“Pleasure Me” – An Uneven Tale of a Retiring Courtesan and a Guy With One Ball

This is going to be a bit different from the usual format. Instead of looking at a novel chapter-by-chapter (or part by part), I’m going to have this done in one review. I’m trying to avoid the Dread Curse of Unfinished Postings that seems that have been cast on this here blog.

(Now watch as I decide that the whole review can’t possibly fit into one post, promise a part two and never get around to finishing it)

But, in all seriousness, I would like to thank our humble webmaster for the opportunity to post here.  And, while I’m pretty sure I won’t be as funny as Kevin or as insightful as Noel, I will try my best to be good anyway.

Now, on with the review.

MoF-BR_MonicaBurns-PleasureMe-Cover

I picked up Monica Burns’ “Pleasure Me” more or less on impulse. the cover caught my eye, but it was the synopsis on the back that really grabbed me. A romance novel set in the late 19th century United Kingdom, featuring a 41-year old courtesan and a younger man…

Anyone who’s followed me on Twitter or read my blog would know of my fondness for older women. I’m also a bit of sucker of romantic movies set before the 20th century. I’ve watched entirely too many films where my thought process something like this:

  1. Is it romance?
  2. Does it have corsets?
  3. What are we waiting for – lets watch!

So when I saw a novel that had an older woman/younger man romance and a period setting, I knew I had to check it out.

As I started reading it, I found myself enjoying it. As the novel opened, our female lead, Lady Ruth Attwood, has just been dumped by her latest patron – for a younger woman, no less. At 41, Ruth doesn’t feel particularly old, but that sort of thing has been happening a lot recently, leaving her to wonder if she should take her savings and retire from the courtesan life.

I liked Ruth right off the bat. The opening chapter presented her strong woman who didn’t fold easily under pressure, someone who could be charming and gracious at one moment and  fire off an eloquently cutting zingers in the next. While losing a patron hurt her ego, Ruth was determined not to let the disappointment ruin her life completely. She is as loyal to her servants as they are to her, and, when she loses a patron and with it, a source of income, her first concern is over how that would affect her ability to buy a new building for an orphanage she’s been funding.

Yes – our heroine spends most of her money on orphans. Under other circumstances, that might have been a bit too precious, but, in the context of the novel, it becomes just touching enough to avoid cliche.

While at a society function, Ruth runs into our male protagonist, the 29-year-old Baron Garrick Stratfield. Initially, he came off as a cliche Brooding Love Interest With a Dark Secret. But unlike a lot of characters of this type, he didn’t come off particularly assholish – he came to Ruth’s support when she found herself in the midst of some society drama, and he generally treated people well unless they didn’t deserve it.

As for the brooding thing – well, Garrick was trying to keep people from getting too close. Especially women. For, you see, there was something about him that was so horrible that there was no way any woman could love him.

Then, one chapter later, we find out that his horrible dark secret is the fact that he only had one testicle.

I did a double take. This couldn’t seriously be the horrible secret… could it?

The next few pages made it clear that, yes, it very much could.

At this point, I figured that the novel would either get unintentionally hilarious or somehow make the whole dark secret thing work. Either way, I had to keep reading.

And, in the end, I’m still not entirely sure what to think.

On one hand, it didn’t really get unintentionally hilarious – at least not in the way that’s mockable.  During the course of the novel, we learn why Garrick thinks his birth defect is so horrible – it had to do with a traumatic incident in Garrick’s teenage years and generally terrible environment he grew up in. It’s telling that, once Ruth found out the truth, pretty much shrugged it off (and then spent the better part of the next few chapters trying to build up Garrick’s self-confidence). By the last third of the novel, it’s clear that the real issue isn’t Garrick’s “deformity” – it’s his struggle to achieve a sense of self-confidence and self-worth.

At the same time, as the novel progressed, I came across other things that started to bother me. I liked the early courtship between Garrick and Ruth, full of back-and-forth quippery and discussions of the moral implications of literature. And, later, when Garrick starts to trust Ruth enough to (slowly, oh so very slowly) reveal his secrets, and the readers get to see the defensiveness and vulnerability beneath the broodiness. It is interesting to watch his character growth as he realizes that being vulnerable didn’t make him “less of a man.”

