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REVIEW: Spoil of War by Phoenix Sullivan

Dear Ms. Sullivan,

When Jane put out the call for site improvements, I saw several people suggest more ‘Indie’ reviews. And I was inspired. I’ve been suffering from some lackluster reading, and I thought that reading and reviewing some Indie books would be an interesting challenge. So I started with yours.

Spoil of War by Phoenix SullivanYou might want to stop reading right about here, because this is not going to be pretty.

(Also to anyone else: if you are easily triggered by rape discussion, you might also want to stop reading.)

I don’t know how I happened upon your book, but I do remember being struck by the cover (and the dead-eyed stare of the couple).  I was intrigued when I skimmed the blurb and saw that this seemed to be historical fiction mixed with romance, and the hero was King Leodegrance of Arthurian legend (Guinevere’s father). An Arthurian prequel. Interesting. The reviews were universally positive on both Goodreads and Amazon, and I skimmed the pages and it started out in an interesting manner and you seemed like you could write, so I purchased. There was a warning about adult situations, but I don’t expect historical fiction to be all sunshine and puppies, so I was fine with that. Perhaps this would be one of those ‘Indie treasures’ everyone keeps talking about.

I was wrong.

Before I get into the story itself, I did want to comment that editing always comes up in conversations about Indies. Upon reading this, I felt it was obvious you had not hired an editor. There were commas in places that should not have commas, random capitalization, and misspelled words like “probbing” instead of ‘probing’ and an egregious “fagging courage”, which should have been “flagging”. The errors aren’t ugly enough to make one stop reading, but they did jar me from my reading on a regular basis. Luckily, the grammatical errors were overshadowed by the terrible history this ‘historical novel’ has, and the awful, awful storyline.

This book is the story of Elsbeth, and set in the preceding years before King Arthur unites Britain. Sort of. I’ll get into the historical timeline later. For now, go along with it. Elsbeth is the daughter of a duke who is at war with the new king, Leodegrance. King Leo lays siege to Elsbeth’s castle and kills or enslaves everyone there, and Elsbeth herself is taken as a ‘spoil of war’, hence the title.

This story starts out with a heroine that I thought would be strong and likable, and quickly descends into “what the fuck did I just read” territory. This book was so bad I emailed friends and told them what I was reading, just because I had to share the sheer insanity of what was on the page.  There are so many things wrong with this storyline I don’t even know where to begin. When the castle is being conquered, Leodegrance’s men (and Leo is the hero, mind you), murder people left and right, and the ones that are left are ‘enslaved’ to take back to Cameliard  aka Camelot. Her nursemaid’s dead body is defiled by a soldier, and our hero tells her:

“It’s the nature of war, my Lady.” He laughed, and the sound was not pleasant. “Truly you can’t be so naïve?”

“But she was old and – and – “

“Dead? She’s also still warm. Some men prefer women with the fight taken out of them. And some men will use whatever’s available to quench the passions aroused in them by the fighting. Get used to it, Lady. It’s the way of war.”

Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.

It gets worse – there is an eleven year old girl in the castle named Ruth. Ruth is raped by someone in Leo’s army when they enter the castle (I guess all the dead old ladies were taken), and the king sees that she is pure up until that first rape, so he decides to save her as a gift for his true friend, Ector. Ector, you see, likes them young and “before their womanhood” so Leo saved her for him.

Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.

Despite these charming qualities, Elsbeth is attracted to King Leo and they share a few smoldering glances over dinner, even as she is torn over what is to happen to her. They are heading to her chambers when Leo is called away. He sends her back to her rooms with one of his guardsmen, who is drunk. The drunk guardsman then proceeds to throw Elsbeth down on her father’s bed and rapes the hell out of her. Leodegrance returns while the guard is raping Elsbeth. And when he sees this, he is annoyed.

“The Duke’s daughter is mine,” Leodegrance told him. “Go find a scullery wench to sate your appetite.”

While Elsbeth is still sitting on the floor, sprawled, Leo notices her virgin blood staining her thigh and then he gets mad.

“Trystan, get this traitor out of my sight. Take him anywhere, I don’t care. And know that he’s no longer welcome in Cameliard.”

So to recap: rape is just annoying, unless you took her virginity before the king could. Then it is a real offense.

At this point, I’d like for the heroine to stab the hero’s eyes out with a hot poker. But instead, he gets into bed, and lays his sword down between them. Instead of taking this and carving out his liver, she lays down into bed next to him and tells him her name.

I would say this is spoilery, but we are only in Chapter Two.

From here, the “what the fuck” continues to get worse. King Leo is smitten by Elsbeth, and vows not to sleep with her until she won’t fight him. She doesn’t have to be excited about it, just not fighting him. Elsbeth declares she will never sleep with him because he killed her father and enslaved her. I rally, thinking she is going to show some sense.  The next morning, our heroine is out in the courtyard and views what is left of her people.

Today, the sun looked down on the tattered remnants of a conquered people. Miserable as her night had been, theirs would have been far worse. At least she had slept on a bed beneath a warm fur. At least she hadn’t been hurt – not physically anyway. And what had happened to her had no doubt happened to every female above the age of ten. Every male, too, if the rumors she’d heard were true.

You will recall she was raped savagely the night before. I guess that does not count as being hurt.

As they ride away from the now-destroyed castle of her father, Leo puts Elsbeth on the horse in front of him and as they bounce along…she gets turned on.

Elsbeth, sitting sidesaddle, grabbed at [the horse’s] mane to steady herself. Found herself steadied instead by Leodegrance’s strong arm which circled her chest. Circled her so that the full swell of her breasts rested against his forearm.

She gritted her teeth, hating the king even more. Knowing he could have asked his horse to change to a smoother gait. Knowing why he didn’t. Hating him because the rising and falling of the horse’s stride, coupled with the jouncing of her breasts against his arm, sent peculiar sensations through her abdomen and loins. Sensations so powerful that she had to press her thighs together to keep from crying out.

Nor was Leodegrance indifferent to those same sensations that burned through her. She felt himself clutch at her, drawing her against his iron strength, matching himself to the rhythm of the horse.

You will recall she was just raped the night before. And before that, she was a virgin. And now she is dry humping her captor on horseback.

They make it to Cameliard and Leodegrance introduces Elsbeth to his wife. I’m going to let that sink in for a moment. His wife. He makes it painfully obvious that Elsbeth is going to be his mistress, and the wife is okay with it, because she doesn’t want the attentions of her husband. She’d rather sit up in her rooms and read Sapphic poetry.  Elsbeth is moved into posh quarters of her own, and 11-year-old Ruth (remember her?) is moved into the room next to her. This is critical to remember, because as the mental will-they-wont-they continues between Elsbeth and Leo, every night, Ector the guardsman goes to 11-year-old Ruth’s room and rapes her. Every night. And Elsbeth can hear it, since their rooms are adjacent. Her reaction?

Invariably, each night before he left, Ector would call out, “God grant you a good evening, Lady.” And invariably, Elsbeth, hidden behind her door, would blush, knowing that Ector knew she could hear.

Part of the blush was infuration, too. Knowing that she could hear every groan, every slap of flesh on flesh, nearly every drawn breath, still he came and still he went as if he were but a doting grandsire visiting his grandchild. No decency, no modesty, no Christian humility.

And she hated him, too, because no matter how hard she tried to ignore what was going on each night in her antechamber, her body wouldn’t let her. It yearned for the feel of another’s flesh on hers. Yearned for the breaching that made Ruth gasp each time it happened.

Recap: our heroine gets off on hearing a man rape a child.

We are only on Chapter Three at this point.

I won’t go line by line through the rest of the book, though the insanity never stops. Instead, I’ll give you a brief recap of the rest of the story because I would not wish this book on anyone.

You will be relieved to hear that the 11 year old gets pregnant by the much older Ector, tried to stab her uterus with a hot poker to kill the baby (but was prevented from doing it), and then a month later dies of a miscarriage. So now Elsbeth, who was having feelings for the king, no longer loves the king because of Ruth’s death. He then whines to her that his wife is less to him than a jaded whore, and can’t Elsbeth just sleep with him? He has needs.

Eventually they kiss and make up. Later in the story, a young, handsome knight named Patrise shows up while the king is gone away doing war things. The queen falls in love with him, but he wants Elsbeth. And when he gets his first chance, Patrise rapes Elsbeth.

The queen walks in mid-rape and Patrise says Elsbeth came on to him. The queen blames Elsbeth and they are no longer friends. When the king goes off to war, Elsbeth is scared to be left in the castle with evil Patrise, so she asks to stay with the camp followers and tag along in the war party. Patrise goes with the war party as well, finds her with the camp followers and rapes her again, and this time, Leo finds them mid rape. Elsbeth declares that the hero should not be mad at her, because it’s not what it looks like.

Leo is, of course, mad at her and ignores her for days. Elsbeth decides to leave the camp, so she steals a guy’s armor and dresses up like a boy, and gets caught up in the battle, since there is a war going on. She is discovered by the enemy, so they capture her and drag her to their leader, Uther Pendragon, who is an old and crusty man who is into BDSM. At this point, her newest captor holds her down so crusty old Uther can rape her. Repeatedly.

And then Uther ties her to a mattress in his tower and whips her and rapes her for several days, sometimes in front of his men. She is left tied to the mattress at all times. After days of this, the castle is taken by King Leo’s men and Leo walks in with his new best friend, Patrise. They kill Uther and discover Elsbeth still tied to the BDSM bed. Leo realizes when Patrise grabs her boob that Patrise is not his buddy after all, and maybe he should not have blamed Elsbeth for all the rapes.

So THEN they fight, Elsbeth helps the king kill Patrise, and they all return to Camelot. The queen hears about her love Patrise’s death, flings herself from the castle wall, which leaves Leo and Elsbeth free to marry.  Epilogue is her pregnant with Guinevere, the future queen of Camelot.

The end.

Despite this horrible, horrible storyline, there were two other major things that bothered me. One – the rapes. Not only is she raped by every primary male character in the story except for the pedophile and the hero, she is dismissive of it, thinking it happens to everyone. Or when it does happen, she shows no reaction. For all that she cares, they might have sneezed on her. I kept reading, waiting for her to show reaction of any kind – anger, violation, sadness – but she never seems to register any sort of emotion until the hero blames her for it, and then she gets mad at him.  If anything, the multiple rapings seem to make her more turned on, which totally baffles me. After she is raped, she gets turned on every time she hears someone having sex. At one point, after she has been raped twice and is following the war party with the camp followers, she is turned on yet again.

The smell of sweat and lust assailed her, wove its way into the symphony of passion that surrounded her, infiltrated her, touched her very core. She rode the crescendo as it swelled around her – eyes, ears, nose overwhelmed by the insistent, rising tide of a magic as old as life itself. Then by touch, too – her own – was she overwhelmed, plunging her into a sweet pleasure, relieved only when the wings of sleep at last closed over her.

Nothing makes me want to touch myself quite like camp followers, after all.

The rape in this book is bad enough, but there is blatant victim blaming as well. When Leo discovers Elsbeth being raped by Patrise for the second time, he turns and leaves in a fury. Elsbeth follows him to try and explain that she didn’t want Patrise’s attentions, and Leo slaps her across the face.

(Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.)

The other thing that bothered me with Spoil of War was the awful historical accuracy. You tout this book as a historical novel. Your website mentions you have a minor in history. And yet…there is nothing even remotely accurate about the history in this book. Most Arthurian history is fairly ambiguous due to the different versions of the legend, so I let the references to dukes and kings and pageantry slide. I blame Malory for that, not the author. I do blame you for the attempts at historical accuracy that have nothing to do with Malory, however.

I had a terrible time trying to place the history of this book.  I felt like I came closest when Elsbeth and the queen are discussing Dido, the legendary founder of Carthage. One character states that Dido lived 1800 years prior to them. I did a quick wiki check and learned that Carthage was founded approximately 825 BC. Fast forward 1800 years and that places us around 1000 AD.

This is about 500 years later than most ‘true’ Arthurian legend is thought to be, but let’s roll with that.

Very late in the book, Leo states:

Leo’s eyes blazed into hers. “Just so, my Lady. Now I will bend my blade and sweep all of Britain before me. Then I will lay a land of wealth and greatness at Theodosius’s feet.”

There are three Theodosius (Theodosii?) mentioned in history. Wikipedia shows me:

Okay. I still don’t know which one it is. Throughout the book, though, Leo and his people are referred to as Romans. They have darker skin and black hair. They follow the edicts of Rome. Rome fell around 400 AD, remember? There is no ‘consul’ to report back to, as the book references, if they are in medieval times.

Elsbeth is stated to be of ‘old blood’. She has red hair and pale skin and her mother was Celtic. Often in this book, Celtic is confused with Norse, and both are referred to as if they no longer exist. She follows a mishmash of Celtic and Norse gods, referring to Loki and the Norns repeatedly. She curses and rails against the ‘new’ religion of Christianity.

The heroine also dresses in houppelandes, which are late medieval dresses that appeared in about 1380. When the castle is taken, the king calls for his “Carthaginian skald” to sing him a lay.

Carthage fell in 146BC and was razed again in 698AD. A ‘skald’ is a Norse bard (nowhere close to Carthage, I’m afraid) and the Norse were prominent around 800-1100 AD.

‘Roman’ king Leodegrance  has a wife from Constantinople in the Byzantine empire. At one point the queen is reading Sapphic poems. In a book. Actually several people have books in this tale. Books would not have been commonly available until after the printing press (~1450).

This feels like historical nit-picking but all the time period confusion had me googling to try and determine when and where this ‘historical novel’ was occurring.

My best guess is that you were attempting to set the story around 1000 AD, but that makes the heavy, heavy use of Romans as the enemy (and your reference to Londinium) as grossly incorrect. I finished the book and frankly, I’m still baffled as to what time frame you wanted this to be in.

I’m sad to say that this book was a failure on all angles for me. Your writing was easy to follow and the story flowed, but I found myself reading more from sheer horror and disgust at the trainwreck unfolding rather than any real desire to find out how the story ended up for the hero and heroine.

I really wanted to give this a better grade, lest all the January reviews seem like endless hate. But I can’t give a higher grade, sorry. If anything, it should be lower. Can you give a grade lower than an F? I am leaning toward F——-.

All best,


Goodreads | Amazonnook | Smashwords

January Janes

January likes a little bit of everything. She's partial to unique paranormals, erotic romances, contemporary, and YA. She has a fondness for novellas and trying self-published works, though more of those are misses than hits. She still refuses to read anything that smells like literary fiction. January also changes this bio on a regular basis depending on her reading mood.


  1. Cara Ellison
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 11:21:31

    I caught Jane’s comments about this on Twitter and I was looking forward to the review. Did not disappoint.

  2. Cara Ellison
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 11:24:02

    Err.. I meant the review didn’t disappoint. The book sounds horrible. The eleven year old did it for me – I not only hated the book, I started to hate the writer a little bit too.

  3. Ros
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 11:28:19

    I had to stop reading half way through this review. Kudos to you for finishing the book.

    And to the author, there is a reason why some books don’t get traditional publishing contracts. BECAUSE THEY DON’T DESERVE THEM.

  4. LG
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 11:33:12

    I’m glad to see that it looks like the primary categories this book was put in at the various online stores was NOT romance. That said, considering your review, I’m put off by the discovery that at least one reader’s review mentions “steamy sex,” since, from the sounds of things, rape or being turned on by rape was common in this book, I can’t wrap my brain around the idea of the word “steamy” being associated with any of it.

    THIS is why I haven’t been able to bring myself to pay for Indie books yet. I can’t trust the reader reviews, which means I need to find at least one book blog I trust that has reviewed it and either found it worthy or at least listed the things that might either attract me or turn me away from the book.

    If I paid $2.99 for something like this, I’d be pissed. At least when books I end up hating are free, the only thing I wasted was my time (although there’s the added issue of how much brain bleach the book makes me feel I need). I’m amazed this wasn’t a DNF for you – it probably would have been for me. Then again, if I had paid for it, I would have felt compelled to finish it, because I would rather no one dismiss a negative review I wrote for something just because I never finished the book.

  5. Sean Kennedy
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 11:39:08

    There are no words.

  6. Mike Cane
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 11:43:23

    Does Phoenix Sullivan even exist as a woman? This all sounds like some drunk hack writing a bad Romance to cash in on a readership he despises.

