Book Review

Walkin’ Dusty Roads of Metaphor


Title: Walkin' Dusty Roads
Author: Ken Potter
Publication Info: eXtasy Books 2010
Genre: Erotica/Erotic Romance

Book CoverHere at Smart Bitches, I am not one to shrink away from a metaphor. In the past few years, both Candy and I have employed a metaphor, and by “employed” I do mean “beaten into the ground with overuse and obviousness.” Our use of metaphor is completely, and utterly lame compared to some of the opening lines of this novella.

Here, have the plot summary provided by the publisher in the opening pages:

Dusty Roads is a drifter whose down-to-earth
cowboy work ethic has landed him a job in a
Carolina power plant. Honey Barnes is the plant’s
lone but feisty female boss fighting to succeed
despite resistance in a male-dominated workplace.
Both are tormented by tragedies from their
past…tragedies they were helpless to stop. When
a workplace situation evolves into what both
recognize as a potential catastrophe, they are
thrown together by the chance to avert disaster
and find redemption. In the process, their
irresistible attraction for one another turns into the
passionate love that has long eluded them.

That’s right, Dusty Roads and Honey Barnes.

I receive a good many submissions to read and review, from novellas to epic novels that make my inbox attachment folder cry. I usually try to read the first few pages to see if the material grabs my attention. This experience I had to share with you. Why?

The opening paragraph stopped me cold. Mostly because it is two sentences long, but oh, what sentences they are. Here is where I resolve never to use another metaphor or simile again, because clearly I don’t know what the hell I am doing.

Honey would sometimes think of Dusty, and it was like she twisted a dial and opened a steel door to a safe in her heart where she kept her grandest
jewels—bittersweet memories, surrounded by a poignant moat. Some were vivid as fallen red bougainvillea petals, while others drifted by aimlessly, as vague and faded as old photographs in a dark flooded cellar.

I feel like I’m watching one of those informercials about educational programs guaranteed to improve your memory. Safe! Jewels! Poignant moat! Petals! Photographs! Flooded cellar! French drains! Homeowner’s Insurance! Flood Policy!

Wait, I went too far, though perhaps the safe of memories in Honey’s mind could use some additional riders in the event of a flooded poignant moat.

Regardless of the flood plain, however, that many metaphors is not advisable in any circumstance. Really. It’s just too much.


The metaphor-palooza comes to an end with other memories in Honey’s opening recollections:

The safe contained her sixteenth birthday party at the secluded cove she had discovered at Jordan Lake—the one Taylor laughingly called the Honey
Hole. She swam in her sheer undies, staring curiously from the corners of her green eyes while the guys went skinny dipping. Her large breasts floated on the water, the wrinkled, brown, quarter-sized areolas visible through the sheer lace bra.

Yes, that does indeed say “Honey Hole.”

No, wait, I’m wrong: there are more metaphors and similes that crash into one another like cars on the needles of a pine tree swaying in the gale force winds of my attempts to oxygenate my reeling brain, which was reeling like a pine tree swaying in the gale force winds. (How am I doing? Yeah, really, I can’t keep up and need to just quit, right?).

Dusty would strut out to the front of her mind like he owned the place, smiling, dismissing all the other memories like slamming the door on an annoying salesman. That was how she always saw him. That genuine smile that came from his heart, his gentle blue eyes belying his big, gruff exterior. Dusty’s smile could stop a charging pit bull in its tracks. And if that didn’t work, his hands were big and strong enough to snap its neck like a chicken’s.

Aaaaand that’s where I stopped. Dogs with broken necks. Yeah. I’m done. I wish I had the fortitude to keep going, but I am clearly a weak and shameful individual that I cannot persevere in the face of moats, honey holes, brown floating nipples and unfortunate dogs.

I tried, though – literally AND metaphorically.


Comments are Closed

  1. Tina C. says:

    Okay, that was hilarious!  It’s as if the metaphors were put in a blender and pureed!  (Oh, dear—now I’m doing it.)

  2. Babs says:

    Wow. Just, wow.

  3. SusiB says:

    This book has actually been published? There must be people who really like metaphors running amok. Well, I know of at least one other author who writes like that. Here’s a quote from Lilith Saintcrow’s Night Shift:

    My pulse beat high and thin in my throat. A sharp bloody noise trembled on my lips, burst free, and echoed like the voice of a bird battering at the side of a cage.
    An iron cage, with horsehair cushions and old rusty stains crusting the elaborate scrollwork, while sick remembered pain roiled thorugh my nerves and the scar puckered and prickled, tingling.

    Needless to say, I hated that book.

  4. Freshechelle says:

    This gem sounds like it was written on a bet.

