Book Review

Irrational Arousal by Summer Devon


Title: Irrational Arousal
Author: Summer Devon
Publication Info: Ellora's Cave 2009
ISBN: 9781419924156
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

imageI first mentioned this book because of its cover. Oh, what a cover. In the comments, someone asked if the book itself was as bad as the cover. No, not at all. But cover notwithstanding, I couldn’t finish the book.

The premise of the book is interesting: for unknown reasons, the hero and heroine mind-meld whenever they’re sexually stimulated. They don’t know one another, but suddenly they are in each other’s minds during orgasm. Talk about double penetration! She’s in the shower, using the handheld spray in a unique manner not covered by its warranty, and suddenly he can see her thoughts and experience her orgasm. He chokes his chicken and she feels it in her thighs – and other places. I was so curious about the why of it – how did it happen? Why these two people? And who are they? – that I read long past the point where, ordinarily, the structural flaws would have stopped me. But in the end those flaws made for too much of an obstacle and I gave up.

The narrative fell apart after the hero, Will, and Gia, the heroine, go to the hospital – at his insistence. He is horrified by this Vulvan Mind-Meld and is convinced something’s horribly wrong with him, which is understandable since being inside Gia’s mind results in his seeing his boss stark naked while Will is trying to operate a backhoe. (heh heh)

At the hospital, the doctors seem very calm about Will and Gia’s descriptions of their problems, which is utterly bizarre in and of itself. But then the narrative suffers a major fracture when the doctors get WAY too personal, and WAY too unfamiliar with basic patient confidentiality. I was willing to accept that the local ER had seen several cases of Vulvan Mind Meld and I was willing to accept that the doctors were still looking for the cause of this psychological clusterfuck, but I was not prepared to accept that the doctors would spontaneously invite themselves over to Gia’s apartment, bringing their significant others along, because Will and Gia’s case had caused a lover’s spat for poor Dr. WhatsConfidentiality.

The main characters were underdeveloped after the initial chapters, and were stuck within cliched descriptions. Will is a construction worker, and is constantly dirty. So dirty he sits on the floor when he visits Gia’s home. He doesn’t like his Vulvan Mind Meld but he craves Gia in a way that scares the hell out of him. More time is spent on mundane details and wooden dialogue with Will than is necessary, and any scene that’s firmly in his head is brimming with details I could have lived without:

“Maybe I should go,” he started to say but when he saw the panic on Gia’s face added, “to the bathroom. Be right back.” A little distance, maybe he could calm down enough to think.
He peed, splashed cold water on his face and scrubbed at his hands some more. He looked in the cupboard, and found an extra toothbrush in an untouched package. Heck, he’d buy her a new one. Brushing took a few minutes and distracted his few brain cells that were getting enough blood to function. Flossing, why not?

So much telling, nowhere near enough showing. There were so many scenes like this that read like laundry lists of character activities. Other parts skim what could have been character development in subtle gestures but instead is giant heaping dollops of info dump that tried my patience. 

The heroine is subject to the same activity checklist, especially when she makes coffee (which she does over and over and over again), and also suffers from whiplash character development as well. At the start of the book, she is still pining over her ex, Mike, and suffering from post-breakup and post-layoff blues. Then, in the course of the story, she meets up with her ex at a job interview at his company – and once again standard laws of conduct for medical or professional establishments are ignored or absent entirely – and in the course of making out with him up against the wall of his office, realizes that her perception of their breakup was all wrong. Based on what Mr. Smooth Assholey says to her, she decides everything that went wrong in their relationship was her fault, and in doing so completely undermines her own character and weakens her to such an extent that I was disgusted.

Considering the heightened lustypants created in Will and Gia because of the Vulvan Mind Meld, I was expecting some exceptional sex scenes, but alas, this wasn’t part of the narrative either. Waaaaaay too much was skimmed in the sex scene, especially given how detailed their fantasies and shared experiences were. For example, Gia figures out who Will is based on his arm. Seriously The heroine identified the hero based on her vivid, sweaty memory of his forearm and hand appearing in her dream – quite a detailed reason to get all hot and flustered upon seeing him again outside her apartment.