  7. meoskop
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 11:47:29

    I think you’re being too harsh here. How can the author research appropriate historical placement of her characters when he / she is typing one handed? I read one of these in the early 90’s, another time when reviewers were being pushed to be ‘fair’ to self pubs (or ‘indies’) and I’ve never forgotten it. Publishing may be changing, but the need for gatekeepers is eternal.

  8. Eva / TXBookjunkie
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 11:50:45

    Wow. 0_0 What @Sean Kennedy said. Where’s the brain bleach when you need it?

  9. Chelsea
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 11:51:34

    I have to confess, the historical inaccuracy wouldn’t bother me too much. But the rape content? Oh wow,that’s pretty bad. I can handle reading about rape if it’s handled with emotional delicacy. But when it just kind of happens and no one cares? Horrible. Oh, and the pedophilia is an instant deal breaker. Ick.

  10. DA_January
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 11:57:34

    @Cara Ellison
    The book was horrible. I feel like the author should have showed it to someone before publishing it so they could have stopped her.

  11. DA_January
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 11:59:03


    I think I finished it mostly to see how terrible it could get. I have to say that by the time I got to the BDSM warlord, I was almost laughing.

  12. Darlynne
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 11:59:09

    I read the review because I’m not clear about indie publishing or how one recognizes such a book. Is it just another word for self-published? In any event, I won’t touch this book and regret that you had to read it.

  13. DA_January
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 12:03:16

    @LG The categories chosen were historical, true, and I initially thought that was what it was. However, it reads more like Rosemary Rogers or Bertrice Small than Philippa Gregory. After reading it, I do feel like it is miscategorized as historical fiction, but then again, I would not wish this on a romance reader.

    Like you, I was incredulous and infuriated that all the reviews are 5 stars and I cannot help but think they are friends of the author.

  14. Shannon Stacey
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 12:03:28

    A man giving an eleven year old girl to his friend to rape and a woman being turned on by the sounds of the little girl being repeatedly raped is disgusting. I don’t care if it’s tagged as a romance or not. And I don’t care if the rape is historically accurate. Him gifting the child to a rapist and her being aroused by the sounds of a little girl being raped are choices the author made, not history. It’s disgusting.

    The four 5-star and one 4-star ratings on Amazon disgust me. And a well-known name in romance calling this a beautifully written and enthralling tale of love disgusts me.

    Granted, my son’s going into the fifth grade which means my life currently has an abundance of eleven year old little girls (little girls!), but the idea anybody could read this and not be sickened horrifies me.

  15. DA_January
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 12:03:55

    @Mike Cane I found a website so I do think it is a real person, however, I feel strongly this should have been left under the bed.

  16. DA_January
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 12:05:26


    I’m trying more Indies in order to expand my horizons, but they are definitely a mixed bag.

  17. DA_January
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 12:07:15


    My thoughts exactly. The worst thing about the rape (well, actually it was all really bad) is that it’s dismissed by everyone as unimportant. When Leo slaps the heroine, it is treated with more gravity than when he’s caught her being raped by random characters. Left a very sour taste in my mouth.

  18. DA_January
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 12:08:53

    @Darlynne Indie is the popular term for self-published, yes. It’s very popular to refer to writers as ‘indie authors’ in a lot of circles, and ‘legacy published’ for those published by New York.

  19. DA_January
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 12:11:30

    @Shannon Stacey

    I didn’t mention how the book ended, because I felt it would be piling on at that point. However, at the end of the book, Ector is giving a new young girl, Morgause. I cannot remember if the hero gave Ector this one or not. Morgause is quite happy to be with Ector and receives his attentions with excitement, for all that she is very, very young. In addition, Elsbeth (the heroine) now looks upon Ector fondly as he helped save her from the BDSM duke. Now she feels he is not so bad and states in the book that she can see why the hero loves him.

    So at the end of the story, the pedo is loved by all.

  20. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 12:18:48

    @Shannon Stacey:

    Shannon…that was my line. That was what pushed it over me. Just about everything else I could have grimaced and shuddered and shook my head, but the child pushed me over a line.

    And painting it as sexually arousing is so very far beyond disgusting. Infuriating.

  21. Chelsea
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 12:19:04

    @Shannon Stacey:

    Yeah, just because something is “historically accurate” doesn’t mean that it’s ok for you to glorify it in your book. My thought is, I would never feel comfortable reading a book with pedophilia. But my discomfort turns into rage at the fact that the pedophilia is portrayed as perfectly ok and a turn on to all characters. That’s disgusting.

  22. Jia
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 12:23:02

    @DA_January: wait, wait, MORGAUSE? As in the one from the actual Arthurian legend?? D:

  23. Sheryl Nantus
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 12:24:24

    I think another problem is why “Jennifer Blake, NY Times Bestselling author” gave a rousing review here – I trust that when I see a blurb from someone with those credentials that it’s trustworthy.

    Which is why it’s on the front page and all that and probably got a lot of sales.


    Yet another reason to disbelieve reviews on Amazon and GR when they’re all five-stars…

    double Ugh.

  24. Robin/Janet
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 12:25:28

    And I don’t care if the rape is historically accurate.

    And the thing is, rape is ALWAYS historically accurate, because it’s at old as, well, people (and if you’ve ever see a rooster nail a hen, you know it’s clearly not just limited to people).

    I don’t know if the author would justify the choices in this book based on “history,” but I’ve certainly seen enough of those history-based justifications to call bullshit on them as a whole. Why? Because ugly things occur in every time period and every social and cultural context. Children are sexually assaulted, dead bodies raped, etc. And if some eras are “known” to be more readily characterized by violence, I don’t think that’s always a matter of historical accuracy or knowledge, either.

    For example, I am so sick of the every man from the 5th C through 11th C -as-rapist-and-marauder/woman as passive victim stereotype I can barely stand it anymore. Because it IS a stereotype, and one that belies deep historical knowledge of the period. For one thing, behavior of a certain period has to be measured against the conditions of the world in which people lived, and that requires a pretty nuanced and comprehensive understanding of history. Which I don’t think we often see in Romances that utilize certain time periods. And when, as in this book, the concept of masculinity is tied explicitly to sadistic violence, and then somehow given a patina of authenticity based on the assumptions made about the time period, well, that IMO violates history as much as genre expectations/boundaries.

  25. Kay
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 12:29:17

    Please, please, please. Self-published authors are not “indie” publishers. That’s insulting to the many great independent publishers out there.

  26. Uche
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 12:29:30

    I’m half tempted to leave a one-star review on Amazon that just links to this one. That the reviews on there have no actual connection to what the story is about is really terrible.

  27. DA_January
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 12:29:50


    It’s never clarified if she is the Morgause from legend, but that is what is assumed. The names don’t seem to have rhyme or reason. Some are specific to Arthurian Legend (Uther Pendragon) and some are just odd (a ‘King Ryan’ is mentioned repeatedly).

  28. DA_January
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 12:30:28

    @Sheryl Nantus

    Agreed – I thought with the positive reviews and the credible author blurb that this would be a viable read. Not really.

  29. DA_January
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 12:33:27


    I find it amusing that rape as plot is considered to be historically accurate when other historically accurate things (disease, hygiene, infant mortality, even shared lodgings) are usually glossed over.

  30. meoskop
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 12:40:15

    @DA_January: I feel I should say now that there are some good ones, because there are, but it’s more Darger then Degas out there.

  31. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 12:41:53

    @Kay: Eh, I’ve got some self-pubbed stuff, and I call them my indie titles.

    That’s not an argument anybody is going to win…probably ever, because there aren’t any clear lines.

  32. Sunita
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 12:43:54

    @DA_January: It’s probably too much to hope that King Ryan goes on to marry Queen Tiffany in a sequel.

    Seriously, January, this is an awesome review. Thank you for continuing to the bitter end so that we could have a grade. A DNF would have sold the book short.

  33. Robin/Janet
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 12:45:24

    @DA_January: I know, and it’s always been the case, it seems. Eileen Dreyer wrote an RWR piece years ago making that same argument, and it’s always stuck with me. Rape is historically accurate and therefore good but lice, which are also historically accurate, are bad.

    I also think this book would be a good example of how many different ways in which rape is used in a text, and that it doesn’t always automatically fall into the category of sexual fantasy (and OMG I do NOT want to read a sexual fantasy involving lice, either!!).

  34. Lori S.
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 12:48:44


    That just almost made me physically nauseous.

    Must…find…brain bleach…

  35. Owen Kennedy
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 12:59:07

    I feel violated and disgusted just reading the content revealed in the review. I think it goes without saying that this and any other books by this writer are on my ‘not in a million years would I read this crap’ list. Yeah…it exists for books such as these. Thanks for the warning so I can put the book down and back away slowly.

    As a social worker (my day job) who has had to deal with the reality of elements in this book (like the 11yo story line)…I’m horrified someone would use it to make a buck. Unfortunately the rape of an 11yo isn’t confined to historical fiction, but what the hell is it doing there in a book that calls itself ‘romance’?

    This is my reaction to reading the review…I can’t imagine what I would be saying if I’d paid actually money to read this. Books like this give our genre a bad name and open the door for the attitude and unfair criticism romance writers receive. There is nothing erotic or romantic about the story line. Too bad no one can go in and forcibly change the tag from ‘romance’ to ‘just gross and disturbing’. There is NOTHING romantic or sexy about rape. No matter how offensive this book is to a normal person (which is damn offensive) it is much more offensive for any woman who has suffered as a victim of rape or sexual abuse. These things are crimes and seriously harmful/life altering to their victims …it is the most offensive insult to attempt to ‘romanticize’ them.

    I will now discontinue my ranting. ;o)

  36. LoriA
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 13:00:15

    This sounds horrible. I personally feel little desire to read self-published books unless I already know the author or they are recommended by people whose reading tastes I know. I don’t read fast enough to get through them, in addition to all the books I want to read.

    But maybe it’s time to have some sympathy for editors who read the slush pile. ;-) (Seriously, sometimes when a trad published book seems pretty bad, I think of the other stuff they rejected. And the book they bought must have been so much better in comparison, that they lost perspective.)

    There’s a reason self-published authors reject that term for “indie.”

    And what about some of the names? Ector was Arthur’s foster father, and Morgause was Arthur’s half-sister (his mother’s daughter from her first marriage), at least according to T. H. White’s The Once and Future King. She was the mother of Mordred (and sister of Morgan).

    I’ve read some books that play a bit with Arthur, or offer their own interpretation. Sometimes it’s fun to play around, particularly if they show how the legend could have arisen from the (true) events of the story. This one doesn’t sound like fun at all.

    A bit surprising that the king’s own guardsman wouldn’t keep his hands off the woman that the king had already marked as his own. Or that the king wouldn’t care (until he discovered that she’d been a virgin). Obviously, the guardsman knew his king. But things like that also strike me as just plain wrong.

    At least the 11-year-old girl (Ruth – a lovely Old Testament name?) didn’t seem to like being raped!

  37. Carin
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 13:01:26

    I’m one of the people who wanted more reviews of indie or mall-publisher books. I take it back! This sounds horrid.

    Well, I don’t take it back, I just wanted you to magically find good ones and not have to read through stuff like this. Thanks for taking one for the team.

  38. kara-karina
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 13:02:23

    I am speechless. I don’t know any culture, ANY culture at all through the history, where laying with a girl before she started menstruating and was considered a woman was acceptable. NONE. Yes, there are always horrible stories about the rampage which goes along with the war, but not this. What kind of historical accuracy we are talking about? This was always a taboo, an abomination. This book is just sick. I’m not even touching any other issues from the plot. We need more honest reviews like this!

  39. KB/KT Grant
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 13:07:30

    Good label for this book is rape ripper not even bodice ripper.

    Patrise is an interesting name. Yeah… At first I thought it was a woman’s name.

  40. Leah
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 13:14:12

    Oh, John Ringo, no.

  41. DA_January
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 13:14:24

    Sunita, thank you. For a while there, I questioned my ability to finish reading it, but once I hit the halfway mark, I wanted to see how bad it could get. Apparently, pretty bad.

  42. DA_January
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 13:16:24

    @Owen Kennedy
    Owen – I do want to point out that it was categorized as historical fiction, but that doesn’t make it any better. It did read like the awful, bodice-ripping romances of the 1970s. I think if the heroine had not been physically aroused by a lot of the raping, it would have been less offensive. Well, perhaps not less offensive, but the arousal added whole new levels of offense.

  43. DA_January
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 13:17:53


    Carin, I am reading more self-published books as we speak. Hopefully they will not be as bad as this one.

  44. Owen Kennedy
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 13:23:23


    I was looking at the tags on Amazon. Historical romance, medieval romance and athurian romance. It is normally how I search out books to read on amazon…by the tags. ;o)

  45. Anon
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 13:26:05

    The Amazon reviewers must be friends of the author. The author of the current lowest review gave this book four stars despite the child abuse and rape, but gave another book a 1 star review for “NON-consensual Spanking”. She also said of that book, “I won’t read books where the female lead is hurt over and over, so this book is out for me.”

  46. Tori
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 13:30:17

    Wow. What a horrible book. Why do authors think that rape is a seller? Especially repeated rapes? Just reading your review gave me an unset tummy. Thanks for the warning. I shall stay far, far away from this one.

  47. Minx Malone
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 13:45:57

    I think I just threw up a little bit in my mouth only from reading the review. I need to go read about puppies and rainbows to get those mental images out of my head. Yikes!!

  48. KJ Reed
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 13:48:39

    Is it just me (and maybe the pic is too small for my bat-blind eyes) but does the female model on the cover look to be about 12? Maybe 13? (Which, sadly, would go along with the theme of the book, I guess…)

    I suppose, when you look at it through a lens of “historical fiction” and take out that there might be romance in there, I can look past the choices. I don’t like them. In fact, I hate them. And knowing what the book contains, I would never read it. However, they were the author’s choice to make with their creative project. And the book will rise or fall on the merits of their choice.

    But a romance author (genre romance) calling this book a “tale of love”? And also using the word “lust” when it sounds like 90% of the sex in this book was either rape or pedophilia? I guess one could consider that lust…in a sick, mentally ill sort of way. But again, when your name and your brand attached to that name are linked to genre romance, and you know your readers who see your name will think of “lust and love” and assume “consensual adult relationships with true affection and emotion” … Would you want to put that out there on a book like this? I, personally, would be concerned that someone would associate my name with this book and think that this was truly my idea of love. And never pick up a book by me. Ever. Because they didn’t want to see this.

    I’ll buy the “compelling characters” and “I was enthralled” part. And hell, clearly the “horrors of war” is true enough. To each their own. Someone might really like this book for the fiction, the horror, etc. But the “lust and love” part coming from a romance author really has me thrown for a loop. At least without a healthy dose of sarcasm.

    It was definitely her choice to make, providing the cover quote for the book. It’s absolutely not one I would choose. And I don’t mean this to say that a romance author cannot provide a quote for a book outside the romance genre. Not at all. I’m sure it can work beautifully. But I think the choice of words were poor. And there needs to be a very careful consideration before doing so.

  49. LG
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 13:50:53

    @Anon: That’s the thing that really gets me about this – reader reviews that are brief and lacking in detail (“this is the best book I’ve ever read!”) are easily dismissed, but this book has reviews that are detailed enough that I would have assumed they read and genuinely enjoyed the book.

    This whole thing makes me think of Amazon reader reviews I read of Anne Bishop’s books. Some people found just the presence of pedophilia in the book to be an endorsement of it and apparently never noticed the way Bishop wrote about it and that the pedophiles were not presented in a positive light. Looking at something like Whoever’s review for Spoil of War, I might have assumed that, like Bishop’s books, this book contained things that some might find objectionable, but that review said nothing about rape and pedophilia being presented as just mildly annoying or arousing (!!!) things. Actually, I don’t see a mention of pedophilia anywhere in the Amazon reviews, just lots of “reality of life” and “grit of Medieval life.” So, pedophilia as a turn-on for the heroine and one of the hero’s friends is part of what makes the book “gritty” and “real,” then?

  50. Moriah Jovan
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 13:56:27

    Re front cover blurb: Do we even know that the author’s name/words were used with permission? That could easily have been faked or cobbled together. It would be easy to assume she would never know.

  51. LG
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 14:02:13

    @Moriah Jovan: Well, Blake mentions the book on her blog and even interviews Phoenix Sullivan about it.

