Book Review

DocTurtle Continues with Chapters 4 and 5

Book CoverDocTurtle continues his chapter-by-chapter liveblogging of Sex, Straight Up with chapters 4 and 5.

Chapter 4: In Which Our Hero Is a Dumbass

I lost count of the number of times these two had sex (not counting the once in Chapter 3) about five pages into the chapter…three?  Four?  No, on recounting, it’s only three.  It seemed like more.  This guy could put Peter North to shame.

Best/worst line: “And he drilled inside her slick heat, until his mind was black, until his eyes were blind, because his body needed this.”

Drill, baby, drill.

The chapter builds to an exciting climax (yeah, yeah) at the top of page 52 as Daniel prepares to return to the city:

    A wedding ring.

    Okay, that explained it.  Catherine ignored the shooting pains radiating up from her gut to somewhere near her heart.

Having only reluctantly embarked on this sex-filled weekend away in the first place, Daniel decides to take the easy road back to widower’s celibacy and let Catherine assume he’s still hitched, thus ending any possibility that she’ll find him fuckable for the next hundred pages or so.

Admittedly I can’t know what it’s like to lose my wife in the World Trade Center attacks, so I can’t really put myself in Daniel’s shoes.  Nevertheless, I’ve always been the forthright type and can’t imagine not saying to the woman I’ve just had sex with four times, “you’re really sweet, and I had a lot of fun this weekend.  I’d like to see you again, but I’m still not over my dead wife.”

Dumbass.

Chapter 5: The Plot Thickens…or At Least Plods on for Eleven Pages or So

What do we know about Daniel so far?  He’s

a.  an accountant,

b. cut,

c.  handsome,

d.  brooding,

e.  mysterious, and

f.  prone to waking up at all hours with raging hard-ons.

Let’s hear it for character development!

As this chapter opens we find Daniel hard at work doing accountant-type things, the sort of accountant-type things that got him hot: “Daniel was a partner now, but he didn’t like the management aspect of accounting.  He had found his niche in the accounting world –audits—and that was where he stayed.”

We learn in these pages that men do manly things like crunch numbers (“Daniel exhaled and turned back to the tidy world of accounting”) and tend bars and rebuild speakeasies, while women do womanly things like entertain art show-goers (“At the receptions she was supposed to be animated, lively”) and paint.

In order to ease the curiosity of the SBTB commenters who expressed some measure of curiosity, I should point out that at the top of page 60 we’re introduced to a character I might just find attractive: Catherine’s friend Brittany sounds like a bookish goth, “with black leggings, a black T-shirt, and black thick rimmed glasses.”  Rrrrowr!

Last, but not least, we’re led on a tour of the cut-throat world of high-end auction houses as Montefiore’s goes head-to-head with Chadwick and Smithwick-Whyte.  Says Catherine: “Commission structures are state secret, and too variable to be the same.”  Tension mounts (but only for a half-page or so), and Brittany shows us the road Daniel will take back to Catherine’s heart and “opening”: “Tell him you’ll help, go over the books [hint hint] and show everybody what a crisis they’re making out of nothing.  You’ll be the hero.  Your grandfather would love it.”

Oh, yeah, and math is hard.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Sarabeth says:

    Wow, I’ve not read this book, and I wouldn’t after reading his comments. Harsh.

  2. 2
    SB Sarah says:

    I reviewed it awhile back and gave it an an A-. It’s lovely. I seriously loved the story.

    DocTurtle, however, has never read a Blaze, or a romance of the category variety, and he’s clearly approaching the book with sardonic guns set to “whoa.”

  3. 3
    Blue Angel says:

    Thanks to this site, I read this book and enjoyed it a lot. 

    There’s two possible reason why this man didn’t like the book.  The first is that romance is not his thing.  However, his snarky tone indicates the truth of the statement that when you’re prejudiced, you’re prejudiced.  NO romance would have impressed him.  There’s nothing harder to open than a closed mind.  At least you tried, in sincerity.  Too bad your openness was not reciprocated.

