Picking up romance novels based on the cover is a very iffy proposition. Laura Kinsale, one of the best romance writers out there, was cursed with a whole series of appalling Fabio covers while writing for Avon. Loretta Chase and Ruth Wind, also excellent authors, have also been saddled with more than their fair share of terrible romance novel covers. (I know of a few which would be perfect for “Covers Gone Wild” snarkage, so stay tuned, kiddies.) So I don’t generally pick romance novels based on the covers.
But Taboo. Oh my. That cover is hot. And a testament to the marketing effectiveness of a really, really good cover, because boy it suckered me in good. I mean, look at it!
Freakin’ HOT. Unfortunately, it was an absolutely terrible book. It was only 181 pages, but it took me 6 days to finish reading it because every time I picked it up, I ended up falling asleepâ€”not exactly the effect I hoped to achieve while reading an erotic romance. Now I just look at the cover, and shake my head sadly. So much potential. This cover deserves a much better novel.
The plot is simple enough. Fallon Gilchrist (what the hell kind of name is “Fallon” for a socialite in 19th-century Boston, anyway?) is an artist, and somewhat of a recluse after her husband’s death. Gilchrist couldn’t screw worth a damn, of course; this is Romance Novel Commandment No. 43, which says “Thou shalt not suffer a heroine who hath great orgasms to live, unless she hath sexual congress with the hero and only the hero.” Fallon has fallen into a creative and social rut, so her best friend, Anna, decides to shock her out of it. The Boston Women’s Auxiliary holds an auction for Montague Bridgeman, who’s quite the studly stud, to help raise funds for the library. Whoever wins the auction gets to keep him for a week. (Please ignore this glaring historical improbability, because this is the least of the book’s problemsâ€”seriously). Anna wins the auction and proudly presents the hunka burnin’ love to Fallon.
“Bridge,” as he likes to be called, is allegedly to be used as Fallon’s model, but of course by page 17 they’re humping like crazed ferrets. And somewhere along the way the two of them fall in love. Andâ€”ugh, I can’t even work up the energy to come up with a decent summary of what happens next. So the seven days are spent in humpalicious bliss (although when I went through the book and counted the days they actually only spent four together), and in that space of time they realize they can’t live without each other yet they still separate for completely pointless reasons that I can’t fathom, Fallon’s artistic juices are fully flowing again (as well as her other juicesâ€”Lawless never ever lets us forget the state of Fallon’s wetness, I mean Jesus Keeee-rist this woman’s poonanny bears a terrifying resemblance to a faucet whenever she’s around Bridge) and bla bla bla hump hump hump they all lived happily ever after.
To call the characters in this book “cardboard caricatures” would be to insult cardboard, which is a really useful product when you think about it. Fallon is such a bland non-entity that I can’t even come up with a whole lot to say about her. She married a bland man, lives a bland life, and other than a stupendously well-lubricated cooch, I honestly can’t think of any distinguishing characteristics about her.
Bridge isn’t much better. He’s supposed to be deep, because right when he meets Fallon, he makes this astoundingly profound pronouncement about art, artists and their subjects:
“For you and I are both aware you need to get to know the ‘me,’ inside as well as out. Only then will you be able to capture my true essence. (â€¦) Every artist longs to capture his subject’s true essence. The ability to do so is what separates the good from the truly great.”
Apparently finding out his true essence involves frenzied tit-humping, lots of blowjobs and gnawing on his asscheeks. We also find out Bridge was in a war (presumably the Civil War) and is suitably tortured about it, but only in the most superficial way. Behold, the existential angst suffered by Our Hero as described by this piece of deathless prose:
He’d given up trying to gauge why he had been spared when other good men, men a damn sight better than he’d ever be, had fallen like flies. It was too much to understand.
Did you hear that? Damn good men had been killed pointlessly in a war. What a very novel thought! Oh the philosophical and moral conundrums it presents!
But most of the time Bridge’s thoughts are occupied with Fallon’s melon-like breasts and perpetually moist hoo-ha, which is a blessing because all that deathless prose was making me gag.
And speaking of deathless prose: the euphemisms used for body parts in this book made me laugh out loud several times. The first time was when Fallon’s ‘giney was referred to as a “honeypot.” Goddamn. A honeypot. Thanks to the good folks at Honeybucket, though, a port-a-potty was my most immediate association when I read that word. And a few pages on, Fallon’s Chunnel of Love is called a “hot little box.” I’m serious. I was waiting to see if it would be eventually referred to as a “bearded clam” or a “cum-bucket” and thus seal my theory that Taboo was actually written by the same people who write all those letters to Penthouse, but alas, I was destined to be disappointed.
The rest of the prose, when not coming up with hilarious words for our naughty bits n pieces, is awkward. In fact, it downright lurches. It switches between fairly modern cadences to extremely clumsy ‘tis-ing and ‘twas-ing. Hey, everyone knows that all you have to do to replicate authentic 19th-century speech is to use those contractions. ‘Tis a fact.
The sex scenes themselves weren’t too bad. They got kind of numbing and repetitive after a while, but some of them were pretty stimulating. So that, coupled with the excellent cover, raised this book a half-grade and saved it from D- territory.
But other than the hothotHOT cover and the two scenes that were actually pretty sexy, I really can’t recommend this book. The emotional interaction between the characters is wooden at best and contrived at worst, the prose style is pretty awful and the plot is pretty much non-existent. Even as a piece of titillation it doesn’t work all that well, because more often than not it’s kind of a snooze-fest. Unless you’re looking for a historical that uses the words “box” and “pantiless” with wild abandon, skip this one. Trust me. ‘Twould never do for me to lie to my faithful readers.