But when they actually jump each other, unable to resist the mental and physical connection that’s amplifying the attraction, the sex scenes themselves are rendered in skimming overview, with so few details that the sexual encounters as a result seem unimportant – when the whole reason these two people are banging is because of reasons they didn’t create and compulsion they cannot control.

The origin and explanation of the mysterious Vulvan Mind Meld kept me reading, even after it pointed to a paranormal explanation, but once the mystery escalates and the hero suffers alone from an additional strange attack unrelated to orgasms or anything, the plot stretched too far beyond my boundaries of the credible, and what set up as a very curious and somewhat innovative shared-mind experience became cardboard characters who I didn’t care nearly enough about to continue reading to find out what happened.

But was it as bad as the cover? Nope. If the book was as filled with WTFery as the cover, I’d have been compelled to keep reading because of the outright silliness. This was not nearly compelling enough in badness or goodness to keep me going.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Summer Devon says:

    aha! there it is, the quote I can use: “But was it as bad as the cover? Nope.. . .”’

  2. 2
    Elyssa Papa says:

    I so don’t know how you even read as far as you did. The cover alone scares me. Also, the bit about the construction worker bothers me, but that could be due to the fact that my dad is a construction worker (co-owns a business with his brother), and though he comes home dirty, he doesn’t sit around in it but takes a shower. I don’t know many construction workers, who after working a long, long day, decide to sit down on a floor in his/her filth.  I mean, this is a contemporary, so why doesn’t the hero just clean up at her place? But besides that . . . mind meld? Seriously. That so doesn’t sound attractive to me. If I was into guys reading my minds, I would be a fan of Twilight.

  3. 3
    SheaLuna says:

    I actually love the idea of the Vulvan Mind Meld. Hilarious!  (Then again, I always did like Spock better than Kirk.  Can you imagine HIM in a Vulvan Mind Meld?  GRRRRR!)

    I’m with Elyssa Papa, though.  I’ve known many contractractors (my dad was in the industry, as is my brother) and NONE of them sit around in their filth.  Blech.  It’s home, boots off, shower, THEN sitting.  How’s that for a laundry list.

  4. 4
    SheaLuna says:


    Good grief!  I meant “contractors”, of course.

  5. 5
    Annmarie says:

    If a hero were to ever mind meld with me, he’d lose all interest in me sexually.  Typically, men who engage me in basic conversation lose interest in me sexually.  An actual mind meld?  Probably would leave the hero with a dog that will never hunt again.

  6. 6
    Havoc says:

    The only thing I want to know is this: Who filed the serial numbers off their crack-tastic fanfic and got it published?

  7. 7

    I don’t have any opinions on the writing, having not read this one. I hereby withhold my judgment.

    However, may I address the title? When I saw that the original post was about Photoshop WTFery, I must confess, I thought the title was a Photoshop addition by some tech-savvy Smart Bitch. So that’s actually the real name of the book? Does no one else think it’s a weird-ass title?

    Why does it ring in my ears as the second cousin of Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Perhaps that’s another fault of the cover art.

  8. 8
    StephS says:

    “aha! there it is, the quote I can use: “But was it as bad as the cover? Nope.. . .”’

    Kudos to the author, Summer Devon, for her sense of humor though!

  9. 9

    Is it up there with “fucking her ass, saving her life” though?

  10. 10
    jarant says:

    I am fairly new to the romance genre.  Here’s my question: HOW hard is it to publish a romance novel? Clearly, there are great authors out there who deserve to be published based on their merits, but WTF is up with this Vulvan MindMeld shit? (excellent phrase, btw.) WHO read this tripe and said, “yes, this is a book people will BUY! I’d like to PUBLISH it!” Can I just quit my dayjob, safe in the knowledge that whatever nonsense I churn out, SOME publisher SOMEWHERE will buy it?

    Also, Marissa, “fucking her ass, saving her life” is the review I use when explaining/introducing SBTB to my friends.

  11. 11
    Lauren says:

    i should have known better than to eat mini halloween chocolate bars while reading SBTB. the phrase “Vulvan Mind-Meld” made me choke on a mini kit-kat. so i clearly had to have another. and then i choked on that one when VMM reappeared. thanks smart bitches for the never-ending hilarity!

