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Search tags: Narrative-Point-of-View
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review 2013-10-06 21:35
This One Pushed the Feminist Rage Buttons
Tangled - Emma Chase

I'm really torn about how to review this. I have to give Emma Chase some credit: this was like no other romance I've ever read. It's told entirely from the first person POV of the male protagonist, Drew Evans, and he's talking to you, the reader. I also give Chase credit because, while Drew is an unapologetic asshat most of the time, his character is believable and fully developed.


Most of the other reviews are five stars, and I get that. Tangled is appealing because it's so unique. The pacing of the plot is perfect. The dialogue is fast and sharp. Kate is sassy, smart, and independent. Drew is charming and funny.


Here's the thing, though. Sociopaths and wife beaters can also be charming and funny, yet, like Drew, they are often manipulative, misogynistic, self-centered, immature bastards. Drew is a manwhore, and women are objects for his sexual gratification. He tells us right off the bat that he generally doesn't even bother to learn their names. His narrative is full of jawdroppingly anti-feminist and anti-gay quips (I didn't start keeping track until I was more than halfway through the book, but I highlighted at least a dozen examples of misogyny and homophobia in the last half alone.) He refers to his sister as The Bitch (though she's nothing but good to him.) He derisively refers to chick-flicks like "The Notebook" as "totally gay." The things he says to Kate at work blatantly cross the line into sexual harassment territory, and he knows it, but doesn't worry because he's confident she likes him and won't rat him out. Drew knows he's being crass, but thinks he should get away with it because, the way he sees it, he's just telling it like it is.


Even when he falls in love with Kate and has to win her over, he's totally manipulative. They work together. Drew is the boss's son and the firm's well established Golden Boy; she is a brand new, entry level associate, an uneven power dynamic that makes his behavior all the more reprehensible. When she spurns him, he arranges a series of highly visible and disruptive stunts AT THE OFFICE to change her mind, apparently not knowing or caring that the last thing a newly-hired, professional woman trying to build a career needs is to have her personal relationships be made into a sideshow at work. Outside of romance novel fantasyland, Drew's behavior would likely get Kate fired and him slapped with a restraining order.


Other reviews talk about how funny Drew is, but mostly it's a mean spirited humor, reminiscent of a witty high schooler shoring up his own popularity by making jokes at others' expense. Bottom line: I can see what others liked about this book, but too much about it made my skin crawl.

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review 2013-10-05 03:16
Guilty Pleasure Schlock
Escorted - Claire Kent

One of the things I love best about the romance genre is that you can be reading along, thinking, "This is the schlocky-est premise ever; I can't believe how ridiculous this is," and yet you're still enjoying it. (Sometimes. There is guilty pleasure schlock, and then there is rolling-your-eyes-so-hard-it-hurts schlock.)  Escorted is good, guilty pleasure schlock. Lori is a hugely successful romance novelist who somehow managed to build a highly lucrative career (uh, huh, because writing is so very profitable) and reach her 27th year without losing her virginity. Ander (yeah, stupid name, I know) is the gorgeous, sophisticated, world-weary male prostitute she hires to relieve her of that unfortunate condition. As you might expect from the premise and the subgenre (erotica), sexy times ensue (lots of sexy times, but all pretty vanilla).


The sex scenes are really very clinical, distractingly so until I remembered that that was the point: Lori hires Ander to educate her, not to seduce. And upon reflection, the very clinical nature of the sex works well in the context of the romance plot (yes! Escorted has an actual plot, which is more than you can say for some erotica), because the gradual breakdown of Ander's professionalism and clinical "rules of engagement" cue the reader that theirs is no longer a purely business arrangement. (You, dear reader, will figure this out long before poor, slow Lori clues in.)


Speaking of poor, slow Lori, the entire book is told from her point of view, in the third person. I found this frustrating, because Lori is such an imperfect narrator in that there is much she doesn't know or understand, but especially because the story of a gigolo falling in love with a virgin is far more novel and interesting than that of virgin falling in love with the man who initiates her sexual awakening. While I was reading, I realized that a third-person narrative told entirely from the perspective of the heroine is relatively rare in romance. The only books I could recall that don't give us any glimpse into the hero's point of view are first-person narratives told from the heroine's perspective. I really missed Ander's point of view, and I believe the story would have been better if we'd had that insight, rather than just Lori's sometimes fumbling efforts to figure out what's going on in his head. (There are a lot of scenes where she'll notice a facial expression, a look in his eye, a quirk of his lips, and spend a great deal of time badgering him and/or obsessing in her head over what it means, often without reaching the "right" conclusion. A little bit of that would be fine, if it were followed by scenes from Ander's POV where the reader could see Lori's mistakes, but absent that, these scenes get repetitive and don't advance the plot well.)


All that said, the story of how their relationship evolves from a business arrangement between student and teacher to a love affair between equals is compelling and well worth the read.


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