I love books with vivid settings, places that I want to experience as much as I want to experience the story within the book. I thought this would be ideal – Alaska! Newcomer vs. longtime resident! Smalltown romance with moose! Audience surrogate in new community with brains of her own!
Despite my determination to like it, and my desire to like it, this story took turns being ridiculous, offensive, cliched, offensive again, and then just silly. Then more offensive, just in case you missed the other offensive parts.
The story, and it is not long, starts out with the most offensive hero revealing his offensive, sexist self in the first chapter. Ready? Grab your mouthguard and count up the asshat hero comments with me!
Eva and Lynx meet when Eva is scared out of her wits by a moose and climbs a tree – and gets stuck. Lynx comes over to help her out, and, well, began my score keeping of the douchebag hero with a grandslam of asshattery:
He turned toward the scream and caught a glimpse of Eva, the little sprite of a nurse new to town. He wondered how long she’d last. Hopefully a while, since she was the hottest piece of ass he’d seen in a long time.
Piece of ass? “Little sprite?” Uh oh.
“You okay?” Please be okay. He’d planned to make a move once he got up the courage.
She sucked in a deep breath and glared at him. “You suck at this hero shit.”
(Me: Yes. Yes, you do.)
“I wasn’t ready. Besides, anyone should know with one gander at these trees that they aren’t up to holding your weight.”
“Are you calling me fat?” Her eyes narrowed.
“Whoa.” He had three sisters and knew enough to tread carefully here. “If anything, you need to pack on a few pounds. Winter’s coming, and you need a layer of fat to survive it.” Or someone hot like me in your bed keeping you warm, he thought.
Space heaters? Screw that. We need Doucheheroes to keep us warm. Heated Doucheheroes!
Since she’d gotten him so hot under the collar, he was able to see the wound objectively. Somewhat. She smelled good too. Like some hot house flower. Tropical with hints of heat. Heat that had his blood quickening a trail back down south. He did a better job of controlling his physical responses to her when she was running her mouth.
In case you're having trouble keeping score with all the fast-and-furious douchebaggery, that's “Objectifies the heroine a lot”: check, check, check and check!
Then, Eva is hurt and has a gash on her back that Lynx, who is a wildlife officer and a veterinarian, needs to sew up for her.
She twisted to get a better look, but the area was high on her left leg right under that sweet little ass of hers.
“Damn it, I can’t see.”
“Quit twisting like that. People aren’t meant to bend that way.”
If she was that flexible—
He’d been too long without a woman.
TOO LONG WITHOUT A WOMAN! That's 10 pushups, everybody! I'll wait here.
Done? Nice job!
Lynx has to sew Eva's skin despite being tormented by his attraction for her, and she hasn't noticed said torment.
Which brings us to one of My Most Favoritest Pieces of Unintentional Comedy Ever:
Good thing she didn’t have eyes in the back of her head, or she’d be surprised by the hard-on he sported. He’d never sewn someone up with a woody before.
Sews with a boner! Ok!
He sterilized the needle and thread, and knelt behind her for better access.
“Ready? This is going to pinch.”
Those adorable butt cheeks of hers clenched again, and he had a moment of light-headedness.
This is the most professional doctor ever, people. EVER.
She didn’t make a sound as he stitched the neatest, smallest, damn stitches he could. It hurt him to know that she’d have a scar on her perfect milky skin, and he wanted to minimize the blemish as best as he could.
God forbid he leave a small scar on the perfection he wishes to obtain in a later chapter.
I was ready to delete and move on when the heroine's point of view began in the next chapter and, hello, she's as horny as he is. Wait, her sexuality might get equal attention? She's horny with no shame or shaming?
I'm… hesitant but, well, I'm listening!
His big beefy arms banded around her and lifted her off her toes. Her world tipped.
This was a bad idea. One of those really bad ideas that felt so good. Her hands dived into his thick, inky-black hair. Her legs naturally came up around his hips and cradled the impressive—somewhat worrisome—engorged member. Now it was her turn to groan. Her heart thundered in her ears, lights twinkled behind her closed lids. Oh yes! With him between her legs she wasn’t going to need a bedroom romp to satisfy her. She was going to come right here.