But as the novel continued, Ruth seemed to have been losing chunks of her personality – the wit, her wilfullness, her ability to set boundaries and enforce them. Yes, the whole “being around the man I love makes me want to stop arguing and do what he wants” is a trope as old as romance genre, but it was weird seeing a character who rebuked Garrick after he (accidentally) insulted her in the beginning of the book let him pretty much ignore her requests about half a book later.

And then, there is Garrick himself. At the beginning of the novel, he was presented as standoffish, driven and a bit pigheaded. He was a man who worked hard to establish the “I am the Alpha Male, I am strong and I get what I want” persona to compensate for his deep-seated insecurities. He likes being in control because he grew up barely in control of anything and because, when he let his guard down, it tended to come back to haunt him. One would have hoped that, once Garrick gained more genuine self-confidence, he would have learned to relax a little and not worry so much about getting his way. But, if anything, he became more pushy and arrogant. When he offended Ruth earlier in the novel, Garrick seemed genuinely contrite, and he tried to apologize.  But when, toward the end of the novel, Garrick tried to convince Ruth to marry him, he borderline bullied her into accepting it.

(I say “borderline” because it also involved an attempt to actually address her reservations and try to ease her concerns, but there were several lines and moments that still made me uncomfortable).

There is also the issue of how the novel handled conflict (such as it was). In romance novels, it is customary for protagonists to face obstacles before they get together. Those obstacles tend to form what passes for conflict in the genre. And there is nothing wrong with that per se (personally, I don’t think stories necessarily need to have any big conflicts at all – I’m perfectly content to read about things just happening so long as they happen in an interesting way). But the problem with the novel is that a lot of those obstacles are kind of… weak. They get built up as something significant, even insurmountable, only to have the author resolve them a chapter or two later with barely a fuss.

Garrick doesn’t want Ruth to see him naked, but he also wants to screw her? Ruth suggests a blindfold. Ruth winds up seeing his nether regions anyway? She, as I mentioned earlier, pretty much shrugs it off. Even when Garrick is threatened with a prison sentence for a crime he didn’t commit, the whole plot winds up resolved so quickly that one has to wonder why the author even bothered.

And finally – this is something of a personal pet peeve. The novel makes a big deal out of Ruth’s age – and proceeds to downplay it as much as possible when actually describing her. Yes, she is in her 40s, the novel says, but she actually looks much younger. Come to think of it, Ruth barely shows any signs of aging at all.

There are many women in their 40s who look pretty damn good without the aid of Botox and what have you, but they don’t look like 20-somethings. Aging process affects us all – some less than others, but it’s still there. The Lucy Liu looks pretty damn good in Elementary, but you’d never mistake her for the Lucy Liu that appeared in Ally McBeal.

Now, I realize that a lot of this has to do with the novel’s primary target audience, who are, most likely, women around Ruth’s age. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to appeal to their hopes and dreams, to assure them that 20-something men would still find them beautiful. But I don’t think the audience is particularly well-served if they present an unrealistic ideal of what a woman their age would look like.

Still, the novel has many things going for it. The writing style is descriptive and engaging, the characterization is well-handled, the parts that are meant to be amusing genuinely are. One can tell that the author spent time researching period detail – and while i don’t know enough about the period to be absolutely sure everything is accurate, I appreciate the effort. I was impressed with the fact that social standing was a big deal and an important driving force in the plot – as one would expect from the time period (and something that many less skilled writers tend to forget). I particularly like how the novel drew attention to the distinction between what everybody knew but didn’t talk about and what was out in the open (a subtle distinction, but a pretty important one in the context of the novel).  And it is nice that Ruth actually has a female friend who supports her through thick and thin (and who feels like a living, breathing person with thoughts and opinions of her own) – something that we don’t see nearly enough with female characters in general.

Well, it looks like it’s time to wrap things up. Thank you for indulging me, dear Made of Fail readers. Maybe someday, I will come back and review something that does turn out to be hilariously terrible.

Then again, given this blog’s record when it comes to multi-part features, perhaps I should quit while I’m ahead.