  5. Nadia says:

    Okay, in that last blurb, I’m going with the metaphorical flow, when I am figuratively stopped dead in my tracks:  “….like slamming the door on an annoying salesman.  That is always how she saw him.”  Like an annoying salesman?  Dude, not so romantic.  I’m sure the author meant for you to get in the Way Back Machine and travel to the beginning of that sentence where Dusty strutted like he owned the place, but my short-term memory can only hold so much.

  6. It sounds to me as if the author used some sort of romance book computer generator to write the book. From the examples given and if it continued that way, if that book was a drinking game you’d have been under the table and passed out cold in the first chapter.

  7. Denise says:

    I’m going to be thinking of ways to insert poignant moats into my conversations all day.  Thank you.

  8. Suze in CO says:

    Honestly, I found “Honey Hole” to be the least obnoxious part of that particular paragraph.

  9. Jayne says:

    Well, this passage certainly opened the safe of my funny bone, a steel door in which clowns drive tiny cars and monkeys, like petals, float gently into the poignant moat of my imagination.

    I’m glad you stopped reading, though, because I really don’t want to know what else they were calling the “Honey Hole.”

  10. Dr.Zoidberg says:

    The way her breasts were described lost me. Ewww…is this a real book, Sarah? Or are you pulling an early April Fool’s trick on us?

  11. LizW65 says:

    The instant I read the title, I just knew, knew, KNEW the hero would be named Dusty Roads.  (I thought it would be spelled Rhodes, though.) 
    And how can a moat be “poignant”?  Does it have sharp edges that inhibit one’s ability to climb out?  It sounds as though the author has taken a correspondence course from the HP Lovecraft School of Purple Prose.

  12. Is the Honey Hole at all affiliated with the Duck Shack? Under the same management, perhaps?

  13. Betty Fokker says:

    That writing took my mind on a trip, not unlike the long trips taken by gypsy caravans in under the heat of a blazing Transylvania sun, where the werewolves of bitter memories sprang from behind every bush and sucked my heart dry, like a vampire’s kiss. I was cast, helplessly, into the ocean of forbidden remembrance of the purple prose of days past, when the men all had throbbing silken shafts instead of penises and the women all had slick folds instead of vaginae, and wherein the simultaneous crest of their love always peaked like a glorious explosion, leaving them breathless, with the heroine in love with the mighty Sioux Brave, Bringer-of-Thunderous-Orgasms, while he continued to fight his attraction and love for the Swedish American heroine with violet eyes and spun-gold hair, Rayleenah Evervirginsnatch.

  14. Mary says:

    I am utterly and shockingly speechless, like a person suddenly asked to open their heart safe and let memories flow into a poignant moat….

    This novella would be exhausting.  Was he getting paid by the word?


  15. Ken Houghton says:

    “Her large breasts floated on the water, the wrinkled, brown, quarter-sized areolas visible through the sheer lace bra.”

    Since she is skinny-dipping, not “floating on her back,” I have to assume this is a pair she carried with her; that the areolae are “wrinkled” despite not possibly being in the water themselves only confirms that impression.

    captcha:  trying69, which I suppose would explain part of the contortions necessary for the quoted sentence to be true.

  16. Donna says:

    Not… enough… coffee… garghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…

  17. JaneyD says:

    I *DO* believe someone took the whole Bulwar-Lytton thing waaaaay to far, but not stopping at the first sentence, continuing on like an impatient driver blowing a stop sign like a ten dollar hooker with a crack habit as heavy as a pregnant sperm whale who’d gotten separated from her pod and was being hunted by that crazy guy from Jaws, not the Richard Dreyfus character who was at least as amusing as Bill Murray was back when Saturday Night Live was still funny.

  18. Anony Miss says:

    I almost have to buy this.

    Forget Prozac. This would brighten anyone’s day.

    This is beating the shiek’s lizard (ew) by a mile, in my book.

  19. Wow … I wouldn’t have gotten past their names in the blurb, let alone attempt to read any of it.

    Though if a dude called Dusty Roads can end up as a hero in this book, there’s still hope for my one SFR guy. Don’t feel so bad now giving a character a screwball name.

    And what 16 year old has overly wrinkled areolas? Makes no sense… (screwy names and young-old wrinkly boobs seem to have caused my brain to grind to a halt now)

  20. AgTigress says:

    It is really quite hard to believe that the opening sentences were not written as intentional parody.  Of course the excerpts are entertaining, in their overwrought way, as are many of the witty posts above, but it is also rather sad to reflect that many infinitely better writers have tried to get published, and have failed.

  21. Venetia says:

    I think my brain is refusing to hold on to what I just read, for fear of permanent scarring. My family had a horse named Dusty Roads …

  22. Veronica says:

    Oh god, this brought back memories of a romance I read in high school (one of my first romances ever, actually) called Salty & Felicia. The heroine’s name was Felicia, and the hero’s name, of course, was Salty. I think I even remember her exclaiming at one point during their lovemaking “Oh, Salty!”