I thought, ok, I'll keep going. The douchhattery of the hero was mitigated by the heroine's perfectly happy and equally aflame hornypants.
But then there's a mix up and some goofy comedy and Lynx accidentally stands up Eva in front of the whole town (because his family is at least half of the town already, and leaving her sitting alone in the biggest restaurant when she made a reservation for 2 was pretty obviously going to end badly).
So he goes to apologize:
He sat feeling as though he’d been granted an audience with the queen. She was sure demanding for such a little thing. Would she be demanding in bed? The thought sent a pump of blood to his nether regions. “Listen, Eva, I’m sorry—”
Lynx's nether regions get lots of attention, even with his shitty apology. Also, even though they are pants-itching horny for one another, they don't actually seem to like each other at all. So I was confused but somewhat curious.
So I kept reading.
Then came this very odd suspense plot wherein Lynx has to stop some poachers and it gets dangerous and scary – and Lynx becomes very, very inept. It baffled me to the extreme. Lynx is so bad at being an enforcement officer and at keeping people safe, it's almost comedic, except he's the hero, and so his idiocy is ill-fitting.
One example: he takes Eva canoeing, and warns her that even in summer, the water in Alaska is barely above freezing, and can kill her. So when she falls in (of course she falls in) he laughs at her, and thinks about how he's going to laugh about it with his cousin later, and conveniently forgets that her going into the water is actually dangerous.
Eva gasped and splashed as she fought to swim against the current. “Help! I’m drowning!”
“Eva, stand up….”
He tried to fight back the laugh bubbling to the surface and lost. The woman was so out of her element, she was adorable. Her spiky hair lay plastered against her skull, her violet eyes went from filled with fear to fury as she stood up and the water came to her upper thighs.
She planted hands on her hips and narrowed those livid eyes at him, and he laughed harder. His sides hurt with it. If the woman could zap him with a spell, he’d be a horny toad right now. Actually he was already horny, had been since he’d picked her up. Scratch that. Since he’d carried her back to his place when she’d been moosed-up.
There was something about her that fired to life every one of his need-to-mate receptors.
“Help me out of h-here you… you b-big moose.” Eva shivered, her hand shaking as she slicked back her wet hair.
Ooh, now she looked sexy and mysterious like some exotic European model.
A new marker of the Heated Douchehero: terror and potential hypothermia are sexy. (Also, “need-to-mate receptors?” Good God.)
She glared at him as she struggled to get her tennis shoes off.
“Stay away from me.”
Yeah, not going to happen.
The more time he spent around her the more he wanted to be around her.
“No” doesn't mean “No” for the Heated Douchehero.
Who would have thought he’d fall for a pixie of a woman with an Amazonian temper?
Also, women aren't people. They're pixies from Amazon. Or something.
She turned and gave him a full frontal view. With the sun behind her, she resembled a mystical faerie sent to sexually enslave him. Where did he sign?
Mystical pixie faeries from the Amazon! Ok, then.
Anyway. Lynx leaves her alone to go do something and she's furious with him for doing so. Because she's alone and wet and scared and in a place she's well aware can kill her if she's not careful, AND also so new to the area so she's not sure how to avoid all the ways Alaska might kill her.
To Lynx's ever-loving shock, Eva is PISSED at him for not taking proper care of her when she fell in the water and for leaving her alone in the forest. I was also angry that he objectifies and ridicules her, but Eva isn't really bothered by that part. Also, I'm not in the story. I'm just following along.
“The woman is nuts,” Lynx said, slumping on the barstool in his sister Raven’s kitchen. It had been a few days since the failed canoe trip, and he needed to figure out a way to get Eva talking to him again.
Of course, her emotions are a sign that she can be dismissed as mentally ill, and not having an entirely proper and normal reaction to his being a dickwad who was careless with her life and her safety.
Then Lynx's young nephew steers him in the right direction:
“You laughed, making her feel like an idiot, and then you left her alone,” Fox pointed out. “She’s not from around here. She’s probably never been alone like that in her life.”
