I received a pitch for this book from the author, and was intrigued by the mix of elements she highlighted in her email: the multi-cultural characters, the use of European soccer clubs as a setting, and the interesting conflict with the heroine posing as the fiancée of her gay best friend while being attracted to his nemesis. I not only bought it but sent a message to Jane at DearAuthor, since she and I both enjoy sports-focused romances.
Alas, this book is poorly edited, suffers from an outright fear of commas, is confused as to how the characters names are spelled, and is published with a lack of formatting that neglected to mark changes in scene or point of view, which made reading downright confusing.
Most bothersome to me, the plot relies on stereotypes to a degree I found offensive. The portrayal of the gay characters turned me off entirely.
Honestly, when a book is this confusing and this awkwardly written, it’s often best to let the book excerpts speak for themselves. So this is a quote-heavy review. Be ye warned.
Yvonne is the childhood best friend of Robbie, who is a superstar soccer player on an Italian football team. Robbie has been dogged by gossip that he’s gay, and so he asks Yvonne to give up her job and her apartment and come to Rome to pose as his fiancée. His nemesis on the team, Paolo Saito, is suspicious, but also very attracted to Yvonne, and Yvonne finds herself equally attracted to Paolo. Hijinks and a lot of very strange sex ensue.
The good parts: I had high hopes about the characters before they retreated behind a stereotypical portrayal, and the potential of a story that took place in a unique setting was tempting. I was curious about the hero’s Japanese Brazilian heritage, and had no idea that Brazil is home to the largest Japanese population outside of Japan.
Further, the descriptions of play on the soccer field were sharp and vivid, and demonstrated a real understanding of soccer. The sports scenes were some of my favorites and I wish there were more of them. I wish that the same vitality had been present in the characterization.
But beyond that, My reaction to the narrative was either confusion or disbelief. First, Paolo’s name changes spelling frequently, sometimes even on the same page. I wasn’t sure if he was Paolo or Paulo, so for the purposes of this review, he’s Pauolo (sp?).
All of the characters are perfect – model perfect. Here is the description of Robbie, the Sassy Gay Best Friend of the heroine, Yvonne.
If he hadn’t followed his dream to be a professional athlete, Robbie could’ve easily graced the cover of any male magazine.
Robbie smothers her with gifts, picks out her makeup, finds the perfect outfits, does her hair, and is the Best Sassy Gay Best Friend Ever.
A somewhat scurrilous reporter, Joaquin Malfi, who plays a tangential role to the plot, describes the hero, Pauolo (sp?) Saito:
Joaquin tried not to gawk at his host as he entered the room. An exotic blend of Brazilian and Japanese, Paolo Saito was what all the women magazines he free-lanced for called the total package.
Blessed with a commanding height, a lean muscular frame and perfect symmetrical features Joaquin had to agree. Paolo Saito had a face that could sell thousands of magazines and he did on a consistent basis.
Malfi, for his part, is described multiple times as having oily hair slicked over a bald spot, but each time he appears, Yvonne has trouble recognizing him, despite using the exact same terms to describe him.
And here’s Yvonne, described by the narrator, with help from Robbie:
Although cut at a modest length, grazing the tops of her knees, the dress hugged her like a second skin, reminding Yvonne of something a femme fatale would wear on some daring act of espionage. All she needed was a martini, shaken not stirred.
Thanks to years of gymnastic lessons, she wore a pair of stiletto sandals, held up by satin ribbons wrapped around her ankles, with ease.
To complete her look, Robbie had styled her shoulder-length hair into an abundance of loose waves and played up the boudoir effect by applying smoky eye shadow on her lids and slicking her lips with a deep burgundy lip gloss.
“You still have that killer bod the neighborhood guys drooled after,” Robbie joked, pulling Yvonne out of her thoughts. “Without it I don’t think we would have been able to pull this farce off as successfully as I thought.”
She’s a total hottie. Understood.
By far the most bothersome element to the story, aside from the abject fear of commas and the lack of editing and consistent spelling, was the simplistic portayal of homosexuality.
Walking toward her with a slow, yet confident swagger, Robbie gifted her with a dazzling white smile. Despite their charade, her heart did an unconscious pitter patter.
So, this is what being gay did to a man? Amazing how being in touch with one’s feminine side, could make a man seem inordinately more handsome. Yvonne, like everyone within ear shot, couldn’t take her eyes off him.
