May 18 2011
Dear Ms. Grant,
You are well-known in the online romance community as Katiebabs of Babbling About Books. I’m a fan of your quirky sense of humor and I appreciate your thoughtful, honest reviews. I wish I could say I enjoyed your books as much as your blog.
Since I signed on as a reviewer here at DA, I’ve received three stories to review. Two of those were submitted by you. Unfortunately, both were DNFs. Although I opted to email my thoughts on Lovestruck to you privately, I decided to post a full review of Sleeping with the Frenemy. You’ve always said that you’d rather have a negative review than none at all. I admire you for saying it, and I agree. Nothing kills a book like silence. So here goes.
I think your writing style has improved since Lovestruck, but a number of mistakes caught my attention in Sleeping with the Frenemy. If I could sum up the problems in one word it would be “overdone.” The villain is over-the-top evil, there are many unnecessary scenes, and you go too far with your descriptions. The details about bodily functions and female arousal are off-putting, rather than sexy.
The story begins with Deborah and Genevieve, a “perfect” married couple. Gen is rich and powerful and dominant. Deborah is a sweet, submissive dishrag. There are hints that the relationship is abusive, along with strong indications that the women love each other deeply. The opening chapters are a nonstop sexfest.
Although Deborah seems to fear Gen, she submits to her every desire and has powerful orgasms. I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to feel about these scenes, which read like dubious-consent, degrading BDSM.
Let me give a few examples of the details I found off-putting. In the first chapter, Gen and Deborah go to the opera. They notice an overweight couple watching them and start making out. After the kiss, “Gen wiped the drool away from the corner of her mouth.” Am I supposed to find this sexy?
Gen strokes Deborah to climax at the opera and again in the limo. They proceed to their bedroom at home, where Gen brings out the sex toys. Deborah is tired and reluctant but allows Gen to penetrate her with a huge dildo. There’s a geyser of body fluids:
Deborah yelped from Gen’s talented mouth as her tongue went in deep, lapping over her swollen folds and tissues. She moaned and humped Gen’s face, dying slowly as Gen pushed her legs out wider and attacked her pussy with great intensity. Bright purple spots appeared in front of her eyes, and when Gen’s finger went between her ass cheeks, Deborah shrieked and rocked.
She was overcome with pleasure and couldn’t control the gush of her come. It shot out and covered Gen’s face.
Later, Gen transfers an anal toy from her orifice to Deborah’s, ignoring Deborah’s protests. At the end of the night, Deborah passes out cold.
The next day Gen flies into a jealous rage and beats Deborah brutally. The depiction of physical violence is well done and your portrayal of Deborah as a broken woman was the high point of the story for me. Most battered women stay with their abuser because they are in love, and Deborah is no exception. Even after she finds the strength to leave, she misses Gen.
Deborah fakes her death by pushing her car off a cliff, into a river. The car is in neutral, which seems like a giveaway, but whatever. In another improbable scene, she disguises herself as a man and visits her mother at a nursing home. They are overheard discussing Deborah’s plan to escape to Woodberry Creek and assume a new identity.
After Deborah arrives in Woodberry Creek, the story loses momentum. There are mundane descriptions of Deborah brushing her teeth and using the bathroom. She gets her period and shops for tampons. In the feminine hygiene aisle, she meets Bridgette Woodberry, who suggests that the brand of tampons Deborah is looking at might be “too bulky.”
It’s clear that Bridgette is Deborah’s new love interest, but I’m not invested enough to continue reading. Without the spectacle of degrading sex, gushing come, and crazy Gen, there’s very little “juice” to hold my attention.
I know there is an audience for this kind of material and I wish you the best of luck in finding your niche. Although I felt that Sleeping with the Frenemy was smoother and more entertaining than Lovestruck, I have to give it a DNF.