The story starts out so cool, and I was anticipating something truly different and amazing. In the heroine, I got some of that. In the hero and the plot, I got All Of The Cliches. All of them. I am NOT KIDDING.
So please be aware, This Review Is Most Spoilery. I couldn't present the depth of amazing cliche without explaining them, so there is a LOT revealed. BE YE WARNED.
Grace Farrell has come to the tropical resort on the island of Alleria under false pretenses: she's a scientist. A research scientist. A supremely brainy child prodigy holds-four-PhDs-that-she-earned-at-the-same-time when-did-she-sleep research scientist. Her research focuses on a specific type of spore that shares some microscopic traits with humans.
Grace needs more spores to study because the ones she has are not as robust as the ones on the island, plus there's some scuzzy guy back home who is making career trouble for her AND she needs research grant money to continue her efforts, which may cure all kinds of human diseases, so she is hot on the trail of these spores. The spores are Supremely Important Spores on all kinds of levels.
So Grace gets a job as a cocktail waitress, something she has no experience with in the least, which allows her mornings free to Super Spore hunt, and then afternoons and evenings are spent cocktail waitressing while the Super Spores chill in her room. Literally. She's got a whole lab set up in there, pretty much.
On the surface, Grace seems like an innovative and interesting character. She's lived most of her life in a lab, so she's not really sure how to interact with people, but she's very sharp and thinks of most situations as a puzzle to be solved.
For example, in an opening scene, she drops an entire tray of drinks on the floor of the bar (oops). Grace recognizes that she underestimated the difficulties of being a cocktail waitress (yeah, really?) and is determined to figure out the maximum balance arrangement for the tray. She tries a spatial arrangement based on planetary orbit patterns in one scene.
And her Super Spores sound really kind of Super Cool:
“…the mitochondria found within the spore cells contained a rare type of phytohormone that carried potential medical applications. Her latest experiments had proven that these hormones could have an adverse effect on human cancer cells….”
If there were heavy science through the rest of the book, I'd have been so intrigued. Alas it was not to be. Instead, after a very interesting beginning, I found myself lost on The Island of Cliches.
The bar scene where Grace drops all the drinks is where the first of the cliches show up, and they line up like landing guides on a runway, one after the other.
There's a huge crash when those drinks hit the ground, which brings Logan, one of the two resort owners, to investigate. He finds all the waitstaff quietly helping Grace, worried for her. Then he watches as she's not only aided by the surly bartender and the jaded waitresses but also tipped heavily by the guy whose drink she spilled.
It's unreal. A few hours into her job and she is a Princess Classic without being the actual princess part. Maybe her brain is the royal part.
But she is so marvelously charming and adorable, everyone loves her. Everyone. Even though there's no real explanation as to why they do, or what she's done except be klutzy to earn their regard. She is kind and good and just wonderful and everyone adores her, so of course the hero is suspicious of her – anyone who drops drinks like that isn't experienced, and they only hire experienced waitresses at his resort, so off to his office she goes for a good scolding.
Grace is also a “classic redhead with a peaches-and-cream complexion and a light dusting of freckles across her nose.”
Of course she is.
And of course she charms Logan, too, by waxing poetic about her Super Spores. Honestly, by about 3/4ths of the way through the book, I cared more about her relationship with the spores than I did about her relationship with Logan.
Logan is dense alpha male personified, wonderfully inconsistent and made up entirely of cliches. In one scene, he ruminates on the heartbreak of losing his wife in a car accident which occurred while she was on her way to see her lover, “some clown that had worked in the twin brothers' accounting office.” The loss was so brutal “he thought he might die along with her.” (Still Grieving for Lost Wife? CHECK.)
(Yes, Logan is a twin. That becomes VERY IMPORTANT LATER in SHOCKING and AMAZING WAYS.)
But of course, after that, and by “after” I mean “on the next page,” Logan starts ruminating on the guilt he feels about his wife, that he'd “never really loved her anyway” and that “he just wasn't capable of love – and that was fine with him.”
