobooks are sheer delight!

6) And also, anything by Georgette Heyer! I’ve read 6 or 7 of her books so far, but plan to read lots more! Just happy, fun reading experiences.

7) The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley: It’s been a while since I last read this one, but I know it always makes me happy.

8) Fables by Bill Willingham: Such an amazing graphic novel series. I’m definitely looking forward to starting again from the beginning one of these days.

9) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams: Such silly fun.

10) Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins: Not necessarily this book specifically, but sweet YA romances in general are sometimes the perfect solution to a gray and cloudy mood.

 

What books made your list this week? Please share your TTT link!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Novella Review: How to Marry a Werewolf by Gail Carriger

 

Guilty of an indiscretion? Time to marry a werewolf.

WEREWOLVES

The monsters left Faith ruined in the eyes of society, so now they’re her only option. Rejected by her family, Faith crosses the Atlantic, looking for a marriage of convenience and revenge.

But things are done differently in London. Werewolves are civilized. At least they pretend to be.

AMERICANS

Backward heathens with no culture, Major Channing has never had time for any of them. But there’s something special about Faith. Channing finds himself fighting to prove himself and defend his species. But this werewolf has good reason not to trust human women.

Even if they learn to love, can either of them forgive?

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Parasol Protectorate series comes a stand alone romance set in the same universe. Look out for appearances from favorite characters and the serious consequences of unwarranted geology.

Another adorable and slightly steamy romantic adventure from the talented Gail Carriger!

When a young American lady of good standing is indiscreet, kind parent retire her quietly to the country with a maiden aunt and a modest stipend. Faith’s parents decided to marry her off to a werewolf.

Faith Wigglesworth is an American young woman in disgrace, whose absolutely horrible parents are shipping her off to London to land a werewolf husband, hoping to both be rid of her and to subject her to the humiliation they believe she deserves.

A werewolf was lower than a Californian, all things considered — rough rural hillbillies with too much hair. And open shirt collars. And no table manners.

Major Channing is instantly entranced by Faith’s brash American manners, her ability to stand up for herself, and those amazing blue eyes of hers. What follows is a playful, tempestuous courtship, as each must learn to trust enough to share and then put aside the painful secrets of their pasts. At the same time, there’s instant chemistry and heat between Faith and Channing, and sparks fly. Channing’s Alpha wants him to find happiness and to treat Faith as she should be treated, and Faith yearns to find someone to love, someone to enjoy intimacy with, and a place to belong and be herself.

This is a charming novella that works as a stand-alone, although prior experience with Gail Carriger’s steampunk/supernatural world certainly is helpful (and possibly even essential). I love everything about her books, and this piece fits nicely into the world she’s created, featuring a lovely story all its own as well as a chance to spend time once again with favorite characters like Biffy and Lyall.

A must-read for Carriger fans!
_________________________________________

The details:

Title: How to Marry a Werewolf (Claw & Courtship, #1)
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Gail Carriger LLC
Publication date: May 13, 2018
Length: 196 pages
Genre: Supernatural/steampunk/romance
Source: Purchased

**Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Novella Review: Romancing the Werewolf by Gail Carriger

 

Werewolf in trouble…

Biffy, newly minted Alpha of the London Pack, is not having a good Christmas. His Beta abandoned him, his werewolves object to his curtain choices, and someone keeps leaving babies on his doorstep.

Professor Randolph Lyall returns home to London after twenty years abroad, afraid of what he might find. With his pack in chaos and his Alpha in crisis, it will take all his Beta efficiency to set everything to rights. Perhaps, in the process, he may even determine how to mend his own heart.

New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger presents a charming gay love story set in her popular steampunk Parasolverse. Featuring the long-awaited reunion between everyone’s favorite quietly capable Beta and the werewolf Alpha dandy who let him slip away. This sweet romance is full of unexpected babysitting, holiday decorations, and no small amount of pining.

Delicate Sensibilities?
Contains men who love other men and have waited decades to do so.

Wait, where does this one fit?
The Supernatural Society novellas stand alone and may be read in any order. But if you’re a stickler, this story chronologically follows Imprudence and ties specifically to events in Timeless. Look for surprise appearances from popular side characters and the occasional strategic application of italics.

