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Impromptu Review of a Really Awful Book

Saturday, August 05, 2006
I picked up this book as a freebie in the Goody Room at the RWA National Conference this year. The publisher (who shall remain nameless because I have dear friends who have written for them) had four titles to choose from and, as this one was a Medieval, I thought I'd give it a try.

I should start with the positive. The writing is technically adequate. The author can write. She can tell a story and she followed the basic parameters of a plot arc. Well done. She doesn't seem to have any sort of handle on POV, seeing as she tells it from at least six different heads, but most readers will never notice.

The external plot was a bit contrived, but I could work around it. Betrayal and political machinations in the time of William of Normandy. I don't know that era of history very well, but it seemed workable enough.

The characters?

Muh. Gawd.

I'm almost speechless, but not quite. I retain enough ability to say that rarely have I encountered a sluttier heroine. Seriously.

I've read just enough erotica to know that the heroines are, for the most part, women of varied and willing experience. They like sex. A lot. That's fine. I can even admire it in some characters.

But the reason it ticks me off in this story is that the entire way through the book, the author is swearing up and down that this chick is innocent, sweet, and damn near virginal, despite the fact that she had been the hero's lover several years before and was now married.

Virginal? I don't think so.

I also think the author forgot the details of the backstory between hero and heroine. First, the heroine is convent raised, then she's a serf, then she's part of some Saxon resistance wherein she and two of her friends tied the hero spread eagle to a tree and proceeded to use a "bone phallus" on him. Let's say it together now -- eeeewwwww.

So by the time I piece together the fragments of backstory, I'm already pretty sure she's no innocent.

She *ahem* performs oral sex on her husband, whom she really doesn't like, like a pro, and I mean the "pay by the hour" type of pro. (Hey Divas, remember the finger in the "special place"? That's him.) Then she boinks the hero standing up in the hall about 10 minutes later. Throughout the course of the book, she also seduces a young squire (Poor guy. He gets to recreate the hero's Saxon humiliation -- entirely against his will -- and then proceeds to forgive his torturer and be a loyal spy for him. Yeah right.), lets the hero's loyal bodyguard do her in *her* "special place" while the hero watches as he screws the villainess, and she seduces a mentally deficient mute. The last one she could have escaped, but he had a really big dick, so what the hell, right?

I'm still not getting innocent, virginal vibes off this girl. Are you?

Then there's the villainess, who is naturally into bondage and domination. Her punishment at the end of the book is letting three guys do her in public. Hello? That's like an ordinary Saturday night for her! Not much of a punishment, really.

The other woman in this book is so unutterably stupid I'm suprised she can undo her own corset laces. Oh wait. She has men falling at her feet to do that for her. Apparently, she can captivate men with her boobs. I kid you not. That's her only attribute, as far as I can see. She seduces three novice monks into screwing each other (A candle was involved. More ick), and generally has a merry old time with the hero's bodyguard. You remember him. He gave it to the heroine while the hero watched.

And this just kills me. TSTL chick is an heiress who runs away from her parents to follow the hero, to whom she's engaged, but she ends up engaged to the bodyguard, who's a Moor! Daddy will be so pleased. Not to be un-PC about it, but let's try to work in just a page or two of reality here. Just for kicks and giggles.

The only female character I halfway liked was a servant so butt-ugly men would only do her if she was facing away or they were wearing a blindfold. Again, not kidding.

The hero is, as far as I could tell at all, an unredeemable asshole. Of the six POVs, none of them was his. He tortures his squire, he boinks everything with boobs, he pretends to be a traitor and locks the heroine up with the well-endowed mute. Oh yeah. He's a real prize winner.

And all without any readily obvious motivation because the author won't let us see into his head.

On a totally unrelated note, this is one of the things that bothers me about most 1st person writing from the heroine's POV. When (never if, but when) the hero acts like a big jerk, I want to know why. But I never get to know until the very end of the story, and I'm still holding a grudge against him for his assholian behaviour, so I can't invest in the HEA.

Anyway, if I were to seriously review this story, I'd give it about 1 star. And that, only because the author has a good grasp of grammar and vocabulary. The story was terrible.