Wow! A cliche twofer! We start off with He's Not Capable of Love due to his Still Grieving, but with a side-order of He Never Really Loved His Wife, which makes room for a future edition of Nothing Compares to the Love He Feels for the Heroine.
Awesome. Like runway landing lights guiding the story, I swear.
Moving on: Logan is of course a bit of a stud. A LOT of a bit of a stud:
“Women were in plentiful supply and he certainly enjoyed them. A lot. The more the merrier. But that didn't mean he would ever fall in love, and he sure as hell would never trust another woman again.”
Grab another lightbulb for the runway, we've got He'll Never Trust Women Because of One Bad Experience!
Nothing like hot sexy misogyny with a lot of sexual experience, because after all, when you mistrust all women, the more the merrier!
And, when you mistrust all women and are fascinated by your new universally beloved Princess Nerd cocktail waitress, of course you Jump to Wildly Erroneous Conclusions.
In one scene, Logan overhears Grace kindly consoling a woman who is crying in the lobby of the hotel. He stands by and eavesdrops as Grace draws some sort of diagram, saying, “So if he spends more time right here at this spot…. I think you'll be very happy.”
Later, the woman comes running up to Grace, thanking her and announcing that she had multiple orgasms, all because of Grace's diagram.
You know where that's going, right? Sexy knowledge = experience. Grace is a scientist, and Logan knows this, but he assumes she's all kinds of experienced. She knows about the G-spot! She can scientifically describe erogenous zones!
So, she's super smart and has four PhDs! That doesn't mean she's had sex.
Except in The Island of Cliche, sexual knowledge MUST mean sexual experience. Because here at The Island of Cliche, we Jump to Conclusions.
Logan is also an ass man. How do I know this? He spends a lot of his internal monologue noticing her backside. Her “world-class” backside.
And that there's the biggest problem I had with Logan: he's openly interested in Grace, and the fact that he fires her, then allows her to continue her job grudgingly and that she is, for all intents and purposes, his employee, does not bother him morally in the slightest when he pursues her sexually.
His blithe ignorance of their employer/employee arrangement and his later excuse for his conduct is repulsive. It makes him seem mercenary and callous. When he does question what he's doing, “thinking of her in terms of a sex partner” (and how's that for romantic terminology?) his reasons for questioning his own interest rest on the fact that she'd lied on her job application and broken his glassware and NOT that she's his employee. Clearly this guy has had NO HR training whatsoever.
Or at least no idea of the myriad problems that could fall on his dumb head for so clumsily demonstrating his sexual pursuit.
Here's Logan thinking about Grace (Aidan, by the way, is the twin):
Logan sort of admired her quirky but logical way of thinking, even when it drove him nuts. And he admitted, there was the basic fact that the woman was gorgeous.
“And scheming, and a liar,” he added aloud, then shook his head in defeat. The schemes and lies didn't seem to matter. He still wanted to bury himself inside her….
He clawed his hands through his hair in frustration. Hell yeah, he was distracted, as Aidan had been quick to notice. But he was also discreet. Aidan would be the only person in the world who would have ever heard it in his voice. He didn't want or need anyone on his staff knowing his personal business….
The main thing was, he didn't want Grace's reputation damaged. Not that he particularly cared about the woman one way or the other. He just wanted her. Once he had her, all these idiotic distractions would fade away….
Still hasn't crossed Logan's mind that bonking an employee is a bad idea. Later, one of the bar waitresses decides to give Grace a mini course in the drinks she's serving, since Grace hasn't really tried anything alcoholic in her life. You can see where this is going: Grace gets super hammered, is very cute and adorable as a drunk, and passes out, conveniently with Logan.
He carries her back to her room, puts her on the bed, notices that she's got Bunsen Honeydew's lab times ten in her room, and turns his attentions back to her:
“She would probably freak out when she woke up in the morning and realized that her boss had been the one who'd carried her to bed.