  52. LG
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 14:09:07

    I can’t seem to link directly to the post, so here’s a URL that should give you the post right at the top:

  53. KJ Reed
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 14:11:01

    @Moriah… The author (Sullivan) is actually Jennifer Blake’s niece.

    “It’s my pleasure to present this interview with Phoenix, who is, not incidentally, my niece.”

  54. Jayne
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 14:16:54

    @LG: Considering I’ve liked Jennifer Blake’s books in the past, her endorsement of this one makes me more than slightly ill.

  55. Jaclyn
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 14:22:30

    Holy moly, I clicked thru to the Jennifer Blake interview which lead to a favorable review of this book in a newspaper, the Little Rock Examiner. O.o

  56. Rachel
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 14:23:46

    I think it’s really interesting that on her blog the author is clearly taking the business of self-publishing and making money from it quite seriously. She talks very openly about her sales and her process of finding out what works best from the business side of things. I’ll be interested to see if she engages in the discussion about the creative side of the book as well.

  57. LG
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 14:24:37

    @KJ Reed: Oops, I missed that bit in my rush to see if either Blake or Sullivan mentioned any of the things this review mentioned. There are some serious rose-colored glasses at work, then. There is a difference between saying “yay, niece, you wrote a book! I hope you do well, and I will give you advice and read and critique your work if you wish” and actually publicly endorsing the work.

  58. Kim
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 14:26:59

    “The manuscript made the rounds among agents and traditional publishers, and the overall reaction was that the writing was great and the story engrossing (“I literally couldn’t put it down,” one agent told me) but, ultimately, it wasn’t marketable through traditional channels. I was asked to either revise it to lose some of the emphasis on romance or to pump up the romance and incorporate the POV of a “hawt” hero to match contemporary conventions.”

    If the author’s aforementioned quote is accurate, agents/editors have a strange take on romance.

  59. Lynne Connolly
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 15:05:24

    Agents’ cover letters can sometimes sound like a personal rejection.

    Most of the romance publishers I write for will allow rape under certain circumstances. They always demand that the rape isn’t done by the “hero” or that the rape isn’t used for titillating purposes (unless it’s one of those BDSM “rape scene” things), ie, it’s usually used as a crime to further the plot, not as part of the romance.

    I’ve written rape twice, and never in detail, because it sickened me to do it, and because there was no need. In both scenarios I was dealing with the outcome of rape, not the act itself. And I did a lot of research.

    Reactions to rape by the victims don’t seem to have changed and these characters don’t seem to show the reactions. It’s shallow, the reactions aren’t right, there’s no real distress, no real anger.

    And historical? Hardly. With Arthurian legend, it can either be placed in the assumed time (around the 500 AD mark) or fantasized, as Malory did (TH White’s wonderful books are based on Malory – so are most of the Victorian creations). This seems to want everything.

  60. Sheryl Nantus
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 15:05:53

    To be fair, there is an attempt at a disclaimer on the website…

    “Please note: This novel takes place in a harsh era when spoils were often treated as commodities. While the violence toward women and children is period-appropriate and for mature adults only, it is never gratuitous. The story focuses on adaptation, survival and, ultimately, love in the Dark Ages before Arthur was made king.”

    However, given the review above and synopsis of the book I can’t for the life of me figure out how it even begins to justify the events in the book.

    It does show that perhaps the author has some idea of the delicate topics discussed here… but I’m not going to excuse her or her aunt for the content.

    Just a fyi for those counting such things.

  61. Jia
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 15:24:55

    @Sheryl Nantus: I guess I have a different take on “gratuitous.” o_o

  62. Chelsea
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 15:27:12

    @Sheryl Nantus:

    Ok, so the author may be aware that rape and pedophilia are offensive, but I don’t think she has any clue of their emotional impact. Based on this review, the author but minimal effort into taking into account the psychology of rape from the perspective of victims and bystanders.

  63. Moriah Jovan
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 15:30:01



    And that’s about all I can say about that. LOL

  64. Linda
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 15:34:07

    Just a question. In books that glorify rape, or pass it off as no big deal, has the author herself/himself ever been a real-life victim of such an act? I honestly don’t believe so.

  65. Limecello
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 15:47:06

    I can’t believe you read the whole thing, January. I feel like I ought to congratulate you, but really just can’t bring myself to do it. Maybe offer condolences?
    If this hadn’t been billed as a romance, I was … how do I say this – more okay with all that you described that had occurred than I am now, until the horse scene. Obviously this is a book that makes my head hurt.
    As something “historically accurate” – yes, rape happened. A lot. I’m not going to get into how it was dealt with, or viewed, or how the victims felt about it. [Although the dead body … that… I mean I can believe it happened, but the nonchalance with which … no.]
    The rest of it just turns my stomach.
    I, like you, however, had to keep reading. Lucky for me, it was only to read the entirety of the review when I saw everyone’s WTFery. I also hoped something might make a semblance of sense, or redemption. Alas.

  66. Liz Mc
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 16:20:10

    I haven’t read this book and I’m not a Medieval (or whatever it is) historian, so I’m cautious about making pronouncements, but like others I’m really uncomfortable with the “historically accurate” claim.

    Many of us are privileged to be able see the past as a “harsh[er] era” but anyone who picks up a newspaper knows that rape is still used as a tool of terror and warfare. I would be appalled by a novel set in Bosnia or Darfur that treated rape the way January describes: it’s no big deal to victim/not really harmful since it’s happening to everyone around her; a rape victim is aroused by hearing an 11-year-old being raped in the next room.

    Absolutely, violence against women and children is realistically part of conlicts, but in contemporary societies where that has occurred, it isn’t casually accepted by victims and bystanders, and it isn’t without lasting effect. I don’t believe it was in the past, either. The heroine here is just not psychologically plausible to me, even as a person from “back then.” The fact that soldiers sometimes behave this way, then and now, does not mean an author does not have to be careful about how she handles it and how she invites the reader to feel about it.

  67. Linda Hilton
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 16:26:44

    1. The book “Spoil of War” was published on Amazon 29 Mar 2011 and only has four reviews there to date. None of the reviewers has a significant portfolio of reviews on Amazon.

    2. The violence described in your review, January, reminded me immediately of “The Barbarian Princess” from 1978 by Laura Buchanan (Florence King). I stopped reading that one pretty early on, and I still have nightmares about it.

    3. I have 22 Kindle samples in my library of “indie” published books that were never previously print published. Of the 22, not one single one has impressed me sufficiently to buy the book. Not one. The best of them was pushing maybe a C- rating, but that wasn’t enough to justify paying for the rest of it, because I would never have read it. The rest ranged from D+ to F- and worse.

    4. I have, however, purchased three indie-only published books without first obtaining the free sample. One of the three was free, the other two $.99. All three had substantial reviews from experienced reviewers. While not great books, they were certainly readable, probably around B- by my grading system.

    5. Because of my own unpleasant experiences with print publishers, I’m eager to support those who try to bypass that quagmire. I firmly believe there are good writers out there who could really make a difference. I just don’t know where they are, because I’m sure not seeing their books on the digital lists.

    Sorry for rambling. Bad books like this anger me.

  68. pamelia
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 17:14:33

    Aiyaiyai! This one sounds so horrendous it should have a warning label and come with a vomit-bag. I no longer feel the Amazon reviews hold any credibility whatsoever. This book ranking 4-5 stars? Puh-leeze!

  69. DA_January
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 17:16:58

    @KJ Reed
    I feel like that explains the blurb, at least.

  70. DA_January
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 17:18:09

    From what I understand, the Examiner is a paid content website masquerading as news. Users provide the articles and are paid by however many clicks the article receives. Ergo, I usually discount any and all Examiner articles much like Huffington Post.

  71. DA_January
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 17:21:58

    @Sheryl Nantus

    Sheryl, that blurb was what made me feel comfortable buying the book. If it was not gratuitous and period-appropriate, I have no problems with uncomfortable story lines as long as they have a place in the narrative and is not there simply to tittilate. However…this book really went beyond any sense of ‘not gratuitous’. Each scene was described quite explicitly.

  72. DA_January
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 17:23:03

    Yes, this. If this was a story of her finding inner strength after terrible things happened to her, I wouldn’t enjoy that storyline, but I would understand it. This I am not a fan of in any shape or form.

  73. DA_January
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 17:24:05


    It was a slog marred only by multiple eye-gouging moments. I do it for Dear Author.

  74. Sheryl Nantus
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 17:31:39

    @DA_January: Oh, I totally agree that the warning wasn’t sufficient. Which makes it worse, IMO – it’s one thing to write a horrible book dealing with such topics and claim “I just didn’t know better” – here you have someone claiming that they DID know better, enough to put a warning on it and they still don’t “get” that their writing may be offensive, to say the least.

    I’m just afraid that now her sales will jump due to this bad review and encourage her to put out more in this ilk.


  75. DA_January
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 17:33:50

    @Linda Hilton
    When I read a self-published book, I am hoping for something a little outside of the NY publishing world, with unique storylines. I’m willing to accept that the writing/grammar may not be as great.

    However, this one surprised me with the magnitude of awfulness.

  76. Carolyn
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 17:50:23

    Two of the five star reviewers at Amazon posted on the Blake interview with the author. One of the five star reviewers wrote the newspaper article linked in that post. I shall say no more …

    @Sheryl Nantus – I fear you may be right. I was tempted to download it, just to see for myself. I managed to refrain, though.

  77. Klio
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 17:53:04

    I love Arthurian settings. Roman-ish Arthurian prequels are one of my favourite things.

    But I had to stare at Rachel’s happy yellow cupcake icon for a full minute to reset my brain after reading the review. I concur with those above who have said o.0

    I give major kudos to authors who take on the challenge of writing about mistreatment of young people in historical settings, if the attempt is to find a sane and sensitive way to approach it without destroying the reader’s ability to stay with the narrative; though I agree that this may just have to be the dividing line between definitions of genre–historical fiction versus historical romance. Butseriouslywtf, I need another cupcake to look at just thinking about how this book handles it. It seems hideously irresponsible for even a friend of the author to write an Amazon review without a honking big warning about the content. Saying there’s ”grit” and “a few hard to take elements” seems intentionally deceptive.

    Does Amazon accept returns on digital books? 0.o

  78. The Romantic Scientist
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 17:55:13

    Thanks for taking one for the team, January – this is one of those “I read this crap so you don’t have to” reviews, and I’m sorry you now have the plot in your head.

    It’s funny the talk is turning to the trustworthiness of Amazon reviews – I just wrote a blog post about this subject a few days ago. Let’s just say I don’t trust them anymore either…

  79. Sheryl Nantus
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 18:01:34

    @Klio: Actually I think Amazon *does* accept returns on ebooks.

  80. Joanne Renaud
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 18:02:11

    Wow. This is a fascinating review of a book that I too would have nightmares about. This reminds me so much of the “Gor lite” toga porn bodice-rippers I used to read in high school– where the author went wild with questionable “erotic” scenarios (rape, pedophilia, BDSM, you name it) because of the ancient setting. Because you know, ancient cultures were just that way. It’s authenticity!

    Perhaps I had a stronger stomach when I was younger, but nowadays I can’t touch stuff like that anymore. For example, I recently tried to read Teresa Denys’ “The Silver Devil,” and I wanted to burn my copy after the scene where the “hero,” an Italian Renaissance duke, gruesomely tortures to death a young courtier. His crime? The courtier befriended the duke’s mistress, a poor girl that the duke kidnapped and is holding captive, and is so possessive of he can’t stand to see her talking to another man. Of course the heroine is in love with the duke, even if he did torture and murder her friend. She was so… unconcerned about what happened… that I was shocked and repulsed. WTF? I don’t want sociopaths to be romantic leads! If I want to see rape, torture, and sociopathy, I’ll watch “Law and Order: SVU.”

    Anyway, it is really too bad that this does such a disservice to self-published (i.e. indie) authors– I know a whole bunch (namely Christine Pope, Katherine Tomlinson, Kat Laurange and Steve Poling) who are fine writers with extensive publishing histories with various magazines and presses, who have opted to self publish because they’re tired of the rigamarole of larger publishing houses.

  81. Linda Hilton
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 18:05:37

    @DA_January: I agree — one of the reasons I’ve spent so much time perusing the self-published lists at Amazon and Smashwords is to find the new and different story lines, the different settings and time periods. I miss the variety we had in the 70s and 80s — westerns and the Caribbean, France, Italy, medieval, Civil War, Restoration, you name it. And I, too, can tolerate the imperfect writing if there’s a good story, great characters, compelling conflict, believable and deserved HEA. I don’t expect every book I pick up to be terrific, but the D and D- range isn’t going to get it for me. I’m just not seeing much that’s even readable in a solid C range.

    But I think that’s going to be one of the great values of reviews like this, even as difficult as the books may be to read. Some of these books are just truly terrible, and no one seems to be telling the “dear authors” that up front: first that their books are bad, and second what makes them so bad .

  82. Michele Lee
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 18:43:41

    See, this thing irritates me many ways. First I hate the use of rape in stories like this as shorthand for conflict. Rape is neither romantic nor just a thing that happens, like paying bills. Second as a self published author I hate that this is the crap that’s getting reviewed when I know there’s much better stuff out there (even genuinely good stuff).

  83. Kirsten
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 19:08:06

    First, I want to commend…maybe even pay you for finishing this.

    I think that I have a solution for your grading dilemma –


  84. Sarah Frantz
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 19:24:10

    January, that was just…epic. Epic and horrible and terrible and you’re a saint for finishing it.

    Can I recommend a brilliant self-pubbed book? Matthew Haldeman-Time’s OFF THE RECORD at Lulu. It’s m/m, very hot, fascinating, amazing characters. Just all around wonderful. I’ve read it multiple times. And there’s no rape, I promise.

  85. Lynne Connolly
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 19:40:59

    See it’s one thirty in the morning here, and I just had to go and bake a dozen strawberry cupcakes. I coloured the icing green because it looked nice with the strawberries. Anybody want one? January deserves it, even if she did plant the idea in my head!

  86. DA_January
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 20:24:23

    @Michele Lee
    Michele – how should we pick self-published books, then? This one seemed on the up and up. Reviews were good. Subject was interesting. Cover was professional. There might be better stuff out there, but if a tree falls in the forest, etc etc.

  87. DA_January
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 20:25:06

    Indeed – I believe that grade was considered as well. It also makes me want to bump up the last ‘D’ I gave because it was nowhere near as bad as this book.

  88. DA_January
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 20:25:42

    @Sarah Frantz
    Only on Lulu? That is a shame – it pretty much guarantees I won’t buy it. I’m almost 100% Kindle exclusively at this point.

  89. SON
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 20:28:24

    Did people really want more ‘Indie’ (self-published and indie are two different things) reviews? I for one have no interest in them, and am getting tired of having to wade through them on so many book blogs to get to the reviews of known publishing houses and authors with talent that’s been recognised.

  90. Linda Hilton
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 21:03:35

    @SON: In response, YES, I definitely want reviews of more indie and/or self published books. Even if it’s a weekly listing of DNFs! ;-) Or why not a weekly thread for those who have read some good indies?

    I have to admit, I downloaded the free preview of “Spoil of War” after reading the review. Even knowing what it contains, I have to say that the first few pages are decently written. Ignoring all the “historical accuracy” issues — after all, how can there be “historical accuracy” with a legend anyway? — the writing is relatively clean and coherent, better than many of the other samples I’ve, uh, sampled. But in the first few pages I’m already seeing character inconsistencies that don’t bode well. And I think that since DA has its First Page Saturday critique, maybe an indie first chapter review??? :shrug: I don’t know.

    What I do know is that I don’t much care for HP and its myriad clones, whether old or new, and I’ve never been able to get into PNR, vamps, shifters, etc. The new and different stuff should be out there in indie land. . . . . but somebody’s gotta find it.

  91. Fia
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 21:40:33

    While I do think it is a legitimate place to take a character, to be aroused by their own rape and perhaps other rapes, but this ought to be accompanied by shame or confusion or — anything, really, that shows that this wasn’t SEX, it was RAPE. If the character is just plain turned on, there should be some indication of why and indication that the author realizes this odd and wrong. I could still be along for a story for that, but from this review: it sounds like a constant rape fest, just… ‘cuz it sounded fun? :( Not cool.

    How the hell could anyone read such a thing?

    Big points for the cover — it got me to look at the review. But that’s as far as I go. Geezus.

