Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

About Jennie

http://dearauthor.com/author/jennie/

has been an avid if often frustrated romance reader for the past 15 years. In that time she's read a lot of good romances, a few great ones, and, unfortunately, a whole lot of dreck. Many of her favorite authors (Ivory, Kinsale, Gaffney, Williamson, Ibbotson) have moved onto other genres or produce new books only rarely, so she's had to expand her horizons a bit. Newer authors she enjoys include Julie Ann Long, Megan Hart and J.R. Ward, and she eagerly anticipates each new Sookie Stackhouse novel. Strong prose and characterization go a long way with her, though if they are combined with an unusual plot or setting, all the better. When she's not reading romance she can usually be found reading historical non-fiction.

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REVIEW:  Ricochet by Krista and Becca Ritchie

REVIEW: Ricochet by Krista and Becca Ritchie

rocochetDear Krista and Becca Ritchie:

I recently read and reviewed Addicted to You and mentioned at the end of the review that I’d downloaded the sequel immediately after finishing that book. This wasn’t a reflection of how much I liked Addicted to You but rather in the mistaken belief that Ricochet was a novella that wrapped up the story of Lily and Lo; I was interested in them enough to want to see how their relationship turned out. When I found out that the series actually continues on for at least two more books after Ricochet, I had a bit of buyer’s remorse. Or perhaps reader’s remorse; at 99 cents I didn’t regret buying the book so much, I just wasn’t sure that I actually wanted to read it.

The following is somewhat spoilery in regards to Addicted to You; proceed with caution, dear reader:

Ricochet opens shortly after Loren has entered rehab for alcoholism; he had originally tried to deal with his addiction on an outpatient basis, but a slip involving tequila and a huge fight with his father (in which stunning revelations about his parentage were revealed) convinced him that he needed to actually go to a treatment center. This leaves Lily alone, without her best friend and lover and battling her own serious demons: she’s a sex addict. Fortunately, she’s not actually entirely alone; her older sister Rose discovered her secret in Addicted to You, and Rose and her on again/off again boyfriend Connor are helping Lily as much as they can. Rose has moved herself and Lily into a house near Princeton (where Rose attends school). Oh, the perks of being ridiculously wealthy: not only are they able to pick up and move into a beautiful house together easily, but Lily is able to transfer to Princeton in spite of the fact that her grades and attendance at Penn were both pretty poor.

Lily is still a mess though, and she’s not really getting the help she needs. Rose researches therapists who deal with sex addiction, but at first has trouble finding someone who has dealt with female patients. That leaves Lily floundering on her own, forcing herself to take small steps (like throwing out her porn collection in installments) and constantly resisting the temptation to hook up with random guys.

We learn a little more about Lily’s dynamic with her parents in Ricochet: her father is benevolent but somewhat distant and ineffective, very much married to his job; her mother is a controlling witch. Understanding these relationships did give some insight into Lily’s issues, though I wish her mother’s portrayal had been a bit less one-note.

A villain crops up in Ricochet, one whom I assume will continue to dog Lily and Lo and threaten their happiness in future books. An ex-schoolmate and tormentor of Loren’s, Aaron Wells also comes off as a bit too much of the cartoonish bad guy to take seriously. His one interaction with Lily in this book, when he is her date for a family function (a date her mother arranged without Lily’s knowledge or consent, as seems to be par for the course), is painful to read. Aaron practically twirls his mustache and ties Lily to some railroad tracks, and Lily is, as always, completely incapable of dealing with anything on her own; another character has to step in and rescue her. Lily’s wimpiness and anxiety are theoretically sympathetic features in her character, but in actuality I just found them irritating.

As with the previous book, there’s a relative lack of action in the first half of Ricochet. It wasn’t boring to me, but the pacing felt odd. Lily is in a holding pattern waiting for Loren to contact her; he’s not allowed to do so for the first month of rehab, and she spends a lot of time in a state of anxiety, buffeted by her own addiction and fearing that when he gets better, he won’t want her. The latter issue resonated for me as realistic, but after hearing about it for the 15th time, I had had enough.

Unfortunately, Ricochet was marred by some of the same of the same copy-editing issues that Addicted to You had. Once again: the muscles of a man’s stomach are “taut” not “taught” – please stop using a word over and over if you don’t know how it’s spelled. Also, a point is “moot,” not “mute.” There were also just many odd little word choices and observations, like Lily meeting someone and thinking to herself that the person’s complexion probably meant that they were “half-Italian.” That seems…awfully specific. After a while, the awkwardness of the writing became distracting.

