The annual Historical Romance Writers of the World convention in New York City is calling to Jacqueline Kirby, a Nebraska librarian who desperately desires some excitement. But all is not love and kisses at this august gathering of starry-eyed eccentrics and sentimental scribes. As far as Jacqueline is concerned, the sudden "natural" death of a gossip columnist seems anything but. And when she's approached by a popular genre star who fears for her own life, the resourceful Ms. Kirby quickly goes back to work...as a sleuth. Because there's a sinister scenario being penned at this purple prose congregation. And when jealousy and passion are given free rein beyond the boundaries of the printed page, the result can be murder.
Elizabeth Peters is a pen name of Barbara Mertz. She also wrote as Barbara Michaels as well as her own name. Born and brought up in Illinois, she earned her Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of Chicago. Mertz was named Grand Master at the inaugural Anthony Awards in 1986 and Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America at the Edgar Awards in 1998. She lived in a historic farmhouse in Frederick, western Maryland until her death.
I would say that Jaqueline Kirby is the quintessential Peters heroine, sarcastic, intelligent, a man magnet, a little full of herself, and then I read an Amelia Peabody or Vicki Bliss and I change my mind because that is the best Peters heroine.
Die for Love is kind of a satire on the boom of the romance genre in the 80s, but the subject is so far out there it’s hard to tell if she is satirizing the romance industry or simply portraying it as it was. This 80s Romance era boom is not to be confused by the current boom in the romance genre as the subgenres are very different. Peters nails every category from the Sweet Sixteen to the Pre-Historic (The Clan of the Cave Bear) to bodice rippers.
I highly recommend the book especially if you love romance but keep a skeptical eye on the genre.
Excerpt within an excerpt: From the fixed smiles on the faces of the two editors Jacqueline deduced that they were being poisonously polite to one another, and she wondered if their antagonism had anything to do with the fact that Windblown’s most recent hit had featured a Neanderthal hero and a Cro-Magnon heroine. (“From our joining, Fleet Gazelle, will come a new people.”) Maybe, Jacqueline mused, I can change my setting from fifteenth-century France to the Middle Paleolithic. It shouldn’t be too difficult. Stone axes instead of swords, a lake village on stilts instead of a castle. The villain could be a wicked medicine man….
Peters provides several made up excerpts of different genres that are hysterical and not that far off the bat.
PLOT: In need of a tax write off that even the fascist at the IRS will understand, her words not mine, Jacqueline heads to New York and a Romance Writers Convention. While there she is enthralled with the schlock and the opportunity to make some money. How hard would it be to write a romance novel?
A murder occurs, of course, and things happen with a variety of crazy characters. This is a character driven story and that’s where the fun lies. For starters there is JK is the mature heroine/detective then a sardonic detective, a charming Professor, a faux male mystery writer backed by ghost writers, a gorgeous romance author in peril, a hamfisted agent, an intrepid reporter and a superfan to name just a few.
Along the way, JK probably enjoys the drama more than she feels she should as two people end up dead, but she solves the mystery as well as capturing hearts along the way. Male hearts.
The stage and some of the characters.
A beautiful heroine/author?
A Zenda-like faux male author that is secretly a wannabe teacher
Acerbic, clever Jacqueline Kirby has had it with her college librarian job in dreary, desolate Coldwater, Neb., and she makes her way back to the Big Apple for a romance writers’ conference — more as a vacation than as a future vocation. While she’s there, Jacqueline witnesses the death of Dubretta Duberstein, a tabloid reporter-columnist who lets it be known that she is hot on the trail of serious — possibly criminal — shenanigans involving some of the romance writers and an unscrupulous harridan of a literary agent who calls her “Aunt Hattie.” When Dubretta dies soon after touting her scoop, ostensibly of a heart attack, Jacqueline has no doubt that Dubretta’s death is actually a clever case of murder.
Die for Love is the third book in the four-volume Jacqueline Kirby series. The murder is well plotted, and I was totally surprised by the resolution. Always amusing, the novel is at times laugh-out-loud funny. Author Elizabeth Peters has no problem manifesting Jacqueline’s bossiness, duplicity, and dogged certainty that she is always right, as well as Jacqueline’s kindness and intelligence. She’s a fun heroine in her own right, but Peters’ send up of the twee romance novel genre really ices the cake. What a rarity! A book that's simultaneous a guilty pleasure in the form of a mystery and exercise in literary snobbery.
