Review – A Woman Entangled by Cecilia Grant

So, I’d heard of Cecilia Grant, of course.  I read her amazing post about feminism and romance, and I admired her for opening up a discussion on the issue to explore the nuances of culture, feminism, romance, love, gender, story, ideology, etc.  But I hadn’t read any of her books until last month when I saw this book come up on NetGalley and thought, gosh, that author’s name seems familiar, somehow.  I think I’ll read that one.  I didn’t put the dots together until after I’d finished the book (and bought and read her first two books).

Cover image, A Woman Entangled by Cecilia Grant

The publisher’s blurb, courtesy of Goodreads:

Kate Westbrook has dreams far bigger than romance. Love won’t get her into London’s most consequential parties, nor prevent her sisters from being snubbed and looked down upon—all because their besotted father unadvisedly married an actress. But a noble husband for Kate would deliver a future most suited to the granddaughter of an earl. Armed with ingenuity, breathtaking beauty, and the help of an idle aunt with connections, Kate is poised to make her dreams come true. Unfortunately, a familiar face—albeit a maddeningly handsome one—appears bent on upsetting her scheme.

Implored by Kate’s worried father to fend off the rogues eager to exploit his daughter’s charms, Nick Blackshear has set aside the torch he’s carried for Kate in order to do right by his friend. Anyway, she made quite clear that his feelings were not returned—though policing her won’t abate Nick’s desire. Reckless passion leads to love’s awakening, but time is running out. Kate must see for herself that the charms of high society are nothing compared to the infinite sweet pleasures demanded by the heart.

You know how sometimes you read on autopilot, without devoting your full (or even a majority share) attention to the book?  Other readers will have a different mass of distractions, of course, but here’s my typical list: when reading at home, my kids playing and calling for my attention, TV on in the background, the mountain of housework I don’t feel like doing sitting there staring at me with judgement in its figurative eyes, my husband looking back and forth between that mountain and me with a book in my hands, my thoughts about the day I just had and the one that faces me tomorrow, my never-ending to-do list scrolling through my mind, etc.; when reading at work on a break, emails popping up on my screen, music playing in one ear, my phone, Twitter, my never-ending to-do list scrolling through my mind, etc.  And most of the time I can enjoy a story even with that distracting and desperate soundtrack playing in the background, but sometimes I stumble upon a book that is so much bigger, in its narrative, than my life’s soundtrack.  These books drown out all that background noise and leave me feeling refreshed and energized, the way I’m supposed to feel after reading a book.  (Also, I can’t read them around my kids, because I don’t feel right completely ignoring them…)

A Woman Entangled is one of those books.  It grabbed my interest by the fourth page, and it didn’t let go until I’d finished the book.  Even then, I was still caught up with thinking about it.  It has:

  1. Pride and Prejudice references galore, and the story foils P&P except that the roles are a little bit reversed with Kate playing proud but vulnerable Darcy and Nick playing worthy but mortified Elizabeth.  That makes Kate sound just awful, but she isn’t.  
  2. Humor, but the author’s voice is rather serious.  The humor is witty and a bit wry, and I loved it.
  3. Discussions about women in (Regency) culture (that have applications to our culture today).  Kate and Nick have a memorable conversation about the impossible cultural need for women to be beautiful (and thus receive the attention of countless menfolk) yet remain in ignorance of their beauty (despite all that male attention).  There are plenty of other discussions, but that’s the one I bookmarked.
  4. Friendship between women whose conversation does not revolve around the male characters (this book passes the Bechtel test with flying colors.).  Even better, the book proffers the idea that friendship with a worthy woman could be just as desirable and helpful to a woman looking to find some security in the world as marriage to a worthy man (more, perhaps, as friendship doesn’t involve the transaction of one’s self into another’s keeping).