In touch with one’s feminine side? That’s what being gay is? I had no idea!
Also: why would everyone within ear shot be unable to take their eyes off him? Is he both auditorily and optically fascinating?
Brown’s portrayal of Robbie, the Gay Best Friend, bothered me a great deal.
“I better get cleaned up for the press conference. You know how much I like to make a good impression.” Robbie might be a lion on the soccer field, off it he was a hundred percent metro sexual.
The contrast between Robbie’s masculine prowess on the field vs. his effeminate metrosexuality off the field made me twitchy.
Yvonne also struggles with Robbie’s feminine side when she discovers he’s told his teammates she put herself through graduate school through exotic dancing:
Robbie reached over to pat her knee, Yvonne swatted his hand away. “I told them you used to be an exotic dancer,” he corrected. “And you only did it to support your way through graduate school.”
Yvonne moaned. “Not the old Player’s Club excuse. That’s the oldest and lamest excuse in the book.”
Appalled, Yvonne turned her back to him. She couldn’t believe Robbie’s spinelessness. How could a man who supposedly was gay and in touch with his feminine side, be such a chauvinist.
Again, gay and feminine side, nestled snugly within a few words of one another. I was twitching every time it happened.
As I said earlier, Robbie has asked Yvonne to pose as his fiancee because the press was becoming too intrusive into his private life, and his secret boyfriend was not so secret. There’s not much that’s “supposed” about Robbie’s homosexuality.
Now, I have not been to Italy, so I have to ask, is this true?
“But you’ve never been ashamed of your relationships.”
“You know I know that, but Rome is still stuck in the nineteenth century. They might have women exercising in the nude on television, but if you’re openly gay you’re committing blasphemy. And it doesn’t help I live and work right on the Pope’s front door step,” Robbie snorted, finally finding the humor in his predicament.
“Come on, Yvonne. You’re in Rome, the city of love. Enjoy the opportunity to live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.”
Rome is the city of love? I thought that was Paris. Rome, you have some explaining to do here.
But back to the simplicity of being gay. Yvonne is very protective of her Sassy Gay Best Friend, but the way he interprets her protectiveness in the following scene nearly raised my eyebrows clear off my forehead:
“This is the twenty-first century. People are more accepting than they were just twenty years ago.”
“Yeah, but this is the home of the Italian stallion. And according to the general populace, the stallion shouldn’t be mounting another stallion.”
“I still say you should have let me open a can of whoop ass rather than pretend to be your fiancée until you ink what we hope will be a seven figure contract.”
A smirk lifted Robbie’s lips. “Are you sure you aren’t gay? You’ve always had masculine tendencies.”
So lesbians are women who have masculine tendencies, and gay men are those who are in touch with their feminine side.
My notes for that scene are nothing but WTF and question marks and spluttering incoherent confusion. In other words, the reliance on over-simplified gay stereotypes and trite portrayals really, really bothered me.
The portrayal of Yvonne confused me, too. Sometimes a streetwise confident woman, sometimes clueless ingenue, and sometimes mixture of the both depending on the moment, Yvonne made no sense to me. When she realizes the level of wealth and opulence Robbie enjoys as part of his life as a soccer star, she is conflicted about her role in his life.
When Robbie gives her a Mercedes to use while she’s in Rome, her reaction was so strange, I had to re-read twice to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood:
Yvonne blinked then blinked again. The Mercedes was still there! Unable to resist a peek, she jumped out, ran over to the car and cupped her hands over the window.
She inhaled so hard, she almost swooned. She could smell the newness of the interior even through the separation in the glass. Yvonne’s smile slowly faded.
Would I be to give up this lavish lifestyle once Robbie inked his contract? She hoped so or she would be applying for a sex change operation as soon as possible!
A sex change operation?!
I know this was meant as a joke, and usually I have a pretty well-functioning sense of humor, but paired with all the feminine and masculine sides, this struck me as so shallow [and] offensive and lame. She would turn herself in to a guy so she could stay with Robbie and enjoy a Mercedes? Nice. Because all it would take to appeal to Robbie, since he’s gay, would be for her to sport a peen of her own. Then the Mercedes is hers, all hersssss! Way to be awesome, Yvonne.
Also: there was no marker or italics to signal the change between third person narration and first person rumination. That was consistent throughout the book, and was very distracting.