    Tee hee.

  23. Lori S. says:

    “Her large breasts floated on the water, the wrinkled, brown, quarter-sized areolas visible through the sheer lace bra.”

    Is this a girl or a floational device?

  24. Noite says:

    To be fair, even the heroine, as pictured on the cover, appears to be amazed by the abilities her breasts possess.

  25. Janet says:

    We’re invited to stare at a 16-year-old’s boobs? Eww. And, definitely written by a guy.

    Hah! Verification: “wrote16”  Verification android knows all, like an alien god peering down at the world he created on a whim after a really rough bender that left him with a headache so severe it was as if two black holes had taken up space in his brain and were expanding, expanding, evermore expanding until his head literally exploded.

  26. Avery Flynn says:

    Thank you. This is the just the pick me up I needed on a Monday. Like an atom bomb of WTF-ery it exploded on my computer screen, its mushroom cloud of crazy floating down from the heavens.

  27. Tina C. says:

    To be fair, even the heroine, as pictured on the cover, appears to be amazed by the abilities her breasts possess.

    Perhaps she’s wondering what happened to the large, floaty ones.  Or perhaps those were falsies and they floated away one day as she swam in the “Honey Hole”.

    It is a bit disturbing, though, that the couple on the cover appear to be severely (ie, feloniously) mismatched in age.  She could be the little sister of the guy pictured there.  She looks like a 14-year old, dressed for a school dance.

  28. Lovecow2000 says:

    Reminds me of the lovely descriptions of Bronwyn in Ron Miller’s Silk and Steel:

  29. Laura (in PA) says:

    I first read that last one as a charging bull, and therefore pictured him snapping the neck of a bull, which would be quite a feat.  Then I read your comments below it and had to go back and see where the dog was. Too much work for me to get through all those metaphors. Waves of exhaustion settled upon me like dust motes floating on a summer breeze.

    Capcha – book85 – I can think of 85 books that are better than this one; in fact, I probably have that many stacked next to my bed.

  30. DreadPirateRachel says:

    Why, why would you want to snap a dog’s neck? That is horrific. The rest of the excerpts were amusing (probably not intentionally), but that made me physically ill. Not metaphorically; my stomach is actually upset now.

  31. SB Sarah says:

    @veronica: What was she doing when she said that? No, wait, never mind, I do not want to know.

    @dreadpiraterachel: My reaction exactly. Upset and sick.

  32. ashley says:

    “the wrinkled, brown, quarter-sized areolas”. 

    this is more description than I ever what about a woman’s breasts.  and wrinkled is so no the best word to use in this case.  this is why authors are so fond of “puckered” people!  but really, did we need the specs on her boobs?  Talk about not leaving anything to the imagination.

  33. ninjapenguin says:

    All I can think of is this vid. Apparently this guy *really* digs a metaphor.

  34. Yuck.  Not even I want to fling myself on this.

  35. Sandra says:


    Hah! Verification: “wrote16”  Verification android knows all, like an alien god peering down at the world he created on a whim after a really rough bender that left him with a headache so severe it was as if two black holes had taken up space in his brain and were expanding, expanding, evermore expanding until his head literally exploded.

    Now, that sounds like you’re channeling Douglas Adams. WTG!!! Our author should read and learn from a master.

    economic78: Yeah, our economy really sucked back then, too.

  36. Susan Reader says:

    Really, except for the fact that you’ve already given up on it, this thing cries, nay, screams the scream of a rabbit caught by a hawk on a moonlit night swooping through pine-scented moonlit valleys, to be liveblog-read.

    But “Honey Barnes”?  Pffst.  Author’s not trying.  “Honey Beaz”, “Honey Baddgher”, “Honey Behr”, “Honey Potts”—these are worthy names.

    changes75:  This needs considerably more than 75 changes to be readable!

  37. Alyssa Cole says:

    Wow. After reading the first excerpt, I finally truly understood the utility of this emoticon: O_o

    costs98: This book better not cost more than 98 cents.

  38. jayhjay says:

    “Poignant moat” is going to be my new band name!

    And no, I don’t need a mental image of a 16-year olds areolas, wrinkled or not! 

    I have to say my favorite part is the title. I mean, bad name puns in titles are sadly commonplace in romance novels, but really, Walking Dusty Roads sounds like she is taking her dog out for a walk once you know it is his name.

  39. Alexys says:


  40. quichepup says:

    I cannot believe I am the only one who thought of this dude.
    “Cowboy work ethic” made me snort blackberry yogurt too. The title should be “Riding” Dusty Roads and then whoa, watch those metaphors swim in the er, Honey Hole.

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