Originally published on my blog here in November 1999.
The third Jacqueline Kirby novel is one of Elizabeth Peters' most outrageous. Setting a mystery at a romantic novels conference enables her to write several over the top spoofs of a genre almost beyond parody. Like her heroine, she clearly enjoys the bad taste piled on in such huge amounts; enough kitsch becomes fun.
Yet there are aspects of the romance industry of which Peters does not approve, and which this book criticises: the deceptions carried out on the readers, the bad treatment of the only slightly less naive authors. (As in many genre fiction, most authors start out as fans.)
As a crime novel, Die For Love has an easy puzzle, though it helps if you know some Shakespeare reasonably well. It is the background which makes it fun, along with the acerbic quality of Jacqueline.
I plowed through this one last night. I've read the first three Jacqueline Kirby mysteries in the last month or so. In terms of ranking, I think I liked the first one - The Seventh Sinner - the most and the second one - The Murders of Richard III - the least, with this one falling the middle.
Having said that, I am a Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters fan, and I didn't think that these were as good as most of the other books I've read by her. I don't think I ever really got Jacqueline Kirby. There's only one more in the series, and I enjoyed them enough that I will finish it out (the fact that I can get them for free from my library helps with this decision), but I prefer her gothic romances published under the Barbara Michaels name.
I think that maybe the humor was a little bit too biting for me - Jacqueline frankly seemed a little too superior and smug for my liking. I don't have a problem with assertive and independent female characters. But there were many times when, while I think it was meant to be funny, I also thought she was just flat out mean. The way that she demeaned the unfortunate Laurie, who had the misfortune to be fat, dumb and ugly, was too much for me. Peters definitely seems to have a bit of an issue with fat-phobia that was off putting and her emphasis on the physical beauty of the characters who were meant to be likeable, and the unattractiveness of the characters who were meant to be unlikeable, was not something I enjoyed. This isn't uncommon for this age of book, but I didn't enjoy that element of it.
I also don't think she was as successful as she could have been in her effort to poke fun at the romance publishing world. Peters was a successful novelist who wrote books with romance overtones, although I'm not sure that she was ever a member of the RWA.
In addition, though, her satire of the RWA comes off as mean-spirited and condescending far more often that it comes off as funny. Romance writers have enough trouble being taken seriously (in spite of the fact that romance is the most successful genre within publishing by country miles) without one of their own adding to the chorus of dismissal that they routinely receive. There are several points at which she weakly defends romance novels, but I would've liked a more full-throated response to the haters because, frankly, most of the criticisms of romance novels (they're anti-feminist, romance readers are stupid housewives who need to get a job, romance readers want to be raped) are utter horseshit, and they are repeated in the book without sufficient (or at times any) pushback at all.
Anyway, it was okay. Barbara Mertz is a solid writer, but overall, not my favorite of hers. Not by a long shot.
3.5 stars Die for Love is probably my favorite of the Jacqueline Kirby books so far. Jacqueline finally emerges as the indisputable main character of the series. The book has a publishing date of 1984 and feels every inch it, in the best possible way. The story mocks the romance novels (and to a lesser extent, mysteries) popular at the time and in doing so throws its lot in with second wave feminism.. But it also gently mocks feminism, because much like Jacqueline, this book is a wonderful mix of contradictions and biting commentary. I loved the setting (an over-the-top romance writers' conference) but was less enamored with the actual mystery. I should probably go back and re-read the ending because the motive confused me but I don't really care enough to sort it out. A fun read overall that will appeal to modern mystery readers more than the first two, but still feeling fairly vintage in setting and topic.
One of Peters' Jacqueline Kirby mysteries, this novel sends our intrepid librarian to the annual conference of the Historical Romance Writers of the World. What unfolds is a tangled web of blackmail, coercion and murder among the leaders of the romance world.
