Yup, you read that right. Blazing anal. Blazing the Hershey highway. Firing up the backdoor action. Hot poop chute lovin’. Avast me hearties, there be anal in this novel.
While at RT, I heard about this book from Andrew Schaeffer, who reviews the Blaze line for RT Book Reviews. You should have seen my face. I absolutely did not believe him. But no, there is anal. He even says so in his review.
I was hoping to like the story, because any time envelopes (and two-holes) are pushed, I’m curious. I’m all for boundary exploration and really, I didn’t go literary spelunking expecting to be entirely disappointed. But this is easily one of the most boring Blazes I’ve ever read. Even with the anal. Lackluster anal, can you imagine? It was somewhat mildly disturbing thing, too, because of the reason for the posterior penetration, and because of the motivation of the hero to rise up and head for the rear (I’ll give you a hint: highly aroused status crossed with abject lazy ass).
So let me back up a moment and introduce you to the couple at hand. Sometimes the openings of these reviews are the hardest thing to write, but for you, I’ll push through.
Bryna Mataxis is fighting daily for her right to be heard and listened to at her family company, where her older male cousins ignore most of her suggestions. They are all trying to save the company, and with it, the town of Earnest (Wow, do I have some town slogan ideas for the city council), which is currently suffering a 25% unemployment rate (Ouch). Bryna’s cousin was the subject of a novel of his own, I gather, because his new bride was the fiancee of the Mataxis family nemesis, and now that Bryna’s cousin has won the heart of and impregnated the nemesis’ chosen woman (like you do), there’s much tension and the stakes are higher. Of course they are.
We meet the hero in the prologue: Caleb Payne.
Ooooh, yes. What a perfect last name considering why I entered this book in the first place. Mr. Payne. He’s a womanizer, and the prologue tells of his inability to love, his desire for women only lasting as long as their ability to not ask him for emotional commitment. Yeah, he’s a winner. Cue hero, heart of stone, page 1.
Then comes the fantastic infodump of the Three Wooden Parts of this story. The whole thing is like a tower assembled precariously of pieces of plot poorly held together by the remnants of a sneeze.
Wooden Part the First: Mr. Payne is an illegitimate son of someone who, while alive, was rather rich and prominent on the east coast. Apparently this causes Payne some angst or agita or angina or something but we never see it except when the narrator tells us it’s painful and bothersome to him in a jaw-clenching kind of way.
Wooden Part the Second: Mr. Payne is approached by Bryna about some business proposal, but it’s only discussed in the most nebulous and general of terms. It isn’t even completed in the course of the novel so if you are using this book as some sort of MBA text book, go buy the next one to find out what the hell the deal was for. It was important, I know that.
Wooden Part the Third: Bryna doesn’t like her new cousin in law, the heroine from the previous novel, so there’s all sorts of scenes between her, her cousins and her cousin’s new pregnant bride with the emotional charge of balsa wood.
Bryna’s behavior for the most part does nothing to endear me to her. She’s cruel in her thoughts about The Last Book’s Heroine, for example:
…so much had been riding on that deal with Philippidis. To just throw it all away because of a woman was unthinkable to her.
She frowned. If only Elena would have kept her legs closed and her hand on her ex-groom’s arm, right now the first production line would be running and the second would be under construction, employing at least two hundred of the town’s hurting residents.
Yes, for the good of Earnest, Bryna thinks her new cousin is a raging slutbag whose whoreful behavior screwed over the business deal. And of course Bryna’s burning interest in Mr. Payne is totally acceptable:
…the difference lay in that she wasn’t engaged to marry someone else so no one would be hurt if things spiraled out of control and then went south.
Oh, Bryna, if you only knew how far things would spiral out of control when the go south. Unintentional foreshadowing is unintentionally hilarious.
She’s judgmental and we spend waaaay too much time in her head learning how much of a rigid douchebag she is. Mr. Payne, for his part, is the sexiest sexist slimeball in all the world.
Bryna makes an appointment to see Mr. Payne and he reflects upon the first time he met her in the most business-like and professional of ways:
Caleb allowed himself to appreciate Bryna’s remarkable beauty. The type of looker who would be right at home sunning herself on one of Philippidis’s yachts, a white barely-there bikini playing up her physical assets, large sunglasses perched on her petite nose, her long, dark hair combed back while a formally clad waiter served her a dirty martini. He remembered thinking that she could easily challenge any of the goddesses her Greek ancestry boasted on the sexy meter….
And she looked even better now, staring up at him with a wide smile.
Although for the record he’d prefer to see her in that barely there bikini rather than in the too-stern navy-blue suit she had on.
He’s so classy. Oh, and did I mention he doesn’t think much of women?
She was a little on the young side. He was maybe a decade her senior. But if his recent experiences had taught him anything, it was that seeing women closer to his own age came with baggage he was no longer interested in carrying. Biological clocks and measuring sticks were tucked in their designer handbags, always nearby, always dictating their actions.
What. A. Prince. Bryna isn’t sure what to think of him initially:
She’d heard that Caleb Payne was not a man to fool around with. And when their paths had crossed before, she’d certainly seen firsthand that he could be darkly suggestive.
