This is Nalini Singh’s foray into contemporary romance, first in a series. I received my copy from Net Galley. I don’t know if it’s a DNF. I kind of hopped skipped and jumped. I certainly did not read it all cover to cover. Is there a DNRTM (Did Not Read The Middle) designation? Right now in romance, certain things seem very popular. Little sexual tension and lots of sex scenes, bad boy “bro gangs” (bikers, assassins, rockers, etc.), highly emotional protagonists with high conflict. I think to some extent the popularity of New Adult, which features some of these things, has bled over into contemporary romance. In fact, Rock Addiction reads like an NA to me. Everything is super dramatic and the heroine is youngish (twenty-four, just getting started with her career, still not really emotionally emancipated from her family of origin). To see if I was just confused (I’ve only read about a dozen NA books), I checked Goodreads and Amazon reviews, and my sense that this could be shelved in NA is shared by a lot of other readers.
I had a hard time with the book from the beginning. As in Fifty Shades of Grey, we just have to accept that a regular young woman, a librarian, walks into a room and does this to a gorgeous, rich, successful, world famous rock star:
Her smile smashed into him with stunning force. Her heard nothing of the party around him, saw no one but her. … Then she laughed and the sound was chains around his heart, a thousand guitar strings pulling tight. It hurt and it was beautiful.
Aestheticized emotional agony, another hallmark of NA. I thought I was in the mood for this kind of larger than life love story, but I wasn’t. When less than halfway through the book Molly leaves her home and follows Fox to his LA life, she says, “Fox is the only reason I’m here — he’s become my home… I don’t need anything else” and all I could think was, “Oh, honey. No.” It’s funny, but for all of the words in the text that signify high conflict, this romance was actually very low in conflict. They both fell fast and hard for each other. The bulk of the tale (besides the many sex scenes) was Molly getting used to Fox’s superstar existence, which was handled way more realistically than any other romance with this theme that I’ve read. This isn’t badly written by any means, but it’s a romance that caters to a specific kind of of-the-moment taste. Which isn’t, I guess, mine.
I got this on audio, and also own the digital version. I stopped at the half way point. It’s the third book in Chase’s Dressmakers series, but the first I’ve tried. I found myself very bored with this one. Leonie Noirot is a dressmaker from France who has a shop in London. She meets Simon Blair, Marquess of Lisburne. He decides to seduce her, I guess because she’s pretty. She resists for a while. There was nothing especially interesting about either of these two. He was supposed to be a charming rake and she was supposed to be uptight and focused on business, and on her “home for unwanted girls”, but the conflict just didn’t generate sparks. I became frustrated when it looked like Leonie was in dire financial straits because in the previous two books her sisters married a duke and an earl, respectively. Couldn’t they help her out? Especially since they were ostensibly still working at the dress shop after marriage (a nod to modern sensibilities, I guess). Where were they? Also, the fact that her two sisters just married up should have made Leonie think a good marriage to Simon was possible, but no, she was convinced that all aristocrats are selfish. Like Singh, Chase is an author who knows how to write, who has written some of the best romances I’ve ever read. There is truly nothing wrong with this book. It’s well-written and written for intelligent readers, but it just didn’t hold my interest. It’s the kind of DNF that makes me worry I may be done with romance, not just with a specific type of romance.
My third and final DNF. I like reading memoirs, and I have a special weakness for trashy ones. I’m not kidding. One of the most satisfying reading experiences of last year was Brandi Glanville’s Drinking and Tweeting, and I couldn’t even tell you why she’s famous. I never listened to Motley Crue (or any of the “hair metal” bands), but I grew up in the 1980s and I thought this memoir, written in chapters rotating from the four band members’ points of view, looked interesting. I did actually find the early chapters intriguing. But once they hit the LA scene, it was the misogyny that killed me. I’ve read rock bios and memoirs before, but nothing that catalogues episode after episode of disrespect and abuse of women they way this one does. From the story of the time one guy left a women he was fucking in a dark closet and asked a fellow band member to take his place without telling her, to the one where a guy was in the hot tub with his chick and a bunch of other men, and forced her to go down on all of them, to the girl who got puked on by a band member and then had sex with him, to the many women who had telephones, guitar heads, and whatever else was at hand, shoved up their vaginas and anuses … I just felt sick reading it. What finally did me in was not actually a story about women but the story from 1984 about when the lead singer drove drunk and killed his friend, the passenger, as well as grievously, probably permanently, brain injured two teenagers in an oncoming car. Rather than feeling bad about it, he referred to it as “an accident.” The Dirt was published in 2001, so these morons had twenty odd years to reflect and grow. Which they did not. I regret buying this book.
I’ve actually had a number of good reading experiences in the last month, which I hope to write about in another post. But I’ll just mention one now. On Wednesday I went to visit my hospice friend, who has been an avid reader all her life. She turns 99 in two days, so that’s a long life of reading. She usually has a National Geographic or a Christian novel on her lap when I see her. The other day, she was asleep, and what did I find on her lap? THIS!
It’s a Zebra Heartfire romance from 1989 by LaRee Bryant. You know, the ones with the covers that make you dizzy if you look at them for too long. Here’s the blurb:
Jordan St Clair had come to South America to find her fiance and break her engagement, but when the overbearing guide she’d hired refused to lead her through the steamy jungle, she demanded her money back. To her surprise the handsome adventurer agreed to fulfill their bargain on one condition. She’d do exactly as he said. Well, no man was going to rule her, but once the expedition began, she couldn’t deny that the great white hunter evoked spine-tingling fantasies that made her blood race with desire. And before this trip was over, she was determined that her sweet imaginings would become reality…
I read about 30 pages while my friend napped. It seemed written for an audience that was … not highly literate. And it had that wacky sense of adventure that seems more common in some of the older historical romances. Those Zebra Heartfires were set every which place (in the Americas?) with all kinds of nutty plots and exactly one kind of heroine and one kind of hero. I think every single blurb refers to the heroine as a “vixen,” and most contain words like “willful”, “impetuous”, “fiesty”, “defiant”, and “provocative.” Heroes are “renegades”, “rebels”, often pirates, spies, or soldiers, always, always, “arrogant.” These books wear their gender power struggles on their jackets. Definitely old school but with a lot of charm.
See? I can write a blog post. I just need a three day weekend!