Damn, the kid made sense. Lynx wasn’t going to get into Eva’s bed with her mad at him like this. Not that he needed to tell his nephew that.
Oh, Lynx, he doesn't quite get it. He isn't upset that he scared her; he's mad that his quest to bone her has been interrupted by her reaction to his idiocy.
So he goes to Fairbanks, which is far, to get chocolates because his nephew suggested chocolate as a forgiveness-gift, and, oh crap, Eva doesn't like chocolate, and she's mad he didn't think to ask:
Lynx stood there on the doorstep, one hand clutching the box of chocolates he’d bought in Fairbanks. Did she have any idea how much time he’d given to this venture? Shouldn’t he get points for that?
If he could just get her to open the door long enough to get close to her, kiss her, shut up that mouth of hers, he might be able to apologize.
Yes! Kissing assault! Solves everything, right?
So Lynx sits down on the porch, eats all the chocolates, and realizes in the space of a few paragraphs that he doesn't really just want to bone Eva, he wants to know about her family and her past and, you know, learn about her as a person, which means this isn't merely lust. He has feelings for her. He wants kids with her! He wants to be with her for ever and ever!
No, I am not kidding.
She fascinated him, and not just sexually, though that did occupy a large part of his day. He wanted to know little things too. Like why she moved to Alaska. Did she have family? Did she want a family? Whoa. This was getting serious if he was thinking kids. Yeah, he loved kids. Loved his nephew Fox and wanted a bunch of rug rats running around. He’d always thought that would be for someday. Could someday be here?
Could Eva be his someone?
So if you need insta-love, just add chocolate to a befuddled, horny Heated Douchehero. Science!
As further indication of his idiocy, he brings the empty box back to his house, and wise nephew and nephew's puppy, Kiski, are hanging out on the deck waiting for him. And this is where I lost my shit, people.
He tossed the box aside. Kiski scrambled out of Fox’s arms to attack it. “Hmm, well that’s a new one.” Lynx harrumphed in agreement. They sat quietly watching the puppy destroy the box. At least one female enjoyed the box of chocolates. And this one a real bitch.
OK, setting aside the big bucket o' sexism, do you see the flaw here? THIS GUY IS A VET. Should he be letting a puppy chew on an empty chocolate box that probably has traces of chocolate in it? FUCK NO. Forget his medical unprofessionalism, a bunch of chocolate wrappers and a chocolate box for a puppy toy? Lynx, you and I are done here.
Good gravy. What a moron.
At this point, I'd given up most of my hope that this book would turn around, and kept reading for the train wreck. Also because it was good for my blood pressure. It's normally very low, and getting it up to average is kind of fun. So is standing up from the floor really quickly and getting lightheaded, but that's different.
In case you were worreied (I know you were!) Lynx's moron-icity extends to his ability as a law enforcement officer, I'm sorry to say.
Look, the rest of this is a lot of spoiler, so only keep reading if you're surely sure you don't mind the “twist” being spoiled.
No, really, I'm not kidding. Spoiler City, next stop.
Ok, don't say I didn't warn you.
Lynx finds the poachers, is taken hostage, and, when he gains the upper hand and knocks the biggest of the bad ones out, he forgets to restrain said bad guy, so when the bad guy comes to, he gets away… and goes straight for Eva.
But then, Lynx makes an amazing transformation from a Keystone Cop who doesn't restrain the extremely bad guy he's just knocked out to… well, he turns into a magic Native American.
Lynx has been keeping a secret from Eva, and she's sort of sensed he is hiding something, so finally the big reveal comes once the bad guys have been dispatched to places that deal with bad guys (Lynx should get a day and a half there for giving chocolate to a puppy, but anyway).
Lynx can talk to animals. He is a Magic Heated Douchehero!
After the bloodshed and violence (it's about a chapter and it's more intent than actual entrails, so I kept reading through it) Lynx shares his secret with Eva, who is doubtful that he's telling the truth and thinks maybe he's making fun of her. But he's not. He's magic.