It’s that last point that is so interesting and important.  As the romance builds between Kate and Nick, I found myself waiting for the moment when Kate would realize that all her goals were less important than the power of love or that Nick was a more worthy prize than social acceptance.  I kept waiting for Kate to have to compromise her values or to discover that her long-held values were actually wrong somehow.  I waited in vain.  I even began to worry that the book (a romance novel!) wouldn’t have a happily ever after.  The ending was so unexpected, and in a way that’s sad.  It’s sad that I kept expecting the novel to bow to patriarchy — to devalue Kate’s feminine drive towards social acceptance, to force Kate to subject her desires in order to have a relationship with Nick, to confirm the idea that Kate’s happiness can be achieved only through her relationship with Nick (and her letting go of her other goals) — and it’s sad that I was so surprised by the book’s resolution.

Bottom line: I loved this book, and Cecilia Grant has earned a spot on my auto-buy and my ‘authors I want to high-five’ lists.

A Woman Entangled was released as a mass-market paperback and e-book  on June 25, 2013 by Bantam Dell, a division of Random House.  If you’re interested in learning more about the book, please click on the cover image above to visit the book’s page on Goodreads.  To learn more about Cecilia Grant, please visit her website.

*FTC Disclosure – I received an e-galley of this book from Bantam Dell via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Review – Flirting with Disaster by Ruthie Knox

Anyone who’s been reading my blog or following my Twitter feed knows that I’m kind of a fan of Ruthie Knox’s writing. (You know, like LeBron James is kind of a basketball player or my friend Jason is kind of in love with cheese.)  So you know that I’ve been looking forward to her next book for kind of a while, and I was kind of thrilled when I got an email telling me it was available.  Also, I kind of loved it.

Cover image, Flirting with Disaster by Ruthie Knox

The publisher’s blurb, courtesy of Goodreads:

In the latest eBook original novel in Ruthie Knox’s scorching-hot Camelot series, a no-strings fling looks an awful lot like falling in love—or flirting with disaster.

Fresh out of a fiasco of a marriage, Katie Clark has retreated to her hometown to start over. The new Katie is sophisticated, cavalier, and hell-bent on kicking butt at her job in her brother’s security firm. But on her first assignment—digging up the truth about the stalker threatening a world-famous singer-songwriter—Katie must endure the silent treatment from a stern but sexy partner who doesn’t want her help . . . or her company.

Sean Owens knows that if he opens his mouth around Katie, she’ll instantly remember him as the geeky kid who sat behind her in high school. Silence is golden, but he can’t keep quiet forever, not with Katie stampeding through their investigation. It’s time for Sean to step up and take control of the case, and his decade-old crush. If he can break through Katie’s newfound independence, they just might find they make a perfect team—on the road, on the job, and in bed.

It’s actually ridiculous how much time I’ve spent staring at the blank space in this review wondering where to start.  Then again, I was always the sort to write the introductions to my college papers at the end.  Maybe that’s an example of poor organizational skills, or maybe it’s a sign of scientific inquiry: I didn’t know what I was going to prove until I’d proved it.  Anyway.

I’ll start with the conclusion: I loved this book.  I loved Sean, and I loved Katie even more.  I loved the love story, and I loved all the background stuff that gave it breadth and depth.

The central focus of Flirting with Disaster is the love story between Sean and Katie, of course, and it’s a good one.  But flirting around the edges of that story and around those characters is a deeper, even more human story about identity.  It’s the kind of story that most people experience at some point in life, and it usually happens in your early twenties.  But sometimes it doesn’t, or you get it wrong.  Sometimes who you thought you were isn’t who you really are.  That arresting discovery that you’ve been existing for a long time but not really living can hit any time, and when it does, it’s terrifying but also liberating.

