I begin my story a few weeks ago. I was looking for books to read on vacation, and I went online to find as many good novels, either romance or romantic suspense (which usually means romance with guns and a mystery as the secondary plot, which is fine with me). I found a few, one by Susan Andersen, which was ok, and four by Linda Howard that were both highly recommended and cheap. One was even a 2-in-1 novel that was about $8.00.
$8.00 for two novels was too, too much. One of them, which I will find a way to talk about without screaming, was so bad I almost chucked the entire book in the ocean. Only fear of polluting the natural fish and coral habitats with poorly characterized novels stopped me.
But the book I discuss presently, this particular book, I left it at home. I thought I was bringing too many books – which was crap because I ran out and had to mine the resort's library for suggestions – so it stayed on the table in my foyer. I read it on the train once I got home. This is probably a good thing, because I certainly would have chucked it into the drink, pollution be damned.
This book is so damn awful I kept reading just to find out who the bad guy was, and so I could keep marking pages of poor and unrealistic dialogue. And since I've dogeared half the freaking book, why not share it with you? I'm sure you'll get the gist of the novel from the quotes alone.
But in case you don't:
The heroine, Karen, is an RN who lives in Ohio with her elderly mother, until said elderly mother dies of the flu. Let's not even discuss the whole RN-elderly flu idea that maybe she should have toted her mom to the ER for some O2. We’ll just leave that bit of reality aside with the rest of the reality we eschew while reading this dreck.
The hero, Marc, is a New Orleans detective who is investigating the death of a street bum who turns out to be (a) Karen's estranged father, (b) a Vietnam veteran, (c) a trained and highly skilled sniper from said days in Vietnam, (d) a man suffering from acute Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, hence the estrangement from his wife and daughter, and (e) the keeper of a Very Big secret he threatens to reveal, which is why he ends up dead.
Karen flies to New Orleans to i.d. the body, meets Marc, spends about a day and a half in his company, and they Fall In Luuuuuve ™. Meanwhile, a bunch of nefarious and vanilla-ly named characters (Bob. Hayes. Thomson. Lake.) all scheme to find out what Dear Dead Dad did with the secret, where he put it, and if his daughter has it. Likely the daughter does, so all the assassins of vanilla come after her, leaving her subject to the protection of Detective Marc. What is the secret? Who is after her? What do they want? And why does she think she's in love with someone she's known for 90 hours?
Most of the questions, except for that last one, are answered by the end of the book, which is wrapped up so neatly you can see the bow for miles and miles before you get there.
My two biggest problems with this book are the leaps demanded of the reader in believing that the hero and heroine are going to fall instantly and madly in lusty hot burning love with each other after 2 days in each other's company, and that the heroine is going to be able to save her own life using skills she learned from her Dear Dead Dad more than 20 years prior. If your dad took you into the woods, for example – and this is a hypothetical example, because I wouldn't want to spoil this complete waste of pulp for you, should you want to read it – at the age of, say, 13, and taught you how to follow deer tracks until you reached their water source, and suddenly you were being followed by assassins, and needed to reach water, and you were 30 plus years old, do you think you would be able to reach flawlessly back into the recesses of your memory to recall each and every directive your Dear Dead and estranged Dad gave you such that you could find water on the very first try?
Please. I learned how to play “Gently, Sweet Afton” on the violin two years ago. I couldn't pick up a violin this evening and play that flawlessly on the first try if you held a gun to my head.
But this Karen? Oh, she is a marvel. Not only does she save her own ass with skills from the depths of her memory, but she falls for some serious shitful behavior from the hero. Let's go to the dogeared sections, which in SarahLand mean, “Nuh UH!”
Karen has gone to meet the detective after he calls to tell her about Dear Dead Dad's death. She's sat in his office to hear about his demise. She's identified the body via video from the coroner's office the following morning. And she's just left the coroner's video room:
He knew she had cried; her eyelids were swollen. She had cried, and he hadn't been there to hold her. He would be, he thought fiercely.
From now on, he would be (Howard, 116).
Please note: I just made the Very Cute Husband read that so I could transpose, and he just said, “I'm going to barf.”
He'd roll over and pass out from horror if I made him read page 128, wherein the heroine, Karen, remarks upon, “the neatness of his ears,” while taking a slow survey of the hero as he stands with his back to her. His ears?!