 

Fifty Shades of Grey, chapter 6

Remember how, with the last batch of chapter reviews, the blandness of Chapter 4 completely killed my enthusiasm for continuing with this project, yet I put my game face on and plowed ahead? Yeah, I got one chapter past 4, and now here we are, months later. I actually did read Chapter 6 right after doing my review of 5 and had every intention of doing a write up then. I just couldn’t. I can’t stand this fucking book. I would tear it down the spine, hurl it against a wall, then gradually use one page after another as toilet paper… except it’s on my Kindle, so I can’t.

Instead, the game face is being thrown back on as I finally sit down and show this chapter who its master is.

We open with Control Freak Grey and Anastasia Steele stepping out of the elevator, Ana instantly reminiscing over their passionate encounter. Because Grey is acting like nothing happened whereas she’s mentally professing herself a changed woman due to her aroused inhibitions and swollen lips (did he headbutt her in the mouth? Why are they swollen?), Ana starts comparing the incident to the myths of King Arthur and Atlantis.

Fuuuuuuuuck thiiiiiis boooooooo–

GAME FACE!

So the main thrust (no pun intended) of this chapter is that Ana’s on switch has been flipped. She’s had absolutely zero romantic interest in anybody before this point, and now all she wants is the opportunity to do the horizontal tango with Grey. It’s important that I get this out up front because I really REALLY don’t want this overview to intercut every single paragraph with “And Ana wants sex.” She’s locked onto that goal and doesn’t waver from it for the whole chapter. Which is fine. It’s actually a bit refreshing to read about a romantic heroine who, instead of being afraid of sex or playing out the “blooming of the virgin” scenario, clearly knows what she wants and who she wants, and sets about getting it. I expressed issues with her relationship history and her choice of Grey in the last chapter, so I won’t linger on them here and instead just end the point by saying it’s not all that poorly done… with the exception of bizarre moments like namedropping Atlantis and King Arthur. I’ll bring up a few other unfortunate bits, but otherwise just take it as a given that every paragraph ends with “And Ana wants sex.”

As Ana and Grey step into his car, things cease to be a novel and instead become one of those bizarre stretches of product placement advertising as every amazing feature of his Audi SUV is highlighted over the course of the ensuing conversation. “Do you like the music? Watch in wonder as I use a button on my steering wheel to play that track again!” “That ringing over the speakers means I have a call coming in. Hang on a second while I use a button on my steering wheel to answer it in a hands-free fashion!” Either “James” just bought an Audi and wanted to share her mad humping love for it with the readers, or she was hoping Audi would give her a car. Given the sales on the book, maybe they have. Who knows.

[Thought: Out of curiosity, does anyone know if the Audi bit was in the original fanfic draft, or was it added during prep for publication? It feels like something that would be oddly out of place in fanfic.]

During her advertisement for an Audi, “James” lists off a few more of her favorite things, namedropping “The Flower Duet” from Lakme and the works of Thomas Tallis, and then Grey and Ana gush about how awesome Kings of Leon is as Grey uses that handy steering wheel button to flip to a track by them. Remember how Stephenie Meyer kept namedropping Muse and then scored some songs from them on the Twilight film soundtracks? Methinks “James” is hoping for a similar result with Kings of Leon.

Then we move into the steering wheel button operator game segment as Grey gets not one, not two, but three calls in succession, all cutting in on their enjoyment of the tune “Sex On Fire”, which Ana likes because “And Ana wants sex.” First, the cryptic announcement that the information Grey requested has arrived. Then news that a Non-Disclosure Agreement has been e-mailed to him. Remember this! It plays a very important part later – ah, fuck it. There’s no reason for this at all. The problem with a throwaway line is you have to be careful not to make it so unnecessary that it can be thrown away without lessening the impact of the story in any way.

And then Elliott calls, asking if Grey got laid. And then Elliott and Ana tease one another about Kate. And then they actually get to Ana and Kate’s place, where Elliot still is and they were going to anyways, so the reason for him to call was what exactly? No, seriously, “James”, did you slip another call in there just to further show off the Audi’s features? Because nothing that’s said in that moment carries us to the next scene, nor could it have not been said once we got to that scene.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

COULD! HAVE USED! AN EDITOR!