I’m troubled by the way some of Lily’s issues are handled in the book; she has anxiety so severe that she scratches welts into her arms during a therapy session, but her doctor doesn’t believe she needs medication. I didn’t really understand this, especially because I didn’t see evidence that the doctor is giving Lily strategies for coping with the anxiety. Instead, she urges her to “stay strong,” which didn’t seem very helpful to me. She also advocates strongly for Lily staying in the relationship with Loren and trying to foster intimacy rather than considering being on her own for a while. I was uncomfortable with that because the therapist 1) doesn’t know Loren, and first suggests this approach during the first therapy session, when she can’t even know that much about the relationship and 2) does know that Loren is an alcoholic. I’m not saying a competent therapist would urge Lily to break up with Lo – I would not expect that much judgment or interference – but I don’t think she’d straightaway wholeheartedly support an unhealthy, co-dependent relationship between two addicts.

I feel a level of frustration with Lily at this point in my reading because by the end of the second book, even though her compulsive sexual behavior is somewhat leashed, she is still a mess emotionally and psychologically. Even in the glimpse of the opening of the third book, shown at the end of the second book and taking place immediately after the second book ends, Lily is blaming herself for her issues: “my stupid anxiety and bad habit has ruined the perfect outcome I imagined.” Argh. I get that Lily still has issues (there are two more books, after all), but what it comes down to is that I haven’t seen very much progress in her in the course of two books (especially not in the issues underlying her compulsive sexual behavior), and I just don’t like her or care about her enough to put up with her endless neuroses. She’s so miserable, so much of the time.

There was a larger issue that came up in the latter half of Ricochet that also disturbed me: both the therapist and Lo, in several different ways, suggest that the way to control Lily’s sex addiction is to give Lo control over Lily’s sexuality. Once Lily realizes that she can’t masturbate anymore at all because she will do it for hours, over and over with no ability to stop (which: ick), Lo comes up with the solution that she can orgasm only when they have phone (or rather Skype) sex, and then only once, and only when he tells her to.

This reminded me that Lily often describes her sexual encounters with other men as being ones where she’s in control, and the depiction of her sexual relationship with Lo is the opposite – he calls the shots (that was true to some degree even in the first book). While this makes some sense – it dovetails with the idea that only with Loren can Lily be truly intimate – it starts to feel like there is a subtle D/s relationship between the two of them which is being put forth as the solution to her problems.

That was problematic for me because it gave me the slightly icky feeling (one I hadn’t had with either book before, to be fair) that the sex addiction was being subtly exploited to make it kind of perversely “sexy.” That may be unfair of me; I may be overly influenced by the whole “50 Shades” phenomenon, but it definitely crossed my mind.

Also, the therapist gives Lily a sealed envelope listing verboten sexual activities, and advises Lily not to read the list. It will only make her want to do the things on the list, being told that she can’t. Instead, the therapist says that Lo (whom, again, she’s never met, but who she knows is an alcoholic in recovery) should be given the list and be in charge of Lily’s sexual do’s and don’ts. What the fuck ever? How is taking away all of Lily’s agency a healthy step on her road to recovery? (Also, I can’t help but wonder what is on the list. No anal? Missionary style only? No furry role-play? Enquiring minds, etc.)

I find it hard to believe that a therapist would prescribe such treatment. Again, she doesn’t know Lo; what she knows of him mostly isn’t good (he’s an alcoholic who has enabled Lily’s addiction in the past). At the very least, I would think she’d have the integrity to be concerned about the pressure it might put on Lo to be in charge of Lily’s sexual behavior. He, after all, is in a fragile place too. But one kind of weird aspect of these books is how separate, in a way, Lily and Lo’s addictions are kept, even though they have been intertwined for years. The book, and Lo, are either dealing with Lily’s addictions, which means putting dealing with HIS addictions on hold, or vice versa. I began to wonder if that was because the only real solution for them otherwise would be to separate. Which I honestly didn’t see as a bad idea. I don’t think that separating from an enabling partner is always the solution, but if it were me, with my non-existent psychology degree framed and hanging on my wall, I think I’d tell these two: try living apart with minimal contact for a year; see how you are, what kind of person you are, without this person whom you’re so INCREDIBLY dependent on.

