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REVIEW: Hour of the Lion by Cherise Sinclair

Dear Ms. Sinclair:

I’ve many a friend who swear by your erotic romance. Even Angela James, whose recommendations I trust almost implicitly is a big fan. But every time I have started one of your books there seems to be a club scene, as if BDSM practitioners are also, by definition, exhibitionists. While club scenes may have been intriguing to me at one time, they’ve lost their freshness and now I’m reluctant to read past those scenes (and one series by you is centered around a club itself). When Hour of the Lion showed up and it was a paranormal, I thought it was the perfect way to plunge into your work. What happened was that reading the book was slowly killing me with boredom wherein I almost had to force myself to tap the next button to finish the book.

hour of the lion cherise sinclairPart of the problem had to do with how much this book meandered from idea to idea with no clear outcome. The pacing of the book was slow, slow, and more slow. It’s hard for me to even give a plot summary of the story because it was just everywhere, with dangling plots galore.

The heroine, Victoria Morgan, was a 20* year covert operative who was being told by her boss that he no longer had use for a disabled veteran. At this point, after the first paragraph, I am thinking, hell yeah. A woman who is a special operative. This is something awesome and different. Vic has been captured, though, and is being held with an old woman and a young male teen. The young teen is a shapeshifter and he extracts a promise from Vic that she will search out his grandfather if they ever escape.

Vic is a study in incomplete contrasts. For instance, she defines herself as a soldier immediately responding to commanding voices. (This, I suppose, is a signal of her future sexual submissive status). But she was a special operative, working by herself mainly (which, again, seems odd but the only contact she has in the book with other military people is Wells, the spymaster). If truly was an independent operative, she would have been taught to think on her own and not respond to just any commands else she would be nothing but a automaton. And the special ops/covert ops/spy thing is all meshed together as if they are one position. I tell myself that I am not going to be super nitpicky. I am going to enjoy this book, dammit. Forward, I command.

The sad thing is that this book was just a mishmash of ideas, poorly fleshed out ideas. Vic is no more convincing as a special/covert/spy operative than Vin Diesel pretending to be a woman. Her “I bark on command” sensibility is just one of many traits that simply don’t fit the parameters of the character that was attempting to be portrayed. She initially bemoans the loss of her career as a spy but this is soon dropped so that we can focus on her “investigation” which leads her to the Northern Cascades and into the arms of Alex and Calum, the Cosantir of the shapeshifters.

The shifter myth in this story has a convenient twist. You can choose to be a shifter or not. You see, there is a special glowing door in a shifters brain. You can choose to open it or you can deny it. You go feral if no one loves you. Also, in special perfect shifter land, there is no rape because, well, let the book explain it:

Heather patted Vic’s hand. “No rape, girlfriend. Never. If a guy can’t smell that a woman is hot for him, his equipment doesn’t work.

This is good because the female shifters go into heat and during a gathering, she pretty much screws everything that moves unless she wants to be lifemated and then the special blessing of the goddess or something makes sure that she isn’t hot for anyone but her lifemates. Oh, to be a shapeshifter: stronger, sexier, healthier and no rape! even during orgies! forced upon you by your nature and the supreme being that controls your entire species! Yay!

In amongst Vic’s search for the young boy’s family, the investigation into whether shapeshifters exist, her supposed emotional trauma from no longer being a spy/covert/special op, the loss of Wells’ support, the potential “killers” out for shapeshifting blood, her introduction to magical beings, she falls for not one but two guys. Who are brothers or littermates, if you prefer. And littermates always want to bond with the same chick. Fortunately for women, these litters are primarily made of only 2-3 males.

As for the sex scenes, I could barely read beyond the first paragraph. They were boring, ordinary, with little emotion. There is no character growth as far as I could see. The world building is force fed through info dump after info dump. The sex scenes are banal. (By the third one I was regretting ever thinking a bad word about club scenes)

The ending of the book tipped this over into eye rolling territory, not because it was crazy or over the top. I only wished it had been because then I would have at least been interested. Instead, the old big misunderstanding trope is trotted out and a bunch of random emotions are spewed across the pages in a haphazard manner which had very little foreshadowing, but was done with the intent to make the reader feel agnst, I guess. At this point, though, my mind was numb. Vic was acting like a ninny and I was hoping that everyone would go out in a fiery blaze. Anything to inject some excitement into this. But no, it was melodrama featuring two emo shapeshifters and one tearful and hurt covert/spy/special ops. When I read that the lifemate bonds were commemorated by bracelets made of “special elastic”, I thought that was emblematic of the story. A mundane object attempted to be made better by the designation of the word special. D

Best regards,

Jane

* I think she was a 20 year veteran although I am not completely sure. As I re-read the book for review purposes, I found no other definitive reference other than the first paragraph. Later her time in the special forces was referred to as “years”.