She wore cropped pants and a thin blouse, and he wondered the idea of taking her clothes off. She would sleep better wearing just her underwear, right?
He enjoyed the image of her waking up and seeing herself in panties and a bra. How quickly would she grasp that it had been Logan who'd undressed her?
Ah, well, it was a nice fantasy. One he wouldn't be carrying out tonight.
But soon. Very soon.
This time, though, he would allow her to keep her clothes on because that's the kind of guy he was.”
What kind of guy is that, exactly? Creepy Douchebag Boss? That wasn't hot – that was creepy.
Grace, for her part, slowly devolves into part cliche, part plot device. She's torn between her attraction to Logan and the real reason she's on the island – the Super Spores (who, if you ask me, treat her a lot better than Logan does). So she decides not to act on her attraction to Logan and focus on the spores and her new best friend. She has three or so scenes with Dee the waitress, but Dee is someone she “already felt so close to” and “Grace didn't know what she'd do without Dee, once she went back to Minnesota.”
Then comes the big neanderthal scene where Logan walks into the busy cocktail bar one evening, and of course She can Sense his Presence. No one else notices, but he “stared at her with an intensity that nearly had her knees collapsing. As she gripped the edge of the bar, he jerked his chin toward the door. Did that mean he was leaving?”
Well, that's the kind of guy he is, so yeah, I think so.
“'I'll take over your tables,” Dee whispered in Grace's ear as she took hold of her drink tray. “Go.” Her friend nudged her away from the bar and Grace stumbled toward the door where Logan stood waiting.
It's like a bad 80's music video script: Neaderthal Calls Mate! Bartender friend is generous! WTF people? Are the prostitutes dressed in Charmin going to start dancing angrily at the pimp?
Logan had tried to stay away from Grace but it didn't work (obviously).
But in the end, he had to see her. It didn't mean anything. Couldn't mean anything. It just meant that he needed a woman and she was the one his body happened to require.
“The one his body happened to require?!”
What kind of guy is he again? I'm forgetting. He's kind-of a guy but mostly a douche?
It barely registered that some of his staff were watching him. He'd noticed Dee taking Grace's tray, knew they were friends, and he was grateful for it. As for the others, if his behavior stirred up any gossip among them, they would have to get over it.
Wow, what a kind-of guy he is, isn't he?
The comes their first sex scene, where Logan is good enough to know that for their first time, up against the wall in the janitor's closet wouldn't do (what a kind-of guy, I am telling you!) so he manages to wrangle the sex action to the bed.
“…he stared at her with masculine satisfaction at the fierce glimmer of heat and need in her eyes. Holding her gaze, he plunged into her with one strong thrust.
She gasped and her eyes widened in shock.
“What the hell?” he shouted, then grimaced as he fought to hold himself completely still.
“Don't stop,” she insisted, wrapping her arms around his waist.
AND OF COURSE. OMG. YOU GUYS. SHE'S a VIRGIN. And Logan doesn't get why! How could this be!
“But..the G-spot,” he uttered, resting his forehead on hers as he focused every ounce of his energy on keeping perfectly still. “What about when you -“
“Can we discuss this later?”
Yes, because while Logan's holding still and has divested Grace of her pesky virginity yet not done much else yet is a perfect time for a detailed explanation as to why knowledge of sexual matters does not absolutely equal sexual experience, especially when everything else about this character, and I mean everything else, indicated she's so innocent I'm amazed bluebirds don't hold her hair back for her while she brushes her teeth.
And, yes, he's bothered that she didn't tell him beforehand.
It would be silly to pretend not to know what he was referring to, but she considered playing dumb for a half second. Then she gave it up.
“You mean why didn't I tell you I was a virgin? Honestly I didn't think it would be an issue….”
“…I still wish you'd said something.” His voice was repentant as he stroked her hair. “I would have been more gentle, taken my time to make you feel more at ease.”