I think you should read this book, so I’m not going to tell you much about it, but it has:

  1. Some of the most fantastic awkward foreplay that has ever been written, including the least sexy kiss in the history of ever.  I know that sounds like it’s a bad thing, but it’s not — it’s wonderful.  
  2. A stuttering hero whose stutter doesn’t get better by the end of the book — as though normalcy were part of the happily ever after — and is always treated as being just a part of who he is.
  3. Excellently wrought tension between the characters.
  4. Star Wars posters. Framed Star Wars posters.
  5. A non-combative relationship. Have you ever noticed that in our culture, there’s a tendency to see relationships as being about competition?  I mean, when you think about it, that’s sort of what compromise is all about.  Two people are inevitably going to want slightly different things, and successful relationships, we’re told, are the ones where the parties successfully reach some sort of compromise.  Sometimes one person ends up doing all the compromising, sometimes it’s equal, but it’s always about competing for who’s going to compromise this time.  What I liked best about Flirting with Disaster is that Sean and Katie had a non-combative relationship that wasn’t about winning and losing.  Was Katie going to get to become her true self, or would she have to suppress that part of herself in order to be with Sean?  Would Sean have to give up his other, more successful, life in order to share a life with Katie?  Knox brings up both questions and then dismisses them in favor of a third: what if love isn’t about two individuals getting exactly — or as close as they can — what they individually want from each other (requiring a bit of competition and compromise in order to effect)?  What if love is about two people working together to make a better life for both?  What if love can be cooperative instead of competitive?  What would that look like?

I highly recommend this book, straight up, no qualifiers (although, it’ll probably help if you’re keen on romance to start with…).

Flirting with Disaster was released on June 10, 2013 by LoveSwept, a division of Random House Digital.  To learn more about the book, please click on the cover image above.  If you’re interested in learning more about Ruthie Knox (and you totally should be), please check out her website.

*FTC Disclosure – I received an e-galley of this book from LoveSwept via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Review – What a Wicked Earl Wants by Vicky Dreiling

Somewhat obviously, today I’m reviewing Vicky Dreiling’s What a Wicked Earl Wants.  My Twitter feed has been abuzz for the past few weeks with lots of rave reviews for this book.  RT Book Reviews gave it a top pick, and there are bunches of very positive, almost gushy, reviews on Goodreads.  Clearly, folk liked Bell and Laura’s story.

Cover image, What a Wicked Earl Wants by Vicky Dreiling

The publisher’s blurb, courtesy of Goodreads:

WILL A RAKE’S WICKED WAYS

Andrew Carrington, Earl of Bellingham, believes in being a gentleman, whether it’s fishing a soggy stranger out of the Thames or assisting a fetching lady into his bed. If the stranger becomes a friend and the lady a mistress, all the better. He certainly welcomes the opportunity to help Laura Davenport, a dazzling young widow with a rebellious stepson. Her gratitude, he hopes, will take an amorous form. But from the moment he sets foot in her drawing room, he gets far more than he bargained for …

LEAD THE LADY ASTRAY?

It was a moment of desperation. On the brink of losing her stepson, Laura turned to the notorious Lord Bellingham for help. Suddenly she, a vicar’s daughter, is in the precarious position of resisting his tantalizing advances. How Bell earned his wicked reputation is clear; the surprise is how much more there is to him than the gossip sheets could possibly reveal. Now every moment with this dangerously desirable man puts Laura’s good name at risk-and promises pleasure unlike any she has ever known …

I should preface myself with a bit of disclosure: Last summer, I read and reviewed Dreiling’s novella/short story, A Season for Sin,  my introduction to her writing.  I liked it, though I took exception to its lack of independent story arc.  It was a teaser novella but not a free one, an introduction to the What a Wicked Earl Wants, and I worried about that trend in general: pay $0.99 (not that much, admittedly) for a “novella” or “story” that turns out to be just a ploy to get you hooked on the full story, out in a few months, retailing for $7.99.  I haven’t seen a lot of people complaining about that kind of ploy — probably because $0.99 is not a lot of money — but honestly, it disturbs me.

