Book Review

Soulful Strut by Lynn Emery

F

Title: Soulful Strut
Author: Lynn Emery
Publication Info: Harper Torch 2006
ISBN: 0060731044
Genre: Contemporary Romance

I tried very hard to get through this book, but when I reached page 100 and still wanted to throttle the heroine, her mother, her roommates, and everyone else, I had to put it down. Between the frustrating and unreliable heroine and the wooden ancillary characters, I’d had enough.

The heroine, Monette Victor, has just been released from prison after new evidence of bribery and extortion in her prosecution revealed that she had been framed for the murder for which she was convicted. She’d maintained all along that she was innocent and set up, but because of her less-than-stellar lifestyle as a mistress and wayward parent, she was convicted with little effort, particularly after the district attorney pressured other witnesses to falsely implicate her. She wrote a book in jail and became famous because she spilled all the dirt on the district attorney who framed her, because by that time, he was the state Attorney General. The resulting scandal caused him to resign – and Monette to go free.

It was relatively easy to find all the backstory details that set up the present novel, because they’re all on page 6 in a big fat info dump. How convenient.

In a nutshell: here’s the pattern of the heroine’s thought process.

Jail and my life experiences have taught me to be strong! And clever! And made me a whole new person!
But I’m a bad person who doesn’t deserve all the things that have happened to me. I’ve made some bad choices.
But my release from prison gives me a chance to build myself into a new confident woman!
But I’m not confident; I’ve caused a lot of harm and my children hate me. I’ve made some bad choices.
But everyone in this halfway house should go to college! We all have potential! I’m great! You’re great! We’re all great!
I’m not. I’ve made some bad choices.
I’m great!
I’m not. I’ve made some bad choices.

Seriously, if you scanned this book and did a CTRL-F for “bad choices,” I’m betting you’d find at least four uses of the pair in each chapter. The reader does see some of Monette’s bad choices, or hear about them as she tells someone else at length what they were, but the reader also sees that some of those bad choices result from not ridding herself of a slew of negative influences, even as she counsels others to do the same. Just saying she’s made bad choices doesn’t give me any sympathy for her when she continues to follow the same path.

There’s no initial explanation of what happened in jail to give her this insight into her own flaws, or what happened to put her at war with her own confidence, so all I had in the hundred or so pages was an annoying character who didn’t seem real or consistent. Add to that a love interest who is stuck in some wooden and terribly trite dialogue exchanges, and some cliche jealous women who embrace stereotypes with loving precision, and I had to put the book down.

The dialogue between characters, particularly the protagonists, was equally frustrating. Sometimes it was cardboard platitudes, sometimes it was phrases that wouldn’t roll naturally out of anyone’s mouth, and sometimes it was info-dumping. I couldn’t believe any of the characters because the dialogue wasn’t moving the story forward so much as filling in the past, or circling in the present.

Furthermore, the events in the heroine’s life were improbable as well. She walks out of jail, checks into the halfway house, appears on the morning news, then lands a job hosting her own mid-day talk show on a talk radio station. Because people who write books automatically do well on the radio?

What disappointed me most was that cover to plot summary, this book could have been great. The cover is exceptionally sexy – a woman’s legs walking up stairs in gold d’Orsay heels? Wow. And the plot summary holds an incredible amount of potential. An innocent woman who hadn’t lead a most honorable life sent to jail for years for a crime she didn’t commit (though she was guilty of a slew of much lesser crimes) is released because of her own bravery in telling the truth of her own story, even the unflattering part, and thus has a chance to rebuild her life? And to do so she has to balance her sense of innocence and her sense of guilt while ridding herself of people who only want her money or fame but give her nothing in return? Could be amazing. But it wasn’t. It was trite, stereotypical, wooden, boring, irritating and disappointing.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Charlene says:

    The cover model is pigeon-toed. Or is she supposed to be eight months pregnant? (With those shoes, I hope not.)

  2. 2

    Wow! I think I’ll go out and buy that book! Not.

  3. 3

    Charlene, I was thinking the same damn thing. The cover should have been beautiful, shoes are gorgeous, perfect colors, but why are her toes facing out? It looks like her knees are bent and about 18 to 20 inches apart!

  4. 4
    Charlene says:

    Also, if you notice, the shoes are in reality too narrow for her feet. The ball of her foot is spilling out more than it should over the sole.