  4. 4
    Annmarie says:

    I saw the review of this book here and bought it immediately.  I loved it.  Kathleen O’Reilly is now on my auto buy after reading SEX, STRAIGHT UP. 

    I would like to point out that I read the book several times but if asked today about the state of the hero’s penis, I would be hard pressed to remember if it were cut or uncut.  Wait.  Is Doc Turtle talking about Daniel’s penis or his abs?  Hmmmmmm Maybe both…

    Seriously, I loved SEX, STRAIGHT UP and I’ll be sad if Doc Turtle can’t open his mind up to the fun, romance and fantasy of the category romance.  Sad…but not surprised.

  5. 5
    Wryhag says:

    I think his critique has been hilarious!  Wish he’d become a permanent reviewer.  Honestly, I do believe it sometimes takes an outsider to draw attention to any commercial genre’s comfortable absurdities and keep writers from endlessly recycling them—or, at least, persuade readers to assess them with a more critical eye. 

    Sidenote:  I thought guys only went blind after they drilled their own palms—like, way too much.

  6. 6
    tudorpot says:

    To each his own- that snippet tells me I would hate this book- “drilling” – give me a break, not at all appealing.

  7. 7
    RfP says:

    There’s two possible reason why this man didn’t like the book.

    He doesn’t like what you like, so he’s unromantic or prejudiced?  Harsh.

    I’m a long-time romance reader and there are plenty of romances that I can’t get through.  In this case there’s a fair amount in DocTurtle’s commentary that I bet I would agree with.  (I can’t say for sure, because when I read the rave reviews here and elsewhere it didn’t sound good to me so I’m not planning to read it; if I start a book feeling that way, it generally comes true.)  OTOH I love books that others hate.  So what?  Does it matter if someone doesn’t get it?  Different

    drills

    strokes.

  8. 8
    loonigrrl says:

    I tried reading this one after reading SB Sarah’s review. It just didn’t do it for me . . . at all. I couldn’t finish it.  But we all have different tastes/preferences . . .

    I recently gave a non-romance reading friend two romance books to try: Shades of Twilight by Linda Howard and Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh. She told me she got through only a few pages of Twilight before putting it down, but is thoroughly enjoying the other. Personally, I think she’s crazy for not loving the Linda Howard novel, but that’s just me.

  9. 9
    hollygee says:

    I haven’t read much category, mostly for the reasons that Doc Turtle is highlighting. I wish that he were reading Jennifer Crusie’s

    which has rather good character development for both heroine and hero.

  10. 10
    babz says:

    Well. I will chime in and say the book was not that good for me either. In fact, I don’t even know what it’s doing in the Blaze line when it’s really not that hot. The writing was alright, but I expected something else because it’s in the Blaze line. To be honest I think they put this book in the Blaze line because it’s the most current line they have and it will generate more buzz? Besides, they can put racier cover on it? Just my .2 btw.

    So many people liked it though, and all the reviewers were raving about it so I went forth and bought the all 3 of the Red Choo Diaries. I ended up liking these books even less, even though it has redeeming points here and there for a Blaze, the 1st heroine grated on my nerves. All I remember from the second book was a heroine that’s not afraid to flash her boobs on tv. I liked it better than the 1st one, but still a no for the heroine. I just didn’t buy her. I remember having lots of problems with the book, but I cannot remember it off the top of my head. The last book about the sister is DNR. She was such a b**** in the 1st two books I cannot imagine going through a whole book about her.

    That said, the writing was not bad. The characters were my main problems. I know her style may appeal to many people, but she’s not for me. Too bad, because I’m really in the mood for some good contemporaries. I think she can do better not on the Blaze line. The whole sexy thing just feels forced on her Blaze books.

    All I’m saying is, I understand if the man doesn’t like the book.