Just before we get to Ana and Kate’s apartment, there’s a bit where Ana asks why Grey keeps calling her Anastasia. He says it’s her name and continues doing it, despite her protests. This is the man who insists upon which people are allowed to refer to him by which specific variant of his name, but heaven forbid he show the same courtesy to anyone else. While fully reveling in it with a smirk, no less. There’s teasing, and then there’s being an asshole. And Ana loves it, of course. Because [chorus].

And then he apologizes for what happened in the elevator and says it won’t happen again unless it’s “pre-meditated”…… Pre-meditated? No, try consensual, you ass!

He pulls up outside my duplex. I belatedly realize he’s not asked me where I live – yet he knows. But then he sent the books, of course he knows where I live. What able, cell-phone-tracking, helicopter owning, stalker wouldn’t.

Remember that Awesome Ana inner voice that occasionally stepped in to champion the image of Grey as an arrogant stalker who should be avoided at all costs? Her presence has increasingly dwindled over the last few chapters, and I fear we may have lost her all together because that paragraph, the holy crap run away statement made above isn’t instantly followed by a gnawing feeling of “Yeah, this situation is a little uncomfortable, isn’t it?” and is instead punctuated with:

Why won’t he kiss me again? I pout at the thought.

FUUUUUUUUCK THIIIIIIIIIIIS BOOOOO–

GAME FACE!!!

Oh, and Ana says Grey’s surname should be Cryptic, which means I should start calling him Mr. Control Freak Cryptic by this point. But I won’t, because it’s been months since the last post and I don’t want people scratching their heads over how far this joke has progressed. So no more Cryptic, no more Control Freak (C.F. for short), from now on it’ll just be Grey. Not Christian, though, because he specifically said that’s just for friends and I still don’t want to be in this dude’s call-list, whether it’s housed in the steering wheel of his Audi or not.

So Kate is all giddy from sex and Elliot is all “dude-bro I just got laid!” from sex and they’re both deeply making out to the point of Elliot dipping Kate to the floor as the two people who haven’t yet had sex but want to watch on. And this is echoed by Elliot following his tonsil exam with a “Laters, baby,” then Grey longingly stroking Ana’s face before saying… fuck, I’m actually going to have to quote this aren’t I… he also says “Laters, baby,” and the two brothers drive off, leaving behind a pair of women with loins all aflutter.

And the chapter isn’t through! Woohoo! We’re not even… *looks* Oh goddammit, we aren’t even a third of the way through the chapter yet! *bites the head off of something* *then schedules appointment with dentist because biting the head off a plastic bottle is apparently not good on one’s teeth*

Kate and Ana gush about the boys, swap stories, then Kate promises to get Ana all nice and purdy in time for the date. BEGIN MONTAGE as–

Wait, what? There’s no sprucing up montage? I am disappoint.

So as soon as Ana gets all sprucified, she heads off to work… and then we flashback to the sprucing montage!

Oh fuck you! There’s absolutely no reason for that bait ‘n’ switch! If you’re going to do a plucked and polished montage, just do it! Don’t further demonstrate your continuing lack of anything resembling a narrative flow by cutting to another scene, then reminiscing about the montage that took place before it!

And why is Ana getting all spruced up before heading to work, with Grey set to pick her up for their big date as soon as she’s off shift? She works in a home improvement store and the book clearly states she’s working past closing time to restock the shelves. Maybe “James” never worked in a home improvement store and thus doesn’t know anything about something she’s never done any research on, but there’s a lot of very heavy stuff in a home improvement store, and even the smaller items will give you quite the workout after a while. Meaning Ana will will be a sweaty, slightly unkempt mess just as her date shows up to drive her off for a night of “And Ana wants sex.” The book clearly states that Kate does all her sprucing within a single hour, so why not, I don’t know, push the date back an hour so Ana has a little time to go home, tidy up, and get spruced then? “James” not only knows next to nothing about narrative flow, but wow, she doesn’t even plan an evening all that well.

Tonight’s the night! After all this time, am I ready for this? My inner goddess glares at me, tapping her small foot impatiently.