And of course everyone in his family, all of whom are Native Americans, has some sort of magic power.
For example, Lynx's sister also has Magical Powers. When Eva discusses her deep emotional secret Lynx business with her, despite Raven reminding Eva that as Lynx's sister, her loyalty is to him, Raven says she'd know if Lynx was in trouble because she'd “Feel it.”
Except at that exact moment he was in seriously deep shit with the very bad dudes, and she was sitting on the porch having a non-Bechdel-test-passing conversation about Lynx, who sorely needed backup of any kind, psychic sister included. I hope future stories don't rest on Raven listening to the Sister Signal because clearly it's about as reliable as a Verizon signal.
And speaking of magical signals, if Lynx can “talk to animals,” WHY THE HELL doesn't he WARN THE ANIMALS that there are POACHERS and that they should go HIDE. Or try CANADA for awhile. I hear it's nice this time of year. Why don't the animals speak to him, or give him a clue who is doing the poaching?
Lynx is one with the animals… but only when it's convenient for him or the plot. There's one scene where the bad guys decide they're going to hunt Lynx and this other dude as human prey in the refuge (yeesh – disgusting) (and not a plot point dealt with beyond a few pages, either, despite that seeming like a hell of a first degree murder charge and a federal case since Lynx is a federal wildlife officer and also evidence of a war crime because the two who do it say something about doing it in Afghanistan on their last tour) (I need to stop thinking about this) and in order to get away, Lynx becomes one with the forest.
I am not even kidding.
You know, I've been thinking a lot about how romance doesn't represent all its readers. I want romance to reflect more of its readership, not just the white ones, but this is not what I meant. Magical Native American animal-talking forest-camoflauge dudes are the kind of heavy-handed stereotypical offensiveness that gives the ocular muscles a serious workout, and reduces characters to flat stereotypes of awfulness.
At least, and this is a very big least, he's the hero, and not some supportive character who makes the hero do the hero thing better once said hero has received the Magical Wisdom of the Minority Character.
Meanwhile, back at the heroine's cabin, Eva's big emotional issue? Well, her boyfriend came out and is now with another guy, and of course that's all about her:
“…But before we go any further, there’s something you need to know about me. I drive men off.” She lowered her eyes and muttered, “Or drive them gay.”
“Eva, I’m not going anywhere, and no way in hell will I ever turn gay. I’m willing to prove it over and over and over—”
I can't even transcribe the noise I just made. It had a lot of Rs in it. Angry ones.
She drives men gay, except he refuses to turn gay, so problem solved! Their emotional problems, I mean. Not the more bigger issues like their being giant bigoted dumbasses.
So Lynx convinces Eva to be with him after all the big bad dudes are taken away by introducing her to a puppy who Lynx says wants both of them to be her parents. The end.
Don't laugh, but I still wanted to like this book.
Really. I know this reveals a lot about me that is not complimentary, but my determination to like something, it is strong and unyielding.This book insulted my intelligence, handed me cornball plot tropes and stereotypical characters that are jumping back and forth over the border of offensive before setting up a tent in “No, you did not just say that” land, and kept on going on a repeat cycle, and still I'm like, 'Maybe it will get better! Maybe it will turn around!”
(It's sad, really. But my mental determination was determined.)
“Maybe despite a 'vile of penicillin' and a character starting to 'ring the water out of her socks,' this is all just a moment of not good, and it'll be amazing at the end! There are all these complimentary and very positive reviews! Perhaps someone has an anti-bigot-inator® and it won't be awful at the end!”
Yeah, yeah. I know. It wasn't better. It stayed terrible.
But I kept going! Because I wanted to find what everyone else seemed to like about it and I had hope it might have become better and less awful and maybe I'd figure out what I was missing that all those five- and four-star reviewers were enjoying.
It didn't become better or less awful. It just ended. The plot runs out of bad guys, Lynx stops being the worst law enforcement officer ever, and he and Eva hook up. The end.
I did really like the moose character, though. His name is BW. But I'm betting, if moose read this book, they'd be upset at their stereotypical portrayal, too. And I can't say that I blame them.