What a treat!

I love, love, love the world of Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate (and also the Finishing School series and The Custard Protocol series), with their remarkable mix of supernatural shenanigans, intrigue, mayhem, and manners. The novella Romancing the Werewolf reunites two wonderful characters from the Parasol-verse, Biffy — the dandy who wanted to be a vampire but ended up an Alpha werewolf — and Lyall, the 400-year-old Beta werewolf who takes responsibility for the woes of the world and his beloved pack.

Here, Lyall finally comes home after 20 years away to resume his place as pack Beta… and to figure out if the connection between him and Biffy has stood the test of time during their years apart. Meanwhile, Biffy has the power of an Alpha but is so new in the role that he constantly second-guesses himself, and wonders if perhaps a romance with his Beta isn’t exactly appropriate any longer.

For fans of Carriger’s worlds, this novella is a total delight. The romance is sweet, sexy, and adorable — but before Biffy and Lyall manage to figure out where they stand, they also have to deal with all sorts of chaos involving the babies that keep getting left on their doorstep. There are plenty of laughs involving the pack and their sense of style (and inability to deal with infants), and some more serious moments as well as the pack settles into their new home and their new leadership.

I don’t think readers without a basic familiarity with the Parasol-verse will have an easy time following the story — but that just means that if you haven’t read the Parasol Protectorate yet, now is the perfect time to go ahead. (Let’s face it, it’s ALWAYS the right time for the Parasol Protectorate!)

Such a wonderful gift to Gail Carriger’s readers! If you love her characters and stories, get this one NOW.
_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Romancing the Werewolf
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Gail Carriger LLC
Publication date: November 5, 2017
Length: 140 pages
Genre: Supernatural/steampunk/romance
Source: Purchased

**Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Catching up on Gail Carriger’s short fiction

I don’t know exactly how or why, but for whatever reason, I ended up bingeing on Gail Carriger’s short fiction this week, and had a simply splendid time doing it.

I’m a big fan of the Parasol Protectorate series. (What? You haven’t read them? Stop right now and go get a copy of Soulless! Emergency reading intervention required!). I mean, steampunk plus supernatural plus Victorian society… with dirigibles, werewolves, and highly dangerous parasols… what’s not to love?

Still, I haven’t read much of Carriger’s shorter fictions — until now. This week, I started with a new novella, then went back and read some earlier short stories, and finished up with another novella.

So, here’s what I read. First, the short stories:

curious-case fairy-debt my-sisters-song

The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn’t (32 pages, published 2014): This tale centers on Alessandro Tarabotti, father of Alexia of the Parasol Protectorate. In the series, Alessandro is a shadowy figure, already deceased, leaving all sorts of mysteries as his legacy. In The Curious Case, we see Alessandro on an adventure in Egypt. It’s classic Carriger, with spies, action, waistcoats, and proper (and improper) behavior. I enjoyed the story, but still wish we had an entire novel about Alessandro’s life and deeds. The story doesn’t really shed further light on him, but it is quite fun.

Fairy Debt (18 pages, published 2007): Light and fluffy, this is a stand-alone unrelated to Carriger’s steampunk worlds. It’s a straight-up fairy tale, but cute and with a decidedly feminist world view.

My Sister’s Song (17 pages, published 1999): A brief tale of a warrior woman who defeats a Roman squadron thanks to her sister’s skill at charming bees.

I should note here that Gail Carriger has another published short piece, Marine Biology (43 pages, published 2010). Because I read it several years ago, I wasn’t going to include it in my reading wrap-up post… but what the heck — if you’re interested in the author’s short fiction, then it’s worth mentioning! Here’s what I wrote about Marine Biology in my Goodreads review way back when:

marine-biology

 

“Marine Biology” was originally published in a paranormal romance collection, and has just been released as an ebook single. This is the first story of Gail Carriger’s that I’ve read that’s set in the modern world, rather than the Victorian era. It’s also – shocker! – set in the US. Not a single cup of tea throughout!