    Books like this should have some kind of warning. If nothing else, so people who might actually read and enjoy this (I assume they exist, as someone thought it good enough to write and publish it) might find it.

  92. Fia
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 22:09:39

    @Linda: Well. Victims do deal with it in there own way. I’ve known some people who write rape stories as a way to deal with their own experience, and the fictional victims in this case are typically (in my experience) one extreme or the other: “NO MEANS NO AND I’LL CASTRATE YOU IF YOU TOUCH ME AGAIN” and, like Elsbeth, “Hmmm, I suppose this happens, I’ll just try to enjoy the ride.” I wouldn’t speculate on the author’s experience. Perhaps they’re ignorant or misguided or a bit sick, but I would make no assumptions on their personal experience with sexual assault.

  93. Ridley
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 22:15:51

    Welp. I’m never buying anything Jennifer Blake has written. If this is the sorta shit that “enthralls” her, per the blurb, I’m just gonna stay far, far away.

    And a hearty eye-roll to@Michele Lee. 99.9% of “indie” (and oh how I hate that term for self-pub) books are garbage. Chances are that grabbing them from blurb and dishonest buddy reviews on Amazon will result in something like this because most authors couldn’t land a deal for a reason–they’re shitty writers.

    I think this is a great service for readers. The authors have shown they can’t be trusted. Read Amazon’s “Meet Our Authors” forum sometime to see all the maneuvering that goes on to game the review system. They’re all trading 5 star reviews for each other. They exploited the tagging system so hard that Amazon shut the whole thing down. They spammed the reader forums and created armies of sock puppets to shill each other’s books, until the reader forums gave up, one by one, until Amazon banished all author promo to the author forum.

    Sorry, hun, but these self-published authors deserve to be outed as the hateful frauds they are. Dear Author’s given reviews of decent self-pubbed books before. Finally getting to a shitty one is only fair.

  94. Merian
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 22:16:08

    I am cross posting part of a comment I made on RRR because Jessica is also talking about self publishing and quality.

    I agree with the need for gatekeeping. I feel that the question we are all now struggling with is how to find books that match our tastes and interests and are well written in the sea of mediocrity and shoals of awful.

    DA January’s review of the egregiously bad ‘spoils of war’ book and the comments in response is a wonderful illustration of the strength of book blogging. However I don’t think an editor or agent may have challenged the content in a gatekeeping role or that there is a guarantee that they would have. It can only be assumed that they might. What the DA review is doing is what DA or any other review blogger has always has done; reporting on a book and calling out what they see are the problems with it.

    In fact the discussion reminded me of one led by Kenda on Lurv a la mode in 2010 about the story of a 15 year old runaway girl who is pack raped and sold into prostitution. ‘Passion Play’ by Beth Bernobich published in print by TOR.

    None of this makes self publishing in and of itself bad.

  95. Dev
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 22:57:07

    The author is crowing about how wonderful her book is over at Kindleboards. I hope someone posts a link to this review.

    She says the child abuse is handled “off page” and only alluded to and is appropriate “in context.” Yeah, right.

    Thanks for this review.

  96. Phoenix Sullivan
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 23:03:16

    Thank you for your honest review, January. I’m absolutely not here to speak to your reading experience because that is yours to have, to own and to share. Not everyone will approach a work with the same expectations or a priori experience, nor will all readers come away with the same thoughts about a book. That’s why we have many review sites, after all.

    I would, however, like to speak to a couple of issues that are outside the scope of the review itself and to correct a couple of impressions that the review left in regard to the quality of the writing, the research and, possibly, my integrity.

    The book did make it to the editorial table at two publishing houses (an imprint of one of the Big 6 and Carina Press). And the favorable comments it received from several agents (one of which was cited above) are documented and verifiable. I also know the difference between a personal reply from an agent who has requested and read the full manuscript vs a tossed-off form rejection reply. Those of you who visited my blog may have noticed I have quite a bit of experience mentoring others through the query process.

    As an indie author (or whatever term will eventually come to define us) by choice and a content editor by trade, I absolutely own any copyediting errors in the book. However, the two specifically pointed out are not errors. “Fagging courage” is correct; one of the definitions of the verb fag is to weary or exhaust. And “prob” is more akin to “pushing futiley at” than the word “probe” is. I’m happy to review comma errors that may have been made — with the understanding that commas can be a rather “gray” area when it comes to style and pacing.

    I’m also not here to go point by point through the research, but I will mention that “Ryan” is the anglicized version of the many variants of a name that is ancient Gaelic in origin (Rian, Rion, Riain, etc), much like the name Arthur itself is an anglicized version of any of several variants from Roman or Welsh origin.

    There are reviews on Goodreads and Amazon by people I don’t know. And yes, there are reviews on Amazon by people I do know. As is obvious from their reviews, these people did read the book and they talk about, in detail, what they appreciate about it. I did not ask them to shill for me, and I suspect they would be horrified to find that others thought they were offering anything less than their honest opinion. In fact, one of the reviewers writes for another romance review site and it would compromise her standing there to provide anything less than an honest review.

    Different tastes is why we have the variety of reads that we do.

    I’m of course disappointed my book was (rather pointedly) not to your taste, but that’s why readers follow specific reviewers whose tastes mirrors theirs. Those who generally like the books of the experienced reviewer who posted her review to Amazon will no doubt enjoy the book. Those who appreciate your taste and considered opinion will steer clear and put their money and time into something they WILL enjoy. Win-win for everyone!

  97. Ariel MacConnor
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 23:09:36

    I actually asked Ms. Sullivan on her blog if she was interested in responding to some of the concerns raised by DA_January’s review. I hope she responds– it’ll be interesting to see what she says.

  98. Ariel MacConnor
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 23:11:38

    …And the author commented at the same time as me! How’s that for a coincidence?

  99. » I read an indie book and I liked it. Amber Skye
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 23:18:53

    […] might to be sympathetic to this poor author who is getting slammed around the booksphere today, the book sounds awful. I felt dirty after just reading the review. And this is coming from someone who LOVES dark […]

  100. Laura
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 00:20:59

    While self-published authors often claim the term “indie” to describe themselves, it seems odd that an established book savvy site like this one would not only further the conflation of “indie” and “self-published,” but also fail to acknowledge that they’re being imprecise with the term. In being asked to include “more ‘Indie’ reviews,” you were likely being asked to include more self-published titles AND more titles by small, independent publishers (Carina (sorta), Samhain, Wild Rose Press, LooseId, Ellora’s Cave, etc. etc.). Contrary to what an earlier commenter said, there are clear lines and differences between the two (readers may not see/understand the difference, but authors, reviewers and other industry professionals do). Manuscripts in the latter category generally go through the same gatekeeping process as the Big 6. Manuscripts in the latter category (true “indies”) have been edited and copyedited and professionally formatted by publishers who reject most of what they receive in submission, and at no up-front cost to the author. I understand the argument over the word “indie” will never be resolved, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t recognize that it’s used to refer to two completely different sets of books.

    By the way, my comments are in no way intended to disparage self-published books–I no more believe this book, which I agree sounds like something I wouldn’t like, is representative of self-published books than I would believe the Big 6 vampire series I loathe is representative of all Big 6 titles. Moreover, the most savvy and professional of self-publishing authors are laying out good money to hire professional editors, cover artists, and formatters to ensure they’re providing the best possible product, so there’s a huge range of content and editorial quality within the enormous ranks of the self-published that, to my mind, makes it impossible to characterize en masse.

    Kudos to the author for a very professional reply to what must’ve been a very difficult review (and discussion) to read.

  101. romwriter
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 02:36:29

    I am so sick of this neverending argument about the definition of an “indie.” If you want to blame someone, blame Amazon. When you publish through their Kindle program, by their own definition, you are an Indie. Just this past week, they’ve set up a store on their site where you can go and browse nothing but self-published books. It’s called “Kindle Indie Books.”

    When I was published by a small, independent press, I considered myself small press published. Now that I’m self-publishing, I consider myself an indie. And I have to laugh at the notion of these little electronic and pod publishers being gatekeepers. You’ve got to be kidding me. And it galls me that this is the impression most people have. If anyone would care to do a little homework, they’d find that most of the so-called editors at these pubs are authors who have had no formal training whatsoever and their only experience and/or resumé is the manuscript they’ve written and submitted to said publisher. It’s just a fact.

    I can only speak for myself but I choose to self-publish because I’ve experienced the other side of the proverbial gate (small press, anyway) and I found out the hard way that there’s nothing they can do for me that I can’t do for myself. Plus, as an indie, I actually get to keep most of the money from the sales of my books. Why hand the lion’s share to them when I was doing my own editing and formatting anyway?

    I do hope trusted sites like Dear Author will continue to review self-published books. Despite some people’s claims, they’re not all “garbage.”

  102. Rex Jameson
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 02:59:07

    I think it is safe to say that January hated the novel, and I very much appreciate her reading this and sharing her opinion. I remember reading the Kushiel series (Jacqueline Carey of Tor) and feeling the same way about a lot of the rapes that were described in that series (especially later on with the metal-clad, crazed prophet-guy… that was disturbing).

    Anyway, I happen to personally know half a dozen rape victims and each of them dealt with rape very differently. You would be surprised how women deal with rapes, especially repeated rapes from young ages. Some never wanted to have sex again. Some would seek out older partners–sometimes married and the fathers of their friends. When you talk about the effects of rape and how women deal with it, you may be trying to over-rationalize how your adult mind would react to that now. When a young woman still wants to live and enjoy life, but she is being raped repeatedly, there are no real rational options–especially if killing a rapist will only open yourself up to a different rapist. I just can’t even fathom that twisted reality.

    As an avid history buff, I’m afraid I don’t look at the world through the rose-colored glasses that some of you are doing. I remember when I read the Rape of Nanking (1930s), its counter-claims by the Japanese government, etc., I thought this kind of thing would never happen again. Then you have tribal factions in Africa today that repeatedly rape eight-year-old girls because some local priest said that it would prevent AIDS. How do these eight-year-olds deal with it? Rising up against the male-dominated society and killing the whole lot of them? No. My brother lived in Liberia for 3 years and he saw some things you wouldn’t even believe.

    The world is a messed up place, and always has been. If the author’s point was that romance wasn’t as cut-and-dry back in the Arthurian period as we would like to think it is, this may be a story that “should” be told to warn of the problems that come with turning blinders on historical periods while also detailing how absolutely twisted a romance story could be. A young woman becomes a queen to a doting husband after repeated rapes in a male-dominated masochistic blood-thirsty period. Is the author trying to say that this is the kind of “romance” story you might have seen in this period where a woman finally reaches her dreams after an absolutely brutal adolescence? Does she have to embrace what was going on and deal with it (sort of like the heroine does in the Carey series thanks to her God’s specialization)?

    It may be that Phoenix needs to rework her blurb to prevent misleading the reader. If it is a brutally honest portrayal of a society that treats all spoils, even women, as property, along with explicit, disturbing description and imagery, it should probably say so. If it was the case that the writing was clear, the story flowed, and the main gripe was that genre placement was incorrect, where might this genre have been placed better?

    I want to repeat, once more, a big thank you to January for reading a self-published title. We, as a group, appreciate your interest, and we hope that more reviewers like you will give self-published titles a chance. You had a bad experience. I hope the next one is extremely satisfying for you!

  103. Steph King
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 04:10:33

    I have shied away from self published books so far because I haven’t trusted the seemingly universal glowing reviews. In a bizarre way this review makes me more likely to try a self published book, because if the reviewer is willing to give a pull no punches excoriating review like this, I have more confidence in their discernment when it comes to a good one. Thank you, DA_January. If you find a self pubbed book you like, I’m interested.

  104. GrowlyCub
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 06:06:52


    No, it’s not readers who conflate the two, it’s authors themselves. I recently commented on an author’s blog who used to be trad print pubbed and now has gone completely self-published. She calls it indie. When I pointed out that that was not quite the right term, she got really pissy and another commenter patted me on the head, saying how I was using the ‘old’ definition of the term in an effort to reduce the author’s wrath at my daring. Needless to say, that author’s off my TBB list now.

    I, too, wish that people were precise in their definitions and would not co-opt a term that they feel makes them sound more legit, but expecting it seems to be a losing proposition.

    On Twitter, somebody pointed out that the real indie pubbed authors feel there’s a loss of cachet for them, so whatever boost those self-published authors feel they are getting from appropriating the term ‘indie’ is already flagging, unfortunately with a negative impact on those who are legitimately indie-pubbed.

  105. DA_January
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 07:36:27

    Dev, the child abuse was not off page, as I think the quote earlier shows.

  106. DA_January
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 07:39:12

    @Phoenix Sullivan:

    Phoenix, thank you for responding, and for correcting me. I’ve never heard of ‘fagging’ so I freely admit that I assumed it was a typo. Same for Ryan. Thank you for pointing it out.

  107. DA_January
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 07:41:49

    @Rex Jameson:

    I do intend on reading more self-published stories, Rex. As for the rape, as I think I said above, the fact that it was included did not bother me nearly as much as the heroine’s lack of response. If there had been any sort of emotional awareness – even her own acknowledgment of an increase in sex drive, or a cleaving to certain types of men – I would have been ‘more’ understanding of it. In this book, however, I felt it was not addressed in the slightest, and that was the true issue I had.

  108. Rachel
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 07:51:16

    Here’s more cupcake for Klio ;)

  109. April
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 08:00:00

    I can’t wrap my head around writers who think rape makes an interesting or entertaining story line. It makes me wonder what kind of person they are. I only hope this book won’t poison too many people against giving indie published work a try. There really are some excellent self-pubbed novels out there by authors who care about their work enough to have it edited and who care about their readers enough to not want to offend and disgust them at every turn.

  110. coribo25
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 08:27:34

    From now on I’m referring to myself as a Sindie. Definition – a self publisher who commits the sin of referring to themselves as an indie.

  111. Cliff Stanford
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 08:35:14

    I too was confused by some of the historical issues. Dido would have lived in the 9th century BCE and Elspeth in the 5th century CE (not the 11th) so the reference to 1,800 years should probably have been 1,300. But would the queen be that knowledgeable? And yes, books existed in late Roman Britain.

    As for the rape and child abuse; of course it’s going to be uncomfortable for us, brought up as we were with 20th century morals. Should we deny it happened though? Should we ban books that attempt to display life is it was or might have been?

    Rape has, throughout history, been a spoil of war. In my opinion, it is this, not Elspeth to which the title refers. If this book were about Viking invasions, would we be surprised? Or if it were about recent events in parts of East Africa? As Rex says, rape happens.

    January, you clearly didn’t like the book. Fair enough, I did. But to me it seems you have slated it based on your own lack of vocabulary, your own lack of understanding of British history and mythology and your own prejudices.

  112. Linda Hilton
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 09:00:34

    @The Romantic Scientist: Dear sir or madam: Re your post #78 — Could you provide a link to your blog post about the validity of Amazon reviews? Thanks.

  113. coribo25
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 09:01:34

    Cliff, I got the impression the reviewer was more concerned with the heroine’s responses to the rape rather than the actual inclusion of rape.

  114. Shannon Stacey
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 09:01:54

    If this book were about Viking invasions, would we be surprised? Or if it were about recent events in parts of East Africa? As Rex says, rape happens.

    There are many comments already addressing an author using “it’s historically accurate” to explain the presence of rape in a book.

    But here the author chose to ask her readers to empathize with a female protagonist who is sexually aroused by the brutal rape of a small child. The woman we’re supposed to care about is turned on by the repeated sexual violations of a little girl.

    For many of us, our reaction to this book doesn’t stem from a lack of vocabulary or our poor understanding of British history. We don’t like books about people who get off on the rape of children. But obviously you did, Cliff, so to each his own I guess.

  115. Lynne Connolly
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 09:19:35

    Since Phoenix has replied, graciously or condescendingly, as you want to interpret it, maybe this Brit can take on a couple of terms.

    And here’s the thing. Nobody here is arguing that rape in those brutal times (whenever the times were supposed to be) didn’t exist. But in a book written in the 2010’s it is never right to use rape as titillation in a book where the rapist turns out to be the romantic lead.

    The history is wrong. If she was trying to set it in a specific time, it’s wrong. If the historical Arthur lived, he would have been at around AD 500, when the Romans weren’t a threat to anyone. The books that existed at that time, and right up to the time of the printing press were precious, listed in family inventories as precious, valuable assets, and kept in special place, eg chained up in libraries. Moreover, people were illiterate. There was just no reason to read with no books around. January’s understanding of the basic anachronisms in this book are probably better than Cliff’s.