I'm going to get hammered for this, aren't I? Ah well. Too bad. The book deserved the panning.
8/05/2006 07:55:00 PM : : Sela Carsen : : 18 Comments

18 Comments:

Yikes.

By Anonymous raine, at 9:39 PM  

Well, at least she has good grammar.

By Blogger Jaye Wells, at 12:30 AM  

Wow. I'm speechless.
I totally agree with you about POV. I like having the Hero's POV so I don't hate him. I have as many as three or four POV. I think I had six in the first draft of my first ms. It got tore up GOOD at the RD contest--as it should have been.
I've never liked heroines that sleep with anyone other than the hero. Does that make me old fashioned? Probably.

By Blogger Jen, at 9:06 AM  

Muh. Gawd.

By Blogger Bernita, at 9:43 AM  

Eeesh.

If that herione is virginal, I am too. :)

By Blogger Eva Gale, at 10:05 AM  

Eva, *snicker* I don't know. Are you sure you didn't concieve immaculately all those times?

Bernita, you said a mouthful.

Jen, I think I agree with you. And because this was set up as a romance, not just a "sexual journey" story, it made it even worse.

Jaye, I almost feel bad about saying that. If that isn't the most backhanded compliment to a writer, I don't know what is.

Raine, I'll see your "yikes" and raise you a "shudder."

By Blogger Sela Carsen, at 10:23 AM  

"Muh. Gawd.

I'm almost speechless, but not quite. I retain enough ability to say..."


LOL! I thought you said there was a plot arc? Sounds like a mess.

By Blogger Jaye, at 10:31 AM  

In general, it was a mess, but the external plot moved steadily forward, built to a climax (suddenly that word feels dirty) and had a resolution. But only the external, historical part.

By Blogger Sela Carsen, at 10:52 AM  

Ha! This post was so entertaining I had to read it to my husband, who WAS speechless and just shook his head. *snicker* I sincerly hope I never accidentally buy that book. Eep!

By Blogger Angela James, at 11:03 AM  

Message in Morse:

Send three punts and a canoe.

Reply message:

We got the young ladies all right, but what's a panoe?
.......

I'd say send both heroine and villainess here to Toronto.
Could use.

Advise villainess not to get into too much heavy bondage.
Old wife used to beat me with guitar strings. I didn't like it.

ROLFMAO

By Blogger ivan, at 1:55 PM  

Angie, it was like watching a train wreck -- I was horrified, but through the squick factor, I kept laughing in that "Can it get much worse?" kind of way. And yes, it got a LOT worse!

Ivan, these women were so downright skanky, I wouldn't give 'em away if I could. I don't think I can even take this book to the UBS to exchange.

By Blogger Sela Carsen, at 5:33 PM  

Oh Lord, Sela, if I could care enough, I'd work up some outrage, but I'm too busy laughing at your fabulous review.

Honestly. What are some people like??

By Blogger Anna Lucia, at 6:01 PM  

That was one of the most entertaining posts I've read in a LONG time. Thank you for the giggle...

And I'm sure Ivan isn't the only one wanting a little of that skank action *please know what a skank is...* Men can be so indiscriminant in their choosing of a sex partner - although it sounds more like a slave to me LOL

By Blogger Jacqui D., at 10:36 PM  

Glad you enjoyed it, Anna and Jacqui. I just couldn't keep this stinker to myself and had to share it with the world.

By Blogger Sela Carsen, at 8:20 AM  

Coming in late to say that it was a very amusing review.
What was the editor thinking of when she acquired it?
call me old fashioned but I do prefer one man/one woman.

By Blogger Michelle Styles, at 12:49 PM  

OMG, I read that book! A friend gave it to me, because it was a gift to her and she'd never read it. I was, to say the least, appalled at what I'd read. You are definitely right.

It has to be the same book, though I don't remember the title or author (thank heaven). There's no way that any other book fits that description! I remember almost every single thing you noted!

By Blogger Teresa D'Amario, at 11:30 PM  

I read the sequel to that. (I can tell from the backstory) It was just as bad.

By Blogger Seeley deBorn, at 12:45 PM  

Egads, there was a sequel? Mayhaps we could convince Sela to read that for a review too, because the review is infinitely more enjoyable than the book.

By Anonymous Leigh Royals, at 11:54 AM  

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