Ah, so that’s what happened to the inner Ana who was smart and sharp and tried like hell to guide her external self away from Grey and his shenanigans. She was struck down by a higher power, a Mary Sue that ascended to a level of narrative warping divinity. I hereby give this inner goddess the name of Elemental Lifebringer James, the convoluter of relationship realities in favor of nonsensical draws and expectations, and giver to fanmoms everywhere the gift of a version of Twilight they can more thoroughly fondle themselves to.

Elemental Lifebringer James! The one known as Grey hast arrived to sweep the thoroughly shaved maiden Anastasia away to their nightly courting, and lo, the woman is dried of perspiration with hair fully groomed and makeup unsmudged! May thy hollowed reasoning be praised as we await the next divine miracle of thy heavily-inspired-by-another-work creation!

So Grey and Ana have a short ride in the back of his limo, with hand holding that gives Ana her first few orgasms of the night, and lines from her like:

“Very long,” I reply, and my voice is husky, too low, and full of need.

And it turns out Grey and his brother like to go off on hiking trips. Yet another surviving element from Twilight. But since I doubt they feast on mountain lions in this version, the point of it has become a little lost.

And then they show up at a building and she gets horny at the idea of being in an elevator with Grey again, but it’s only three floors and they’re on the roof with the chopper and an old guy name Joe who Grey refers to by his first name, which puts Ana in shock and admiration that Grey is actually showing respect to someone, then she’s in the chopper and he kisses her and barks orders at her and tells her not to touch anything and straps up her harness and

“I like this harness,” he whispers.

What?

What?

For once, you and I agree, Anastasia Steele.

So they take off, and what follows is several pages of Grey making the lights outside go further away while we get detailed radio speak with the flight tower that shows us “James” may have actually been in a helicopter and taken notes at one point in her life, all while Ana stares at the ground, the controls, the Grey, all with the gape jawed awe of an 80s Amblin child star, and occasionally expressing herself through lines that roughly translate to “…ZOMG…”

As they approach Seattle, she compares the beauty of the sight to Bladerunner, because those cityscapes of pollution, decay, and corporate dystopianism truly were… okay, well, yeah, they were stunningly beautiful, but not in the ways Ana is trying to express, so shush. Anyways, Bladerunner is Jose’s favorite movie, which gets her thinking about Jose and feeling bad that she’s left him hanging after his “attempted kiss”. Sweetie, no. The dude got wasted and assaulted you. You absolutely should not be feeling bad about giving him the cold shoulder from now on. Earlier in the chapter, it’s mentioned he tried to call numerous times that day. If he starts showing up, buy a stun gun and taze that bro. Aim for the nuts. He’s got it coming.

…………………………………………….

…………………………………………….

…………………………………………….

…………………………. *sigh*

It’s now been about two months since I wrote the last paragraph above. I keep opening this file, looking at where I left off, spending a few minutes thinking about where to go next… and then I close it and do some other stuff. And that last paragraph above was the last in a piece chipped together during another stretch of two months, where I became so exhausted and bent writing about this tripe that I’d add a paragraph, then do other stuff for a few days. Then add a paragraph, then do other stuff for a few days. Now I can’t even do that much. Now I just stare at the next blank line before giving up.

This book broke me.

I’ve read shit. I’ve enjoyed shit. I’ve gotten a kick out of going through shit just so I can discuss it with other people and share with them how shitty it is. But not here. With this book, this amateurish, unedited, lazy setup for a book that doesn’t hint at getting any better, all I am is exhausted. I haven’t even touched the thing in two months and the mere thought of doing so saps a bit of life from my soul.

And I haven’t even gotten to the kinky shit yet! This is all setup. This is all boring people having boring conversations and making boring introductions and getting the same boring backstory twice because someone couldn’t be bothered to tell the author that, no, her manuscript is not immune to a red pen. I haven’t even fulfilled the setup, but the setup for the setup is such a waste of words that I just don’t care. I got through the Twilight books just fine, even legitimately enjoyed stretches. This book just doesn’t have that same misguided spark to give it any life beyond the rote fanfic it is.

This is an awful book.

