By all rights I should’ve loved The Real Deal. It has a computer geek hero. It has a heroine who has body image and self-esteem issues. It’s about two oddballs who have never felt like they belonged finding love and acceptance with each other. It has hot love scenes. And it has received rave reviews from just about everybody.
Yeah, but you know what? It stinks. I had an inkling that this was going to be a rough ride when right in the beginning of the book, the katana the hero uses while practicing swordplay (he’s a computer geek, so of course he has to practice martial arts instead of running the treadmill to keep the geeky flabbiness at bay, right? Riiiiight) is referred to as a Korean sword. The problem is, the katana isn’t Korean, it’s Japanese, and geeks know this. Confusing a katana as being Korean would be like confusing Windows with MacOS. The Koreans have their own swords, none of them referred to as “katana” (which makes sense because katana is a Japanese word). So right off the bat Simon Brant’s credibility as a geeky hunka hunka burnin’ love is shattered.
But that’s petty nitpicking, really. If this were the biggest irritation in the book, I would’ve handled it fine because God knows I’ve enjoyed books that have made big blunders. But the The Real Deal was excruciating to read on all levels. The writing style veered from hilariously purple to hilariously wooden, the characters were poorly-recycled archetypes at best, and the plot was completely humdrum when it wasn’t busy being implausible.
There was also an odd core of prudishness to the book that contrasted uncomfortably with highly explicit nature of the sex scenes. If you want to read more about this, click here and then highlight the space to read additional notes, which may or may not offend you, depending on whether you swoon when you encounter words like “tit”.
The book starts with the heroine, Amanda, having a minor breakdown after finding her husband, Lance, in a mÃ©nage-a-trois in his office. But to let us know that Lance isn’t a garden-variety villainous cheating spouse, Monroe resorts to the usual shorthand employed by authors and moviemakers everywhere to make Lance Pure Evilâ„¢: he’s bisexual. That’s right. He was being slipped the salami even as he was hiding his own in a trim ‘n tanned California beauty.
Amanda flips out and divorces Lance’s pervy ass (though in my opinion, while cheating is grounds for justifiable homicide, being bi and engaging in a threesome isn’t all that pervy, but then once you’ve seen the horrors of Furry porn, not much seems pervy, period). Having grown up in a loveless, emotionally abusive household and then dealing with two years of a loveless, emotionally abusive marriage, Amanda is now a royal mess and decides that her career is the most important thing in her life. She pushes hard for her company, Extant Corporation, to merge with their competitor, Brant Computers, and is thrilled no end when she’s made the primary negotiator for the deal.
Everything is going swimmingly until she meets the head of research and development at Brant Computers, Simon Brant. Simon is a hunky reclusive genius (read: socially dysfunctional computer geek with a big cock) who’s also bleeding-heart enough be all concerned about the consequences of the merger on Brant’s employeesâ€”which is weird since he’s, you know, incredibly reclusive and doesn’t create social bonds easily. He and Amanda develop an instant case of the hots for each other, but of course to drive the book for about a hundred pages, he and Amanda have world-class insecurity complexes and completely discount the possibility that each could be attractive to the other. In fact, their inner thoughts were so repetitive, I can summarize two thirds of the book as follows:
Amanda: I’m fat! My husband didn’t love me! My parents didn’t love me! I suck in bed! The only person who loves me is my wacky redheaded best friend, Jillian! There’s no way Simon wants me!
Simon: I’m really hot, and I seem to be a borderline case of Asperger’s syndrome! Asperger’s is SO HOT! Plus it sounds like Assburgers when you say it out loud! And women are scared by my giant penis! Also, women don’t like it when I act like a crazy recluse or when I walk away from them mid-sentence so I can run tests in my lab! There’s no way Amanda wants me!
Since Simon won’t stick around long enough to listen all the way through Amanda’s presentation on the benefits of the merger (in true Asperger fashion, he’ll literally stop mid-sentence and head off to his lab to conduct experiments when the urge hits him), Amanda does what any sane, professional (har) businesswoman would do: move into Simon’s house to force him to listen to her. And then proceeds to act offended when people make certain logical conclusion about her intentions.