At this point, it's good to remember that this book was written in the early 80s. Much is made of the supposed inferiority of romance writing and of the various bodice ripper stereotypes, but it's done mostly tongue in cheek. As a romance lover, I found it a tad wearing, but at times I could also chuckle as I recognized bits and pieces of romance kerfuffles I'd only heard of secondhand.
From things I've read and heard about Romlandia in the 1980s, the convention Jacqueline attends seemed like a mashup of RWA and RT. On the one hand, there are authors looking for mentoring and publishing deals. But then we also have cover model shenanigans. I suspect someone deeply familiar with the world of romance in this time period would probably catch a lot more references than I did, but I did recognize homages to real-life figures that I think may have inspired the author, and I loved the names of publishers used throughout the book (Windblown Romance, Wax Candle, etc...)
Jacqueline Kirby is not my favorite of Peters' heroines and the mystery wasn't as strong and suspenseful as others I've read by her, so I have to admit that I enjoyed the setting more than the main plot on this one. Still a fun read, though.
Set in the midst of a conference for romance writers, this mystery features my favorite Peters character Jacqueline Kirby, a librarian from Coldwater College of undetermined age. Eager to escape the rain in Nebraska, Kirby sets off for NYC to attend the Historical Romance Writers of the World conference because she thinks she can write off the cost as business deduction on her tax return(!). Sandwiched in between the clues of the exciting mystery plot are magnificent tongue-in-cheek looks at bodice-rippers and the industry that produces them. The satirical tone and Kirby's dry wit will have you laughing your way through the novel. At then end, you too may be inspired to try your hands at writing a romance novel- after all, if Kirby can write and sell a novel while solving the murder, why can't you?
I'm a sucker for anything by Elizabeth Peters. She has a Ph.D in Egyptology AND writes first class mystery novels full of wit and trivia. Oh, and she's in her 80s or close to it and is still writing novels.
Elizabeth Peters novels are my comfort food. Rereading Die for Love years after I initially read it reminded me why Jacqueline Kirby can hold her own with Peters' better-known heroines (Amelia Peabody and Vicky Bliss) thanks to her clever deductions and acerbic wit.
It feels to me like Peters floundered a bit as a writer until she developed Amelia Peabody. Both Vicky Bliss and Jacqueline Kirby have whiffs of Mary-Sue-ishness that I find a bit off-putting (of course they're beautiful, slim, stacked, well dressed, and well coiffed AND clever, incisive, resourceful, AND popular with the boys), and her protagonists' sharp tongues and combative banter only reach their full potential when paired with regular sparring partners who match their irreverence and erudition. The Vicky Bliss novels only became compulsively delicious as John Smythe's (and Schmidt's) characters and relationships developed, while Amelia Peabody blossomed in part thanks to the permanent frisson provided by Emerson and augmented by her precocious son.
Without lovable and clever foils, the early Vicky and all of the Jacqueline books feel emotionally arid. They're often not merely snarky (which I love), but actually unkind, and whenever the possibility of a serious friendship or romance arises in Jacqueline's world, it's underdeveloped, shunted off the stage, or nipped in the bud. (Her oddly affectless friendship with Jean in the first book, her offstage and evidently short-lived liaisons with dishy policemen who deserved more character development in books 1 & 3, and her abortive sort-of friendship with the doomed Dubretta, to give a few examples.) And, of course, her willingness to wound, abandon, and perplex her few longer-term love interests (books 2 & 3). I suspect the latter trait is meant to parallel--with laudable feminist intent--the way male protagonists in detective/spy/thriller novels treat their female love interests, but I find it icky in either gender.
All of these less enjoyable qualities come to the fore in the 3rd Jacqueline novel, paired with a send-up of the 80s romance novel industry, which, as a subject for satire, is like shooting fish in a barrel. Yes, this is a genre outstanding for its artificiality, saccharine sentimentality, dubious aesthetics, and slender literary merit--wouldn't it be more interesting to find something else to say about it?
All of this said, I'm still planning to read the 4th & final installment in the series--just with significantly less joy and confidence that I would feel with a new Peabody novel. Because Peters is smart, her heroines are hyper-capable and proactive, and her settings are interesting, Peters is always worth reading--but she doesn't reach her potential until she starts giving her leading ladies suitable ensembles to work with.