So far. Let me stress, so far. I refuse to fully condemn a book unless I read the whole things, but lord, something must be said for me not even being able to make it past Chapter 6. Hell, I had a final payoff for the game face joke I set out above, a perfect picture of Reb Brown mowing down opposition in front of an explosion… but I just don’t have the energy to finish the joke.

Hell, I don’t think I have the energy to finish the book.

……………………… However, I did make a commitment. I reached out to a pair of friends, both of whom made it to the end of this diaper padding, who agreed to discuss it with me in a podcast following my completion of the novel. I’ve already delayed things long enough that I’d hate to just scrub it altogether. So, yes, I will finish.

I don’t know how I’ll finish, or what format this will take following Chapter 6, but I’ll make myself get there somehow. I probably won’t keep the chapter-by-chapter format, and even if I do, I’m not going to dwell into as much detail as I have been. I might also do it in broader chunks, or just finish the damn thing whole and pen a single, all-encompassing review. I don’t know. I’ll figure it out soon.

As for the rest of this chapter, the two have dinner. Both clearly want to have sex, demonstrated by her biting her lip a lot and him saying how much he’d rather be the one biting her lip. He pulls out a reference to the classic novel whose name I don’t remember off the top of my head and don’t give enough of a shit to look up, asking if she wants him to be the lover who gently adores her or the one who ravishes and uses her. She says the latter, half jokingly, then he pulls out the non-disclosure form. She signs it. He says its time for her to see his playroom.

“You want to play on your Xbox?” I ask. He laughs, loudly.

Fucking give me strength, clapping pixies, because I’m about to run from this again.

He opens the door and stands back to let me in. I gaze at him once more. I so want to know what’s in there. Taking a deep breath, I walk in.

And it feels like I’ve time-traveled back to the sixteenth century and the Spanish Inquisition.

Holy fuck.

Points for not using a “crap” or “shit” there, “James”.

As I said, I don’t know when I’ll be back or what format this will be in when I do, but I’ve sat on this chapter long enough, and I hope to get through the rest of the book and take a stab at that podcast before the end of the year. Just give me a kick now and then if you don’t see me moving on it.

What the hell. Let’s share one last game face for the long, clumsy, unedited road ahead.

New Book Choice and Further Updates

There’s been a lot going on these past few weeks, both personally and professionally. Made of Fail Productions is restructuring, but as I’ve mentioned that before elsewhere, I won’t really keep harping on it here.

*cough*

Wedding planning has been fantastic; with all the big things out of the way, all I need to do now is wait and prepare for the metric crapload of logistical and minor details. Which, as everyone continually asserts, are going to be what kills me in the end.

Fools. The catering was merely a setback.

In any case, I got a Kindle for my birthday, which means it’s time to stop procrastinating, and reveal Book Three of this forsaken project.

May Gygax have mercy on my soul.

Book Two and Revisions

I’ve been tasked with my second book. The first one was an education on the romance genre in general, and I intended a lot of snark humorous commentary1, which I think I successfully got out of it. I would like to reiterate that I wholly enjoyed reading it, even if I could only take it a couple chapters at a time, and my enjoyment was probably not in the fashion that the author intended. But enjoyment was had, and the book was returned to the library and, well… I kind of want to buy my own copy and read it again and hug it forever.

…damn. I don’t know what happened, but it sucked me in. Which, admittedly, is what books are supposed to do in the first place. That’s why – I apologise for bringing this up yet againTwilight was so successful, both in the “seriously love it to death” adolescent and middle-aged woman demographic (which I saw first-hand, as both my teenaged sister and my mother completely loved that series), and in the “Let’s make fun of it” review crowd, which I am most unashamedly a part of, and that certainly wouldn’t happen if I absolutely loathed the whole thing. If you truly hate something, you want absolutely nothing to do with it. Constantly talking about it means that you derive some enjoyment from it, even if it just means you enjoy pointing out how much it bothers you.

Cleolinda made a remark on Made of Fail’s most recent Harry Potter episode.

…you have to admit to yourself that the phrase “I like making fun of it” involves the words I, Like, and It.

[…]

Life’s too short to go around recreationally hating things.