Anyway, bla bla bla, Amanda and Simon finally have mind-blowing sex, they both reveal painfully clichÃ©d stories about their tormented past, we meet some Hilarious Sidekicks (who aren’t that hilarious, though I do want to kick them), the villainous bisexual husband re-appears to engage in various acts of villainous fuckery and also so Simon can become irrationally jealous, the merger issue is resolved very predictably, and I’m left thinking “This book kind of sucks monkey ass.”
But the plot is really the least of this book’s troubles. The writing style is an even bigger irritant in this book. Purple sentences abound. For example, Simon’s eyes are always “gunmetal”, while Amanda’s are always “doe-like” or “Hershey’s-brown.” They’re never just brown, or gray, or hell, just eyes. Witness:
Their eyes met across the distance separating them. His were devouring her with ravaging force. (â€¦) Her attention was locked on the man standing so still on the deck. His gunmetal gaze moved over every inch of her body with tactile force.
To steal a phrase from my partner-in-crime, Sarah: Gageth me. Amen.
There are also various attempts at sexy love-talk. Here are a couple samples:
“I want to bury myself so deeply inside you that our pelvic bones touch.”
“You’re going to scream all right, but it’ll be because I’m doing something.”
So besides Simon sounding uncannily like Smoove B (at one point I was seriously waiting for him to say “Baby, I want to slip you the sting sideways”), people speak in italics all the time in this book. Don’t know about you, but when a character starts speaking chunks of sentences in italics, I hear William Shatner speaking the lines. Sexxxxxy. So here’s a writing tip, y’all: well-written dialogue rarely needs to resort to italics for emphasis.
The biggest irritant in this book? The characters take the prize by quite a long shot. Amanda in particular was driving me batshit. Her life was also so awful that it was hard to believe. Loveless parents, loveless brother, loveless husband, horrible boss: almost everybody in her life sucks balls, and they suck balls unrelentinglyâ€”there’s no depth to the bad guys whatsoever (which, to be fair, is a problem most romance novels struggle with). And as a chubby woman who has struggled with my own body image fuckery ever since I was 13 years old, I felt little patience for Amanda when she wouldn’t quit boo-hooing about how ugly she was. I wanted to smack her and tell her “GET OVER IT. You think you’re 10 lbs. overweight. I’m actually 30. Shut the fuck up and just fuck Simon already. But please gag him so he can’t say shit like ‘I want to slip my arousal into you so deep I can’t go any further.’”
And don’t even get me started on Jillian, the supposedly outrageous best friend. Monroe says Jillian is outrageous, but aside from being a redhead and dressing like a tart, this is, in all seriousness, the most outrageous thing she says in the whole book: “It should be against the law to be morning sick past eleven A.M.”
Ooooh girl, you go on with your bad self. Monroe even tagged “Jill said facetiously” to the end of the dialogue to make sure we know Jillian is joking, because otherwise we might mistake her for some kind of monster who would actually push to legislate morning sickness, and that would make this book anti-family or something.
Only one thing prevented me from giving this book an outright F: my benchmark “F” book is Desire’s Blossom by Cassie Edwards. Very little can beat the sheer horror of that book, and as annoying and tedious as The Real Deal was, it couldn’t match Desire’s Blossom. If you want a good contemporary romance featuring chubby heroines and adorable heroes with real flaws, pick up a Jennifer Crusie instead. Bet Me, in particular, features a marvelously well-done overweight heroine. But hey, like I said, everybody else seems to love The Real Deal. If all the flaws I list above don’t bug you, then by all means pick this book up.
Among other things, this book features an explicit tit-humping scene, but the author can’t even bear to use the words “damn,” “dick,” or “fuck.” Hell, she can’t even use the word “penis.” It’s always “arousal” or “sex”â€”even Simon refers to his cock as his “arousal,” which my husband (a bona fide computer geek and Sensitive Girly Man) found hilarious when I told him. What the hell? Lookit, there’s TIT-HUMPING going on. Using “darn” instead of “damn” and tap-dancing coyly around the words “fuck,” “cock” and “shit” in this context is like preserving your virginity by having anal sex.