“Marine Biology” is a cute, light love story involving a reluctant werewolf hiding his sexuality and a few other key points from his he-man pack. When he and a gorgeous merman are thrown together to investigate some stolen money, sparks fly — and precipate a few important moments of truth.

The mystery is rather beside the point. The fun is in meeting and appreciating the main characters, reading about pack dynamics (and barbeque social mores), and encountering a few interesting marine animals along the way.

Gail Carriger’s humor and way with words shine through, as usual. Of course, if you really want to have fun, I’d highly recommend her Parasol Protectorate series. “Marine Biology” is a quick, diverting read, and would make a great dessert after a night of “serious” reading.

Moving on…

I also read the two newest novellas, both set in the universe of the author’s novels:

poison-or-protectPoison or Protect (143 pages, published 2016):

(Goodreads synopsis)

Can one gentle Highland soldier woo Victorian London’s most scandalous lady assassin, or will they both be destroyed in the attempt?

New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger presents a stand-alone romance novella set in her popular steampunk universe full of manners, spies, and dainty sandwiches.

Lady Preshea Villentia, the Mourning Star, has four dead husbands and a nasty reputation. Fortunately, she looks fabulous in black. What society doesn’t know is that all her husbands were marked for death by Preshea’s employer. And Preshea has one final assignment.

It was supposed to be easy, a house party with minimal bloodshed. Preshea hadn’t anticipated Captain Gavin Ruthven – massive, Scottish, quietly irresistible, and… working for the enemy. In a battle of wits, Preshea may risk her own heart – a terrifying prospect, as she never knew she had one.

Buy Poison or Protect today to find out whether it’s heartbreak or haggis at this high tea.

Warning: Contains men pleasing women, and ladies who know what they want and ask for it, sometimes in detail. May also contain plaid, appearances from favorite characters, and the strategic application of leather gloves.

Ha. Gotta love that warning, right? Poison or Protect is fairly explicit, leading to great steaminess in the boudoir scenes. The plot itself is quite fun and engaging, so it’s not JUST about the sex (although there’s plenty of that). I loved Preshea and Gavin, and loved their dynamic together. I understand that Preshea appears as a young girl in the Finishing School series (which I haven’t finished yet — my bad), but not being familiar with her doesn’t have any impact on enjoyment of Poison or Protect. The novella can definitely be read as a stand-alone, and is loads of sexy fun.

Next:

romancing-the-inventorRomancing the Inventor (149 pages, published 2016):

(Goodreads synopsis)

Imogene Hale is a lowly parlourmaid with a soul-crushing secret. Seeking solace, she takes work at a local hive, only to fall desperately in love with the amazing lady inventor the vampires are keeping in the potting shed. Genevieve Lefoux is heartsick, lonely, and French. With culture, class, and the lady herself set against the match, can Imogene and her duster overcome all odds and win Genevieve’s heart, or will the vampires suck both of them dry?

This is a stand-alone LBGTQ sweet romance set in Gail Carriger’s Parasolverse, full of class prejudice, elusive equations, and paranormal creatures taking tea.

Delicate Sensibilities? This story contains women pleasing women and ladies who know what they want and pursue it, sometimes in exquisite detail.

Supernatural Society novellas can be read in any order.

Well, that was certainly different! Romancing the Inventor is set a few years after the events of the Parasol Protectorate books, and reading that series provides the context and backstory for this novella, although I suppose it could work as a stand-alone pretty well too.

Familiar faces from PP show up, some in lead roles (Madame Lefoux), and others in more of a support status (Alexia, Conall, Major Channing, Countess Nadasdy, etc).

Imogene’s journey and pursuit of love is sweet, romantic, and yes, sexy too. There are some steamy sexual encounters, but nothing overly graphic (in my opinion — I suppose it’s a matter of individual sensitivity, after all.) Carriger’s writing is wry and funny and spot-on, as always:

For a full two months, Imogene resumed the established daily pattern — potting shed, sums, dimples, tea, lab, dimples, luncheon, equations, more dimples, supper, and if she was luck, one last set of dimples before bed.