    They should have taken that picture from a slight angle instead of having the model point her toes out.

    This of course doesn’t speak to the book itself, but had I been the writer I would not have been happy.

  5. 5
    AnneD says:

    oh, I just thought it was a picture of a drag queens feet…

  6. 6
    AnneD says:

    Just realised I need to clarify – ‘it’ is walking up the stairs like she has a pair of balls hanging low. You sure there wasn’t a jail conversion later in the story?

  7. 7
    maggie says:

    Seriously, if you scanned this book and did a CTRL-F for “bad choices,” I’m betting you’d find at least four uses of the pair in each chapter.

    I read a book once that said the heroine was smart over and over.  It got so bad I wanted to play the drinking game I did as a kid. Every time someone in the book said it I could take a drink. When someone said how big her brain was I closed the book and walked away.

  8. 8
    Wry Hag says:

    How did it ever get published?  Why did it get published?

    I asked myself that about the Sherrilyn Kenyon fiasco I just read.  I asked myself so often in the course of the book that I started thinking I was just being monkeysack nitpicky.  So I finally sat down and wrote out all the reasons why I kept asking myself how/why the book got published.  My conclusion:  I wasn’t being monkeysack nitpicky; the book shouldn’t have been published.  Still don’t know how it did get published, but the exercise was therapeutic.

    My point?  Uh, I think it’s that writing and/or reading reviews help us work out our anger, frustration and confusion over all the crappy books out there, some of which we’re foolish enough to spend our money on.  Or something like that. (I only spent a dime for Kenyon’s dud but it was nine cents too much.)

  9. 9
    Liz says:

    I looked at the cover and my first thought was—the heroine is a drag-queen. 

    Oh, dear.  Who commissions this stuff and when did they last get their eyes tested?

  10. 10
    Charlene says:

    I keep wondering if the “bad choices” refrain has anything to do with the author’s career as a clinical social worker. I have the greatest respect for people who improve their lives and for those who help them, but sometimes you have to let the past go and stop harping on your “bad choices” in the past. We all make bad choices, after all.

  11. 11
    Invisigoth says:

    And here I was thinking that the cover model was an inexperienced drag queen.  A man walking slew footed in high heels

  12. 12
    Marissa says:

    If she was found innocent of crimes after however many years she wouldn’t have had to go a halfway house.  She would have just gone home.  Didn’t the author watch any of the news reports about people being released after being found innocent years later?

    And, yeah, I totally think it’s a dude on the cover ‘cause no chick walks that way up the stairs even if they are trying to get a pic of the shoes.

  13. 13
    --E says:

    I dunno, I see a lot of women walk that way up the stairs in the subway. A lot of the stairs in the subway are approaching 100 years old, and have the narrow treads that were considered more efficent or something back in those days.

    Watching other women commute in impractical shoes is a source of much amusement to me.

  14. 14
    Nifty says:

    Maybe it’s only because I watched “Kinky Boots” yesterday and it’s fresh in my mind, but I totally ditto all the drag queen comments about the cover art.

  15. 15
    K says:

    The shoes are nice though and I like the color combo.

    Maybe those are narrow stairs?  I don’t know…stretching here.

  16. 16
    Charlene says:

    I can see walking like that in real life, especially in places like subways where the treads are kept short so they don’t take up space.

    But this is the cover of a book. It could have been done better.

  17. 17
    LorelieLong says:

    Oh I’m so relieved!  I was looking at this one at B&N this morning but didn’t get it.  I’m so glad to find out it sucks.  I’d have hated to throw my money away.

  18. 18

    I never read the book and it probably does suck, but I like the shoes, even if they do look like they’re being worn by a pregnant lady or a man who isn’t that experienced in wearing women’s clothes or if the shoes are too small. I just love the shoes.

    But sadly, the heels are too high. Maybe the heroine can’t walk in them (that’s how I walk when I wear shoes with heels like that). If the heel were thicker, I’d so scour the ends of the Earth to get them (and an outfit to go with it)

  19. 19
    desertwillow says:

    I was going to make a witty remark about the cover and the weird positioning of the shoes, like a drag queen, but everybody beat me to it.

    Sigh…

  20. 20
    Realityhelix says:

    I suppose it’s a problem if whenever I can’t remember the exact name of a book, I just substitute the word “Savage” for the word I can’t remember? This book became “Savage Strut” about halfway through the review.

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