But, you know what? I liked Dreiling’s writing style, and I liked her characters, and I really did want to know where they went from their abrupt end in A Season for Sin.  So when I saw What a Wicked Earl Wants come up on NetGalley, I clapped my hands and rushed to request it.  I tried not to let my misgivings about that not-quite-a-novella interfere with my reading of this book.  The thing is, I don’t feel right blaming this book for the novella’s issues.  Readers who pick up What a Wicked Earl Wants never having heard of the novella won’t be irritated by the retreading of ground already covered.  So these two paragraphs are just a way-after-the-fact update to my Season for Sin review: oy.

Back to this book, then.

Contrary to everyone in the world who seems honestly to love this book, I didn’t love it, and I’ve waffled around with this review for a long time trying to figure out what it was about the book that I didn’t like.  In reality, it was a combination of factors and largely the result of my own reading peccadilloes.  In keeping with my reputation for employing far greater detail than anyone could ever possibly want to read (in other words, every post I write qualifies for tl;dr, and people have just been too nice to point that out to me… I know, guys, I know.), I’m going to lay out why I didn’t exactly like this book and hope that the world in general will forgive me (for everything… also, for wearing lace-bottom leggings in 1993 and thinking it was TOTALLY cool).

1.  I couldn’t connect to Bell as a character, and he didn’t resonate with me as a hero.  There are a lot of reasons for this, including:

  • I know it’s silly because I read historical romance, and men, historically, were total d-bags who chased tail without any real regard for whether or not that tail wanted to be caught.  But, however true it might be that dudes are sometimes assholes, I don’t actually enjoy reading those stories.  So Bell’s whole ‘I need to bag a widow… ooh, that one looks good!” thing just didn’t work for me.  It made me kind of hate him, right from the get go.
  • The narration told in Bell’s POV repeatedly refers to Bell’s inability to love and his deep-seated emotional issues, but these issues don’t show up consistently in his behavior.  As a result, he just seems a bit confused.  I enjoyed Bell’s two hapless friends, Harry and Colin, but I didn’t enjoy his scenes with them being derailed by exposition about his emotional state.
  • Bell’s whole ‘Yeah, so you’ve been doing this parenting thing for years, and I have no experience per se, but I’m a man, so I’m automatically more qualified than you to do this whole parenting thing, and — check it out — I am actually better at it than you, and isn’t that something!’ thing relating to Justin really bugged me.  A lot.  And maybe it isn’t right to hold that against Bell as a character, but I did.

2.  I couldn’t connect to Laura as a character, for a variety of reasons, including:

  • I did not understand what Laura saw in Bell.  While he’s charming and fun to his male friends (whom I loved, by the way), he’s overbearing, disrespectful, and vaguely creepy to Laura (Wait, what do you mean you don’t want to have meaningless sex with me… what’s up with that? No lady has ever turned me down…).  All he really has going for him is that he’s hot.  Even when he takes Justin under his wing–and HONESTLY, what mother is really going to be like, “I just met you, and I’ve heard that you have a terrible reputation, and you’ve just propositioned me for meaningless sex, but, sure, go ahead and take my son out and teach him how to fence. It’ll be awesome!”–and Laura starts to have all the “ooh, he’s helping my son!” maternal feelings, it still didn’t make any sense to me.
  • This objection isn’t precisely fair, but Laura was so ineffectual in dealing with Montclief (The Villain… more on him later), that I ended up judging her as being a bit weak-sauce.

3.  Montclief is perhaps the least dastardly (and effective) villain since Dr. Evil.

Montclief is constantly lurking in the background — and frequently brought up (no joke, Laura thinks or says some variant of, “I worry that Montclief will take my son,” 8 times, and three or four times worries that Montclief will reveal her secret engagement with Bell)  — as a danger to the characters.  Will Montclief swoop in and take Justin?  Will Montclief reveal that Laura and Bell are secretly (but not really) engaged (to what end??)?  Will Montclief write a strongly-worded letter?  In the end, what Montclief does is break into Laura’s town house one night when she isn’t there and steal her jewelry.  This behavior gives Bell the opportunity to play hero, to take Laura and Justin to his heavily guarded stronghold country estate.  After a lot of hand-wringing at the estate, all of Montclief’s villainy is resolved in 1 page.