I believe the latter quote should be embroidered on a pillow and propped up next to her “I just want to be a doper person” cross-stitch, but that’s just me.

My point is that these reviews are honestly because I enjoy doing this, and I don’t want to come off as mean-spirited. I know I started that way in the beginning of Virile Viking, but it turned into honest discussion about the book’s themes and how it works in society. And I get it, I understand its appeal, and I don’t fault the author or the book for being as popular as it is.

But I’m repeating myself.

In any case, I’m announcing my next book, which is Pleasure 2035 by Cameo Brown. I’ll be seeing if I can order it from Amazon – I have a gift card – and it looks like it would be absolutely delightful to read.

I also want to go over some structural changes I’ve been considering. Trekkiegirl, who chose Very Virile Viking for me, is going to give final thoughts and why she chose it for me (which I’m still waiting for but wedding planning is taking up a lot of our free time). To that note, I’m thinking maybe final thoughts for every book by the person who chose it for me, with a similar bit on why it was chosen.

Secondly, I think I’m going to start condensing the posts. There’s absolutely no reason why I had to go seven posts for Virile Viking; I can say what I need to say in two or three. Maybe even one, depending on the book.

I’m excited, this is going to be a lot of fun.


  1. The term “snark” of late has become a bit…hot-button, shall we say.

Final Thoughts – The Very Virile Viking

Well, I think this went fairly well for a first time out. I just want to thank you guys for being so supportive of this project, and giving me a chance to step outside my comfort zone and experience something new.

Taken from the standpoint of someone who had never read quote-unquote Romance Novels before, this book certainly opened my eyes, in ways I couldn’t have realized. Not the least of which was the whole “Rape Is Okay So Long As He Kisses You” aspect, which you all got to see me get blindsided with last month.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun book, and I quite enjoyed reading it (though not for the intended reasons, I’m sure). Don’t tell anyone, but I’m actually interested in looking through the other books in this series – which is apparently still ongoing, I saw one in the “New Paperbacks” shelf at Borders the other day – which means that I unfortunately can be counted in the masses of people hooked by the concept. I still can’t believe the mileage Sandra Hill has gotten out of a simple “There are Vikings, there are modern women, time travel happens and they have sex” concept, but I guess as long as you touch upon those core tenets, you’re pretty free to explore wherever you want. Thinking back on it, the possibilities are pretty much endless.

In fact, I’m going to try to come up with a couple ideas myself. Bear with me.

A journalist from a Big City Newspaper gets sucked into a time vortex and lands on an uncharted island. It’s not nearly as deserted as it appears, however; this island is the personal and private villa of a burly seafaring adventurer, whose desire for excitement and travelling the open seas is hampered only by his loneliness.

Does that sound good? How about another?

Jorgan Morganson thought he could do without women; his heart had been broken far too long. But when his ship gets blown off-course and he arrives in modern-day Texas, he gets swept away by a fun-loving cattle rancher, whose sense of adventure is second only to the size of her heart.

This is easier than I thought. One more as long as I’m on the subject!

Yolanda Johnson was at her normal job, when a tornado swept through her office building. Erik Ericsson had been enjoying a bit of leisure time after pillaging the Britons when a freak storm blew him away. Both of them find themselves on a desolate wasteland, seemingly for all eternity. Can they see past their differences and find their way home…and maybe TRUE LOVE?

Actually, now that I think about it, I wonder if she’s already done all these.

Anyway, this book is pretty much wish-fulfillment. Which is probably true of most romance novels, now that I think about it – I am speculating, of course, feel free to correct me if I am wrong on this – and it’s extremely obvious here, especially with how freaking convenient everything is. There’s no suspense, no real sense of worry about the characters at all; given the summary on the back, we know that Magnus is going to get swept into the future, and that he’s going to hook up with Angela.

And that’s really what’s wrong with the book, in my opinion. Since the entire thing is a foregone conclusion, there’s no point to any sort of tension between the characters. Even though Angela protests feeling anything towards Magnus at the beginning, it’s obvious she’s attracted, and there’s no point to her declaring otherwise. There’s no “other woman” or “other man” to cause friction between the two, there’s no star-crossed parting of the ways that might tear them apart later. Everything is engineered perfectly to get them together; hell, it’s Divine Intervention straight from the beginning.