As the plot thickens, the reader discovers that Paulo (not Paolo, as spelled earlier) has a vendetta against Robbie, because of the death of Pauolo’s (sp?) best friend, Joao. Pauolo (sp?) is very conflicted about his attraction to Yvonne, but that doesn’t stop him from looking at her:
Like an exotic bird in a sea of pale swans, her almond shaped eyes and round face topped off with a pert button nose, high cheek bones and a wide mouth intrigued him.
Despite his better judgment, Paolo stepped closer. He couldn’t tell her eye color from this distance, but who cared with breasts like hers. They strained against the low décolletage of her form-fitting dress and emphasized the sexy nip in her slender waist.
Oh, Pauolo (sp?), tell me more.
(Don’t worry, he does.)
An avowed butt man his perusal shifted lower, settling on her derriere. Paolo let out a low whistle. She had the kind of ass that would fill out the tiny bathing suits Brazilian women made world famous.
The more he looked, the more Paolo wanted to drag her into the nearest bathroom and bend her over the sink. He wondered if her ass cheeks would jiggle as he rammed his cock between her healthy mounds.
Ok, Pauolo (sp?), that’s enough. Thanks.
Pauolo (sp?) has many women in his past, but “He hated scenes especially with women. Paolo might be selfish, but he wasn’t an asshole.”
You sure about that, Pauolo (sp?)?
Yvonne’s conflict over her own attraction to Pauolo (sp?) is explored in several scenes. In one, at a function for the football club, and Yvonne decides to dance. She thinks Robbie is behind her:
She barely rose to her feet when Robbie’s hands slid up over her hips to rest on her waist, his thumbs brushing the underside of her breasts. Yvonne shuddered. Her girls were her most erogenous zone.
Robbie pressed his body closer to hers and kissed the side of her neck. His cologne tickled her senses and she melted into him. A smile played on Yvonne’s lips as several heads turned to watch them. Good! By the end of the night, no one would doubt Robbie was straight.
You can see where this is going – it’s not Robbie. It’s (gasp) Pauolo (sp?) grinding his boner away behind her.
Before she could step back, he raked a finger across a hardened nipple, causing it to peak the fabric of her dress. Yvonne smacked his hand again. “I thought you were Robbie,” she gushed as heat rushed to her very core.
Paolo’s eyes dropped to her décolletage and he licked his lips. “How I wish I were your noivo, Yvonne. I so want to take you home, put you in my bed, crawl inside of you and never leave.”
Holy crap, does he wish he were her tampon? Prince Charles is going to be SO pissed off.
Pauolo (sp?) has many focus points when it comes to the female body. Earlier he admits to being a butt man, but when he later sees Yvonne floating in a Roman bath, topless and unaware of her presence, he checks her out again. You’d think he’d be looking at her “girls,” but no:
Her feet were tiny and topped off with pale nail polish. Not seeing any visible corns or bunions, Paulo mentally checked that off his list. An admitted foot man, her feet were definitely lickable.
Alrighty then. An avowed butt man, and also an admitted foot man. No corns and bunions with the jiggly ass. Pauolo (sp?) is a well-rounded connoisseur of women. Pity he doesn’t notice much about about their personalities.
In another scene, they go to a costume party. Yvonne is dressed as Little Bo Peep, and Robbie is an “international male” version of a sheep, “in a pair of buttery suede pants which laced up the front and shamefully emphasized his manhood. The custom-fitted pants were so tight he needed to jump from a roof to get into them.”
This is, of course, a perfect opportunity for Pauolo (sp?) and Yvonne to go to some secluded room (like you do) hidden from the party guests so that they can act on the attraction. Except Pauolo (sp?) is dressed as a wolf (of course he is) and Yvonne doesn’t know who he is, only that she’s ready to jump his bones and rock him like a hurricane. Literally.
Hurricane preparedness could put you in right frame of mind, but no amount of plans or preparation could ever diminish the impact. And on the Saffir-Simpson scale, her orgasm slammed into her with the force of a category five!
Excuse me, but 0_o?
Their sex scene is a collective of strange metaphors and over usage of exclamation points:
“Do you have any condoms?” Paolo blinked, like he’d suddenly landed on earth and had no clue where he was. Throwing back the counterpane, he yanked open the bureau beside the bed. Always the perfect host, Nico always supplied a box of condoms in each guest room.