4.  Don’t even get me started about the mysterious plot device that drives the last third of the book… or about the totally abrupt ending (Bell: “uh, we have to get married.” Laura: “no, I don’t want to. You don’t love me.” Bell: “OK… well, give it some time…” Some time later Bell: “Hey girl… I love you.” Laura: “LOL. Let’s get married!” The Freaking End… and all of that takes place in four pages.).

I don’t know… a lot of folk really loved this book, and that’s great.  There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to reading, there’s only what one does and doesn’t like.  This book, to me, fell in the latter category, but that by no means implies that it isn’t, to a lot of other people, a piece of awesome-sauce amazingness.

For more information about What a Wicked Earl Wants, please click on the cover image above to visit the book’s page on Goodreads.  For more information about Vicky Dreiling, please visit her website.

*FTC Disclosure – I received an e-galley of this book from Forever via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Review – Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer

So after reading that terrible book, I knew I needed something wholesome and fun to help me redeem my faith in the world.  Very luckily for me, I had Karen Witemeyer’s Stealing the Preacher in my queue, and I started reading it the second I finished that other book.  It did the trick.

Cover image, Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer

The publisher’s blurb, courtesy of Goodreads:

On his way to interview for a position at a church in the Piney Woods of Texas, Crockett Archer can scarcely believe it when he’s forced off the train by a retired outlaw and presented to the man’s daughter as the minister she requested for her birthday. Worried this unfortunate detour will ruin his chances of finally serving a congregation of his own, Crockett is determined to escape. But when he finally gets away, he’s haunted by the memory of the young woman he left behind–a woman whose dreams now hinge on him.

For months, Joanna Robbins prayed for a preacher. A man to breathe life back into the abandoned church at the heart of her community. A man to assist her in fulfilling a promise to her dying mother. A man to help her discover answers to the questions that have been on her heart for so long. But just when it seems God has answered her prayers, it turns out the person is there against his will and has dreams of his own calling him elsewhere. Is there any way she can convince Crockett to stay in her little backwoods community? And does the attraction between them have any chance of blossoming when Joanna’s outlaw father is dead set against his daughter courting a preacher?

This is the second of Witemeyer’s books that I’ve read, and I enjoyed it just almost as much as I did the other.  Some of that liking may possibly be attributed to the sense of contrast I experienced in reading this book right after a boldly terrible book, but I honestly believe that I’d love this book even if I read it right after one of my favorite books.  At some point, I really must get off my duff and read Witemeyer’s other books.  She really has a way with writing believable, likable characters.

This book was a wee bit preachier than To Win Her Love, but maybe that’s to be expected considering one of the characters is, in fact, a preacher, and another character is the main impetus behind the reestablishment of a church in her neighborhood.  Preaching sort of fits in that context, no?  Anyway, I’m rather religious myself, so I certainly didn’t mind the increase in religious overtones.

Stealing the Preacher touches on the concepts of vocation and calling, trusting (the whims of) a higher power, justice (and injustice), rehabilitation, love, family, loss, community, faith, and the rather tricky problem of pain.  The romance between Crockett (one of the most interesting hero names I’ve ever come across) and Joanna is set against the backdrop of all these themes, and, far from being squeezed out by all these big ideas, the love story is enriched.  The book devotes a considerable amount of page time to the redemption of Joanna’s father, Silas, but I didn’t mind it, even when it felt like a distraction from the central story.  Silas provides Crockett an opportunity to show off his sterling qualities, and Joanna certainly takes note.  I don’t know — it worked for me.