  12. 12
    caligi says:

    Does EC publish anything good?

    Not only are their covers reliably awful, but their stories are too. I’ve read one I enjoyed, and it wasn’t erotic – The Write Man for Her – everything else suffered from weak plot and poor editing.

    I have much better luck with Samhain. Better books and prices.

  13. 13

    I’ve read decent stories from EC, just like I’ve read some real piles of puke from big-name publishers. If there’s one thing writing ain’t, it’s objective.

  14. 14

    Don’t forget, EC owns Samhain.

  15. 15
    Julianna says:

    Can anyone tell me why (besides the obvious reason) this book has “Ellora’s Cave Twilight” at the top of the cover?

  16. 16

    For Julianna: “Twilight” is Ellora’s Cave’s paranormal imprint.

  17. 17
    liz m says:

    AFAIK it’s their publishing tag for ‘erotic’ followed by the one for ‘paranormal’. To help you find the works both ‘paranormal’ and ‘erotic’ without having to work hard.

    I would like to applaud the author for not only showing up and taking away something positive, but also being the first comment. You may have a cover worthy of mockery and I may not be the target market for your book, but you totally earned my respect today. FWIW and all.

  18. 18

    ^^ Er, I hope that wasn’t the obvious reason. :)

  19. 19

    I can’t tell if that was meant to be a joke or not, but not by any stretch of the imagination does EC own Samhain.

  20. 20

    My bad- was thinking Cerridwen.

  21. 21
    Evie says:

    Much kudos to Ms Devon for taking that so well.  *applauds* The lady has style.

  22. 22

    Jarant, I haven’t found it terribly difficult to get published. Even the stuff I thought would be a very difficult sell (erotic gay pagan inspirational romance with a wheelchair bound hero) (erotic horror in a traveling carnival) was snapped right up.

    I have seven novels out, the eigth coming in Dec. But I don’t make enough to retire from the day job. I’d need to make almost $70,000 to quit the day job. (I only bring home 35, but the other is for health expenses. We have a lot)

    Ellora does put out some good stuff. Denise Rosetti’s STRONGMAN. Elizabeth Donald’s NOCTURNAL URGES series (under Cerridwen). My own stuff tends to review fairly well across the board, but I’m not objective about it.

  23. 23
    Summer Devon says:

    hey the bitches did like another my EC books. I can’t find the review but it got a decent review. I think. 

    Didn’t you guys review Perfection? I don’t recall sobbing and eating cookies after that one—but now I can’t find the review.

  24. 24
    Becky says:

    Summer, I found it in Reviews by Author D-G.  No need to cry.  It got a B!

  25. 25

    I am avid fan of your books. I love to read because it so interesting. But I’m keeping always from arousal. I am from
    transfer smart but not as smart as you expected but I am asking to post more about sex. love it.

  26. 26
    Brooks*belle says:

    Didn’t you guys review Perfection? I don’t recall sobbing and eating cookies after that one—but now I can’t find the review.

    @Summer Devon—

    You’re funny!! =)

  27. 27
    oldbitey says:

    Vulvan mind meld? BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
    Way to make me pee my pants.

  28. 28
    MRM says:

    The premise brought to mind a book I really enjoyed in the early ‘90s: Being of Two Minds.  I have no idea how it would hold up were I to read it today, but when I read it somewhere in early middle school I really enjoyed it – enough that the title stuck with me and I actually remembered it when I read this review!

  29. 29
    Beki says:

    the Vulvan Mind-Meld caught yet another drinker this evening!  Wiping down my screen from spit-spatter now. 

    I have a feeling this may have been the interesting premise that got away… interesting starter idea followed by a what-the-hell-happens-now kind of moment that maybe went awry.  God knows, it happens.

    Nice author to take the criticism with a sense of humor.  Because of it, I’m off to look up her other works!

  30. 30
    Kayla K says:

    Okay, I’m new to this rating system and have no idea what DNF means as a grade.  Can someone throw this ass-hat a clue and break it down for me?

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