Last weekend, I was in that familiar situation of book bloggers everywhere: 500 titles on my Kindle, and nothing to read. I decided to have a gander at the list of authors attending the Romantic Times convention this year, and pick a book by a new-to-me author. Being methodical, I decided to start with “A” authors, and, after being sorely tempted by a “groomsman by day/earl’s daughter by night” ploy, bought instead Melody Anne’s Surrender for free. I had never heard of the book or the author, but she’s a NY Times and USA today bestselling self-published writer … and not much else. Seriously, it’s the oddest author website I’ve come across. There is no “bio” or “about” page. There’s no picture. Nothing.
Here’s what the “About” blurb on her Facebook page says:
Author of both Romance and Young Adult Books. Newest Release is Scorched book four.
Over 3 million books sold.
She has a street team called “Melody’s Muses,” and some nephews. That’s all I can figure out. Still, Surrender had 750 reviews on Amazon, with a four star average, and 5000 Goodreaders can’t be wrong, can they? Plus, did I mention? It was free.
I was about halfway through this 430 page 50 Shades Lite when I realized, with my romance reader’s inner ear for balance and timing, that this relationship was not going to work itself out by the end. Outraged, I immediately went to Amazon for moral support, and discovered many fellow purchasers, some who paid actual money, felt the same way:
Yes, I had seen the all-caps “THIS IS BOOK ONE IN A FOUR BOOK SERIES” but, I mean, I read series. I know what a series is. Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Chicago Stars, Meljean Brook’s Guardians, Victoria Dahl’s Jackson series. To me, “four book series” = “one world, and four couples who are related in some way in that world.”
Oh what a painful, yet free, lesson I learned.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. This is the story of a billionaire and a college student. He’s ruthless, gorgeous, and turned off love by a tragic past. He also thinks ominous-sounding things like that he will “initiate her into his world.” She’s naive, vulnerable, inexplicably attractive, and very occasionally, when the author requires the book not to end, possessed of a steely self-respect few women can claim in the face of such tantalizing offers as “sign this contract and be my mistress and whatever else I need for three months after which I dump you back in the gutter you came from,” or “be my mistress or else I kick your dying mother out of the hospital I own and even out of her house which I secretly bought.” I know what you’re thinking: how can she resist a man who repeats, from the first chapter to the last (some might call this “stalled character for the purpose of dragging out the series for four books” but I choose to call it “undiagnosed learning disorder”) variations on “it will be a great pleasure for me to break your spirit”(that last is a direct quote).
You might think I objected to this book because I don’t like certain things. Like a lack of humility bordering on “what is he compensating for?”
There’s a line of women who would literally kill to be in the position you’re in.”
Anne, Melody (2013-03-29). Surrender (Kindle Locations 464-465). Gossamer Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Or pickup lines that just don’t seem like they would be super effective:
“Just remember that when you play with me — you will lose.”
Anne, Melody (2013-03-29). Surrender (Kindle Location 1152). Gossamer Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Or heroes who swear off love and judge all women to be whores after exactly one woman treats them badly:
It seemed all women had a purpose, and it was fueled by their greed.
Anne, Melody (2013-03-29). Surrender (Kindle Location 242). Gossamer Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Or heroes who unironically chase strange women down the street because they might not be safe from strange men…er… chasing them:
“You can either come with me willingly, or I’m going to pick you up, toss you over my shoulder and drag you back to the restaurant. It’s your choice,” he said brutally.
Anne, Melody (2013-03-29). Surrender (Kindle Locations 916-917). Gossamer Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Or who make coercive offers:
“If you choose self-pity, you’re free to go, with no one to worry about but yourself. You can feel sorry for yourself about the situation you’re in and try to put back the pieces of your shattered life, or you can choose love — love for the mother who raised you. I neither want nor need your love, so don’t ever get the idea that this will lead to more than what it is. You will be my mistress and nothing more. I tried love once, and got nothing but affliction for my efforts. Make your decision quickly because I have a long flight ahead of me and work to do.”
“I need time…”
“Your time is up. You can exit the way you came in. Or you can take yourself back to my bedroom and strip. Your training will begin immediately.”
Ari held back the tears of anger as she turned away from him. She was faced with an impossible choice. She couldn’t sign her life over to him — but she couldn’t leave her mother to die.
Anne, Melody (2013-03-29). Surrender (Kindle Locations 4589-4598). Gossamer Publishing. Kindle Edition.
But what I really objected to was that the heroine’s mother awakened from a long coma caused by head trauma with 100% cognitive recovery and no residual effects. Well, except for the stage four cancer they coincidentally discover right at that moment. The doctor tells the heroine that mom will almost certainly die unless she has a surgery that will almost definitely not save her. There is no discussion of whether it’s really a good idea for someone in this woman’s condition to subject herself to invasive surgery and complex uncertain recovery in what are almost certainly the last weeks of her life. I realize this was necessary to galvanize the plot, but the bioethicist in me couldn’t soldier on.