One of the things I enjoy about Christian romances is that they follow a different story arc from standard romances.  Christian romances feature love stories that don’t involve sex as a crutch and, as a rule, steer clear of instalust, so the author has to find ways for the main characters to develop intimacy without being intimate (in our modern sense of the word).  One of the things I loved about To Win Her Love is that the main characters develop their relationship through reading and discussing Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth.  How cool is that?  In Stealing the Preacher, Witemeyer allows her characters to fall in love while working together to establish a community church and heal Silas’ spirit.

I sort of veered into spoiler territory… if you want to risk it, just highlight the text to view it.

The conflict that drives this story is twofold: on the one hand, Silas holds out as long as possible before having his conversion experience; on the other, Joanna and Crockett’s relationship (and Crockett’s life) is threatened by a young, attractive succubus and her too-gullible father.  Silas’ incremental conversion story works, even as a plot device, but I was a tad irritated by the other conflict.  In a book set in a community, it irked me that (1) Joanna has no friends her age; (2) the only other woman Joanna’s age who gets any page time is Holly Brewster (the succubus) who gloms on to Crockett as to a life preserver, and, when that doesn’t yield the results she wants, attempts to seduce him and then, when that fails, manipulates her father into assuming that Crockett assaulted Holly; (3) after Holly’s father overreacts to the point of nearly lynching Crockett, his reaction is that it’s actually all Holly’s fault for possessing an impure spirit.  That progression bugs me… Holly’s father’s actions are entirely his fault and responsibility.  Moreover, it’s a little disturbing that the two examples of young, viable (in the marrying sense) femininity shown in this book are so extreme; Joanna’s purity is complete, and Holly’s sordid character is equally complete.  Middle ground is where reality hangs out, but there’s none of that in this book.

The bottom line, though, is that I enjoyed the book, even though the major conflict was troubling.

Stealing the Preacher  was released on June 1, 2013 as a paperback and e-book by Bethany House Publishers.  If you’re interested in learning more about the book, click on the cover image above to visit the book’s page on Goodreads.  For more information about Karen Witemeyer, please visit her website.

*FTC Disclosure – I received an e-galley of this book from Bethany House Publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Kelly and Kim’s dueling review of Spank Me, Mr. Darcy by Lissa Trevor

Joining me on the blog today is my super-bestest reading buddy Kim from Reflections of a Book Addict.  Kim and I both love Jane Austen’s books, particularly Pride and Prejudice, and we’re both open to the concept of stories that take Jane’s Austen’s setting and/or characters and apply some sort of spin, whether continuing the story beyond where Miss Austen left off, or retelling the original story with a different set of circumstances.  Spank Me, Mr. Darcy definitely qualifies as that latter type of Austen re-do, but, of course, it doesn’t do it very well.  Honestly, what were you expecting?

Anyway, Kim and I were just putzing innocently around on the Internet, when we read a post on Book Riot about this book and did a collective (and individual) Whuuuuut? Then we hightailed it to NetGalley to see if we, too, could read it.

Cover image, Spank Me, Mr. Darcy by Lissa Trevor

First, the publisher’s blurb, courtesy of Goodreads:

After finagling an invitation to the ball, Elizabeth Bennet is introduced to the powerful and prideful Mr. Darcy, while her sister Jane has captivated the new owner, Mr. Bingley. Having contented herself with the pleasurable caresses of her best friend, Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth is intrigued with the sensuality she finds at Netherfield. But it isn’t until her sister Jane is taken ill and Elizabeth stays at Netherfield to nurse her back to health that she finds the dungeons of Netherfield and the man in the black mask who becomes her Master.

