"Don't ask me what I think of you / I might not give the answer that you want me to." - Peter Green
Just a few chapters into a highly anticipated new book I find myself wanting to abandon it. A major issue I have with The Numeric Book and The Series That Inspired It is the toxic power dynamic of the lead couples. Many years ago (when I was reviewing erotica) I realized that reality has no place in getting your freak on. If something is possible, if something is plausible, if something is healthy is irrelevant. Humans are aroused by things that would be toxic to their daily life. I get that. Much like science fiction and fantasy, erotica has it's own physics. Popular literary fiction thrives on dysfunction. The sicker the better. (Raped by your dad? Add a dead cousin and a teen pregnancy! It's all so meaningful!) I've been around a few blocks. Each has it's customs. Which is why this book is making me so sad.
It's all 1978 up in here. Our heroine has a dead fiance. She wants to go cry at his grave because she didn't give it up before he left. She asks around for a fairly safe ship to travel on, seeing as her plan involves boarding it with only her maid for protection. (She's not even planning on a passenger ship. Her faith in her fellow man is really touching.) The ship she's chosen refuses her. The captain tells her he'd like to have sex with her. So she runs off to try every other ship in port. All of them refuse her because the captain has offered double her cash to anyone who does. Since there could be hundreds of ships in port, he could (in theory) have pledged 40,000 pounds to keep her on shore. That's like, 100 million dollars. Ok, so already we're in unreasonable territory. Even if there were only a handful of ships in port, it is insane that our hero would offer up a ton of cash to thwart the travel plans of a women he spoke to for less than five minutes. In that five minute conversation she told him she wanted to go see her fiance and he decided he had to bang her. At this point our hero is an unbalanced rapist creep. Our heroine never gives him her name. He has her followed. He approaches people for information about her. He sneaks into her bedroom to confront her. Her reaction to a man who has stalked her and invaded her home is not fear. She's angry. How dare he thwart her plans! So she's either equally insane or just too stupid to live. If the guy at Hertz refused to rent you a car unless you rocked his world then let himself into your house without so much as knowing your name, I don't think you'd cozy up for a chat. I don't care how great the TripAdvisor reviews for Hertz were, that shit is scary.
Our hero tells the heroine that he wants to bang her omgsobad. However! He will settle for a kiss at his time of choosing on said voyage. But she will be sleeping in his room, of course. Our heroine says "That's a deal, sir." and off to sea she goes. (She thinks only ugly guys rape women.) Can we back it up a second? A guy she has barely spoken to tracked down her identity, invaded her privacy, restricted her options, showed no respect for her choices and demonstrated serious control issues but he offers her his word and she's good to go? What? In the real world she gets raped and tossed to the fishes without anyone ever being the wiser. In fact, in the real world she disappears from her bedroom then and there. Creepy Stalker Dude is Creepy Stalker Dude in any time period. Instead she slaps him and he sorrowfully takes it. Which proves he's ok. (Oh hi, abuse dynamics. I knew you weren't far behind. What took you so long? The hero and heroine have exchanged at least twelve sentences by now.) Everyone knows a real creepy abusive stalker rapist dude would never tolerate a slap to the face or express conditional remorse. We're all good now!
So at this point in the book we know these things. The heroine finds the hero trustworthy, based on nothing. She's already thinking about how she didn't give it up to her dead fiance so she sure as hell isn't giving it up to this guy, unless she maybe does, but she won't because dead fiance is dead! The hero is thinking he has to bang her like he's never banged anything so he better keep her penned in and get it fast - after she hooks up with fiance guy she's going to cool down and be sexually unavailable. Who wouldn't want to read more? (THIS GIRL!) Ok, I'm not being fair. We also know that the hero has brothers with whom he has a completely inexplicable relationship. The interactions between the hero and his brothers make as little sense as the relationship between the hero and heroine. There is a lot going on in the author's head, but it isn't making it's way to the page. So I'm sad. I'm sad because this favorite author is turning in a wallbanger of a book. I'm sad that the rapetastic stalker hero of the 1970's is back. I'm sad that this romance isn't between two flawed people but between the pheromones of a Magic Vagina and a Conquering Dick. I'm sad because there are days I feel like the only reader who wants my romance to be romantic instead of training wheels for erotica. I'm sad because I'm going to have to slam this book when I rate it and the ensuing outrage is going to annoy me.
Here's the thing about reviewers. We want to like your book. We try to like your book. If you promise me Super Emo Guy but deliver Crazy Eyed Date Rapist, we can't be friends. I have to love myself before I can love your book. Ok then. I'm glad we talked. I'm going to go finish it before the TruFans realize which title I'm talking about.