A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

TBR Challenge: Thai Triangle by Jayne Bauling

 

CW: Racism, Misogyny, Sexual Assault

The theme: Contemporary

Why this one: Pretty much random, though I did think (erroneously) from the title and cover that it was a very rare Harlequin Presents interracial romance.

Thai Triangle was a flabbergasting read. I was reminded of a joke from “Community,” about how Greendale college is thought of as “weird, passionate, and gross” — what they call in marketing, “the Good Belushi.” Thai Triangle has that trifecta down pat.

Just to get this out of the way — of course there is othering and exoticizing of Asian women in the book. (One grieving Thai woman is described as having “slow tears rolling down her passive face.”) There’s also a surprising amount of kink-shaming, because apparently that’s what you do in Thailand. And slut-shaming. Massive, massive amounts of slut-shaming. I’ll get to that.

So. The weird: Nineteen-year-old Romney has sacrificed her entire life to be an unpaid, platonic caretaker for Kit, a spoiled rich boy who’s dying. She cares for him a lot, in the purplest of prose, despite the fact that he’s not only very needy but often very nasty.

Romney wants to help Kit reconcile with his older brother Justin, but Kit refuses to let her tell his secret, and deliberately goes out of his way to cause trouble for her with Justin.

The complicated dynamics between the three is actually somewhat interesting, except the plot really doesn’t do much with them except repeat the same patterns. Justin tries to seduce Romney. Romney refuses, declaring her undying love for Kit — apparently the words “as a friend” aren’t in her vocabulary — even as her will melts into a puddle from Justin’s manly manliness. She’s such a martyr, that’s probably the only thing keeping her from finding a cross and climbing up on it.

The passionate: Oh my God, there’s a whole lotta love. And hate. And burning loins.

This, this torrid, pulsing excitement, was what she had been created for, Justin the man she had been born to await unawakened and now find. He brought her to wild, wondrous life, his kisses deepening, becoming searching, in quest of her very soul it seemed. She knew she had never been truly alive until now.

The gross: The set-up in itself is on the gross side, but that’s nothing to where it goes. Justin, who must be in his 30s, is ruthless in his judgement and treatment of a 19 year old girl. And that’s even before Kit convinces him — Kit being so truthful and trustworthy — that Romney is a nymphomaniac and therefore apparently deserving the cruelest possible treatment. Kit also assaults Romney to set her up, because he’s just that wonderful.

It nonetheless all adds up to a somewhat compelling read, primarily because there’s some real drama amidst the angst. Kit’s situation is genuinely pathetic; he’s awful at least partially because he had a raw deal growing up, and he touches the heart a bit like Charlie in Alcott’s Rose in Bloom, for never getting a chance to grow up and be the person he might have been. Twelve year old me would have utterly adored this book. Now me kept on reading it, now matter how awful it got, albeit with a sort of “what in the hell…?!” thought balloon over my head.

1 Comment »

The Probably-Not-So-Big Harlequin Presents Read #21

 

 

Trigger Warning: loss of a child

Harlequin Presents #21: The Unwilling Bride by Violet Winspearunwilling1 unwilling2

Another one of those odd, “look how happy and in love we are” covers for a forced marriage story, despite the obvious title.The original Mills and Boon cover conveys the tone much better.

Best line: “The men of Sicily slap the face of their bride on the wedding day – we of Sardinia save the slap for the occasion that merits it.”

Notes of interest: Nothing new here. Sex is happening, but so obliquely I wasn’t sure of it until the heroine got obliquely pregnant.

~~

Mark, who is from Sardinia — a fact he mentions about every other sentence, so there’s no fear of forgetting it — lost his son in a horrible car wreck; he was also badly burned, and scarred. The wreck was caused by a hit and run driver, Rhodri, the son of Ravena’s beloved, frail guardian; to spare her guardian pain and stress, she agrees to marry Mark and have children with him. I almost DNF’d this one right there, because I was not happy about the death of a child being used as a plot point in such a way. It is treated more sensitively later.

Despite the plot and the threatening quote above, Mark isn’t half bad for an HP hero. He’s a little annoying with his insistance on believing that Ravena is in love with Rohdri, and I liked that she called him on it:

‘Each time we are alone he shares the room with us.’

‘Because you always have to mention him,’ she retaliated.

But he both catches Ravena with another man and finds her half-written letter to Rhodri without doing anything more than being all sad and bitter at her.

For her part, Ravena first believes Mark is still in love with his perfect first wife and then with a Sardinian girl. Jealousy makes her realize that he’s pretty damn hot, despite his scars. (Which are mentioned almost as often as Mark’s heritage.)

It’s a typical sort of story, but has a nice flow. The local color isn’t overdone, and the developing attraction Ravena feels for Mark is is well drawn.

3 Comments »

The Probably-Not-So-Big Harlequin Presents Read #16

7790406Harlequin Presents #16: Wings of Night by Anne Hampson

One of those odd HP covers which shows the hero and heroine smiling happily together, despite the fact that they spend most of the book making each other exquisitely miserable.

Best line: This was hard to pick, with so much hyperbolic racism to choose from, but I’m going with “She turned; Lean was close behind, and as she looked up at him, noting the mingling of cruelty and triumph in his eyes, she though for a moment of his ancestors, those pagans who had lived for battle and the glorious death. And, later, the Cretans had continued their merciless slaughter — living as they did in constant revolt against the Saracens, the Venetians and the Turks. Right down in their history there had been someone to hate… but today there was no one, and so perhaps there existed a vacuum in the life of the average Cretan… perhaps he preferred to have an enemy at hand, a victim to torture and subdue.”