This is one of my top three Elizabeth Peters' novels but is also one of my favorite books of all. I love everything about Peters' writing here. Her wit is in top form, and Jacqueline is perfectly acerbic and smart. I adore how Peters gently (yet perfectly) pokes fun at the romantic novel industry, from authors to readers. She keenly hits on many of the problematic issues of the genre that are still problems decades later. Everything about this book is funny yet on point, and I'm starting to realize that I'd rather be a Jacqueline Kirby than a blonde bombshell like so many other heroines. Peters created a really great modern female character in her, and I wish there were more like her. I also love how Peters included the blurbs from "romance blockbusters" yet always had them cut off right before the best part. I remember reading one of the authors who had to have been part of her inspiration who must likely ripped off her stories from "The Lustful Turk." It was schlock like that that makes me so happy to have found Peters instead.
This book was seriously ridiculous—and seriously awesome. The whole time, I kept wondering if it was a brilliant work of satire or an outlandish and absurd farce. In the end I decided it is both. But who cares? I was wildly entertained, and that’s all that matters.
Only Barbara Michaels/Barbara Mertz/Elizabeth Peters could write a book where I cannot stand the heroine, do not understand the murder, do not care about the victim(s?), cannot fathom the setting’s existence, but yet enjoy every minute of the book nonetheless. And somehow also made me glad we live in a post-Fifty Shades of Grey romance publishing world—what?!
Also notable: the antique dress motif reared its vintage head once again. (Barbara, honey, you slip this into your books even more often than Stephen King does Derry and John Grisham does private planes.)
5 stars for my sheer delight in a book that legitimately only deserves 3 stars.
I read this book about a year ago. I'm a fan of Peters' Amelia Peabody series, and this (along with Vicky Bliss) is a somewhat less well-known series.
I enjoyed the lampooning of the Historical Romance community. As an avid HR reader, I think it helps to have a sense of humor, as its all just too silly to be taken seriously. I also like the Jacqueline Kirby character, though she can come across as harsh sometimes. The mystery was well formed, and it wasn't until the last 15% or so that I had an idea whodunnit.
Really my only knock against it was that Kirby's relationship status was muddy throughout, and left me wondering what the heck was going on. But as it wasn't really central to the story, it was easy to overlook.
Inane, I couldn't keep my mind on it, it was so boring. Asst. Head Librarian at Coldwater College in Nebraska, Jaqueline Kirby, decides to take a trip to NY making it tax deductible by attending a convention of the Historical Romance Writers of the World. What follows is supposed to be funny, but it's not; it supposed to be entertaining, but it's not. I don't even want to go into details, if you like this kind of book read it yourself.
Unterhaltsam und der Einblick in die Romantik-Buch-Szene ist großartig. Jaqueline ist wie üblich eine sehr unterhaltsame Protagonistin. Das Mordmotiv ist ein bisschen mau und einige Sachen wirken ein bisschen veraltet. (Zum Beispiel das gnadenlose Fatshaming, das Elizabeth Peters betreibt. Alle Charaktere, die übergewichtig sind, sind auch gleichzeitig dumpf, verfressen und schwitzen die ganze Zeit *Augen roll*) Abgesehen davon aber ein netter Zeitvertreib.
This had good potential. The first few chapters had me completely engaged with the spoofs on the romance industry. But then it stopped and the mystery took center stage.
I was about to drop it and then Jacqueline had her internal dialogue about the value of romance books and it seemed to be headed back in an interesting direction. So I finished it.
But the characters were all a little bit too nasty and self- centered. Even Betsy, with whom I agreed more than the others devolved into a flat caricature. You didn't really care about any of them...JK included. So I think this will be my last exploratory Elizabeth Peters.
I'm a definitely struggling in the comfort reads area. I also thought it was highly amusing that this followed my experience with Caravan.
Elizabeth Peters is one of those rare authors who can mingle intelligent whodunnits with sheer lunatic hilarity. And rarely did she show this as expertly as in "Die For Love," a brilliantly twisting whodunnit that expertly lampoons romance novels and the writers who churn them out. Peters surrounds her acerbic heroine with mounds of puffy pink luvvyluv, but also tosses in a startling murder into the mix.