She was surprised to see regret reflected in his eyes and she reached up and touched his face. “You didn't everything right, Logan. It was wonderful.”
“No,” he said meaningfully, taking hold her her other hand. “But it will be.
He lowered his mouth to hers…
There's a lot of kissing and Grace thinking about how good it all feels. Then,
“I'm just going to hold you for awhile, Grace,” he said, tucking her in close to his side.
“We're not going to -” even she could hear the disappointment in her voice.
He smiled against her hair. “Not right this minute.”
GOOD LORD. He's like a Ryan Gosling caption.
Hey, girl. I know i just took your virginity and pretended I would have been more suave if I'd had known, and I know the whole cocktail bar and all my employees know we're having wild monkey sex right now, undermining my reputation and yours, and I just gave you the female equivalent of blueballs, but right now, I just want to hold you.
Two days later, Logan is back to being his kind-of guy self.
Grace was the last woman on earth he would've guessed would be a virgin. If he'd known, he sure as hell wouldn't have taken her to bed the other night.
But how could he have guessed? The woman had come across as though she'd written the book on sex. She studied a species' sexual habits, for God's sake.
Man, those Super Spores give everyone near them a wild reputation. Be careful reading this review about a book that just features them. You never know.
He'd tried to be a nice guy when he discovered she'd never done the deed before. He'd been willing to stop altogether or at least slow down. But not Grace. She was full steam ahead. Thank God.
So Logan looks at blueprints for awhile and his ruminations tell the reader all the reader needs to know about why he is looking at those blueprints, and also about The Crying Game but not really, and then he starts thinking about Grace again.
Logan suddenly wondered if the scientist in Grace would enjoy exploring the hot springs.
Dude. She's got 4 PhDs. Probably 7/10ths of Grace is scientist at this point, if not more.
Logan grinned, knowing the scientist in him would definitely enjoy exploring her naked body as it soaked up the heat.
“Damn,” he muttered. It was getting impossible to concentrate on work as the thought of Grace crossed his mind again. She was definitely unlike any virgin he'd ever known before – not that he'd known all that many. Frankly, he tried to avoid virgins whenever possible. They were just too much damn responsibility. After all, if he somehow ruined a woman's first sexual experience, it would traumatize her for the rest of her life and leave a black cloud over her memory of him and all other men on the planet. Who needed that kind of pressure? Not Logan.
Ah, Logan. That right there, that's the kind of kind-of guy he is.
But not to worry – Princess Nerd is all over this one. Logan can't stop thinking about her. He would normally never stay the night (of course not!) but no, he can't send Grace away. He stays with her every night since the first night he lovingly jerked his chin to indicate she should scamper over to him so they could go knock boots.
Logan had been blown away by her natural passion and enthusiasm for trying new things.
That girl is a carnival ride, I'm sure.
So Logan and Grace have sex that's like fireworks Grace had never seen before, or something.
The comes The Biggest Cliche of Them ALL.
Aidan comes back to the island to meet with a group of investors who are coming to hear a proposal from the twins. They want to build a world class sports complex on the island, and it's time to show off the plans. Meanwhile, Aidan's been informed of some of Logan's activities:
“Dude, you're dating an employee? Are you out of your mind?”
Thank you, Aidan.
Logan explains to Aidan about Grace, the Super Spores, Grace's temporary employment in the bar while she's Super Spore Hunting, but probably leaves out the part about what kind of guy he is. Aidan follows along but still isn't convinced that this is just a fling. He doesn't think Grace is who Logan thinks she is.
“You of all people should know how women are…. Once you're sleeping with them, they think they've got you by the balls. And damn it, what do you really know about this woman? She comes here under false pretenses with this bizarre story about sprees, which is damn strange to begin with, by the way. I mean, really. Spores? Is she into biological warfare or something?”
“They're good spores,” Logan muttered.