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

11 Comments

  1. Angela James
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 14:08:57

    Oh no, this review makes me sad. I didn’t know she had this title out, so I haven’t read it, but you and I both know how I feel about romantic suspense anyway. Dang. I’ll probably give this one a pass.

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  2. kaylea cross
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 14:24:44

    Oh, no! I really like Cherise Sinclair’s writing, but have not read this story yet. I’m surprised that you found her sex scenes weren’t emotional, though. In her other books I’ve found them very emotional, and that’s what I love about them so much. She keeps me reading even when certain scenarios make me uncomfortable, so I admire her talent even more :)

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  3. Jennifer Armintrout
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 16:04:13

    I’m kind of disappointed that a female author today would write a story in which a woman’s sexuality becomes chained to her “mate”. I don’t find loss of my free will and sexuality upon finding a man to be very romantic. I would assume, when reading a romance novel, that the heroine would stay faithful to the dude she was in love with because she wanted to, not because some supernatural force made her.

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  4. Lynn S.
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 16:23:00

    Cherise Sinclair’s Shadowland series (yes, it’s the club one) is addictive. I can‘t remotely explain why — the writing is adequate, the set-up is goofy at best, and the characters are lacking in dimension — but just try to stop reading them. The last book in that series gives me pause though. It featured a suspense element and all appearances seem to show the series headed in that direction with the addition of a couple of dominant FBI agents (all seeing, all knowing, and they can arrest people too). It was a mess and if she continues in this vein, I’m probably not going to follow along for the train wreck.

    This books sounds like everything wrong about Sinclair all bound together with “special elastic”.

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  5. Jane
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 16:39:28

    Whoops. Forgot to finish that last sentence. Yeah special elastic.

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  6. Dana S
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 18:29:19

    I’ve read a few of Cherise Sinclair’s BDSM books, and for the most part, I’ve enjoyed them. I like her writing and her portrayal of BDSM, cause I never feel like I’m reading a BDSM 101 tutorial, or a psych analysis of why some people like certain fetishes. Plus, she usually brings an extra bit of kink not present in most erotic romances.

    Is this a self-pubbed title? I looked through her website, but didn’t see a publisher listed.

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  7. Jane
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 21:15:00

    @Dana S: I’m not sure. I bought it from AMZN and the publisher is listed as VanScoy?

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  8. Molly
    Jun 25, 2011 @ 02:11:33

    I am kind of bothered by this review. I get that you didn’t like the book which is I can understand but it bothers me that one of the major things you didn’t like in this book was no Rape. Many people who read romances forget or sometimes don’t know or understand that rape is violent, intrusive, evil, and sometimes deadly act. As someone who has had people close to her have to deal with many kinds of sexual assualt, rape, and abuse I prefer my books without rape.
    I can understand BDSM but I also can understand why someone who has that fetish doesn’t want random rapes particularly.
    I also like the bound as in a soul mate thing. Why would a modern woman? My guess is that in days of Tiger Woods, Anthony Weiner and countless others– a man who can’t cheat sounds good.

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  9. amandine
    Jun 25, 2011 @ 06:32:28

    @Molly: I don’t want to, and cannot, speak for Jane but that wasn’t the interpretation I got from the bit she spoke about rape, or rather the impossibility, of it in her review. Instead I got the impression that her view might be a bit more in line with yours: IE it was CHOICE that got simplisitcally nullified in this book (I haven’t even read the book so I can’t really speak to it specifically) but the the impression I got from the review, and from that excerpt, (which admittedly lacked context) was that the female’s (and male’s) choice wasn’t there: it was all dictated by a Goddess. In some ways this makes it feel like an act and circumstance we might construe as rape or at least a Forced Consent situation has been whitewashed and normalised by that “oh no rape couldn’t possibly happen” comment.

