Good evening, all!
After my widely-read and underinformed indictment of the quality of romance novels as a genre, I’ve been challenged by Sarah and her friends at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books to read Sex, Straight Up, a.k.a. Vol. 388 (April 2008) of Harlequin’s Blaze series, whose front cover appears thus:
As a courtesy to my challengers (and all of those who voted to make this particular selection my sentence), I’ve decided to write about each chapter as I make my way through the book and post my remarks here (and send them on to Sarah so that she can do with them whatever she’d like to).
I don’t intend that the sum of my remarks should make up anything at all like a review. Rather, I hope that my random observations might simply provide a rough impression of my view of the book as I proceed. I also hope that those reading these notes will keep in mind that you may likely be far more used to the conventions of the genre than am I and that I’ll as often as not mistake this particular book’s quirks and idiosyncrasies for standard Harlequin formulas, just as I’ll mistake stock formulas for singular idiosyncrasies. Mea culpa, in advance.
Enough yammering! On to the good stuff...
Chapter 1: Diving In
Okay, the story so far: Adonis-like accountant and reluctant widower (wife killed in 9/11) Daniel O’Sullivan, no doubt one of the “sexy O’Sullivans” advertised on the book’s cover, reluctantly removes his wedding ring before reluctantly trudging off to a weekend at a time share with his brother’s law partners. Mission: have fun (code for: get laid).
A few days pass in the space of a line, and hilariously well-educated but unselfconscious auction-house appraiser Catherine Montefiore (a Levantine Lorelei?) spies aforementioned Daniel (whom she compares to Odysseus) on the sand in front of her grandfather’s beach house and proceeds to sketch him stealthily while thinking illicit thoughts to herself, subjecting us to the book’s worst line yet: “There was art, and then there was man art.” (Close runner-up, a page an a half later: “Classical baroque art would have been altered forever if some Hamptons Hussy had turned Odysseus into Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky Melon-Grabber.”)
The conversational style of the prose makes this book refreshingly easy to read. Then again, you get an occasional shot of words no man would never utter: “One woman’s crap is another woman’s soul mate.”
So far I’m not really hooked. Sorry, y’all.
Chapter 2: Three Days Later
I’m back for the next round. It’s gotten better. The prose is a little less pretentious, the dialogue a little more natural. This second chapter actually reads kind of like the transcript of a slightly-awkward first date, and while it’s not particularly engaging it’s believable.
I was pleased by the author’s decision not to make of our heroine Catherine Montefiore a brilliant chef de cuisine in addition to a casually talented sketch artist and expert art appraiser (“all that, and she can cook, too!”) after flirting with that possibility on page 28.
By the way, I wonder if it’s normal that I should find lines like the following one pretty frickin’ hilarious?: “He could feel the heat under his collar, the slow pound of his blood and the push of his cock against what had been a loose pair of shorts until he had found himself fascinated by a set of wistful brown eyes.”
My question for regular readers of the Blaze series: just what is it that distinguishes Blaze books from those in Harlequin’s other lines? Are they particularly torrid?
On to the next chapter...
Chapter 3: Sex, Uninterrupted
Right away the second paragraph delivers a knee-slapper: “She’d been so caught up in the rare moment of being in the close proximity of such a man-man and now she’d blown it.”
What exactly is a “man-man”?
“Manly man?” Maggie asked.
After this it’s a ten-page semi-literal description of a timorous sexual encounter. I was vainly hoping to take in a few laughable euphemisms for the genitalia of both sexes. “Purple-headed warrior” was one of Maggie’s favorites from her many years of reading historical romance. The closest this chapter came to that was “velvety hardness.” Catherine’s girl-part is most elliptically described as “her opening.”
I think that’ll do for tonight.
More to come, folks!