    The term “fagging courage” is wrong. It does mean tired, but you use it as Heyer does. It doesn’t mean “failing” or “tiring,” “I’m fagged out,” which, for obvious reasons, modern people don’t use any more. It’s post Shakespearian, anyway, so anachronistic. Besides, “flagging” wouldn’t have disturbed the flow of reading. It obviously jarred enough to make January make a note of it.

    As I mentioned before, I’ve done a lot of research into the effect of rape on the victims. No rape victim I have ever read about has ever dismissed it as nothing, or decided to put up with it. They tolerate it while it’s happening, if they have to, but it has never been something they have been able to process and cope with successfully on their own. They do have different reactions, but in all cases it’s the reactions of a victim of violent crime. Which is what rape is. Some become sex addicts, to “wash away” the bad sex, but it doesn’t work. Some turn celibate, but that doesn’t work either. They can’t forget what was done to them. If you’ve ever been burgled, then the feeling of violation is a weak example of what it feels like to be raped.

    One of the matters not taken into consideration seems to be that this is a book for the modern reader. What’s the reader supposed to get out of it?

    I won’t go on about terminology, because frankly, I don’t care. Call it what you like. Like Thurber’s little boy faced with a plate of broccoli, “I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with it.”

    I do self publish, but only short stories and a book I used to use for promotion and give away at conventions (returned to me when the publisher closed down, so edited etc). I think a lot of authors are coming to do that and it’s useful for backlist publication. Maybe hunting by author is the answer.

  116. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 09:23:24

    @Cliff Stanford:

    Choke… seriously?

    I think enough people have voiced the fact that we ARE AWARE of the fact that rape happened a lot… that rape still happens.

    What has a lot of us disgusted, sir, are bits like this…

    And she hated him, too, because no matter how hard she tried to ignore what was going on each night in her antechamber, her body wouldn’t let her. It yearned for the feel of another’s flesh on hers. Yearned for the breaching that made Ruth gasp each time it happened.

    The heroine is getting off, getting excited as an 11 yr old gets raped-she wants to know what makes the child GASP…the child is being brutalized and it excites the heroine.

    It doesn’t have JACK to do with vocab, understanding mythology or how things ‘were’ back then.

    We know rape happens, that it DID happen. Rape has nothing to do with the time one lives in, or their morals. Rape will continue to happen as long as there are those who wish to exert their control over another through that act of violence.

    It’s not necessarily that it was involved in the book, but it’s how callously it appeared to be dealt with, and how the heroine seems to react.

    And for me, it’s how the heroine reacted to a child being raped. She was excited.

  117. Cliff Stanford
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 09:24:35

    @Shannon Stacey:

    The woman we’re supposed to care about is turned on by the repeated sexual violations of a little girl.

    Clearly you and I have read different books or at least read the same book differently. The definition of “little girl” has changed drastically over the years.

    Try to remember we’re talking about a different era. Ruth is stated to be 11 or 12. My own (ex)mother-in-law was married by 14. Elspeth is turned on by the sounds of consensual sex in the next room.

  118. Jane
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 09:38:30

    @Cliff Stanford: So the non con sex turned eventually to consensual sex between the pure innocent 11 year old and the 50+ year old man who raped her initially? And 11 years old is not ‘little girl’ in your mind? Thanks for clarifying this. I myself have struggled in books wondering when young is too young and it’s good to have some guidance that in Norse, Aurthurian, Celtic, Roman historicals set between 500 AD and 1000 AD, that 11 year olds are no longer little girls.

  119. Shannon Stacey
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 09:41:51

    The definition of “little girl” has changed drastically over the years. Elspeth is turned on by the sounds of consensual sex in the next room.

    So you believe an eleven year old girl who has seen her people slaughtered, was raped, kidnapped and then given by the king to the man who likes them “before their womanhood” is consenting to being brutalized by a strange man?


  120. Jane
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 09:43:26

    Why would there need to be a clarification by the author that child abuse is handled off stage. Certainly child abuse happened with regularity in the period when Carthigian skalds appeared, just as rapes did.

  121. Linda Hilton
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 09:43:57

    Cliff — I think one of the objectives of any writer of historical fiction is to make the given historical period relevant to the present in which the reader is reading. In order to do that, I think the author has to establish an emotional connection between the reader and the protagonist.

    While rape may be historically accurate, while rape may still be a contemporary tactic of war and colonization, while child rape may be a tenet of some religions founded and based and practiced in the U.S. — Warren Jeffs was sentenced this week for that crime and defended himself on the grounds of his religious beliefs rather than denying he’d commited the acts — I think the issue January had with the book and the issue those of us reading her review have with the book as she saw it was that the repeated rapes and the variety of types of rape and the lack of examination of the heroine’s reaction to all this rape overwhelmed and overshadowed everything else, including any romance that may or may not have developed in that context.

    Further, I think that when an element such as rape which has engendered a great deal of controversey in the genre is not addressed in a way that confronts those controversies, then the book may be seen as failing to satisfactorily meet the conventions of the genre.

    For those reasons, it appears the book failed to establish that essential connection between the protagonist in “her” time and the readers in “our” time who do not automatically dismiss the effects of rape and other forms of violence. We do not equate rape with romance, or we wouldn’t be so sickened by what happened to Jaycee Dugard. There’s something in our way of seeing the world in 2011 that says forced sexual intercourse with an 11-year-old girl is wrong and that there is no justification for it and that a character who is sexually aroused by watching or hearing or knowing about the rape of an 11-year-old girl is somehow not a person we want to identify with or have an emotional connection with.

    And when we read a book in which the actions of characters are not unlike the actions of Warren Jeffs and Phillip Garrido, and those actions are not sufficiently addressed by the victims in a way that resonates with our understanding, we tend not to like the book because it seems to send the message that hey, this heroine didn’t mind it so much, so what’s the matter with the rest of you? Just lay back and enjoy it like we did in the days of Leodegrance and Arthur, who may never even have existed.

    It isn’t ignorance of language or history that prompts us not to like rape as a means to love. It’s our sense of humanity. Or, I should say, it’s at least mine. I wouldn’t have read this book anyway on the basis of the review. On the basis of the book’s defenders my opinion has been lowered.

  122. Sunita
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 09:48:57

    @Cliff Stanford: And my Indian grandparents were married (not betrothed, married) at 7 or 8. But they went back to their own families and didn’t set up house on their own until they were 15.

    If you don’t know the difference between 11 and 14 in terms of adolescent female development, you might want to reconsider your participation in this conversation.
    And BTW, the average onset of menarche is considered to have declined over the years.

    I am speechless. I don’t know any culture, ANY culture at all through the history, where laying with a girl before she started menstruating and was considered a woman was acceptable.

    Neither do I. If someone has empirical evidence to the contrary, I’d love to see it.

  123. Linda Hilton
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 09:56:10

    @Sunita: I believe January’s review stated that the pedophile liked his partners before they reached womanhood, and not that he liked very young women. He was sexually attracted to children.

    And yes, the age of menarche has declined, probably due to improved nutrition and/or the presence of various hormones in meat and dairy products.

  124. Sunita
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 10:03:37

    @Linda Hilton: Right. My point in quoting K-K’s comment was that from January’s review I get the impression that the reader is not necessarily supposed to consider this a problem, i.e., the reader is expected to consent to this behavior as era-appropriate.

  125. Jane
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 10:22:09

    Just for taxonomy clarification what do we label females “before their womanhood” if we are not identifying them as girls? Or is it the qualifying adjective “little” that is objectionable? Just trying to wrap my head around this argument.

  126. DA_January
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 10:29:25

    @Cliff Stanford
    Cliff – you are missing the point of the review. Please read it and tell me where I am saying that books with rape should not exist.

    In addition, please provide citations where books existed in late Roman Britain and were common enough that anyone can grab them, hold them in their laps, and then put them aside and give them treatment as we do today.

    In addition, I don’t know who “Elspeth” is. The character in this book is “Elsbeth”. Also, please cite where my lack of understanding of British history comes into play? Do you mean the reference to King Ryan? Please show me a King Ryan in history. The author states that she was referring to a bastardized spelling of his name for a fictional character, which I can accept, but I fail to see how that makes my ‘knowledge of British history’ lacking.

    ETA: I just did a quick wiki check on books: — the book referenced in this particular novel was not in line with what was period appropriate for the time.

  127. Courtney
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 10:36:57

    I rarely post but I am constant lurker around here.

    As a previous poster commented, this book sounds like GOR, and bad fan fiction GOR at that. (Not that GOR books are all that well written)

    Rape should never be used as romantic device. Because it’s not romance. It is not about sex. It is about control and power.

    I know authors, myself included, who have put rape in their novels. But it was only necessary to move the heroine into a strong mental position and was dealt with in a tasteful off-the-page. And it was NEVER done by the hero. The idea of the ‘hero’ raping the ‘heroine’ several times throughout the books turn my stomach. We, as romances readers, want our heroes flawed but redeemable. This hero has nothing redeemable about him. He does not deserve the title hero.

    Also the use of a character that is 11 years old in a sexual act, and then having the ‘heroine’ be turned on by the rape of this child is IMO a far worse trope. Whether historically accurate or not, by modern convention – and we have modern audiences reading this book unless the author has magically reanimated a tenth century person – pedophilia, which is what this story plot is, is wrong.

    Books can be historically accurate and in deed include rape if needed to further and grow the story. The use of it in this book seems to do neither.

    I for one will not be reading anything by this author, nor will I read anything by Ms. Blake (Whom I truly suspected didn’t actually read this book for the quote on the cover)

    Just my 2 cents.

  128. DA_January
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 10:37:40

    In this book, she is post-menarche (since she did get pregnant), but she is repeatedly referred to as a child by the heroine, and all references to her are about how young she is, and how her figure is slim like that of a child’s.

    So I guess if a child has her period at 11, all bets are off and rape is fine. According to this text.

  129. DS
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 11:06:20

    As I read the review I kept having flashbacks to books I read in the 70’s and 80’s. Never enough brain bleach for some books.

    Honestly, I think that there is probably an audience for this book. Just as there is still an audience for pre Civil War set slave/master not really romances– I actually ran into someone who was writing and selling them through a small press. I mean bastard son of a rip off of Mandingo wrapped in horrid purple prose. If I could remember her name I would post it as an author to avoid– and I guess she would meet the indie standard some demand because she does publish through a small press.

    I really enjoyed the review DA_January and if I had ever read a decent indie romance I would recommend it to you at once.

  130. Cara Ellison
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 11:14:25

    @CliffStanford’s comment is so condescending and so disgusting. Even if he were to try and explain, I don’t think I’d listen at this point. Gross, ick ick.

  131. Courtney
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 11:21:43


    ” I mean bastard son of a rip off of Mandingo wrapped in horrid purple prose.”

    Thank you for this. It made me snort my tea on the computer screen. LOL

  132. LG
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 11:26:42

    @DA_January: Plus, there’s the issue of “consensual,” as Cliff Stanford calls the later sex/rape. I can only base what I’m about to say on what I’ve read in this review, so if I’m wrong someone who has read the book please chime in.

    That first time, Ruth was raped. It was not consensual in any way. I doubt she was given a choice about any of the later time. I doubt that, at any time, the guy said, “Ok, I’ve had my way with you, now you can either choose to stay and I’ll continue to have sex with you or you can choose to go.” Although, even if she had been given that choice, everyone she knew and loved was probably dead, so where would she have gone?

    Let’s say Ruth eventually started to feel something for the guy who raped/had sex with, maybe decided she enjoyed the sex. I’m still not getting “consensual” from this, because her initial choices were taken away from her. Plus, I doubt she ever did come to like the guy – she hated the child she bore him so much that she tried to gouge her own uterus. Does that sound like the sex she had was consensual? It doesn’t to me.

  133. LG
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 11:33:03

    A thought I had: Suppose Ruth had actually started to like her rapist. Would that be considered “Stockholm Syndrome”?

  134. Linda Hilton
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 11:37:09

    Re historical accuracy — Elsbeth turned from the battlements and hurried down a flight of stairs. They carried her through the weapons room where huge vats of pitch and barrels of Greek fire hugged the walls. Nearby lay piles of stones ranging in size from those that fit easily into the strap of a slingshot to those that fit the catapult outside. Ten score bows, bent and oiled frequently to keep them supple, stood in a corner beside twice ten score containers of flint-headed arrows. There was a large assortment of swords and daggers, pikes and spears, battleaxes and halberds in the room as well. . . .

    First thing about this passage that caught my attention was the flint-tipped arrows. Flint knapping is an ancient and very labor-intensive art. I’ve watched contemporary knappers, and I’ve found a few Native American points. Britons of Leodegrance’s time had long ago moved into the Iron Age and would not likely have invested the time in making the points to fit 400 containers of arrows. How many arrows in a container? 10? 100? That’s a lot of knapping. Doesn’t make sense, because they had forged iron daggers and swords — or even bronze ones — and would have mass produced their arrowheads as well.

    Second thing was the word halberd. Easily checked on wiki to learn it’s a medieval weapon, not usually Roman, but still made of forged iron and steel. Makes those flint-tipped arrows even more out of place.

    The native Britons who were overrun at Maiden Castle by the Romans in 43 CE may have still had only slings and other primitive weapons, but by at least 450 years later, the Romanized Britons of Elsbeth’s time would have adopted Roman weapons, including forged or cast arrowheads.

    Third thing — what’s the catapult doing outside the castle? Isn’t that more like a seige engine, to be brought to the place being attacked, and not a defensive weapon? And even if it’s a defensive weapon, what’s it doing outside the castle walls where attackers can capture it?

    No matter, because by then the whole battlemented castle trope is anachronistic and the weapons don’t make sense.

    All of these in a few pages of a book that announces in its title that it is going to be about war became a fistful of Richard Collier’s pennies.

    Even if I hadn’t read this review, if I had downloaded the free preview on the basis of some other enticement, these elements would have ruined it right off the bat. There’s no reason for an author who is going to tout historical accuracy to then go and blithely mix up easily verifiable historical details. She’s not even consistent, and inconsistency is inaccuracy.

  135. Sheryl Nantus
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 11:59:17

    It’s interesting that she mentions on her blog that Amazon first put this book into the “erotica” section (!!!) because she mentioned child rape in the description – so she had to find a way around it by changing the warning to make it out of that catagory, thus it became “tamer”.

    I’m not sure if it fits ANY catagory at this point.

    Especially historical romance.

  136. DA_January
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 12:08:59

    @Cliff Stanford:
    Consensual sex? It was not consensual. Just a short chapter or two later, the 11 year old finds out she is pregnant by Ector and decides to take a hot poker to her uterus rather than bear his child.

  137. Nicole
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 12:27:48

    I don’t understand the need to include unending rapes, especially involving an 11 year old in the name of historical accuracy when this is based on Arthurian legend. None of this is actual history so there is no requirement to include this kind of brutality in the name of “that is what actually happened back then”, because there is no historical fact for any of it. It’s not a historical fiction based on a real historical character so any attempt to justify the rapes and pedophilia as being “real things” that happened to women/girls back then is not logical because there is no real historical time period to research. It is a myth wherein the author chose to have her female protagonist endure multiple rapes and her male protagonist enable a pedophile. Some people get turned on by rape fantasies, and this book would certainly cater to that, but it is disingenuous to attempt to justify them as historically accurate.

  138. Ridley
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 12:36:49

    Look, omnipresent or not, rape has ALWAYS been traumatic for women. I mean, that’s sort of the freaking point of it in the first place. You kill the men then rape the women because that’s about the biggest fuck you you can lay down on a people.

    I’ve read The Rape of Nanking too, and you know what? With everyone around them getting brutally raped and murdered, I’ll bet those Chinese women reacted with a bit more than a shoulder-shrug and a “Welp, that’s war for ya.” I’m sure gut-churning terror was more like it.

    The book fails on its treatment of rape rather than its inclusion of it. It’s disturbing not for showing a more difficult time, but rather for using rape and child abuse as a cheap titillation mechanic, for trivializing human suffering.