    I know in the real world I have been turned on by people but for whatever reasons haven’t wanted to have sex with them (maybe due to cultural mores which mightn’t be pertinent in such a world, but more often just due to Not Wanting To) — now if my being turned on by a guy meant he was Automatically allowed to have sex with me I’d have a problem with that. It’s like saying on the one hand — my body can read your body better than your own mind/soul/self can: therefore this choice, and its consequences, is a good one EVEN though you’re not informed, knowledgeable nor consensual (in the way that we would view consent.) Now — is this necessarily always a bad thing in erotica/erotic romance/romance? Perhaps not — but does it take something away from the character? Particularly given, again from the review, she appears to come from a culture where a more explicit/active choice is the norm? I’d say yes.

    Now — a lot of us; me included have forced consent fantasies and I know that it is something I do enjoy reading (sometimes, not always) but what I don’t like is having that then presented in the Authorial Voice as being The One True Way. I’m just not much of one for One True Ways whatever that way is I guess. Maybe for Vic the lack of responsibility and ownership of her own choices was a good thing and the right thing for the story.

    Anyhow that got rambly; to get back to your post and my reply to it: I don’t think Jane is saying rape is bad (or good), or that rape in these books is bad (or good), TO ME what she is saying that in This book the author has discarded the whole issue with one sentence, which personally, on the face of it, (again haven’t read the book so I can’t speak to it just to the interpretation of the review) is more disrespectful to any people affected by rape than perhaps including rape and dealing with it. It’s like saying oh well the Goddess said it was okay for me to use your body even if you don’t! See? It’s all surrounded by candy floss and rainbows and unicorns happy!!

    Having read many of Jane’s other reviews I don’t think rape is really one of her squee topics at all and I don’t think she was mourning the lack of it in this book but rather the trivialisation of it. Eg she says:
    ~
    Stronger, sexier, healthier and no rape! even during orgies! forced upon you by your nature and the supreme being that controls your entire species! Yay!”
    ~

    –which implies to me the Opposite of what you have taken from it: that there are acts in this book, we as readers in our society, would view as rape, and that perhaps Vic too would perceive that way (cannot really speak to Vic’s societal mores not having read the books etc) BUT these acts are excused and made guilt free enjoyment for the reader (and I guess guilt free enjoyment is a part of the appeal of these books) by their being endorsed by the Goddess — I also get the impression this isn’t a stance Jane appreciates (and I would agree with her) — other readers might find the tacit permission to enjoy the forced acts what they need to really enjoy those scenes — to me that sort of set up detracts from the story.

    You also say you prefer the idea of a partner who is faithful; well yes I’m sure most of us share that view but I guess, going back to the whole issue of choice and free will to me it’s a lot sexier having someone CHOOSE (as much choice as applies to love anyway) to be faithful than to be faithful because some Deity ordained it so

    (Or maybe not even the stance as a whole but how shorthandedly it is deal with in that convesation.)

    Anyway — I’m not sure if it’s relevant or not but you brought up your connections with rape victims I guess I should throw in this is coming from the stance of: submissive, been sexually abused, knows people who’ve been raped (but then again — I’m pretty sure most of us do)

    Hope you don’t think this was a personal attack on your stance :( it’s just somehting that apparently I have some strongish feelings on :)

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  10. Jane
    Jun 25, 2011 @ 08:14:32

    @Molly: My comment regarding rape was a poor attempt at being funny. It’s basically as amandine was saying. Sinclair presents the shapeshifters as these near perfect beings. Not only are they stronger, sexier beings, but the dark side of nature such as rape is suppressed because of an ephemeral being known as the Goddess who also confers upon you lust and love, but conveniently not rape.

    I’m not opposed to rape as a fantasy for readers. It’s generally not my thing, but I’m not opposed to it.

    What I found problematic here is how perfect these shifters were presented. That they could have a lust so strong pressed upon them that they gather once a month so the women can screw dozens of different men in one night, but the lust doesn’t fall upon the men and there is no danger of sexual assault. It’s far too convenient for me.

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  11. Loreen
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 01:04:47

    I am with you on the overuse of club scenes in books with elements of BDSM. I mean, I assume that the vast, vast majority of people who experiment with BDSM are not dressing up in leather corsets and having sex with multiple partners in public while using increasingly bizarre and fetishistic tools. A few are, I guess, but they are over-represented in erotica. I wish there were more novels that showed couples experimenting in private in a loving and humorous way.
    I always wonder if these scenes are a requirement of the publisher, the personal taste of the author, or if readers are really demanding them.

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