Wrapping it all up…

I’d say that fans of any of Gail Carriger’s novels or series really must read the novellas too. They have everything we fans love about her writing — the settings, the characters, the sense of playful fun, the Victorian manners and social expectations, the fashions — and the naughtiness too.

As for the short stories, well, I’d consider them nonessential, fluffy fun. There’s no reason not to take the short time needed to enjoy them. Of the four, I consider Marine Biology the best, and would make that one a priority over the other three.

Whew! It’s been a Carriger week for me, and I had lots of fun in my deep dive into her shorter works. And now, I’m thinking I really do need to give the Finishing School series another chance.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books When I Need Something Light and Fun

Top 10 Tuesday newTop Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week.

This week’s theme is Top Ten Books When You Need Something Light and Fun. This was a harder list to put together than I’d anticipated! I now realize that most of my go-to books for re-reading, straight from my shelf of favorites, are not at all light and fun. Dark, sad, dramatic, intense — yes. Light and fun? Not so much.

With a bit of struggle, here’s what I’ve come up with for my top 10 this week:

Soulless (Parasol Protectorate, #1)

1) Soulless by Gail Carriger: The first book in the Parasol Protectorate series is full of quippy dialogue, romance, supernatural hijinks, and is a Victorian comedy of manners to boot. Even when the characters are in peril, it’s light-hearted and humorous.

Bloodsucking Fiends (A Love Story, #1)

2) Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore: Or really, anything by Christopher Moore. Lust lizards? Stupidest angels? Sequined love nuns? Talking fruit bats? He cracks me up, every time.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)

3) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling: II’ve read the entire Harry Potter series about a gazillion times by now, and these books always make me smile. Of course, there are a lot of dark and terrible times ahead for Harry, but especially in book one (and really, throughout the series), the darkness is offset by the wonder of it all. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are adorable as younger children, and wonderful heroes as they grow up. I can’t imagine ever getting tired of this world.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, #1)

4) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.The adorableness of this series cannot be overrated. Besides, 42!

The Princess Bride

5) The Princess Bride by William Goldman: I love the movie and I love the book. Either one will cheer me up on a bad day. It’s all about the twu wuv, people.

Pride and Prejudice

6) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: The Regency-era snarkiness, the sass and spine of Elizabeth Bennet, and the idiocy of the various other Bennet women are worth revisiting, time after time.

Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1)

7) The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher: Look, bad stuff happens in this series, to be sure. And yet, Harry Dresden — Chicago’s only professional wizard — is just a total smart-ass of a bad-ass, and is so much fun to hang out with. This is one series that has not overstayed its welcome (cough *Sookie* cough). No matter how the plot twists and turns, it’s always great to spend time with Harry.

The Sleep Book

8) The works of Dr. Seuss: This may be more for my 10-year-old than for me, although I confess to being a total fan. Whenever my son, who considers himself quite grown-up these days, has a tough day or feels a bit sick, out comes the Dr. Seuss. Our go-to favorites are The Sleep Book and Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?, but really, you just can’t go wrong with a good dose of Seuss on a bad day.

Tempest Rising (Jane True, #1)

9) The Jane True series by Nicole Peeler.  As with #7, bad stuff does indeed happen in this urban fantasy series, but Jane is just such an amazing heroine that these book can totally cheer me up and make me laugh.

The Hobbit (Middle-earth Universe)

10) The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien: I love the Lord of the Rings books (oh, Aragorn…), but The Hobbit is a winner in terms of light, fun reading. Nothing like a thrilling quest, with good guys, questionable guys, wizards, dashing heroics, and piles of gold to brighten up a day!

Trying to put together this list has shown me that I need to read more happy books. Any suggestions? Let me know the books you can count on when you need a big serving of cheer!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider following Bookshelf Fantasies. Thanks for stopping by!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Most Frustrating Characters

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is:

Top Ten Most Frustrating Characters

For me, frustrating characters tend to fall into a few broad categories. Those who make bad choices, especially when they should know better. Those who chase after things or people they can never have. Those who bring on catastrophe through a failure to communicate. Those who refuse to recognize happiness when it’s staring them right in the face.

So which fictional characters deserve a good shake? Who do I want to slap some sense into? Or at least treat to a very stern lecture?