By the time she leaves Netherfield, Elizabeth will have become disenchanted with her childhood playmate and obsessed with Mr. Darcy, her Master, who has told her that she would be more marriageable as a Netherfield submissive than as a curious virgin. Elizabeth holds on to her affront at his callous regard for her until Charlotte marries Mr. Collins and Jane is discarded by Mr.Bingley. Unwilling to save herself for a man who’ll make a good match and determined not to suffer Jane’s heartbreak, when she meets Mr. Darcy again at Rosings Park, she decides to become his slave and offers him her virginity.

But when she finds out that her cruel Master has destroyed Jane’s chance at marriage with Mr. Bingley, she rejects Mr. Darcy – even as he reluctantly proposes marriage to her. It isn’t until he saves her sister Lydia’s reputation and brings Jane and Bingley together, that Elizabeth realizes that she loves him. If he still loves her, she would be most willing to take her punishment for rejecting him – and live happily ever after.

Kim: When dissecting the world of Jane Austen fan fiction (JAFF) I’ve always thought there were different fan levels.  There are those who are purists, the ones that don’t want Austen’s stories modernized or changed really in any way.  There are the inbetweeners who are ok with some changes, some modernizations, but don’t really go for the paranormal/zombie/erotic/etc changes.  Then there’s the last group (which I fall in) – the free for alls.  We’ll try ANYTHING that relates in some way to Austen and her characters.  Darcy as a werewolf, pirate, Dom, zombie, etc…..we’’ll read it.  Just because I read it doesn’t mean I’ll like it, but I’m willing to keep an open mind.  When Kelly and I decided to read Spank Me, Mr. Darcy I thought, “Hmm….this one might be pushing my limits of acceptance, but I’m trying anyway.” OMG. This fucking book.  I should start off and be totally honest and upfront and tell you all that I did NOT finish this book.  To put that in perspective, my Goodreads profile tells me that as of today I’ve read 660 books and DNF’d 10.  You do that math. I don’t DNF much, if anything. That’s how bad this book was. OY. Kelly deserves a fucking medal for finishing it. Like a gold medal that is the size of the world. Because I don’t know how she did it. I seriously BOW DOWN to her as a reader.

Kelly: I don’t know how the hell I was able to finish it.  At a certain point, I think I entered a meditative state, and part of my brain sat back to watch — very cinema verite — the rest of my consciousness grapple with the book, its flaws, everything that’s wrong with the world, etc.  Spank Me, Mr. Darcy is just awful, but it isn’t enough to say that it’s bad.  A lot of books are bad, and it’s fairly obvious from the concept that this one wasn’t going to be fantastic, but this one is a special kind of bad.  In fact, it’s the Worst Book I’ve Ever Read.  That’s right — it’s worse than Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Blind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage, and Tempted at Every Turn put together.

Go ahead and ask me: “Kelly, what’s so bad about this book?”  I mean, I could be glib and shout, “EVERYTHING. ALL THE THINGS,” but it’ll be better to do up a proper Pros and Cons list for this book.  I think you’ll get the drift fairly quickly.

Things that rocked (or at least didn’t totally suck)

Things that SUCKED

The Mr. and Mrs. Bennet scenes, while a trifle awkward, made the best use of the original material coupled (ha) with the erotic elements applied to the story.

Mrs. Phillips is a retired dominatrix that teaches her nieces oral sex.

A-W-K-W-A-R-D

…………….

Mrs. Bennet and Lady Lucas have this weird lesbian relationship that Sir William Lucas like creepily watches in secret.

Peeping Tom anyone?

………….

The editing is the worst.  There’s no sense of continuity, and it’s fairly obvious that if the author gave the thing a once over after she was done cutting and pasting the story together, she was drunk at the time.

Ummmm………

Pretty much every character has sex with every other character, whether or not it makes any sense to the story or to the characters.  Even if you try to forget that the characters are supposedly based on Austen’s P&P folk, it still doesn’t work.

The cover was interesting?

The world of the book is SUPER strange.  The servants have sex with the upper characters. (Bingleys, Jane, Hursts, etc) It’s like everyone is into orgies, BDSM, etc, and everyone knows about it.  Like Netherfield is a known sex house. Say what?