Before she could change her mind or even think about saying stop, Paolo rolled the latex over his cock.
Damn! His dick was hard as a metal pipe!
Not wasting another minute, he rolled onto her, eagerly drawing her into his arms. He slid a thigh between her legs and positioned himself against her core.
At the very last second, he hesitated. She was so warm and slippery wet he was no longer sure of his staying power. The minute he entered her, he’d probably blow both of his heads.
Not wanting to go down in any woman’s diary as a minute man, Paolo willed himself to slow down, regain control of the situation. His strategy seemed to work.
The ball of tension at the base of his spine started to untangle and his cock had stopped screaming at him.
Alas, Yvonne didn’t get the same memo. She reached between them, grabbed a hold of the one-eye bastard and guided him between her legs. She lubed his cock with her pussy juices then fit the head against her wet slit.
Paolo gripped the bed sheets and clenched his teeth. He prayed it would be a tight fit. He didn’t want to think about any other man being privy to her sweet honey pot.
You still with me? I had to go lie down after reading that scene. This is honestly the first time I’ve seen one sex scene with “one-eye [sic] bastard,” “honey pot” and “pussy juices” all in the same page.
Once Yvonne realizes the one-eye bastard is connected to Pauolo (sp?) and that she wants more of said one-eye bastard, she begins to lie to Robbie, and try to cover her tracks – despite falling asleep in the sexcapade room, missing most of the party, and going out for hours to be with Pauolo (sp?).
She hangs up the phone in one scene, and Robbie asks who she was talking to. She lies and says she was just gossiping with a friend:
Robbie stared at her for a moment, and then went back to reading the paper. “Gossip hungh?”
I have no idea what a “hungh” is.
Soon Yvonne is having clandestine (yet hours long) visits with Pauolo (sp?) at his estate:
She’d come dressed like a librarian or a school teacher in a camel-colored sweater set, matching skirt, dark brown boots and a high ponytail.
Paolo almost nutted on himself. Her scent, a combination of crisp wool, brand new leather and vanilla scented lotion, aroused him more than any one hundred dollar perfume.
Sure she’d chosen the outfit to appear unappealing, Paolo smiled. Her plan had backfired. Big time. She was his biggest fantasy come to life. With a certified I.Q. of one hundred and forty-seven, he’d spent just as much time in the reference section as he did on the pitch.
So he also has a big…. brain.
The sex scenes continued to use far too many exclamation points, unless the cumulative total was an indication of the strength of Pauolo’s (sp?) erection.
Paulo reached inside her skirt and latched his thumbs around the band of her panties. He pulled them down her thighs and over her booted feet. They were black and silky to the touch!
Bringing them to his nose, he inhaled. Paolo’s eyes fluttered to half-mast. Her pussy smelled better than he’d imagined!
There were times I was worried about Yvonne’s physical health:
In a matter of seconds, the sensitive button hardened, doubled in size and her sex leaked a milky white fluid.
Good to know! Thanks!
But the fluidity of her milky parts was no deterrent to Pauolo (sp?):
“Just like the first time,” he groaned, see-sawing his hips back and forth. She fit him better than his custom-made cleats.
It’s like the soccer version of R. Kelly’s You Remind me of my Jeep!
Clearly in the throes of passion, she tossed her head from side to side and met him thrust for thrust. A shudder ran down Paolo’s spine and his balls tightened.
There was nothing like an active participant! Most beautiful women tended to lie there like blow up dolls. Not his Yvonne. She milked his cock like a woman who enjoyed sex!
That’s a lot of milkiness for one sex scene, is what I’m thinking.
Sex has a number of odd effects on both Yvonne and Pauolo (sp?):
Yvonne blew out a long breath. Her mind was starting to become fuzzy, the simple act of breathing an almost insurmountable feat. The man had a diamond dick that was quickly becoming her best friend….
I’m still trying to parse that sentence.
And then comes the opportunity to bang one another where condoms are not close by. Yvonne, in a moment that left me with unexpected respect for her character, asks him if he has any condoms:
For the first time in his adult life, Paolo objected to using the barrier between them. “Have you and he been intimate since—” Paolo found he couldn’t complete his sentence. The thought of her with another man made his blood boil.
“No,” she said then bit her lip as if she’d said too much.
The sense of elation that fluttered in the vicinity of his heart like the wings of a caged bird made him smile.