  11. 11
    Wendy C. says:

    While his comments are amusing, he unfortunately comes across as already being predisposed to not liking the book (or is it the genre in general?).

    The bit included regarding the ‘drilling’ is a bit off putting to be sure. It definitely doesn’t make me keen to read this book.

  12. 12

    You gave a man who knows something about art and antiques a book to read that doesn’t? And he doesn’t really have to like this book, it’s for the romance world to prove to him that it’s worth reading. Maybe someone ought to remind him that in the romance world, there’s something for everyone’s taste, and he should persist, because he’ll have a lot of fun trying!
    From his quotes, the one about the baroque style yesterday, and the bit about the auction houses, you’ve given him a book that keeps the art world strictly as background.
    Oops. I would have given him something with a bit more substance. I just read Day Leclaire’s “Dante” books which use the jewellery business, which I thought was well done. But definitely Linda Howard, Laura Kinsale, Suzanne Brockmann, someone who can write.
    Kudos to O’Reilly for putting up with this, too!

  13. 13
    Anne Douglas says:

    If I remember rightly, didn’t he say that his commentary was not to be seen as the actual review?  I have to admit I’ve had similar commentary running through my brain about certain books, but when I’ve gotten to the end been quite happy about reading it. Might be worth waiting for the final summation :)

    I am enjoying his comments. But I’m one of the screwed up authors who doesn’t through a hissy about bad reviews because I can learn from them and make the next book better. Sometimes it takes someone who is not ‘into’ the genre to point out things that have slid a little into the unbelievable.

  14. 14

    There’s something we all have to remember here. Men and women think differently. Most men aren’t going to like to romances because the men in the stories aren’t written for men, they’re written for women.

    Now, I’m not saying that men don’t read romance and enjoy it. I’m sure some do (though I haven’t met any).

    Men think differently than women. Men think in terms of action and women think in terms of emotion.

    It’s almost like giving Obama a book on McCain and saying, “You’ve got to read this, you’ll love it.” Or giving McCain a book on Obama and saying the same thing.

    Again, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying men can’t love romance, I’m just saying they’re not built to love it.

  15. 15
    Carrie Lofty says:

    I loved the book. But I’m also loving the comments from DocTurtle. If we can’t poke fun at some of the stuff that turns us on, then our wash cycle is stuck on a “too serious” setting. Daniel is a cut, handsome, brooding, widowed accountant. Make fun all you like, but that’s still gonna turn me on. Doesn’t mean I can’t laugh at it all.

    That said, I would HATE LOATHE CRINGE at having my own work critique this way. Kathleen, if you’re out there torturing yourself with this, be strong! We love you!

  16. 16
    kerry says:

    I’m like Carrie – I loved the book, and I’m also loving the comments from DocTurtle. I think DocTurtle is being sarcastic yet hilariously funny. If he HATED the book, he wouldn’t finish it – obviously it’s at least entertaining him!

    I can have problems with a plot, with characters, whatever, and still love the book. I can roll my eyes at plotlines and character behaviors, and still love the book.

    I think the recap is pretty hilarious and I really don’t think it’s mean spirited or nasty.  I mean, come on – take any snippets from any romance book, and on their own, they can be ridiculous. It’s the whole package so to speak that the reader is left with that’s important.

  17. 17
    Silver James says:

    There’s something we all have to remember here. Men and women think differently. Most men aren’t going to like to romances because the men in the stories aren’t written for men, they’re written for women.

    Sharon Cullen is right on with this. How many of us here have read genre fiction for men? *raises hand* Lots of action, the women are mostly helpless who either get in the way or spread their legs at a moment’s notice or both. I picked up a “Mack Bolen” book years and years ago (over 30), and read a whole bunch of them before it was all said and done. That franchise is still going. It’s just as cliched as any genre fiction.