Notes of interest: Nothing new here. Still no nookie. Violence is fairly mild compared to the last Hampson, though that’s not saying much. No fall or other overtly physical dark moment for the heroine, though I don’t know exactly what happens because my @#$%$! Open Library ebook went to pieces right there and apparently quite a few paragraphs were lost.

Melanie was 17 where she broke off her engagement to 24-year-old Leandros. Considering that his response to this left her with bruises, I can only praise her foresight. Seven years later, Lean (a difficult nickname to get used to…) gets his revenge when Melanie’s jerk-wad of a brother rips off Lean’s sister. Melanie goes to Crete to work off the debt in Lean’s hotel, and discovers he has every intention of making her job/punishment as long and difficult and unpleasant as he can. There’s also a particularly Evil Other Woman who devotes herself to making Melanie’s life hell.

It could very easily be too much, but Hampson wisely tempered the awful with an understanding friend for Melanie at the hotel, and with signs of softening in Lean over time. The best angsty moment, alas, was not available.

Despite the old skool wtfery (Lean gets quite scary and you have to take the HEA with the usual grain of salt), vast paragraphs of travelogue interrupting the good moments, and the fact that there are about twenty different eavesdropping scenes in one short book, this was pretty fun. One of the better stops in my weird crusade.

3 Comments »

The Probably-Not-So-Big Harlequin Presents Read #10

#10 Waves of Fire by Anne Hampson

waves

I will likely enjoy this project a lot more when it stops being the same three authors over and over again…

Best line: “What sort of man was this whom she had married? Dark and sinister, a foreigner in whose blood ran the pagan traits of his idol-worshipping forbears, he would crush and subjugate her until she had no will of her own, no personality, no life other than that of a slave, a possession to be used, indifferently laid aside, and used again as this man’s passions and desires dictated.”

Notes of interest: And…. we has sex! Bedroom door painted shut, blink and you’ll miss it, forced seduction aka “tender lovemaking.” Guess which one of these fashions went out of date first. And I think we’ve had the heroine have some kind of accident that renders her unconscious in every book so far.

As you can see from the quote above, this was an uncomfortable read. Shani is thinking stuff like that all the time. Her husband is actually a decent guy by HP standards — we can overlook a little blackmail and forced consummation, right? Because he loves her! — but that doesn’t make the book feel any less racist. I skim-finished, so I suppose it’s possible that Shani wakes up and thinks, holy shit, I can’t believe all those stereotypes I was thinking about Greeks…. but I’m skeptical.

There’s a lot of travelogue, which is a little more narratively interesting than usual because it’s about Cos and the characters are into it because they’re both in the medical field. Then it veers into the adventures of the locals, while Shani and Andreas do pretty much nothing. There’s quite a lot of doing nothing in the book overall, and I’d had enough.

 

 

3 Comments »

A Love Untamed by Karen van der Zee

What tickled my fancy: Strong, independent heroine

What ticked me off: I seem to be having a run of bad endings, but this was the Worst. Ending. Ever.

Who might like it: After that ending, I dunno.

She scraped and sanded and painted and cried. She installed a new back door, replaced a cracked pain of glass in one of the windows and kept on crying. She laid Mexican tiles in the sun-room and wept. She rented a sander and sanded all the wooden floors, dripping tears on the raw wood, making dark stains.

You can usually count on a van der Zee book to have a good heroine — it’s just a shame that the competent and resourceful Livia spends so much of the book utterly miserable.  Actually, I didn’t mind that at all, because I love me some angst. I just mind that there’s no good payoff for all that misery.

Livia is restoring a house she just bought when Clint Bracamonte appears, claiming ownership. As they work out the issue, they grow close, although Clint warns her that he’ll be returning to his work in the rain forests of Indonesia soon. Livia isn’t too concerned — she’s always been a traveler and even speaks Indonesian. But Clint is aghast when he discovers her dreams — he has no intention of continuing their affair.

Livia tries to get on with her life and get over it, but then Clint’s life once again intersects with hers in a complicated way, requiring her to go off to find him after all.

Although the plot is kind of episodic, I mostly enjoyed this. The characters are believable and mature and the writing about other cultures is pretty respectful, barring one cringe-worthy moment when Livia thinks, regarding the heavy earrings weighing down the ears of the Indonesian women, “if you grew up with the things you wouldn’t know any better.” The chemistry between Clint and Livia is very strong, making her anguish all the more compelling.

But Clint just holds out forever. After everything he put her through, the ending cried out for something big to happen; an “I’m sorry, please marry me” did not cut it. It was one of the least satisfying endings I’ve ever read and simply spoiled the book for me.

Leave a comment »

What We've Been Reading

Reading inspiration from the HabitRPG Legendary Book Club's URC/MRC challenges.

Something More

my extensive reading

Blue Castle Considerations

thoughtations, contemplations, fulminations & other random things from books...

...Burns Through Her Bookshelf

Voracious reader, book lover, intermittant blogger, audiologist. These things are some of me, but not the sum of me.

Cate Marsden.

Love and Zombies. And books. And infrequent updates.

Book Thingo

Reading (mostly) romance books down under

Shallowreader

Hidden Depths

Olivia Dade

Bawdy romcoms with a big ♥.

Flight into Fantasy

Reviews, book thoughts and opinions of one omnivorous reader.

Her Hands, My Hands

The vagaries of my mind, the products of my hands. Not always safe for work.

dabwaha

64 books. 1 Champion. Get your game on.

Stop the STGRB Bullies

Your hypocrisy is showing

Blue Moon

Audiobook reviews and book reviews. Occasional opining.

Miss Bates Reads Romance

“Miss Bates…had never boasted either beauty or cleverness. Her youth had passed without distinction, and her middle of life was devoted to the care of a failing mother, and the endeavour to make a small income go as far as possible. And yet she was a happy woman..." Emma, Jane Austen