    And if January wants some self-pub book suggestions I’d suggest Kitty Thomas or Annabel Joseph, both writing erotica. Lots of my Goodreads friends loved Kitty Thomas’ Comfort Food and Tender Mercies, but they were just okay in my book, so I’d like to see what others think. She’s a good writer, but the books needed some plotting help to be more purposeful, I think.

  139. Sarah Laurenson
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 12:44:49

    Although I’ve not read all of the comments, there does seem to be a consistent theme. My questions to you – have you ever been raped? Do you know how you would react? Do you have a grasp on how pervasive rape and molestation still is today? Can you understand the powerlessness of the one being raped and what surivial skills she might bring to the table?

    Although the author (who I do consider a friend I’ve never met) talks about historical accuracy for the rapes, I find that theme to be very current. There are groups in the US who sell off their children at a very young age. Sell them into marriage with an older man who they think will be a good provider. The children are put in sexy dresses with makeup on and made to dance so the older men can decide who they want in their beds.

    Warren Jeffs was just sentenced to life for having sex with his young brides.

    Having been raped as a young child, I can tell you that ‘no reaction’ seemed my safest course. I had no protector, no one I could turn to and say this isn’t right. In fact, I didn’t know it wasn’t right. It was the only life I had and that meant it was normal.

    Reading about rapes in this type of fiction might not be your cup of tea, but please try not to condemn out of ignorance. It does none of us any good – authors, readers, or rape victims who feel they have no recourse even today.

  140. Melisse Aires
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 12:45:53

    Sounds like a book that will now go straight to the top of reading lists of pedophiles who like little girls. Yuck.

    My book buying dollars are few. Due to books like this I’m not likely to spend them on self published books that are not from an author I already know and like. Too many Amazon reviews seem misleading about the book’s actual content and quality.

    I would have liked to see a big review blog do a feature that showcased small e-publishers books(what used to be called Indie)not the top four or five like EC, Samhain and Loose ID, but epubs like Renaissance/Decadent/Lyrical/Breathless/Desert Breeze etc. Those at least would have some content editing and copy editing, plus website warnings on sex and violence.

    (Not that I’m pubbed by those kinds of small epublishers or anything hehehe. As are most of my writing friends.)

  141. Donna
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 12:46:24

    What in the name of all that is holy was the author thinking! Also clearly CLEARLY lacking in anything remotely related to historical accuracy. While the actual mythology IS full of rape & incest, there is a difference between the way said tales are told and a supposition of feelings implied by modern fiction. Furthermore, while marriage was considerably earlier for women (14-17 on average) it was still considered morally suspect to engage in illicit relations with younger children even in rape – which also, especially in English warfare (particularly within the country – not the rest of the world, the English were WORSE to foreigners), was not quite as prolific as many would believe – was even to Roman soldiers more of a ritualistic nature and still enacted within set parameters (I’m aware how odd it seems for there to be social rules for raping people but it was so). I cannot believe this is a modern woman writing. Perhaps it is meant to be taken as a more hardcore explicit rape fantasy style fiction (I won’t say the p-word but. . . ). In which case, bearing in mind Amazon’s strangely sporadic censoring system it should be so categorised.

  142. Chelsea
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 12:46:33

  143. Sunita
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 13:01:31

    @Sarah Laurenson:
    My sincere sympathies for your traumatic experience.

    Although I’ve not read all of the comments, there does seem to be a consistent theme.

    I must be very thickheaded, because the theme I’m seeing is this one:

    The book fails on its treatment of rape rather than its inclusion of it. It’s disturbing not for showing a more difficult time, but rather for using rape and child abuse as a cheap titillation mechanic, for trivializing human suffering.

    I guess this is progress. It took us 138 comments to get to the Romance genre equivalent of Godwin’s Law.

  144. Ridley
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 13:01:46

    @Sarah Laurenson: I don’t want you to feel I’m biting your head off here, but I have to ask you this since you’ve put yourself out there.

    As someone who was raped as a child, are you comfortable that Elsbeth was aroused by the sound of an 11-year old getting raped? Does this not bother you? Would you have appreciated someone listening in on your ordeal and finding it arousing? Does Elsbeth’s reaction strike you as a reasonable or understandable one?

    It’s noble to defend a friend and all, but sometimes you need to tell them they have TP on their shoe.

  145. Linda Hilton
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 13:02:38

    @Chelsea: Thanks!

  146. Sarah Laurenson
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 13:16:53

    It’s interesting to me that here I am 40+ years later and still fighting the code of silence that surrounds raping young girls. Yes, I am putting myself out there and it’s okay to ask any questions you like. I may choose to not answer some.

    At the time of the rape, we were not alone in the room. Were the others aroused? Were they awake? Were they also being raped? I have no answers to that. They were all children. (He was not.)

    Do I have a problem with the idea that a rape victim can be aroused in this way? No. It happens. There are two things at work there. Sex can be arousing whether or not it is consensual. It is the physical reaction of the body. Some rape victims do get aroused and then feel even more shame because of it. But that shame is a current reaction. It is the notion that having a good physical feeling when experiencing somehting so violating is a fault with the victim. An incorrect notion, but it is pervasive. Even today blaming the victim is a tried and true court tactic.

    My own personal experience was to completely block the physical feelings – any physical feelings. It didn’t hurt, it didn’t feel good. It just didn’t feel like anything.

    The other aspect here is the powerless position of the women. It is not surprising to me when someone who feels completely powerless finds gratification in someone else being even more powerless. It’s sick, yes, but it is a human reaction to that type of situation. Have you read about today’s women who have rape fantasies? It’s not uncommon.

    Taking all of that with how pervasive it was that women were strictly property to do with as the man pleases and the options open to the women were limited by their knowledge, their survival skills, I do not find the reactions quoted here to be out of character. Uncomfortable for a lot of people – yes. Out of character – no.

  147. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 13:19:48

    @Sarah Laurenson:

    Statistics show that 1 in 6 women will be either raped or the victims of an attempted rape, and experts think that number could be higher, since many assaults go unreported.

    You’ve got upwards of 100+ comments here.

    With the statistics of one in six, it’s safe to say… yes, there are women commenting to who are victims of rape.

    You also have those commenting who’ve worked with sexual assault victims.

    I don’t think many women here (or the men who visit regularly) who intentionally, or even unintentionally attempt to minimalize or attempt to understand how a rape victim copes-there is no standard.

    However, from what it seems like in this book-the author didn’t really touch on it.

    By attempting to ignore the emotional impact – even if it’s to shove it down deep and pretend it never happened, it minimalizes the act, makes it seem less heinous than it truly is.

    Not agreeing with it isn’t condemning out of ignorance. I personally think glossing over it was the ignorant, and thoughtless, action.

  148. Robin/Janet
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 13:26:59

    Times are ALWAYS brutal for women and children, and we have NEVER had an era without war and its horrific spoils.

    I have just so had it with the so-called ‘historical defense’ in the face of being questioned about including certain devices/tropes/elements, especially when they’re used in a way readers find problematic or thoughtless It’s NOT HISTORY; it’s AUTHORIAL PREFERENCE. So why can’t authors just freaking say that??? IMO it would sound a lot more convincing to me than the historical defense, which for me undermines, rather than fortifies, the legitimacy of the author’s choices.

  149. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 13:28:34

    One thought on the ‘historical’ accuracy… and it’s probably been mentioned.

    She had an eleven year getting pregnant.

    I think somebody mentioned most civilizations wouldn’t ever consider it acceptable to touch a female child before she started menstruating. So Ruth must have started her period, or she wouldn’t have gotten pregnant.

    But I seriously question this.

    While I’m no historian, I am a nurse. I believe it was very common for people, even the well-off to be underfed back in this time period.

    Typically, underfed females don’t develop until later-breasts, hips…menstrual cycles. There are still plenty of females NOW that aren’t capable of conception (thank God) at age 11-their bodies haven’t matured to that point-they haven’t gotten their first period and we generally don’t have the issues with nutrition that they would have had then.

    Considering the issues people had with nutrition during that time period, just how likely is it that an 11 yr old would have matured enough to start menstruating?

    As I said, I’m no historian and I could be way off base, but it’s just another thing that seems to be off about this.

    Although the historical inaccuracies wouldn’t piss me off. It’s the rape of a child.

  150. Sarah Laurenson
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 13:28:41

    Yes, the statistics are alarming. Especially in this day and age.

    And the silence, the shame, the victim blaming, the powerlessness are all still very intact in today’s society. Otherwise those statistics would be more realistic with very little lack of reporting.

    Rape is glossed over in reality today. Is it wrong to write a book in which a silent victim can identify?

  151. Jane
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 13:28:41

    @Sarah Laurenson What code of silence are we enforcing here? I think the overall theme of this book was that the author failed to a) accurately and consistently write a historical setting and b) that rape was used for titillation rather than as a way to explore emotional issues (including being titillated) suffered by the characters. In a sense, the portrayal of the rapes was just symptomatic of the book’s biggest flaw: superficiality.

    Whether one person suffers titillation upon being raped, whether rape victims work through their rapes by writing about it, whether rape results in deadened responses, are all valid outcomes. No one is questioning that. If you read the entirety of the review, the issue isn’t just the inclusion of the multitudinous number of rapes, it is the way that everyone seemed to handle those rapes – with total blitheness. There was no variation of response (except for the “consensual” sex as cliff would term it that resulted in the 11 year old trying to stick a hot poker inside her to rid herself of the child conceived through such ah, sexual acts) and the lack of variation in response actually speaks to the issue that you raise and that is every rape victim handles things differently. The problem here is that the way in which rape is discussed and treated in the book excuses it as an act “of the time” rather than treating it with the delicacy and exploration it deserves.

  152. Sarah Laurenson
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 13:31:27


    I never said you were enforcing a code of silence. Just that it’s my own personal struggle to speak up.

  153. Linda Hilton
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 13:31:35

    @Sarah Laurenson: One of the difficulties activists have had in dealing with the FLDS/Warren Jeffs issue is that the people within the cult don’t know anything else. Children are raised to believe God wants old men to have lots of child wives, and young men who don’t go along are taken to a city street corner and dumped off as redundant. There was outrage when the FLDS compound was raided a year or so ago because the women in the FLDS were consenting to their treatment and wanted to go back to it. We can all this Stockholm Syndrome or brainwashing or freedom of religion if we wish, but by whatever name, it is something that exists.

    The question is, do we just honor those claims that justify these crimes and say everything is okay? Do we — or you — ignore the many children who are brutalized under these conditions? Do we set the standard at, “Well, see, one person survived without too much trauma so all the rest are just being whiny victims and should STFU”?

    Are you, Sarah Laurenson, saying that because you didn’t know any better and you just went along to get along, that you weren’t a victim? That because you didn’t know it was wrong, it wasn’t? Does your ignorance, your innocence, your vulnerability, mean your rapist did nothing wrong?

    I have a very good friend who was molested repeatedly from the age of about four until she was 11 or 12 by her grandfather. She tried to tell people, including her mother, what was going on, but no one would listen to her. They thought she was making it up, lying about a kind old man who wouldn’t hurt anyone. For years she forced herself to deny what had happened and tried to believe what everyone else told her, until at 15 she had a nervous breakdown — the kind where you suddenly start crying uncontrollably in the middle of English class and can’t stop and someone has to come and get you in an ambulance — and finally she was able to tell her therapist what had happened. And that’s how they found out Grandpa had been molesting all the girls in the family, and all of them were terrified to say anything because they knew they’d be punished and nothing would change anyway. Does that mean they weren’t affected by what happened to them?

  154. Jane
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 13:36:27

    @Sarah Laurenson

    Is it wrong to write a book in which a silent victim can identify?

    Of course not, but again, that isn’t the reason that the reviewer disliked the book and the fact that one reader finds comfort from the book does not invalidate the reviewer’s review or her ultimate grade.

  155. Sarah Laurenson
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 13:37:38

    At a recent convention, Laurie Halse Anderson said it was the job of the writer to “disturb the universe.” Given the discussion here, I’d say the universe is being very disturbed.

    Did he do nothing wrong? Of course not. Was he ever punished for it? No. Even when I tried to tell the police in his county, I was told they needed the name of a child who was currently complaining of the abuse. What happened to me did not matter to them.

    So do we tell the ones being raped today that there is an answer, that they will be protected? That would be lying to a large number of them.

  156. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 13:37:47

    @Sarah Laurenson: By not showing that the victim felt anything at all? By not giving any importance to it after it happened?

    That’s unrealistic. Rape leaves an impact, a mark. And this woman was repeatedly raped. It sounds as though since it was ‘expected’ she should be fine with it…so she was.

    That’s not dealing with it. That’s glossing over it and taking the easy way out.

  157. Sarah Laurenson
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 13:40:27


    And yes, everyone has the right to their opinion. I object to vilifying authors for writing the story they felt they needed to write. Not your cup of tea? Don’t read it. There are plenty of other books out there.

    I have no problem with the review. The opinions expressed were those of the reviewer.

  158. Jane
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 13:41:19

    @Sarah Laurenson Not really. F reviews are trainwrecks. I would say that there are few F reviews here that don’t engender a huge response. A book that generates a lot of discussion doesn’t mean that the author was successful at writing a qualitatively good book, it merely means that there is so much WTFery going on that we can’t help but look.

  159. Sarah Laurenson
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 13:42:10


    For years, I felt nothing at all. In fact, I blocked that particular memory for a very long time.

  160. Jane
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 13:43:24

    @Sarah Laurenson I don’t plan on reading it. No one is vilifying the author. This discussion is about the book. Or at least that is what I thought the discussion was about.

  161. Linda Hilton
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 13:52:15

    @Sarah Laurenson: “So do we tell the ones being raped today that there is an answer, that they will be protected? That would be lying to a large number of them.”

    It’s an even bigger lie to say to them that they shouldn’t feel anything, that they should ignore it, that it won’t make any difference, that’s just the way it is and no one cares. Maybe in one instance, no one listens or no one believes. But in another instance, like Warren Jeffs or Phillip Garrido, people do.

    Jaycee Dugard had two children by her captor; did that mean she loved him? Did that mean she didn’t want to go back to her parents? Did that mean she shouldn’t feel anything?

    And yes, that’s what this book appears to be about — the absolute and total trivializing of rape and the victims of rape and the complete exoneration of the rapists — and written in such a way as to be, as some have said, titillating.

    This is not history. It’s mythology, legend, parable. Sullivan isn’t writing about actual events commited by individuals in the historic record during some specific period of British history. IT’S MAKE BELIEVE. And she wants us readers to believe that her heroine goes through all this trauma and then falls in love with and lives happily ever after with this POS “hero” who in modern times would have ended up tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity. I’m sorry, but there’s no way I can reconcile that with what I think of — with what I write — as historical romance.

    It verges on snuff.

    There. I said it.

  162. Sarah Laurenson
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 13:53:09


    I don’t know. I went back and read the first 20 or so comments and people are talking about the book, but also hating the author and saying she bought reviewers and how the reviewers are lying.

    Everyone has opinions and saying this is the only valid one as well as saying the author is a drunk hack? Maybe we’re not reading the same comments?

  163. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 13:53:15

    @Sarah Laurenson: But that is still a reaction.

    From what I can tell, the heroine didn’t really have a reaction. Which, in a way, is a slap against victims-it makes it seem like the assault wasn’t all the much, because she didn’t feel all that much.

    I’m sorry for what happened to you-it’s a horrible thing, and there’s nothing painful enough that I can think of for those who abuse children.

    But can you honestly it didn’t affect you?

    The way this book was written, it seems like it didn’t touch the heroine, at all.

    And that’s not realistic. Aside from not being realistic, it trivializes the very real brutality of the act.

  164. Sarah Laurenson
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 14:00:15


    I understand where you’re coming from and that you may feel her choices would not be the choices you would make. Or the choices you would like to see someone make today.

    It would be wonderful if all books could reach out to people in such situations and show them the healthy way out of their pain. But sometimes reality sucks. And sometimes the best someone can do is to adapt and survive.

    I do like to think there are more options today and that moving from surviving to living and thriving is readily available. I see far too many people, not just women, who stay in abusive relationships because it’s familair and change is too scary.

    Would that all stories had happy endings. Or is it a happy ending if the character is at peace with their lot in life even if you think she should do it differently?

    As I said previously, this is uncomfortable for a lot of people. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

  165. Sheryl Nantus
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 14:01:16

    @Sarah Laurenson: I can’t find the “drunk hack” comment – where is it?