Take a look at it a bit more closely; Angela is divorced, she needs someone who can provide for the vineyard and won’t cheat on her endlessly – and, if the subtext is anything to go by, someone who won’t beat her into submission. Magnus needs a woman who can handle his children and who won’t mind his insatiable love of farming. When Angela stresses about money, Magnus happens to have a chest full of antique coins that sell for thousands of dollars each. When someone tries to sabotage the farm, because there’s nobody there to stand up to bullying? Well, how about a giant norseman who’s ripped like Jesus?

That said, the thought behind it holds up, and that’s probably why all these people reading it have no problem with it. I’m extremely cynical, and I found a lot of this to be ridiculous and self-serving, but it’s also a bit touching. I mean, everyone’s had fantasies about The Perfect Person, who complements you in every way, who understands your needs and fulfills all of them. Emotionally, physically, and sexually, there’s a desire for That Person, and here they are. Angela and Magnus are exactly who they need to be for each other, even if they didn’t know it from the beginning, and that’s the draw. That’s the hook.

Bravo, Sandra Hill. As campy and ridiculous as this book was, I understand it, and I applaud you for your audacity, even if that was not your intent. I’m almost certain you take your writing extremely seriously, and that’s fine; I’m not going to step on your toes. It’s not my cup of tea, but that’s not the point of this blog, is it?

After all, now I know the proper way to deal with feminazis.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlsSyQH0gu8]

Interlude: Let Me Tell You, Internets

Or, Rape Forceful Seduction Culture And You: A Post By Someone Who Didn’t Know Much About It Before Now

Alright, Internets. Let’s chat. I want to get back into The Funny – and I read ahead a little bit, there’s definitely The Funny to get back into – but I really need to get this out of my system first.

Gather ’round, and get something to snack on, ’cause I’ve needed to work something out for myself.

Got it? Good.

I had a minor rageout on the last installment of Very Virile Viking: A Voracious and Vivid Viewing of, to use the Vernacular, a Veritable Volume of the Vocation of a Venerated Vocabularian. (Damnit, I know that last one isn’t a word but I’m doing this off the top of my head and can’t think of a proper V-synonym for writer.)

It occurs to me (read: it has been pointed out to me) that the subject matter – that of the dividing line between forceful seduction and rape fantasy – has been a staple of romance novels for a long time. This is, of course, news to me, seeing as this is the first romance novel I’ve ever seriously read, and I had always assumed the term “Bodice Rippers” meant simply that the lovemaking was so passionate that there was collateral damage to various bits of clothing.

Continue reading

Update and Title Revealed!

Sorry about the month-long quiet. Things have been hectic, and there have been issues in finding the copy of the book that Trekkiegirl has selected for the first review. She very specifically wants one book in particular, and now has it on order for this purpose.

I do want to reveal the first book reviewed, though, in anticipation of its arrival. Thus, the first book that will be done here on Straight Guy Reviews of Bad Romance Novels will be…

*drumroll*

The Very Virile Viking by Sandra Hill.

Ladies and gentlemen, let it be known that I have absolutely no foreknowledge about this book, save that it apparently is about a viking who is good at having sex and/or siring children. All I really do know is that Trekkiegirl has been foaming at the mouth for me to cover this.

I hope you guys enjoy it. I’ll have more news when it arrives!

The Project Begins

First off, I’d like to thank Trekkiegirl for winning the auction that starts this project. As many of you know, Trekkiegirl is my girlfriend, and the original inspiration for this project. The concept started out as a donation incentive for Made of Fail – and may become so in the near future – but it was shelved while I had other projects to begin and maintain. Then Emily needed money for her eyes, and a fandom auction was set up to help, and I realized that this was the perfect thing to auction to help.

Trekkiegirl placed the top bid and won it on her own merit. This also solves the problem of finding the chosen book for the review, as she collects the damn things for fun.

As of this moment, I am awaiting her choice. She is taking her time, making sure that the first Bad Romance Novel I am subjected to is a memorable one. Once she does, I’ll make the announcement and begin the review.

I highly doubt my sanity will remain intact.