    That said, cliches can be comforting and there’s a reason that they become cliches. They sell.  While I haven read this particular book, I have read other Kathleen O’Reilly books and enjoyed them. And I admit, DocTurtle’s snarkiness is entertaining. Let’s see what he has to say about it after he finishes. And I’m really wanting to hear his take on the Heyer!

  18. 18
    Randi says:

    I can see how Doc’s comments might be taken as harsh, but that’s how he writes. It’s not like he’s going extra long in the wit zone just for us. Plus, I find him funny. ;)

    I second the Cruisie suggestion. I’m not a fan of Heyer and I’ve never read O’Reilly (actually, haven’t read any category since I was like 11). Mayhap Doc would be open to a few more suggestions? Like yea, how about Brockmann or La Nora….What say you Doc? Open to a couple more suggestions?

  19. 19
    Kathleen O'Reilly says:

    I think Doc Turtle is my husband in disguise. It would explain SO much. :)

  20. 20
    SB Sarah says:

    What I find fascinating is that I liked this book as a selection for DocTurtle because it’s very guy-centered, and it’s about a guy who is having to deal with a shit ton of emotions, also within the context of sexual attraction. So I’m snorting and chuckling at his comments, but I also suspect he’s liking the book as he goes. The compliments he’s given as to the conversational style of the writing indicate that he’s noticing some of the elements I liked about the book, too.

  21. 21
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    I’m looking forward to reading DocTurtle’s comments on the Heyer, which may be more to his taste; as I recall, the romantic plot almost takes a backseat to the historical elements in An Infamous Army, and Heyer was noted for her meticulous period research.

    FWIW, I doubt I’d pick up Sex, Straight Up after reading the commentary here; to me, the use of the term “drilling” suggests pathological neediness fused with anger, neither of which are “hot” in my book, and I don’t really care for HEA’s based on casual hookups, which seldom ring true to me.  However, as someone has already pointed out, individual lines taken out of context often come across in unintended ways.

    How many of us here have read genre fiction for men? *raises hand* Lots of action, the women are mostly helpless who either get in the way or spread their legs at a moment’s notice or both.

    Second that.  I’ve been reading Robert E. Howard and a lot of trashy pulp fiction from the Thirties and Forties (as research!) and find it frankly hilarious—the men are all Alpha types to the nth degree, and the women are all scantily clad bimbos with ginormous, jutting DD cups.  It sounds as if the genre hasn’t changed all that much since then.

  22. 22
    Kathleen O'Reilly says:

    Elizabeth you actually hit the nail on the head with your definition of drilling.  “pathological neediness fused with anger”.  In that particular scene, the hero knows that it’s the last day at the beach house and that he’ll be returning back to his very staid way of life, and he has a lot of repressed anger inside him over the loss of his wife.  The pathological neediness is part of who he is, but a part that’s he’s completely shut down.  He’s very steadfast in his love/fidelity for his wife, because he believes that true love only comes once, but at odds with that belief is that he’s a completely touchy guy who isn’t a talker, but needs to touch/hold/etc, as well as be held, touched, etc.

  23. 23
    DocTurtle says:

    Howdy, All!

    I’m glad to see that my reviews are getting read, dissected, and re-dissected with laser-like literary scalpels.  This blog definitely joins a few others I hold in high regard for the perspicacity and intelligence of its readership.  Huzzah!

    I’d just like to respond to a few commenters (none by name):

    1.  May I say litotically that I’m not not enjoying the book?  While I’m snarking my ass off, that snark should not be taken as evidence of disgust or disenchantment.  I can certainly see how others might find the book a worthy read (or simply a guilty pleasure), though admittedly it’s not my cup o’ tea.

    2.  As someone pointed out, I did in fact say that I’m not writing a review; rather I’m just providing running commentary.  I’ll be sure to write a summary review at the end, and I’m sure its tone will be dramatically different from that of my chapter-to-chapter snark.