  166. Sarah Laurenson
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 14:02:21



  167. Cara Ellison
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 14:03:53

    Just to add: this is a ROMANCE novel. Not a deep, penetrating expose on rape in a fictional time. And the hero “saved” an eleven year old child for his friend. That is not hero behavior in my book – for ANY time period. That is something the bad guy does to show that he is unencumbered by morals.

    The writing failed because the author made bad choices. The hero is not heroic for ANY TIME PERIOD.

    And the heroine getting aroused by the sounds of rape is just as bad. This is not a romance novel; it’s a disgusting piece of child pornography.

  168. Sheryl Nantus
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 14:06:39

    @Sarah Laurenson:Ah. I believe Mr. Cane is referring to the author not even being a woman in that situation. And as you can see from the rest of this thread there’s less discussion about the author and more about the content being invalid from a historical POV along with basic writing problems.

    But that’s what I’m seeing…

  169. Liz Mc
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 14:07:31

    I think three things are getting somewhat conflated in this discussion: 1. real people; 2. fictional characters; 3. narrative voice/point of view.

    Sarah is a real person. She had a particular response to events in her life and it is absolutely not my place to criticize her for that (and I don’t think anyone else meant to).

    Ruth and Elsbeth are fictional characters. They had particular responses to events which some readers found more realistic than others. But the narrative voice allows readers to have perspective on those events, and the characters’ responses, that the characters themselves may not have. That element is really important in fiction.

    A real person (and I’m not referring to Sarah; why should she be the example because she was brave enough to speak up?) may push down her feelings about being raped; a fictional character may do so too. The narrative voice can still offer a different perspective, even in a first person narrative, which this is not. That’s what the unreliable narrator is for.

    January’s experience of reading this book seemed to be that the narrative was asking the *reader* to feel the rapes were no big deal (yeah, the Dark Ages were brutal, man). Since I haven’t read it, I can’t say whether I’d agree. But I think it is very fair to criticize a book on that score and to suggest it is a weakness in the writing. And neither “it’s historically accurate” nor “it’s just fiction” are adequate defences. A character can have a period-appropriate response to events, but the narrative need not expect the reader to share it. There is a place for 21st-century perspectives in a book written today (indeed, they are inescapable). I, as a reader, would like the narrative’s depiction of rape (which is not the same as the characters’ view of it) to be one of those places.

    This is a quality of writing issue, but has nothing to do with self/indie/traditionally pubbed. A good editor can help a writer negotiate these issues effectively, but there’s no guarantee she’d find such an editor at a publishing house.

  170. Klio
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 14:14:18

    Perhaps what Sarah’s and others’ discussion here shows is that everyone reacts differently. And shows that there are deep feelings that need to be accounted for and expressed deftly in a story of this type. And it outlines even more clearly that the author of this book didn’t hit that mark for a majority of commenters here. From my perspective, that’s not successful storytelling. More on that below.

    As a writer on sensitive (maybe? I think so anyway) topics myself, I’d very much want someone to call me on it if I cross a line. I may not agree, I may rail against it, but I hope in the end to be capable of self-examination. It sounds from the review (and this is exactly why I read reviews on sites I feel simpatico with) that this novel has problems on many levels, not only in the handling of the one aspect. With deft crafting all around–in the world-building, the suspension of disbelief, the use of language, the plot, even the editing–an author might have made us empathise with someone we normally would find repugnant, might have made the reviewer believe in a situation like this in spite of herself. Might even somehow have made the hero redeemable. It happens that the author failed, in this case with this reviewer. And, in terms of potential purchasers, also failed the expectation of the genre with which the book is branded. I don’t read cosy mysteries to get a dose of hard-boiled noir.

    My opinion: For a successful work of fiction, the reader shouldn’t have to be 1) someone who has experienced a similar situation and also 2) someone who reacted in precisely the same way to that situation, in order to empathise with the protagonist and want to read the story. If that’s the requirement for reading the book, I think, in general terms, that book has failed, no matter what segment of readers it does succeed for.

  171. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 14:14:47

    @Sarah Laurenson:

    Sarah, I don’t think you seem to get what I’m saying.

    It’s not that she wrote about rape. Plenty of us write about it.

    Hell, I’ve got a book where the heroine was raped by her guardian’s fiance, thrown out of the house when she was a teen and turned to drugs, then tried to kill herself. She dealt by turning to drugs, then by attempting suicide-the healthy coping mechanisms didn’t come until much later. But it did affect her.

    Rape happens-we know that. But when it happens, it has an effect. If the writer is going to write about it, then she needs to take into consideration the emotional effects. If she can’t, she’s going to screw the story sideways-she’s not treating the characters like ‘real’ people and therefore, when we read about them, we’re not going to have the connection we need.

    If the writer had written it in a way that resembled ANYTHING realistic. Flashbacks? Fear of men? The desire to go and have sex with as many people as she could just to wipe away the bad memories? Did she block it out? Did she look back with guilt and blame herself?

    Yeah, it would be great if books reached out and showed a healthy way of dealing with pain, although I don’t think that job is on any author, unless the author chooses to take it on.

    But from what I can tell from January’s review (and there’s no way I’m touching this book-it’s not the rapes that push me over, it’s the assault on the child, it’s the necrophilia, it’s the hero who isn’t one, it’s all of it) this book didn’t even seem to acknowledge the heroine SHOULD have issues-even if all the writer gave were flashbacks, or internal dialog where she is pushing it aside.

    If she doesn’t show the heroine having some sort of reaction, then the heroine isn’t having one. The emotions of the main characters CANNOT happen off the page-we have to read about them.

  172. Michele Lee
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 14:16:57

    @DA_January: I’m honestly not sure and as a reviewer too I understand the dilemma. You do have good reasons for picking up this one, and I assure you that my agitation isn’t with you, but with authors who self publish this kind of work thinking it’s just too edgy for traditional publishing.

    On my end of things I just finished a book billed as a UF about a abused teen werewolf trying to make a better life, but it was really about a 16 year old pedophile systematically stalking and molesting a 10 year old and then convincing the reader it was okay because she initiated it and her family was okay with it because look he loves her enough to save her from a psycho werewolf.

    It’s agitating that writers think that kind of work is appropriate, and that reviewers (the F book I just finished has a 5 star and a 4 star on Amazon) are deceiving readers as to the content (which is why I made sure to mention the heroine’s age in my review).

    Mostly I’m just very sorry that this is indie book you got stuck reading. It’s a shame.

  173. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 14:20:26

    @Liz Mc:

    Um. Okay, I think I’m just going go with…”what she said”

    January’s experience of reading this book seemed to be that the narrative was asking the *reader* to feel the rapes were no big deal

    That’s one of the points I was trying to make, and failing. But you said it so much better.

  174. Chelsea
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 14:22:15

    @Liz Mc:

    Well said. Books that tackle tough stuff like rape and abuse have to accomplish several things 1) Capture the emotions (or feelings of numbness) that the victim experiences in a way that an audience will understand and sympathize with 2)Portray the brutality in an unvarnished manner that feels honest 3)Acknowledge in some subtle way that the content is horrifying. I haven’t read the book, but it’s clear that January felt the author failed in these tasks.

  175. Sarah Laurenson
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 14:24:53

    One more comment and I believe I will leave you guys to continue without me.

    I both love and hate the subjectivity of this business. And to me it’s never more evident than in book reviews. My hat’s off to those who choose to review books for they are putting a piece of themselves out there as well as putting in the time and effort to read the book and write the review.

    This type of story is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea and I would hope those who follow this blog regularly have similar tastes as the reviewer. It would make sense that you could rely on what she has to say to steer your reading choices.

    I personally am a vegetarian pacifist and yet I love military space opera. On the face of it, that makes no sense. But it’s where I am entertained when reading. Hunger Games, anyone? Children killing children?

    Although I have not finished reading Spoil of War, I have been enjoying it. The brutality is part and parcel of the genres I like to read. So yes, the category might not be the right fit. But when I read romance, I like the unconventional ones – like Jennifer Crusie and Erica Orloff – who have oddball things happening that you would not normally find in a romance. Can you picture Einstein in drag as an acceptable romance element?

    So thank you for an interesting discussion and another step out of my closet of silence. And thank you, January, for experssing your opinion so eloquently. You do your regular readers a great service.

  176. FD
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 14:26:04

    H’mmm. Reading the review, and the comments, I think all the points I’d have made have already been made.
    So, I’ll just leave a recommendation as a palate cleanser instead: The Wild Hunt, by Elizabeth Chadwick. Set in the 11th century, it covers a lot of the territory discussed here, with a few vital differences: it’s historically authentic, with a firm sense of place and time, although some characters are original. The politics are interesting, with a wide cast of sympathetic characters. N.B: The heroine is as was common, in her teens and pre-menarche when she’s married off to the hero and that is treated in a manner that is both authentic to the period, and manages not to offend (at least it didn’t offend my) modern sensibilities.
    There are some distressing scenes, one involving a child, but they happen largely off page, they aren’t committed by the hero, and most importantly, are not included for the purposes of titillation. And finally, the central love story is warm and convincing; I really believed they had a happy marriage.

  177. Linda Hilton
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 14:28:28

    @Sarah Laurenson: “And sometimes the best someone can do is to adapt and survive.”

    My question to you, Sarah, since I’m not going to read this disturber of the universe book, is whether or not you believe Sullivan made this attitude clear? Did she advocate for this coping strategy? Did she offer to victims-who-may-read-this that this is –is, not just may be, but is — their best hope?

    Contrary to what Sam Goldwyn may have believed, fiction does send messages. Does this book send the message that rape is okay? Does it send the message that rape in fictional mythical fantasylands is okay?

    IF IT DOESN’T SEND THAT MESSAGE, then what message does it send? What does it tell the reader? What will the reader walk away from this book with? An “accurate” depiction of something that never existed? Or does it speak to the silent victim of sexual brutality with a message of, “It’s okay if you don’t speak up. Everything will work out and you’ll survive and your rapist will turn out to be a king.”

    There’s been some defense of Sullivan the author and I’m not sure I can go along with that. I think that once an author puts his/her words out there, those words somehow represent that author’s point of view on issues. And when the issues are controversial — war, rape, child abuse — and are mirrored in current events, I think the author has to take some personal responsibility. Even if that personal responsibility extends to, “I didn’t much care what anyone thought because I was just writing for the money.”

    My first published historical romance contained a rape by the hero. It was (edited to add) NOT written to titillate, and it was depicted as an act of anger and revenge, not love or even lust. That sort of scene was not uncommon in historical romances “old skool” of the early 1980s. I believe rape does have its places in romance to this day, even though I’ve never written another similar scene. The point is, readers absorb these concepts because they do identify with them, and I think anyone — I’m tempted to say any woman but I don’t think that limitation applies even in terms of this book — who has ever been a victim of sexual assault or known someone who has, can read this and not come away with a sense of disgust.

    If that’s the reaction the author wanted, then she succeeded. If all she wanted was for people to natter about her on the internet, then she succeeded. If all she wanted was the money, well, I have no clue about that.

    But if her desire was to publish a book that would attract millions of devoted readers who would point to it over the years and say, “That’s the book that spoke to me, to my heart, to my soul, to my experience, to my dreams of what romance is and should be,” I don’t think she came even close.

    That’s why I think it’s difficult to separate the author from the book in a review of this nature. And in a way that’s sad, but it’s also a reality. As authors I think we have to reach beyond our own little sphere of knowledge for something that speaks to everyone, or at least to lots of people. When something shouts as loud as this book does, I can’t help but believe the criticisms are going to become very personal. But that’s what happens when you put your words out there.

  178. Michele Lee
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 14:29:04

    @Ridley: Eyeroll accepted :) and I agree, maybe at 98% though. I do know of some wonderful self published writers. I enjoyed Zoe Whitten’s The Lesser of Two Evils (but it’s horror), I like Jon Merz’s work and Scott Nicholson’s (more thriller/horror), Courtney Milan, of course, and Bettie Sharpe has my enduring adoration and love. KH Koehler is a definite buy for me, she writer horror, YA monster stories (like Godzilla), SF/weird westerns and has a steampunk PNR coming out called Clockwork Vampire that I got an advanced copy of and loved.

    Of course all these people have experience in publishing, have been around for years and most have been traditionally published either before or around their self publishing which certainly lends to their reliability of good choice authors. That does make a difference.

  179. Sarah Laurenson
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 14:39:41


    Okay, I lied. One more comment.

    As I said in the last, last comment, I have not finished reading this book. I also have a very different experience of it as the rapes do not stand out so exclusively to me. There is a lot more going on than that.

    As for your question. Sometimes the message that you will survive and be okay no matter what can be very powerful. Suicide is a tempting option, but it is a permanent solution to what can, hopefully, be a temporary problem.

  180. Ridley
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 14:55:10

    @Michele Lee: I’m not anti-self publishing. But, I do think most self published authors are deluded gits who could use more F review smackdowns to counter all the friends and family reviews. So I am not sad to see this review.

    I would probably try more self-published books if there weren’t such an epidemic of self-interested reviews. I enjoy taboo erotica that publishing houses are generally too squeamish for, and self-pub is probably a great source of these stories. But I can’t even decide where to begin. The ratings and reviews are generally bogus, and I’m not keen on paying to read a slush pile. So, I haven’t read much at all, and it’s really the idiot authors’ fault for trying to play readers like morons.

    More reviews like this would go a long way towards legitimizing self-publishing. Someone or something needs to counteract the increasingly worthless Amazon/Goodreads reviews for these books so readers can find good books to read.

  181. Klio
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 16:10:28


    I’m not keen on paying to read a slush pile.

    Absolutely. If I’m reading slush pile, the payment needs to go the other way, okthx.

    I’d still encourage DA to review self-published authors from time to time, but I have to confess I’d rather they focus their energies on a broad variety of types of books from the indie presses and the big publishers, and only on self-pubbed authors when there’s a rec, or it’s an author with a track record who’s stepped out on her own. Or when it’s such a fabulous train wreck or WTF cover or premise, that they take one for the team and we all benefit. Because a negative critical review can be a thing of beauty and great craftsmanship. And cautionary tale.

    There must be, out in the big wide blogoworld, review sites that are so specific as to exclusively review self-published romance/erotic romance. Where you can get a calibration on the reviewer’s likes and dislikes. Even if each and every Amazon/Goodreads review is entirely sincere, they’re random voices of people I don’t know. I’m always more interested in the 1- and 2-star Amazon reviews, when they have very specific criticism to weigh against “this book is sooo super!” and plot-summary 4- and 5-star reviews. Helps with the calibration.

  182. Linda Hilton
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 17:30:57

    Someone has posted a negative review of this book at Amazon. “Beyond Offensive and shouldn’t be classified as romance.”

  183. Ridley
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 17:48:20

    @Linda Hilton:

    Someone has posted a negative review of this book at Amazon. “Beyond Offensive and shouldn’t be classified as romance.”

    That’s just some idiot who hasn’t read the book trying to link to this review. And I doubt any of the people voting the reviews down have read the book either.

    Those fools leaving reviews based on controversy/someone else’s review are no better than the 5 star shills.

  184. Michele Lee
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 18:09:14

    @Ridley: I absolutely agree with you. I’m not upset at this review, it seems completely earned. I’m upset that the book had enough ego-blowing blurbs and reviews to, dare I say trick, readers into buying it. I don’t like the manipulations of that system and think reviews like this are essential to readers to fight those manipulations.

    But then, as a self publisher (and friend of self published folk) I want to reach through the screen, grab folks and say “But read [this book/my book] because I know it doesn’t suck!”

    I think it’s no different than when I worked at Borders and heard someone complaining about how they were treated by a bookseller. I wanted to tell them to come to my store where they’d be treated right ;)

  185. Linda Hilton
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 18:19:06

    @Ridley: Do you really think that, Ridley? Do you think the extensive discussion here is the same thing as someone gushingly praising a book for a friend? I read the first three chapters and was horrified. Isn’t that the equivalent of a DNF “review”? Isn’t that valid? The reviewer apparently felt the comments here supported her position better than she could express it.

  186. Ridley
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 18:30:00

    @Linda Hilton: Discussing a book you haven’t read on a blog post is one thing, but reviewing a book you haven’t read based on someone else’s reaction is quite another. That’s just trying to hurt an author for offending you. That’s as dishonest as glowing about something to help an author friend. And the fact that the reviewer also weighed in on the pedophile guide book really cements the feeling that it was riding a coattail rather than writing an honest review.