Again, I may not know what I’m talking about, here; I have no training in dealing with sex addiction (this is not a sentence I ever imagined I’d write). But when I read a line like this, spoken by Lo to Lily:

“I love you,” he says again, “and no other man will ever say those words and mean them the way I do.”

….I’m like, danger, danger, Will Robinson. There is a LOT wrong with that statement.

I’ve written a lot of words (this is a long review for me) about what I don’t like about this book. Maybe the best I can say about it is, at least it engendered a reaction in me; it’s not another tepid, boilerplate romance (far from it). In a perverse way, it held my interest. And for all my complaints, I’m still tempted to pick up book number three. My grade for Ricochet is a straight C.

Best regards,

Jennie

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REVIEW:  Addicted to You by Becca Ritchie and Krista Ritchie

REVIEW: Addicted to You by Becca Ritchie and Krista Ritchie

addicted to youDear Mss. Ritchie:

I picked this book up because the heroine had an extremely unusual issue: sex addiction. You don’t see that every day, and I was curious as to how it would be handled, especially in a New Adult novel. I’m not actually sure I believe in sex addiction as a real thing (medical professionals still seem to be divided on the issue, with some seeing it as a subset of obsessive-compulsive disorder). I certainly believe that there are people who use sex as a crutch and in an unhealthy way. To encounter the problem in a heroine rather than a hero (where it’s often unacknowledged as a problem and instead treated as tacit evidence of his masculinity) was intriguing.

The book opens with Lily Calloway waking up in a frat house after a one-night stand. She tries to sneak out but is humiliatingly caught by some frat brothers; she’s eventually rescued by Loren Hale and a chauffeured ride back to their apartment. Lily and Loren are best friends of a sort; perhaps co-conspirators would be a better term. They grew up together and have been in a fake relationship for the past several years, a relationship meant to cover up their respective addictions: hers to sex and his to alcohol.

The first half of the story is pretty simple and even a bit repetitive. Lily trolls for sex, Loren gets drunk, Loren gets flirtatious with Lily and she wonders if he wants their fake relationship to become real (they slept together once long ago). We do learn a little about Lily’s family, but other than that, not a lot happens until almost the halfway mark. I didn’t mind the lack of action that much, but that may be because I was focused on other issues I had with the book.

Lily and Loren are both rich kids (like, really, really rich) who attend the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Neither of them have friends or attachments other than to each other (and Lily to her family, though she avoids them as much as possible). Whether this isolation is a by-product of their addictions or both are symptoms of a larger problem wasn’t clear to me.

I spent a lot of the book confused as to why Lily was the way she was; I wasn’t sure if there would ever be an explanation. Was it based on trauma or sexual abuse or family issues? Her family seemed nice enough. Was it just an inherent illness? The explanation itself wasn’t so important to me – when it comes it’s sufficient – but her behavior is so beyond the bounds of normal that I felt there was some suspense as to the reason for it that the authors really didn’t intend for there to be. In other words, I wish it had been spelled out earlier so I could get over wondering what the hell was wrong with her.

Loren was a little easier to understand – he has an abusive father and absent mother, and alcohol addiction is more familiar and….normal, in my view, I guess? (Though Loren takes it to new and not always believable heights.) There are indications late in the book that his father is a heavy drinker as well, so I pretty much got Loren’s addiction.

I found Addicted to You rather depressing, because I found Lily and Loren and the nature of their addictions depressing. Alcoholism is something I have some familiarity with, and though it’s not a subject I avoid necessarily, seeing someone so young so deep in addiction was unpleasant. As for the sex addiction…I’ve always found sexual compulsion to be, not to put too fine a point on it, yucky. I have limited tolerance for obsessive behavior in general, and there is something about obsessive sexual behavior that honestly grosses me out. I’m not sure if that response arises from prudishness or something else. It wasn’t like I was morally judging Lily, but if I’m honest there were times when she disgusted me.

(You may be wondering why I picked up the book in the first place, given my aversion, and that’s a good question. I’m not sure – I guess maybe I was expecting a slightly less harsh and seedy depiction. Which is totally on me; I don’t fault the authors for making grim addictions seem grim.)

