Bitchin' Blog Posts
Title: Soulful Strut
Author: Lynn Emery
Publication Info: Harper Torch 2006
Genre: Contemporary Romance
I tried very hard to get through this book, but when I reached page 100 and still wanted to throttle the heroine, her mother, her roommates, and everyone else, I had to put it down. Between the frustrating and unreliable heroine and the wooden ancillary characters, I’d had enough.
The heroine, Monette Victor, has just been released from prison after new evidence of bribery and extortion in her prosecution revealed that she had been framed for the murder for which she was convicted. She’d maintained all along that she was innocent and set up, but because of her less-than-stellar lifestyle as a mistress and wayward parent, she was convicted with little effort, particularly after the district attorney pressured other witnesses to falsely implicate her. She wrote a book in jail and became famous because she spilled all the dirt on the district attorney who framed her, because by that time, he was the state Attorney General. The resulting scandal caused him to resign - and Monette to go free.
It was relatively easy to find all the backstory details that set up the present novel, because they’re all on page 6 in a big fat info dump. How convenient.
In a nutshell: here’s the pattern of the heroine’s thought process.
Jail and my life experiences have taught me to be strong! And clever! And made me a whole new person!
But I’m a bad person who doesn’t deserve all the things that have happened to me. I’ve made some bad choices.
But my release from prison gives me a chance to build myself into a new confident woman!
But I’m not confident; I’ve caused a lot of harm and my children hate me. I’ve made some bad choices.
But everyone in this halfway house should go to college! We all have potential! I’m great! You’re great! We’re all great!
I’m not. I’ve made some bad choices.
I’m not. I’ve made some bad choices.
Seriously, if you scanned this book and did a CTRL-F for “bad choices,” I’m betting you’d find at least four uses of the pair in each chapter. The reader does see some of Monette’s bad choices, or hear about them as she tells someone else at length what they were, but the reader also sees that some of those bad choices result from not ridding herself of a slew of negative influences, even as she counsels others to do the same. Just saying she’s made bad choices doesn’t give me any sympathy for her when she continues to follow the same path.
There’s no initial explanation of what happened in jail to give her this insight into her own flaws, or what happened to put her at war with her own confidence, so all I had in the hundred or so pages was an annoying character who didn’t seem real or consistent. Add to that a love interest who is stuck in some wooden and terribly trite dialogue exchanges, and some cliche jealous women who embrace stereotypes with loving precision, and I had to put the book down.
The dialogue between characters, particularly the protagonists, was equally frustrating. Sometimes it was cardboard platitudes, sometimes it was phrases that wouldn’t roll naturally out of anyone’s mouth, and sometimes it was info-dumping. I couldn’t believe any of the characters because the dialogue wasn’t moving the story forward so much as filling in the past, or circling in the present.
Furthermore, the events in the heroine’s life were improbable as well. She walks out of jail, checks into the halfway house, appears on the morning news, then lands a job hosting her own mid-day talk show on a talk radio station. Because people who write books automatically do well on the radio?
What disappointed me most was that cover to plot summary, this book could have been great. The cover is exceptionally sexy - a woman’s legs walking up stairs in gold d’Orsay heels? Wow. And the plot summary holds an incredible amount of potential. An innocent woman who hadn’t lead a most honorable life sent to jail for years for a crime she didn’t commit (though she was guilty of a slew of much lesser crimes) is released because of her own bravery in telling the truth of her own story, even the unflattering part, and thus has a chance to rebuild her life? And to do so she has to balance her sense of innocence and her sense of guilt while ridding herself of people who only want her money or fame but give her nothing in return? Could be amazing. But it wasn’t. It was trite, stereotypical, wooden, boring, irritating and disappointing.