“Then why do we need it? We’ve both been monogamous.”
YEAH. FOR A MONTH OR SO.
Her brown eyes widened in surprise.
Heck, he was shocked too. Even though he’d used condoms ever since he’d lost his virginity at the age of sixteen, he’d never practiced monogamy. No single woman had moved him enough not to desire another.
Now, correct me if I’m wrong here, but the point of condoms isn’t the partners he doesn’t have right now while he’s with her. Condom use would be needed because of all the partners he’s had BEFORE her. So how would their present monogamy make condoms any less necessary, especially since Pauolo (sp?) has been described by several characters as having lots and lots of women?
“I-I’m not on the pill.” She moved to put back on her panties and barely had them up past her ankles when he snatched up his training pants and rifled through the pockets. He found the handful of condoms he’d stuck in there earlier, and threw all of them except for one on the bed next to him.
“Come here,” he said after slamming the condom on with a loud pop.
But the condom conversation appears again. Robbie and Yvonne go to a group dinner at a restaurant, and Pauolo (sp?) brings a date, presumably to make Yvonne jealous. But it doesn’t work, and in a fit of frustration, Pauolo (sp?) follows her in to the bathroom so he can satisfy his desires with his diamond one-eyed bastard.
“You forgetting something,” Yvonne panted against his ear as he continued to batter her senses with long, sure strokes. “You forgot to put on protection.”
Paolo bit down on her shoulder. “I didn’t forget. I want nothing between us.”
When Yvonne tried to move back, he held her against him. “I have a clean bill of health.”
Yvonne had no doubts. He along with Robbie and some of their teammates publicly revealed their AIDS test results during their annual youth HIV Day for young fans a little less than a month ago.
Right. Because no one ever lies to the media. Or children. Or to the media and children at the same time.
Still, she tried pushing him away. “I’m not on the pill.”
“I promise,” he said not losing his rhythm, “I’ll pull out.”
(My note at this time: “Dude. She is saying, ‘No.’“)
“What about the blonde?”
“I haven’t been with her in over a year. Even then, I used a condom. Like every woman since I turned sixteen.”
Surprised he’d never slipped up, she had to ask. “Why?”
“I was scouted heavily before I even turned twelve,” he grunted. “I didn’t want children or a disease to derail my future. Come on, Yvonne, just this once. I want to feel your hot flesh against my cock.”
Oh, now that’s a compelling argument. So he promises to pull out and he swears he’s clean.
Does he pull out?
Making good on his promise, Paulo made a move to withdraw from her. “I−” he breathed against her neck, but he did not finish.
As if possessed, he plunged his cock deep into her and let go, shooting stream after stream of his hot seed into her womb.
Of course not.
So of course Yvonne ends up pregnant and there’s much to untangle – I won’t spoil the ending, though, sorry. Even though Yvonne is beyond gullible and the cliches stack up like diamond weenies, Pauolo (sp?) and Robbie’s solution to their problem is funny and clever – and takes place on the soccer field, which means it’s entertaining and confidently written.
But the final scene is another sex scene, and contains this odd description:
Her orgasm bubbled in the pit of her stomach along with the soul-stirring heat between her thighs.
The bubbling orgasm pretty much identifies everything I found peculiar and unappealing about this book. The writing was nonsensical at times and undecipherable at others. Commas were eschewed as was consistent spelling, and the characters relied so often on cliche and stereotypes which I found bothersome and offensive. I had trouble liking or even caring about any of them. By the time the story got to the masquerade and the Bo Peep and the Pauolo (sp?) Wolf mystery sex, I was reading just to see where the crazy would go next, and not because I wanted to know what happened.
What fascinates me is how many positive reviews this book has. I have to ask myself, did I read the same book? Did they get one with commas? Did I miss something obvious? What was it that was so appealing to them that at the same time was so unappealing to me?
Regardless, this book did not work for me on a number of levels. There were far too many things described as “milky.” The same phrases were repeated to describe ancillary characters, while the spelling of the hero’s name was not consistent at all.
But beyond the techinical flaws, the characters themselves weren’t admirable. The hero’s behavior was repulsive, and the heroine’s treatment of her supposed best friend wasn’t much better. And most especially, the trite and offensive portrayal and explanation of homosexuality absolutely turned me off.
This book is available from:
Player’s Ultimatum by Koko Brown
November 27, 2011