1) Sookie Stackhouse. Sookie, have you not noticed how many times you’ve almost died? Did you ever think that maybe you’re hanging out with the wrong crowd? People — like Sookie — who consistently put themselves into dangerous situations, fully aware that they’re doing it but doing it anyway, are incredibly frustrating to read about. Plus, Sookie spends way too much time on her beauty routines, and I just don’t have time (or interest) enough to keep reading about her showers, her leg-shaving, and her hair style choices.

2) Scarlett O’Hara. Okay, how could you possibly pick boring old Ashley Wilkes over roguish Rhett Butler? It’s frustrating when a character is so completely deluded about what she really wants and needs. As Rhett tells her:

… you’re such a child, Scarlett. A child crying for the moon. What would a child do with the moon if it got it? And what would you do with Ashley? Yes, I’m sorry for you — sorry to see you throwing away happiness with both hands and reaching out for something that would never make you happy.

But no. Scarlett just will not see what’s right in front of her eyes, and must continually chase after a man so absolutely wrong for her. Wake up!

3) Marianne Dashwood. The embodiment of “sensibility” in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, Marianne is ruled by her emotions, which might not be altogether terrible if she also had a shred of judgment. Of course Willoughby turns out to be a cad! For goodness sake, pull yourself together, Marianne. No man is worth that kind of fuss… and oh, by the way, that Colonel Brandon seems like a nice fellow.

4 & 5) Roger Mackenzie and Brianna Randall. Pretty much everything that happens to these two characters in The Drums of Autumn (book #4 in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series) could have been avoided if they had just communicated with one another. Each one withholds key pieces of information, so that the other acts rashly and without knowledge of important facts. And each ends up in awful, devastating danger as a result. Granted, if they’d been straight with each other in the first place, we’d end up missing about half of the plot of this book — but still, talk about frustrating! Secrets and deceptions may make dramatic plot devices, but it drives me crazy when good, strong, otherwise honorable and admirable characters fail to communicate on such a basic level.

RS pic6) Robb Stark. So you wanna be a king? You could start by growing up a bit! I’m sorry if you don’t like your arranged marriage, but entire alliances rest upon the deals made in your name. Falling in love is not a good enough excuse for alienating an important ally — not in a world where several different armies want nothing more than your head on a pike. Oh, Robb.

7 & 8) Bella Swan and Anastasia Steele. Men who want to be in charge of your every move are not being romantic. They’re being controlling. Showing up in your bedroom uninvited to watch you sleep is not sweet. It’s creepy. Enough said. [Note: I am not a Twilight-hater. I enjoyed the books. I liked the Fifty Shades books too. But that doesn’t change the fact that these two characters make really poor choices.]

9) Lord Conall Maccon. I love Conall (alpha male of the Woolsey Pack in Gail Carriger’s wonderful Parasol Protectorate series). But his behavior in book 2, Changeless, is beyond frustrating. I won’t spoil what happens (go out and read the books!), but suffice it to way that when faced with a surprising development, hot-headed Conall jumps to the worst possible conclusion, with not a shred of reasonable evidence to back it up, and behaves abominably. Stupid, stupid man.

10) Working on a list of frustrating characters ended up frustrating me! I know there have been countless times when I’ve wanted to throw a book across the room due to some character’s stupid decisions or actions. But now that I have to actually come up with a list? I keep getting stuck. I polled some of my friends, added in a few more of my own, and so instead of just one #10, I’ll skip straight to:

Most Frustrating Characters: Honorable Mention

  • Romeo and Juliet: Wait a few minutes before doing anything rash, okay? Stop assuming your beloved is dead. Check for a pulse, perhaps.
  • Hamlet: Just make a decision already.
  • Ophelia: Oh honey, no man is worth it.
  • Nathan Price (The Poisonwood Bible) and Pa Ingalls (Little House books): Religious fervor and manifest destiny are no excuse for dragging your family off to dangerous places. Feeling a higher calling is no justification for poor parenting.
  • The Cat In The Hat: Talk about overstaying your welcome. And geez, would it kill you to clean up a bit?