I am not sure what that even means, except that she might want to consider meeting with him along with an HR representative, but what do I know?
Bryna fantasizes about him, he undresses her with his eyes, and really, not a bit of it is hot or even interesting because they are such unabashed assholes about everything else, I didn’t like either of them. Plus, their scenes together are few and far between: unless she’s taking a ride on his disco stick, they rarely speak to one another except for the briefest of business meetings where “the deal” is discussed. Or something. They could have been talking about the phone book for all the detail I got.
And when they are doing the dance as old as wood, the descriptions are HILARIOUS:
Caleb took her in, inch by tantalizing inch.
Her beasts were small and pert, untouched by a plastic surgeon’s knife. Dark nipples puckered, as thick as the tip of his pinky finger. Her waist was narrow and her hips flared … her womanhood neatly trimmed but left natural.
Also: Caleb’s ruminations about her “natural” state are all the more disturbing when, later in this book, Caleb’s mom pays him a surprise visit, and despite her sympathetic character (she’s about the warmest female in the whole novel) the narration describes the fact that she colors her hair and possibly has had some work done. It is most cringeworthy.
There’s some excellent descriptions used in the sexual scenes. “Saturated channel.” “Aching core.” “Tight bud.” And of course Bryna has earth shattering orgasms:
The earth stopped spinning and she hovered somewhere between this world and an alternate universe. A place where everything was white and sweet and so very, very exquisite. One didn’t need food or water in order to survive, only this… this incredible facet of being.
Just you wait, Bryna, just you wait. There’s a facet of your being you haven’t even experienced yet.
Mr. Payne, for his part, really likes to ride bareback whenever he can. It’s really disturbing. In their first scene of sexual hootenanny, he gets the condoms out and puts them on the bed, but then:
He slowly slid in to the hilt. Everything halted. Bryna’s gasp emerged silent; her heart contracted then stopped. They were no longer two separate entities but one, joined, together….
At some point, Caleb withdrew and finally sheathed himself.
Good Lord! The condoms are RIGHT THERE! Apparently everyone except Mr. Payne knows that pre-ejaculate fluid contains some sperm and it’s possible to get pregnant without a male orgasm and ejaculation. You’d think someone like Mr. Payne, so fearful and derisive of the female baggage and all those biological clocks hidden in designer handbags would be more cognizant of the dangers of riding bareback.
But then, Mr. Payne’s also not against riding dirty, so I guess he likes to live on the edge. Or his dick does.
There’s some sex and maybe some plot and some other character who serves as Mr. Payne’s basketball confessor and wise sage of the jump shot. And then there’s some phone sex, which is so awkward and revolting I had a hard time reading it. At one point Bryna takes off her bra and tells Mr. Payne that there’s “nothing to get in the way of a good, thorough caress.”
“My index finger just tunneled under the elastic…mmm…yes. It’s stroking the length of my swollen, hungry lips.”
Later, “The crotch of my panties is dripping with desire.”
Yeah. Ok. Get a towel.
Mr. Payne is reminded of Bryna’s naturalness again when her stilted, wooden dialogue of phone sex causes him to reach down and pull out his Little Payne for a good jacking off. He hadn’t stroked the salami for a long time, “not since he was a teenager, before he’d discovered that with a little effort, he could have a willing female look after the task for him.”
A page later, “His mind’s eye filled with the image of her parted lips, her pupil-dominated eyes.”
Oh, my God. She’s a Precious Moment’s doll?!
Mr. Payne himself is “natural,” in case you were wondering:
Caleb brought his foreskin up over his aching head of his penis and brought it back down, his gut tightening.
Enter a few more scenes, plot, conversations I didn’t care much about – remember, I’m only in this far for the anal. There’s a scene where Bryna eats Cocoa Puffs while reading Thoreau, and I’m not sure what that was supposed to say about her, though I hope she brushed her teeth because those things stick to your molars like whoa and damn hell.
If I hadn’t been lured by the promise of extremely questionable anal sex, I wouldn’t have read past the halfway point. This book is just so dull and wooden and the characters are such schmucks, I wouldn’t have cared about their happy ending because I didn’t like either of them. I thought he was a sexist tool wad and she was a judgmental twerp with questionable taste and limited business skills.
But then, there was whatwhat in the butt.
If you can’t bring yourself to read the scene, here’s a tight recap. They’ve had sex for the 47th time or something. Mr. Payne is sitting at his piano and Bryna walks in, and in the course of some kissing and post-coital noodling, she tells him she’s falling in love with her. Quicker than you can say designer handbag, Mr. Payne is filled with… some kind of feeling that I can best express as “he wants her bad and is a lazy dangerous fucker.” And I mean “fucker” in every sense of the word.
He puts her on the piano, holds her down, and starts fingering her:
“Please,” she whispered. “I want to touch you.”
He ignored her plea, instead parting her engorged folds with his thumb and finger, taking in the pink portal.
Yes. Pink Portal. She’s a superhero, apparently. Or her vagina is.