Further into the story, the heroine compares her feet to the hero's, remarking on how different they are, with hers “slender, delicately formed, definitely feminine,” and his “big, bony, a little hairy on top” (Howard, 134). This is, as with his fierce thoughts from earlier, the second day of their acquaintance. Most people who meet under difficult and emotional circumstances are not munching ham sandwiches on a balcony and comparing the structure of their feet.
Another problem I had with the writing in this book – aside from (a) the leaps of belief required in accepting both the emotional and sexual aspects of this relationship as valid after two days of acquaintance, and (b) the difficulty in following the development of the mystery contained in the secondary plot – is the descriptions of the sex scenes.
Howard seems to refrain from using words as “dick,” “cock,” and “arousal,” but instead, she just comes out with “penis.” Normally, I'm ok with frank depictions. I mean, that is what the organ in question is called. It's a penis. But when his “swollen penis” juts out from beneath his shirt, “twitching with arousal,” among lurid and purply descriptions of intimacy, the use of the scientific term is jarring.
Further, the hero does something that I consider incredibly smarmy, but I'll hide the content below in case you don't want spoilers:
Karen and Marc are dining on his balcony, eating ham sandwiches and drinking red wine, when he goes inside to put on some music. He comes back out, they dance, and he twirls her down the balcony into the other door- his bedroom. And strip, strip, strip, they're naked, and he's already wearing a condom. He's just been dancing away, wearing a jimmy cap.
And she ASKS him about it:
“When did you put that on?”
”When I put on the music.”
Bitch, please! If my life had a sound track, and that was me, you would have heard the sound of a needle skipping across all tracks of that vinyl record followed by the sound of a serious ass kicking being administered to the man who thought he could bet on sex just by putting on the blues. The woman just lost her father, he stood there while she identified the body, and he thinks a little blues and jazz action is automatically going to yield a little hummuna hummuna? Are you SHITTING me?!
This would be the point wherein I thought, If I could open the doors of this train, this book would be flying onto the tracks.
Later, they have sex again, after she's spent pages and pages worrying over her gullibility in sleeping with a man who so thought she was a sure thing he practically put on the condom the day before he met her. She's gone back and forth and ultimately decides he wore a condom to protect both of them, but this time, they're going bareback. She's mentioned the risk of pregnancy, and the risk of disease, both of which are real because, heck, it's sex, and that's how babies get made, and they hardly know each other so there's a definite risk of prior sexual history with unsavory and possibly crusty characters who complain of pain when they pee. But no, it's bareback time, and as a sign of her Luuuuuuve ™ for him, she wants to “take the risk.”
Further, aside from sexual scenario weirdness, the hero manages to have bone-jarring sex three times in the space of a few hours (AS IF!), and the third or fourth time, he rolls over and tells the heroine, “I'm going to do you hard this time.”
Hubby adds, for dramatic effect, “UHHH! UUUHHH!” And he is more romantic than this Marc character.
Meanwhile, the Assassins Vanilla, each sporting indistinguishable names, are after Karen, and one burns down her house. But uh oh, he made a mistake. And when his boss calls to tell him so, they have the following conversation:
“She didn't live there, asshole. She sold the house four months ago.”
“Well, sonofabitch. I hate that. Burning down a house for nothing.”
Gee, me too. I hate burning shit that doesn’t belong to me for no apparent reason.
Seriously? What cold blooded arsonist – or arsehole – says, “Gee, I hate burning down a house for nothing.” I'm dumbfounded by the arsehattedness of this character. It's like a hardened criminal in and out of prison for years saying “friggin'” or “airhead.”
Now that I think about it, that's an apt analogy: this book is like the TNT cuss-words-stripped-out-in-favor-of-nonsense equivalent of what might have been a very edgy, suspenseful, scary book, with some hot sexual attraction thrown in for added heat. But the protagonists hopped in the sack after about 36 hours of knowing each other, and the mystery was so confusing and plain yogurt that I didn't really give a shit either way. This could have been a very, very good book. Instead, it was crap.
The one thing I do give a shit about is the fact that I paid eight goddamn dollars for this book. In fact, this book was so poor that the only credit I can give to it lies in the purpose of this web site. This site exists so that you, dear reader, do not ever have to spend your hard-earned dollars on this dreck, too. Take it from me, this is crap.
“Stay away; stay far, far away,” she thought fiercely.