    3.  I’d like to warn a few commenters of the falling into the same Men-are-from-Mars-Women-are-from-Venus trap they accuse me of succumbing to.  For instance, as my wife Maughta (of Judge a Book by its Cover fame) would be happy to tell you, I’m not enthralled by action-driven adventures.  Most of my favorite novels are character-based, psychological or philosophical studies in which emotion trumps action and in which there’s far more introspective navel-gazing than there is international naval battles.  While things could change (and are quite likely to, seeing as I’m only a quarter of the way through the book), I don’t feel that Sex, Straight Up has delivered much of either emotion or action.

    4.  I’m happy that Ms. O’Reilly’s following this thread and that she’s reading my commentary in the same manner in which it’s offered, in good sport.  I can take it if you can!

    Thanks for reading, y’all.  I’ll soldier on and keep posting through Sarah.

  24. 24
    Carrie Lofty says:

    I loved that scene, Kathleen, for just those reasons—the desperation and sadness, more than just sex. Me + ManAngst = win.

  25. 25
    RfP says:

    Men and women think differently. Most men aren’t going to like to romances because the men in the stories aren’t written for men, they’re written for women.

    Sharon Cullen is right on with this. How many of us here have read genre fiction for men? *raises hand* Lots of action, the women are mostly helpless who either get in the way or spread their legs at a moment’s notice or both.

    That’s the counter-argument right there. Women read male-viewpoint fiction all the time. Men enjoying a romance is no more impossible than women enjoying a Dirk Pitt. (Which: snort.  In the last one I read, within three chapters two women had slipped naked into his bed and begged him for his magnificent sexx0ring.  And Pitt’s total Gary Stu, if you look at Cussler’s life.  The book was still a fun read.)

    I should say too, the counter-counter argument is about nurture, not nature.  Women read male-viewpoint fiction, but men rarely read female-viewpoint fiction.  It’s not that they can’t; they’re perfectly capable.  Men and women may well think differently, but part of that is because we’re raised to.

    I see DocTurtle just mentioned the “Mars/Venus” idea.  One of my most interesting reads last year was [url=http://www.readforpleasure.com/2007/10/myth-of-mars-and-venus.html]The Myth of Mars and Venus (I linked to a number of excerpts here)[url].  Fascinating and often funny.

  26. 26
    RfP says:

    Okay, I suck. That link was meant to be:

    I see DocTurtle just mentioned the “Mars/Venus” idea.  One of my most interesting reads last year was The Myth of Mars and Venus (I linked to a number of excerpts here). Fascinating and often funny.

    Fingers crossed….

  27. 27
    Robin says:

    I so totally disagree with the idea that women are somehow designed to enjoy Romance where men aren’t.  I definitely think that Romance readers are in on the codes in the genre so we enjoy it, but really, look at how many women DON’T read Romance and have all sorts of ideas about what it is and isn’t.  By contrast, look at some of the men and women writing teams—Laura London, Tori Carrington, Ilona Andrews—as well as the men who are active online as Romance readers (Mark and Dick from AAR, Teddy Pig, for example).  And, as RfP points out, women read the phallocentric POV all the time.  Just looking back to college and grad school, I had professors of both genders who instilled in me tremendous respect for literature written by men and women. 

    That doesn’t mean I believe that ALL Romance is going to appeal to men and women, just like all SF isn’t going to appeal to both genders, etc.  But I think that the Venus/Mars thing more a self-fulfilling belief system than any intrinsic divergence in how we think. 

    IMO it’s the Romance outsider thing that controls here.  As someone who came late to the genre, I had to adjust very consciously to the tropes, motifs, and language of the genre, and depending on the type of Romance (I came to categories most slowly, except for the old Laura London Regencies), my adaptive process was different.  I get the impression that the majority of Romance readers began quite young, and I wonder if there is not so much of a transition that must be made during those more formative years.  In any case, I would personally wait quite a while before giving a category Romance to someone totally unfamiliar with the genre (especially someone who holds disparaging views about the genre as a whole). 