His hard-on throbbed and burned with the need to bury himself inside of her. But he had no condoms on him. They were back in the bedroom where he had left her. But she had come into the living room, invaded his longing for privacy, for space to put a name to what he was feeling, to find a way to control it.
She tried to sit up and he held her back down. But looking at her in her confused, turned-on state threatened to rip him to shreds. He could carry her back to the bedroom. But he didn’t want to wait that long.
So he pulled her forward, stripped her of his shirt and turned her over so that her bottom was lifted high in the air….
This time when his fingers breached her, it wasn’t in the place she was expecting.
If you’ve ever wanted to try anal sex with your partner, and you aren’t sure of the best way to approach the balloon knot, I suggest the following four step process to create the most sensitive and caring of backdoor environments:
1. Hold your significant other down forcibly, preferably on a piano.
2. Leave the condoms in another room of your penthouse apartment, a couple hundred feet or so from where you are, so you have a reason to go riding dirty.
3. Don’t even think of going into the kitchen for some lube, olive oil, bacon grease, hell, even some chicken broth. You go hard or go home.
4. Don’t ask. Just do it. She invaded your piano privacy after all.
Yeah. You can see why this scene was increasingly repellent with each word. She’s held down, he doesn’t ask, he doesn’t even USE ANY LUBE for the love of God aside from “her own juices,” and he avoids using a condom because he’s too turned on to go get one, and if he DID have one, he’d just have done it the old fashioned way anyway.
For the record, I’m not against anal in books. I am surprised to see it in a Blaze, but am even more surprised at the reasons for it, the circumstances in which it occurred, and the fact that he couldn’t be arsed to get some lube or a condom.
They go to sleep in the bedroom (good to know they can make their way back there for some things) and Bryna ruminates on her feelings for Mr. Payne as he sleeps.
Tonight she’d realized that the demons that compelled him to succeed at business haunted him on every level.
He’d demanded everything from her. And she’d given it to him….
He hadn’t responded when she’d been compelled to whisper her confession that she believed she might be falling in love with him.
I beg to differ there, Bryna. He most certainly did respond. Did you miss the whatwhat in your butt? He said quite clearly, with his wang of mighty Payne, ‘You are a Piece of Ass to me.’
And not only am I sure what piercing the chocolate starfish means in a personal context but I’m pretty sure what the metaphor is for your business deal, as well.
Beware of those butt sex billionaire tycoons, is all I’m saying.
She realizes that he’s pulling away from her (I guess maybe she did understand the message the buttsecks brings?) and gets up and leaves without another word.
That’ll show him.
Then Bryna mopes in bed for a few days, remarking at one point how bad she smells (gag) and then making friends with Elena The Slut Cousin In Law in another scene, and then it is time for Mr. Payne to Walk in the Rain Meaningfully and Emotively.
He feels remorse! Oh noes!
The remorse that he’d hurt her.
Oh, not physically. Although what he’d done had played a role in establishing the distance he needed to put between the two of them. No. He’d shut himself off from her emotionally….
Without saying a word, he’d pounded a wedge between them….
Wow! A euphemism I didn’t already use? The more you know!
And then it gets weird. No, like really, really weird. Like someone was trying to mess with my head.
Caleb feels guilty, Bryna feels used and stinky, and there’s some business deal to bring them back together, provided Bryna liquidates her every available resource:
As promised, she’d had her bank put her assets together and managed to squeeze out the amount promised to Caleb.
Ok, now, I think someone is just fucking with me.
To him she’d been nothing more interesting than an amusement park ride he could leave behind when he became bored in search of the next one.
She grimaced. Now, there was an analogy for you. She was a rollercoaster. Or at the very least, she felt like she was riding one. And had just come to the end without hope of ever mounting it again.
Mounting it. Ugh.
OK, now I am SURE someone is just fucking with me.
She’d known the dangers going in. A man like Caleb Payne wasn’t one to be thrown by simple emotion. And, after all, he had that “love ‘em and leave ‘em” reputation to live up to. Plus his name.
It couldn’t have been clearer had it been tattooed across his handsome forehead. But that didn’t make it any easier to take.
There is no doubt in my mind that someone is just fucking with me.
In the end, he grovels halfheartedly, and they make up, leaving several plot threads to be solved in the next book. Caleb blames his heartlessness and emotionless deep freeze on an absent and long-dead father who never claimed him as legitimate, a convenient, underused plot point that was probably meant to add pathos and empathy for his heartless business drive. In reality, his motivation for his actions is far too easily interpreted as immature selfishness and any attempts to divert the reader from that conclusion are so weakly done they appear shabby and contrived. Bryna doesn’t fare much better. Her attempts at business savvy, which I believe I am supposed to admire, are vague to the point of nonsensical, and her inner monologue is so judgmental of her family that when her opinion begins to turn, due to the fact that it is based on one conversation and a meal besides, I have no faith that she has grown up or become more self-aware.
It is a terrible thing when you read a book for the buttsecks, and the buttsecks is so boring and disturbing that the most burning irritation comes from the characters being assholes instead.