So Aidan thinks Grace is Up to No Good. He thinks Grace is After Logan's Money. So Aidan Hatches a Plan.
Logan glared at his brother. “Just because I'm not being objective doesn't mean I'm some naive idiot, either.”
“Fine. Prove it to me, then.”
“Easy enough. I say we need to pull the Switch.”
Logan leaned forward and pounded the table with his fist. “No way. Don't even think about it.”
Over the years, the brothers had occasionally pulled the Switch on women, usually just for fun or when one of the brothers seemed to be getting too serious about a woman. Aidan had always called it a test, implemented merely to see if a woman was paying attention to which brother was which.
You marry the one who can tell the twins apart. It's like the LAW. The HIGHEST LAW. The HIGHEST LAW of ROMANCE CLICHE.
THE TWIN LAW.
Once you hit that one, you've got a full set. All the cliches in the land can't touch that one!
The last time they'd employed the Switch was when Logan suspected that his wife, Tanya, was being less than faithful to their marriage vows. He'd asked Aidan to pull the Switch on her. Tanya didn't pass the test.
Hadn't his wife been sleeping with someone else entirely? Why would switching one twin for the other make a difference if Tanya was boning “some clown in their accounting offices”?
WHY DO I QUESTION THE HIGHEST LAW OF ROMANCE CLICHE? I do not know what is wrong with me. The Twin Law solves all mysteries.
So Aidan pretends to be Logan, and Grace sees through it immediately and all is well, except then Grace sees some blueprints back in Logan's room and realizes that the sports complex is going to be built RIGHT ON TOP OF HER SPORES OMG. So she gets all upset and goes home to Minnesota.
And somehow serves him with an injunction against building on the site hours after she's departed, on an island that I'm not sure is an independent country with its own judicial system, in which case maybe she dropped her request for an injunction out the window and someone picked it up and said, “Ok, sure!” Or maybe it's part of the US and she could make magic happen in a few hours. Or maybe it was the Super Spores, but either way, Logan finds the old blueprints, figures out that's why Grace left, and in the same scene gets served with an injunction.
It is an INJUNCTION against the magic power of The Twin Law. Good luck with that, Grace.
So Logan flies to Minnesota and tells her she was looking at old plans, gets mad at her for not trusting him, and leaves.
He flies back to the island and is a grumpy buttmonkey to everyone, including Aidan, who is all kinds of sensitivity and heart when he says, “Dude you've gotta stop bitching and moaning to the staff. You're starting to sound like a girl and I think you're scaring the housekeepers.”
Logan tells him off, but later is summoned to the cocktail lounge where someone has spilled an entire tray of drinks. Grace is back, she apologizes and when Logan says she didn't trust him, she's all
“I did, Logan. I trusted you with my heart.”
“But not with your spores.”
BUT NOT WITH YOUR SPORES.
And then there's this big scene where Aidan yells from across the room that he should forgive her already and Logan's yelling that his ex wife failed the Switch, even though Grace didn't and once Aidan and Logan are done yelling out all of Logan's reasons for not being with Grace, he forgives her and kisses her and promises to build her a lab on the island. The end.
The book was a lineup of cliches stretching out into infinity, capped with The Twin Law, which made me laugh so hard I nearly fell off the couch. The heroine was a perfect piece of fluffy Princess Nerd who had no vices, no major flaws, just a confused and sad self image that got in the way sometimes. The hero was the kind-of guy who would do the things he did in the course of the story and still expect to be the hero, which was why I had no patience for him at the end. It could have been a really interesting romance between a research scientist and a hotel resort owner, but it ended up being a parade of cliches.
The cliche parade is the reason for the F+, which I typically reserve for books that stop merely being insanely bad and start being insanely bad and enjoyable at the same time. By the time we got to the part about telling the twins apart, I was keeping a list of cliches I'd found. I could go back and reread and find more. And more a third time. There are intertextual cliches, I am sure.
Oh, well. At least the Super Spores had a happy ending.