Book Review

DocTurtle Reads Romance

Book CoverAwhile back, I challenged DocTurtle to read a romance – a category romance – and he accepted the challenge. After a vote from the Bitchery, I sent him two books: Sex, Straight Up and An Infamous Army. Technically the subject of the challenge was category only, but since DocTurtle seems to very much enjoy historical literature, I figured Heyer, one of the finer foundation undergarments of the romance genre, might float his mathematical boat.

DocTurtle’s read-a-thon has begun, and he’s live blogging as he reads O’Reilly’s book. I’ve posted his comments on chapters 1-3 below. I hope he enjoys the book more as it goes on.

After my widely-read and underinformed indictment of the quality of romance novels as a genre, I’ve been challenged by Sarah and her friends at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books to read this, Vol. 388 (April 2008) of Harlequin’s Blaze series.  As a courtesy to my challengers (and all of those who voted to make this particular selection my sentence), I’ve decided to write about each chapter as I make my way through the book and send my remarks to Sarah so that she can do with them whatever she’d like to.

I don’t intend that the sum-total of my remarks should make up anything at all like a review.  Rather, I hope that my random observations might simply provide a rough impression of my view of the book as I proceed.  I also hope that those reading these notes will keep in mind that they’re likely far more used to the conventions of the genre than am I and that I’ll as often as not mistake this particular book’s quirks and idiosyncrasies for standard Harlequin formulas, just as I’ll mistake stock formulas for singular idiosyncrasies.  Mea culpa, in advance.

Enough yammering!  On to the good stuff…

Chapter 1: Diving In

Okay, the story so far: Adonis-like accountant and reluctant widower (wife killed in 9/11) Daniel O’Sullivan, no doubt one of the “sexy O’Sullivans” advertised on the book’s cover, reluctantly removes his wedding ring before reluctantly trudging off to a weekend at a time share with his brother’s law partners.  Mission: have fun (code for: get laid).

A few days pass in the space of a line, and hilariously well-educated but unselfconscious auction-house appraiser Catherine Montefiore (a Levantine Lorelei?) spies aforementioned Daniel (whom she compares to Odysseus) on the sand in front of her grandfather’s beach house and proceeds to sketch him stealthily while thinking illicit thoughts to herself, subjecting us to the book’s worst line yet: “There was art, and then there was man art.”  (Close runner-up, a page an a half later: “Classical baroque art would have been altered forever if some Hamptons Hussy had turned Odysseus into Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky Melon-Grabber.”)

The conversational style of the prose makes this book refreshingly easy to read.  Then again, you get an occasional shot of words no man would never utter: “One woman’s crap is another woman’s soul mate.”

So far I’m not really hooked.  Sorry, y’all.

Chapter 2: Three Days Later

I’m back for the next round.  It’s gotten better.  The prose is a little less pretentious, the dialogue a little more natural.  This second chapter actually reads kind of like the transcript of a slightly-awkward first date, and while it’s not particularly engaging it’s believable.

I was pleased by the author’s decision not to make of our heroine Catherine Montefiore a brilliant chef de cuisine in addition to a casually talented sketch artist and expert art appraiser (“all that, and she can cook, too!”) after flirting with that possibility on page 28.

By the way, I wonder if it’s normal that I should find lines like the following one pretty frickin’ hilarious?: “He could feel the heat under his collar, the slow pound of his blood and the push of his cock against what had been a loose pair of shorts until he had found himself fascinated by a set of wistful brown eyes.”

My question for regular readers of the Blaze series: just what is it that distinguishes Blaze books from those in Harlequin’s other lines?  Are they particularly torrid?

On to the next chapter…

Chapter 3: Sex, Uninterrupted

Right away the second paragraph delivers a knee-slapper: “She’d been so caught up in the rare moment of being in the close proximity of such a man-man and now she’d blown it.”

What exactly is a “man-man”?

“Manly man?” Maggie asked.

“Nope, ‘man-man.’”

After this it’s a ten-page semi-literal description of a timorous sexual encounter.  I was vainly hoping to take in a few laughable euphemisms for the genitalia of both sexes.  “Purple-headed warrior” was one of Maggie’s favorites from her many years of reading historical romance.  The closest this book came to that was “velvety hardness.”  Catherine’s girl-part is most elliptically described as “her opening.”

I think that’ll do for tonight.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    SonomaLass says:

    I feel for Doc, reading a Blaze title without a clue what to expect.  Even one of the better ones!  Kind of like asking someone to watch one episode of a reality show and try to figure out why regular viewers like it.  Sounds like he’s being a good sport, and sharp of him to register that he won’t be able to tell convention from invention from the one example.

  2. 2
    God says:

    I want him to read all of my books and comment. I know a person whose verbal commentary is much like this and it keeps me amused. Read on, I say.

  3. 3
    Robin says:

    Uh oh.

  4. 4
    rebyj says:

    I don’t care if he likes it or not but his comments sure are funny as hell.
    The evil side of me hopes that the penis in said book is described as a turtle head peeping out the top of his shorts in honor of DocTurtle…and yeah I’m pretty sure I’ve read that term in a book before.

  5. 5
    Jessa Slade says:

    He’s a good sport. I remember reading some Dirk Pitt novels and LMAO too. The cars.  The boobs.  Yeesh. Perhaps there are just some aspects of ourselves we needn’t share with the other gender.

  6. 6
    Annmarie says:

    Is it wrong that what he found hilarious, I found hawt?  Of course I know what a man-man is.  But would my husband?  Doubtful.

  7. 7

    That comment about Baroque art – wtf?

  8. 8
    EJ McKenna says:

    Oh this is fabulous. A bloke reads Blaze.
    His comments are gold.

    Rebyj, I wish I hadn’t read your comment now. The thought of turtles poking thier heads out reminds me of a line from ‘Fat Bastard’ in Austin Powers.

  9. 9
    Lori Borrill says:

    Actually, I think the good sport is Kathleen O’Reilly.  One definitely has to have a tough skin to put our books out there, and I know she’s great about stuff like this. 

    But to be fair, I think you should do a critique of a sexy novel that DocTurtle thinks is hawt.  (I’m guessing Barbie twins, knee pads and double-D’s, but I could be wrong).

  10. 10
    Eeyore9990 says:


    *scuffs toe*  I, umm, love the Dirk Pitt books.  I pretty much love anything over the top, so yeah, they’re right up my alley.  They’re all shelved with my trashy romance novels.

    Does this mean I can’t be a smart bitch anymore?  LOL!

  11. 11
    Silver James says:

    Mission: have fun (code for: get laid).

    I see some great cover copy there for a series… Just sayin’.

    And hats off to the Doc for humorously going where most men fear to tread. Read on, McDuff!

  12. 12
    L Violet says:

    reluctant widower

    Heh heh.

    I want to read the whole blog. Keep going, DocTurtle.

  13. 13
    mingqi says:

    Snarky commentary- I hope by the time DocTurtle finishes the novel, he can give his ending thoughts.  I know when I watch or read something, I do make fun of certain moments and scoff at the way certain characters act, but at the end, I try to collect my thoughts as to what i think about the book as a whole.  But hats off to the guy for attempting to read one.  As much as he snarks about it on his blog, maybe he’ll end up addicted anyways and be one of those secret romance readers- ordering their novels online, reading them when no one;s around, and then hiding them in a box stored away in the back of the closet.

  14. 14
    HaloKun says:

    man-man = a man who is not a boy, and does not behave like one (ie., a “man-boy”)

    I like that you gave him a Blaze.  Does he know about the Heat Chart? Or whatever they call it?  Someone should have told him…  This is going to be good!

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