Jacqueline Kirby, seeking to expand her horizens and get out of a romantic rut, travels to New York for a romance writers' convention. After educating herself on sexy schlock, she encounters a bunch of colorful celebrities there -- a scathing columnist, a rabid feminist, an obsessive fan, an old classmate, the gorgeous and talented Queen of Romance Valerie Valentine, a sexy male writer, and a sinister yet hearty literary agent.
Then the columnist dies unexpectedly, and it seems that Valentine is the target. Jacqueline begins peeling away the layers of cotton-candy romance to find out what ugly secrets are important enough to kill for. Was it jealousy, hatred, or money? (Surprisingly, passion doesn't enter into it). Armed with the ugliest hat and the fattest purse in the world, she sets out to smoke out the killer.
"Die For Love" is a massive tonal shift for the too-short Jacqueline Kirby series. After two pretty serious, European-flavoured mysteries, suddenly we're in New York and immersed in hilarious romantic spoofery -- and you can tell Elizabeth Peters is having a delightful time mocking the romance genre.
So she intertwined satire and a clever whodunnit very nicely, swinging deftly between the funny (Jacqueline having a "war of quotes" with Hattie) and a strong collection of motives, suspects and some clever literary allusions mixed in with the over-the-top schlock. But she also reminds us of some of the more serious results of the romance genre, such as the "rape=love" message.
Jacqueline is her usual irrepressible self -- big fat purse, flamboyant clothes, and the lofty position of a librarian with a naughty streak. She steps further from "conventional detective" into her unique, perkily eccentric niche. One interesting fact is that in this book, she sets out to write a historical romance.
And she's backed by a deliciously colourful cast of characters -- demure Sue, the sexy but beleagured hunk Victor, the hilarious hardcore feminist Betsy, the bewigged and timid Valerie Vanderbilt, and the grotesquely scheming Hattie.
"Die For Love" isn't quite worth dying for, but it's not hard to love. Hilarious, barbed and relentlessly clever, this is a must-read for mystery fans... and maybe romance fans with a sense of humor.
Librarian/amateur sleuth Jacqueline Kirby attends a romance writers’ conference, at which a sudden death that she suspects is a murder takes place. Was it poison? I wonder if this book, written twenty years ago, was meant as a subtle satire on the amateur sleuth novel, as well as a broader satire on the historical romance.
I enjoyed learning about such predecessors to the modern erotic romance as the Victorian epistolary novel The Lustful Turk. I never heard of it until reading this book, and don’t plan to read it, but Peters probably did. She’s always strong on research.
The style and content of romance novels gets skewered, with only one book in the fictitious array being acknowledged as actual literature. The detecting process is clever, and Jacqueline is witty, eccentric, and enjoyable. Though she’s not particularly believable, I never sense that she’s meant to be. All of the characters, while vivid, a somewhat caricatured, and the cliché of the nosy amateur outwitting or assisting the police is as strained and overused as the romance tropes Jacqueline laughs at and decides she can write. I suspect Peters of doing the same thing with the amateur sleuth. All the conventions are there, including the grand finale in which the suspects are gathered with an attempt to force one to reveal guilt.
This is not a serious book, but as light entertainment it makes good summer reading, and an amusing look back at writers, publishers and agents under the old regime. It’s amazing how dated the publicity gimmicks seem, in a book that’s not exactly ancient. Back in the day it seems a romance author could be turned into a minor celebrity. The idea of publishers and agents doing that much to market their authors seems unthinkable now, when even traditionally published authors say they have to do a lot of their own marketing. A number of writers may enjoy this book as a historical artifact as well as an amusing satire on the genres in which they themselves may write.
I think I am going to have to read something more current by Ms. Peters. This series was written some thirty years ago. The books are touted to have 'humor and romance' along with the mystery. However, Jacqueline Kirby's humor is a combination of the silly and acerbic. The romance is disjointed. There is a different 'friend' in each book. I have no idea how they got there and why they are there. The interaction doesn't come across as romantic...more like adversarial on her part. Not to be a spoiler, but at the end you get a sense that maybe there was a tryst, but you aren't really sure. There is one more of the series, but not sure I can continue. I always like to finish a series when I start one. However, I might give myself permission to quit now. I know Elizabeth Peters is a popular author so I will give her later books a try...maybe later than sooner.