    That said, I agree with Wry Hag’s comment that it’s refreshing to get an outsider’s POV on those things we take for granted or become accustomed to in the genre even against our conscious awareness.  I worry all the time that I am getting too tolerant of things I wouldn’t be so accepting of a few years ago when I was newer to the genre.

  28. 28

    I think there’s a sexual element to women’s enjoyment of romance that hasn’t been much discussed here, and can dramatically alter the way the sexes read it. Overall, I’d say good writing = good reading, end of story—genre be damned—but when it comes to sex scenes, there are basic differences, I think, in how the sexes read.

    Women are (scientifically proven, at this point, I believe) much more prone to be turned on by prose (imagination?) than men. Men are much more likely to be turned on by visuals. So what comes across as awkward, purple prose that might detract from the book for a dude, for a lady is much more easily filed into the “HAWT= win” section of the brain and is used as character building and just plain brain happiness for the reader.

    Example: I recently gave my guy a copy of Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER (and YES, I KNOW it’s not “really” a romance—but I think that although the series is excellent, OUTLANDER is not the best example of her very, very fine writing—it’s clearly her first book and much more like romance than the others, and there’s nothing wrong with that!).

    He liked it, loved the characters of Claire and Jamie, was totally hooked on the compelling action and great dialogue. When he’d get to a sex scene, though, I’d hear him start to snort and when asked, he admitted he just couldn’t get into them, or really, even understand why they were there. He told me that he read the sex scenes in a monotone in his head—i.e. without an ounce of the excitement I usually lend to the scenes in my own reading.

    On the other hand, the smut* in Jack Whyte’s historical novels (which aren’t romances but always feature plenty of smut) is great, great nasty dirty awesome smut. And he’s a dude. So what do I know?

    *If perhaps a touch unrealistic. What woman REALLY thinks to yell, “Impale me, you beautiful, rutting, rampant man!” or something to that effect mid-coitus? Certainly the sex is more man-driven in Whyte’s novels, with all the women coming spontaneously and delighting in describing the male member in lush prose…

  29. 29
    Arethusa says:

    Oh, I’m so glad people came to nip that “Women think differently from men, period!” rhetoric because that’s really all it is: rhetoric. From what little I’ve read on the matter (as a neuroscience grad student who isn’t specializing in gender studies, by and by) evidence is leading *away* from such a binary paradigm—although, of course, nothing is settled.

    DocT it’s nice to hear that you’re not not enjoying it. You’re a better person since Crusie and Roberts are the only two authors who’ve made the form enjoyable for me as an adult. (And Even for La Nora I can only stand the post-1986 books.)

    Katie, in response to Whyte’s smut scenes, I’ve always wondered if Susan Johnson was a male writer because her books feature a high percentage of women who soak their panties the instant they see their One True Love which solves the foreplay issue, I guess, since the men rarely indulge them on that point.

  30. 30
    RfP says:

    Women are (scientifically proven, at this point, I believe) much more prone to be turned on by prose (imagination?) than men. Men are much more likely to be turned on by visuals.

    There again though, the current science is saying that may be a dated notion.  Here’s an article on a 2006 study.  Most research in the past asked men and women to subjectively rate the appeal of erotic materials.  The newer neuroscience studies find that women and men have similar reactions, even though they rate porn differently.  Perhaps women interpret the reaction differently or don’t admit to liking it.

    I’m not arguing that men and women are identical, but as I said in discussing The Myth of Mars and Venus,

    Gender-based cultural assumptions have proven to be wrong in more measurable spheres. It was once “known” that women weren’t physically strong enough to run long distances. But in the 1970s U.S. marathons were officially opened to women, and Title IX required that schools provide men and women with equal access to sports. Since then, the gap between women’s and men’s marathon times has shrunk dramatically.

    These scientific and cultural experiments are still new, but I think it’s likely that some of these “but everyone knows” viewpoints will shift substantially over the next couple of generations.

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