The first sentence made me laugh.

Jeweled butt plugs. Just saying.

……………………………………….

Elizabeth’s name is misspelled every other page. Lizzy on one page but Lizzie on the next.  Clearly demonstrates the lack of editing that existed.

……………

Lady Catherine as a retired dominatrix is just yucky. I felt so dirty reading the scene when Lady C, Charlotte, and Mr. Collins get it on. Honestly, I felt coated in filth. Another human being thought that exchange up, and it just made me sad to be human.

Yeah, that’s all we got.

While everyone’s focused on having as much weird sex as possible, it was super strange that Elizabeth places such a high value on maintaining her hymen for her husband to break.

There were sections of the book where a character pops into a scene suddenly and then disappears, only to reappear without explanation.  As Kelly says, drunk writing at its best.

The Wickham/Lydia plot is resolved in 1 pg. The entire Pemberley visit doesn’t even exist. Elizabeth never sees Darcy’s home and sees that he’s changed. Bit of a bizarre twist there.

It doesn’t even make sense how Darcy found out about the Wickham/Lydia bit.  It’s almost like he received a psychic message that something had happened and he went hightailing it to London to solve it.  Of course, the readers get an extremely truncated summary (in one paragraph) of how Darcy found Wickham and Lydia and saved the day… But Darcy isn’t there when Elizabeth gets the news, so how the hell did he find out about it?

Owl post, maybe?

The Elizabeth and Charlotte scenes were pretty awkward, but the worst part is that Charlotte contents herself to marrying Mr. Collins by resolving to hire a maid who looks like Elizabeth so they can both boink an Elizabeth stand-in. It’s so skeezy.

There are a few gratuitous self-pleasuring scenes, but I think Jane’s might be the worst. It’s just disconcerting to read about Jane going to town on herself while fantasizing about all the things she did with Bingley and all the things she wants still to do.  It’s Jane for fuck’s sake!

Mr. Bennet has a super creepy way of treating Mrs. Bennet’s poor nerves. It was the third creepiest part of the book. (Lady C and Charlotte’s Lizzy maid came in first and second, respectively.)

The main thing that Jane likes about Mr. Bingley is that he has sisters that she can diddle while he’s away.  In a story like this, that’s perhaps not so strange, but it is a little weird that she doesn’t do it openly.  It’s another example of the weird dynamic where everyone is utterly oversexed and also super concerned about a few seemingly insignificant aspects of purity/innocence.

The epilogue.  Subtitle: Lizzy gets a jeweled butt plug.

Kim: When I read a book that I disliked or DNF’d I normally try to find one strong thing and praise it for doing that “thing” well.  Unfortunately the only clear thing about this book is that it was not edited and written for one thing only, profit.  I hate saying this about a book, but I found nothing artistic about it.  There is no purpose to it whatsoever, except cashing in on the JAFF fandom and the popularity of publishing something with Jane Austen’s name attached to it.

Kelly: Yes, and also publishing a piece of erotica.  The thing is, even the erotic aspects of the book are terrible. I get it — everyone wants a piece of the erotic pie, but that doesn’t mean you can just throw words together and call it a day.  It’s apparent that the author was drunk or high or both when she ‘wrote’ this thing, and it’s even more apparent that she didn’t care about it at all.  I mean, honestly… I don’t even feel the slightest bit guilty about bashing it utterly, because I’m fairly certain the author won’t give two hoots or a holler about my opinion.

Kim’s final thoughts: ………… Yeah. I think that’s sufficient.

Kelly’s final thoughts: Terrible erotica + a badly edited version of P&P + a lot of tequila + the author’s ennui or self-loathing or poor sense of vocation (I’m not sure which is to blame) = The Worst Book Kelly’s Ever Read.

*FTC Disclosure – I received an e-galley of this book from Riverdale Avenue Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*