I enjoyed this take on the opposite side of romance novels. Our heroine, Jacqueline Kirby, plans her vacation around attending a convention for romance writers and fans. She is there purely for entertainment sake and goes all out to jump into the culture in her own satirical way. But when someone is poisoned she reverts to her mystery-solving ways and rounds up the usual suspects to unmask the murderer.
Even though I've read one of this series before, this one really seemed to jump into the plot and action too fast. It left me wondering whether I had missed a few chapters at the beginning. You really have no time to get to know Jacqueline or appreciate her - although that grows throughout the book.
The best parts are that it's funny and clean, worst are the predictable plot, cliche characters, and weird timing.
Ah, Jacqueline Kirby, I love you. An older, sexually-liberated female who solves mysteries? Um, yes please. It's a little disconcerting to read how romances are described in this book but this was written in a different time so... Jackie is going to a Romance Novel convention, just to get out of Dodge. Her current love is getting a little clingy and this librarian (!) needs her space. So it's off to New York and some down-time with authors. Except that it's not really less stressful. Backbiting authors, conniving agents, and sneaky reporters all add up for a scintillating time for Jackie, until one of the reporters gets murdered. And there is a surfeit of suspects so, while it took a while to get into the book, the solution was not what I expected.
Die For Love was fun to read! There certainly was a lot of mayhem and sneakiness going on, and it was fun to be along for the ride, even though I didn't try to figure out the mystery. I could picture the characters and events so well, and I'm curious about what this book would look like if it were to take place today. It's a cozy mystery and yet it's fun, funny and light-hearted. And it pokes at romance novels in a good way. I also really like that the book stands alone really well, and that even though it's the third book in the series, you start off with the third book in the series and still know what's going on.
My Rating: 3 stars for being an entertaining poke at romance novel land.
I loved this book. I liked it enough that I have read it at least twice and just recently I went hunting for it in an audio book. (yay Audible.com) I have no idea how realistic this in regards to romance writers conventions. Myself I would consider it a bit of a parody on them. And also any convention that is not completely restricted would attract some oddballs. I love Jacqueline Kirby, with her dry wit that goes over alot of her listeners heads, only makes it more fun. The cozy mystery keeps you going with interesting characters and steady action. I have read all of this series by Elizabeth Peters and I wish she would write more of them.
I struggled all the way through this book. Jacqueline Kirby might be an intelligent woman, but I found her to be otherwise unpleasant, catty, petty, and generally annoying. I thought the plot had some promise, mocking fandom when done well can be hilarious. But I just found this story to be flat. Jacqueline is so negative in her opinion of others that there was no chance any of the other characters could develop--as soon as they stumbled into a scene Jacqueline started makung negative assessments about them and did her best to force them to leave.
I admit, this one makes me giggle. I like romances and this plays with the genre's worst tropes. I love how Jacqueline's romance story changes as she goes through the convention's seminars. The mystery heads the way I expected, but it was fun getting there. All the clues are there; for once I guessed right.
If you like cozy mysteries, you might like this. If you like cozies and have flirted with the romance genres (and aren't too serious about them), I think you'll love it.
I think it deserves 4.5 stars because the mystery was a bit too simple. I rounded it up, because it made me laugh. Satire is so rarely done well enough to be amusing, but not cruel.
One of my biggest regrets about the dead of MPM (Mertz/Peters/Michaels) is that it robbed readers of a fifth Jacqueline Kirby book. I like Vicky Bliss and Amelia Peabody, but I LOVE Jake Kirby, the sarcastic, brilliant, sexy librarian with the auburn hair, horn rimmed glasses and gigantic Purse. She shines in this fine mystery set in the world of romance novels. The laughs are as compelling as the mysteries in this book. It's a trifle dated now, and I had forgotten just how much Jake smokes and boozes, but it is well worth your time.