However, I wasn’t confident that the depiction of either addiction was very accurate. Again, I know a bit more about alcoholism, and what struck me was that Loren was described at least once (maybe a couple of times) as a “functional alcoholic.” He somehow manages to hide his drinking from the people around them – mostly his father and Lily’s family. But he doesn’t really maintain relationships (other than with Lily), doesn’t work or have a social life, and it turns out he’s not doing as well in school as he leads Lily to believe. Actually, neither of them are doing that well, which made me wonder how they’ve made to their junior years, since there’s no indication that their patterns of behavior – missing class, blowing off  studying to feed their addictions –  is any different than it always was.

I think of “functional alcoholic” as one who compartmentalizes their drinking to some degree – for instance, goes to work five days a week and then spends the entire weekend blotto. The thing about Loren is that he is ALWAYS drinking. From the time he wakes up in the morning to the time he passes out at night, he is drunk. If he has coffee, there is liqueur in it. If he’s drinking juice, there is vodka in it. I have no experience with the type of alcoholic who is drunk 24/7 and find it hard to believe that if such alcoholics exist (I guess they might) that they are remotely “functional.” People are going to KNOW – you’re not going to be able to cover up the smell of alcohol emanating from you with showers, cologne and mints, as Loren supposedly does. That’s just not credible to me.

Further, the potency of Loren’s addiction seems to fit better with someone a lot older and honestly someone who is probably not going to last much longer. Anyone with an addiction that must be fed AT ALL TIMES is pretty much at the end of their rope, basically a mess, in danger of dying at any moment (in Loren’s case, I would think, from alcohol poisoning or asphyxiation from vomiting while comatose), and incapable of keeping their addiction a secret. I would have found the story more believable if Loren’s drinking was toned down quite a bit.

Similarly, Lily is addicted to sex to the point where she does very rash things, including obsessive viewing of porn, sex in public restrooms, and sex with strangers. In fact, Lily’s sex is pretty much *all* with strangers, since she’s a one-time-only kind of gal. Which didn’t quite make sense to me – if sex was her goal, why write off a guy after one time? It seems like she’s ashamed and embarrassed and can’t face the men afterward. Honestly, her attitudes towards sex and her addiction were confusing to me, and I wasn’t sure how much of it to attribute to her being a first person narrator and therefore somewhat unreliable. At one point she says that she “loves sex”, but that’s not how it seems. It seems more like an obsessive need that once sated leaves shame and self-disgust in its wake (I seriously got sick of her wailing, “what is wrong with me?!” after an episode of ill-advised screwing). Her behavior did seem to fit in with the OCD model of sex addiction, though.

It’s strange to say about a book that focuses so much on an ostensibly romantic relationship, but Addicted to You is not remotely romantic. Loren and Lily’s relationship is the epitome, the absolute dictionary definition, of “co-dependent.” Each selfishly enables the other’s unhealthy urges in order to protect their own from discovery and censure. They are using each other so hardcore that it’s hard to see the love that supposedly exists between them. They are aware that they enable each other but until a character introduced later in the book steps in to try to stop Loren’s drinking, it doesn’t even seem to occur to them to change. Lily’s perspective (which I felt did ring true) was that it wasn’t possible, for either of them, which I’m guessing is something addicts tell themselves in order to not have to even try.

Ultimately, this was another hard-to-grade book for me. On the one hand, it wasn’t a very pleasant read; the characters weren’t likable and the prose was just adequate. (There were a number of copy-editing errors,including the use of “taught” for “taut” at least three or four times, and some odd/simply wrong word choices. I could attribute this to it being a review copy, but since I downloaded it months after the actual publication date, I’m wondering if the mistakes were in the finished product as well.)

On the other hand, the book got progressively more involving towards the end, in part because of the introduction of a few characters who shook up the dynamic. I finished this book in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep (something I almost never do), and immediately downloaded book 1.5, Ricochet. I actually had a bit of buyer’s remorse in the morning, when I did some checking around on the web and realized that Ricochet was not actually the resolution of Lily and Lo’s story, as I had assumed; there are actually at least two more books in the series. I’m really not sure I want to read that much more about these people; I’ll see how I feel after Ricochet.

So, grade? I guess a C+, which is a reflection of the good (interesting premise, compelling ending) averaging out with the bad (depressing storyline, not-great writing, possibly shaky depiction of addiction).

Best regards,

Jennie

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