    Say we assume this is a DNF review, which she doesn’t note in her review. I think a DNF review should say how far the reviewer read and be quite detailed about why she couldn’t finish. I also think reading less than half of a book is insufficient for writing a review. Reviewing the sample is a waste of everyone’s time.

  187. Linda Hilton
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 18:58:35

    @Ridley: So you’re saying, then, that a person who reads a sample and dislikes it has no right to say so? But that would mean there’d be a lot fewer bad reviews posted, since people wouldn’t be allowed to post a negative review unless they’d actually purchased a book they already knew, from reading the sample, they weren’t going to like. And besides, aren’t those people who read and review the samples essentially going through the slush pile so you don’t have to?

  188. Ridley
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 19:11:57

    @Linda Hilton: Well, if they’re only reviewing the sample, they should say as much. I think that’s a waste of time, since I could just as easily read the sample myself, and a dishonest rating, since you didn’t actually read the book. But disclosing how much you read at least leaves it up to the reader to deem the review worthless or useful.

    Not saying anything misleads shoppers into thinking you read the whole thing. If you didn’t read all of it, and disliked it on content rather than writing style, how do you know if the distasteful content redeemed itself later? You’re not looking at the whole picture.

  189. LG
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 19:43:58

    @Linda Hilton: Anytime you review anything and haven’t read the whole work, you should say so – otherwise, how are readers to know if you’ve read the first few pages, half the book, the whole book? If a person doesn’t say how much of a book they’ve read and they’ve written a review about it, I usually assume they’ve read the whole book.

    From what this person has written in their “review”, I would probably have seen it for what it was: the person’s attempt at some kind of PSA. I like it no better than coming across a one-star Amazon “review” for a m/m romance saying that the book is horrible because being gay is wrong, with no indication that the person ever read the book. Reviews should be based on YOUR opinion of the book, not on what you read about what other people thought about it.

    Also, there’s the issue of the star ratings, as far as I know, all being considered equally by Amazon. If you’re skimming product results lists by way of cover art and star ratings, then for a book with few star ratings, each rating matters a lot. A rating based entirely on what the person thought about the sample, or even (as appears to be the case with this) just controversy over the book is weighted no differently than a star rating from someone who actually read the whole book. That’s part of what people who get others to rate them well count on, but it can go the other way, too.

    I would much, much prefer it if people wrote honest reviews about things they actually read, complete with details about why they liked it or didn’t. I’d rather people not review samples on sites like, because, quite frankly, I can read and judge samples for myself. A DNF review is different, because at least the reader has gotten further than the sample and can state why they felt they had to stop reading the book. In my opinion, a review for a sample of a book would be more appropriate for something like, say, a book blog. Even then, I’m not sure I’d actually pay any attention to it. Again, why not read the sample and judge it for myself?

  190. Linda Hilton
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 19:58:34

    When a person complains that they don’t like having to wade through a slush pile of self- and small-press published books and then says they also don’t want to read “reviews” based on the reviewer’s read of a sample, I have to wonder just exactly what that person wants. To have every book he/she picks up be magically a keeper?

    I know from experience that editors and readers at publishing houses often reject from the slush pile after a very small sample reading. I know, from my personal experience of over a half century of reading historical romances, that I can pretty much tell in a chapter or two at most whether or not I’m going to like a book. I can list on one finger the books I’ve had to get more than 50 pages into before they turned around from AGWMT (ain’t gonna waste my time) to lifelong favorite.

    So maybe my experience is different from yours or Ridley’s, but I think a review of a sample is quite valid, if the reviewer states that and states why they decided not to go ahead and buy and read the rest of the book. But if you don’t put any stock in any of the reviews at Amazon anyway, what do you care?

  191. Ridley
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 20:07:19

    @Linda Hilton:

    But if you don’t put any stock in any of the reviews at Amazon anyway, what do you care?

    Ridley axiom #1: If it’s a thing, I have an opinion on how it could be better.

  192. Chelsea
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 20:08:58

    @Linda Hilton:

    I’m in favor of DNF reviews, because if someone is disgusted enough to stop reading and is able to articulate why, that can be really helpful to prospective readers. HOWEVER I don’t feel comfortable writing reviews unless I’ve completed at least 1/3 of the book. That way I have a pretty decent idea about the tone and themes of the book. I’ve given up on plenty of books after reading the sample or half a sample or two pages. But in my mind, that usually leaves me with insufficient evidence to write a useful review. Just my opinion. But if you are comfortable writing a review based on the sample, I guess that’s fine–as long as you state upfront that you read very little of the book.

  193. Andrea
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 20:24:25

    Anyone looking to try and separate the wheat from the chaff in self-published books might try the Indie Ebook Hall of Fame:

    This site lists self-published books which have had positive reviews from at least three book bloggers (as opposed to reviews on Amazon/Goodreads/etc). Of course, their taste might not match yours, but it is a place to start looking.

    [I judge books from my reaction to the blurb and from samples, since I’ve found it almost impossible to make judgments about people’s motives for reviewing/rating books. I have one book which has 16 reviews, 10 of them 5 star and none of them lower than 4. They’re all from utter strangers, the majority via a review copy distribution site which is just as liable to hand you a 1 star review. It’s also a book which was a finalist for Australia’s main SFF literary award, beating out a large number of traditionally published books. But certainly at the moment you could go look at that book on Amazon and think: “All those 5 stars MUST be fake.”

    Even book bloggers whose tastes has matched mine in many cases like some books which I think are absolutely awful. I’ll use book bloggers to get more information about a book, but in the end sampling is where I’m making my purchase decisions.]

  194. Sirius
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 20:40:08

    I have read through all the comments and anything I wanted to say was pretty much already said, but I do want to comment on the “sample” reviews. I do not care for those. Moreover till recently (not till today) I did not even realize that people do write those. I mean, myself I do not even write DNF reviews, although I acknowledge their validity, if you got through at least 20-30% of the book. But for myself I know that unless the book is horrendously written (no, this book for me is not an example of horrendously written book, only the book which subject matter turns my stomach without reading it), my opinion about it can change and more than once. I do not think it will be fair to my fellow readers to write a review if I can change an opinion about the book while reading it. Thats of course only how I personally feel about DNF reviews, I see how sometimes you are so fed up and fast that your opinion is not going to change, so I respect those who want to read DNF reviews and who write them, but for me you never know, so I do not write those. I mean what if you do not like how the hero behaves in the beginning and you rant and rant about it and he grows and changes by the end of the book? To me it will be a misleading review. Sample review for me is not a review, it is your opinion about the sample, nothing more, you have not read the book and you better warn me that you are reviewing the sample in order for me to give your “review” the attention I think it deserves – none. That is of course only my opinion.

  195. Sirius
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 20:54:39

    Huh, have to correct myself, I will find DNF reviews somewhat helpful for myself in one instance only. I am actually not just talking about this book, I have a strong dislike of “rape him or her till they fall in love with me” trope. So yes, I suppose if hero commits such rape of another hero (in gay romance, which I primarily read) or heroine and it occurs early enough, there is a 99% chance that I will hate the book. But even in that instance, there is a tiny chance that I may be able to swallow it, if the rapist pays in spades, suffers a whole lot, etc, etc. And if this would happen after reviewer stops reading how would I know that rapist indeed paid in spades? In any other occasion, I may find DNF review entertaining and enjoyable to read, but for myself only quite useless to make a purchasing decision, because no other trope, plot turn, etc, may cause me to hate the book irrevocably.

  196. DA_January
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 21:17:15

    Andrea, thank you for the link, but I find it useless. I looked at your submission guidelines – authors can submit their own books that have three reviews from three websites. I clicked on the romance section and not only are half the books not really romance (but naturally shunted that way because romance buyers are big buyers) but I have not heard of half of the review sites. And some of the review websites are not even spelled correctly by the submitting authors, which does not give me much hope for their books.

    I won’t be using that site to determine self-published reads. But I do appreciate the suggestion.

  197. Andrea
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 21:26:54

    Just to note, I’m not affiliated with IEHOF, I just browse it occasionally for books. :)

  198. Linda Hilton
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 21:55:49

    @KJ Reed: Re your post #48 — “Is it just me (and maybe the pic is too small for my bat-blind eyes) but does the female model on the cover look to be about 12? Maybe 13? (Which, sadly, would go along with the theme of the book, I guess…)”

    The cover as posted on DA is slightly cropped from the original rectangle into a square and cuts off the bottom. If you look at the Amazon page, the picture extends down to about the female model’s waist, or it would if she had one. Her torso looks straight, like a child’s, and not hourglassy like an adult female’s.

    I thought the cover artwork was well and professionally done, but I also think you’re correct — she looks prepubescent. Ick.

  199. Alice
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 23:05:32

    “she is dismissive of it, thinking it happens to everyone.”

    believe it or not, there was a point in time when it did happen to everyone and it happens to a majority of women still. it is a fact of life and a fact of history. + 11 year olds are considered grown up or almost grown up, especially in a time when most people don t live to see 30.

    I didn t read the book, but so much concentration on “all of the rapes” isn t constructive criticism, it s just an “omg” statement.

  200. Sunita
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 00:30:03

    @Alice: Just to make sure I get your points; please correct me where I have misinterpreted you:

    believe it or not, there was a point in time when it did happen to everyone and it happens to a majority of women still.

    Are you saying that there was a time in history when all women were raped? Are you also saying that *today* more than 50% of women are raped?

    + 11 year olds are considered grown up or almost grown up

    there is a historical era in which 11 year olds are considered adults?

    especially in a time when most people don t live to see 30.

    Do you understand the difference between an aggregate “life expectancy” figure and an actuarial table? As an example, the “life expectancy” figure can be 30, but that averages the lifespan of every person born. In a culture with high infant mortality, that might mean that you have a lot of people who don’t live through their first year, as well as an equal number of people who make it through their first year and live to 60. In most countries today with low life-expectancy rates, infant mortality is high, but those who survive live to an age comparable to those in developed countries.

    ETA: Here’s the wiki example of life tables at different periods in history:

  201. Kaetrin
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 02:52:27

    um, I don’t know that I could compare this book to anything Jenny Crusie ever wrote. Just sayin’ (ref comment #173)

  202. Bronte
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 04:01:19

    I’ve been watching this train wreck unfold and I almost vomited in my mouth a couple of times. Two words: Paedophilia and Necrophilia. All of you who are fine with that, I’m SOOOOOO glad that I do not know you, and hope I never have the misfortune to meet you. Getting turned on by an 11 year old being raped? I can’t express my disgust enough. A romance hero being okay with all of the above = NOT ROMANCE!!!! Just because it happens in real life does not mean I want to read about it. If I wanted to read that sick s**t I would read things other than romance.

  203. Linda Hilton
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 08:35:50

    @Alice: I didn’t know a review was supposed to be “constructive criticism.” I thought that was saved for judging contest entries or critiquing (I never can spell that noun/verb) a partner’s work in progress.

    This book has already been written and published. The review is one person’s opinion and analysis of that book, and the commentary is our response to the review. The comments made here by the author gave no indication that she was looking for suggestions on how to “improve” her work.

    My understanding was that DA_January found the issue of the multiple rapes — AND the way the author presented them — to be a serious impediment to her enjoyment of the story. She found the characterization of the “hero” to be inconsistent with what she considered appropriate romance-novel-hero behavior. She cited details from the novel that contradicted the author’s claim of historical accuracy.

    If this had been a manuscript being judged for a contest or critiqued by a Saturday afternoon critique group, don’t you think maybe the same kind of comments could have been made, allowing the author to go back to her computer and change the way her heroine reacted to being raped multiple times? Couldn’t she have taken the time to check her details for their historical accuracy and fixed them if she thought it would make her story more credible and consistent?

    Because this book has been digitally published, the author actually can go back and make any of those changes if she so wishes. She doesn’t have to, and no one here is saying she does. But we’re also saying that the presence of certain elements simple make the book unreadable for many of us.

    As DA_January stated in her review, the icky stuff started happening in the opening chapters. I downloaded the sample — no fucking way was I gonna give the author any of my hard earned money for this crap — and read it, and I too was disgusted. But because I’d had fair warning about the ickiness, I was also able to see other flaws, other inconsistencies that regardless of the rapes and everything else would have kept me from buying the book.

    And as so many have mentioned so many times in this thread, the issue has rarely been the rapes themselves as elements of the book but rather the way the author treated them. I’m reminded of the discussion here not too long ago about the “fourth wall” and how one author seemed to step beyond it by bringing herself into the story almost as a character. And someone in this thread — someone much better trained than I in the art, science, and language of literary criticism — brought of up the issue of narrative voice and how the author as narrator bridges the gulf between the characters and the readers. The consensus has been, I think, that the author failed to do that in a way that allowed the reviewer to establish empathy with the characters.

    That’s not a denial of the way things were in post-Roman Britain. That’s not a denial of how women were and/or are still treated. The supermarket tabloids are still filled with front page photos of poor little Jon-Benet Ramsey, all dressed up like a streetwalker. She was dressed up and made up and put on parade by her parents not looking like a latter-day Shirley Temple but more like Mae West. It was a child’s sex-appeal that was promoted, not her innocence or even her talent. We know about the use of rape as a military tactic in Bosnia and Darfur. We’re neither dismissing nor denying any of that.

    But some of us find the way these issues were treated by the author in this particular book to be offensive to the point that we aren’t going to buy the book. That’s not even close to denying “reality.”

  204. Sarah
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 08:36:25

    Just because “rape happens”, it doesn’t mean the novel is good . . . Possibly the author & friends don’t realize that. Their right to read/write whatever they want is protected by the constitution but bad writing is not defensible to the paying readers. Arguing about whether or not rape and abuse is historically accurate is throwing a smoke screen over the fact that the author’s story line does not make logical sense, the characters are not sympathetic and the vast majority of people do not want to read this book.

    I am deeply saddened that a story of this ilk has entered the average romance reader’s awareness. If there is a market for titillating child molestation stories, it is NOT the romance genre. Sometimes I think people are trying to make a quick buck by assuming that readers of romance are stupid and sexually frustrated and will read anything with alpha males dominating weak women (because secretly that’s what all women want).

    Romance readers are not stupid, we won’t waste our time or money on books like this.

  205. Chelsea
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 08:42:16


    You beat me to it. Also, just because something happens to a lot of people doesn’t mean it shouldn’t effect an individual emotionally. For example, a majority of people will suffer from cancer or have someone close to them suffer from cancer at some point in their life. But that doesn’t mean that when you’re diagnosed, you shrug it off as no big deal and go about your business. Same thing with rape. I’d be able to believe that the character repressed her feelings in order to survive, or TRIED to tell herself it was no big deal. But I really can’t believe she (and all of the other people suffering the same way) would be totally dismissive of it.

  206. Caveat lector: Editing and “editing” in genre fiction | VacuousMinx
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 09:10:12

    […] January’s review this weekend of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad book led to a long and involved comments thread. A […]

  207. Sue T
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 09:50:24

    @Bronte – YES! Exactly what I was thinking as I read the review of this horrendous book and the comments. Rape of a child is unforgivable and a hero/heroine turned on by it? Just plain disgusting and it makes me sad that there is a segment of society that says it’s okay (and of course, that segment of society is not here at DA or in the comments). Leo is everything a hero SHOULD NOT BE. And yes, the sex with a dead woman? Come on, really? And that’s justified? Gross, just gross.

    I have heard the same arguments – this is what happened back then. I get it. But it holds no water with me to justify the way this author portrayed the times and her belief that that’s the way it was so it’s okay.

    Ugh, just ugh. And for Jennifer Blake….I don’t get it. And I’d LOVE to know the agents/editors who raved about it because I’d NEVER submit to them.

  208. Amy
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 10:22:24

    This sounds like a terrible read.
    If the heroine is a red-head, who’s the brunette on the cover?

  209. Rex Jameson
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 12:30:11

    Again, I believe this is simply a case of poor choice in genre. This is not a Historical Romance, for reasons noted throughout the review and some of the comments. I would recommend that the author switch to Fantasy, rather than Historical Romance, as readers in this genre have certain beliefs about how a romance should unfold, despite the realities of the era it occurs in.

    Now, onto addressing some of these comments. I am an avid history buff, and I’m seeing a ridiculous amount of revisionist history going on in this thread that I would like to address.

    First, to those who claim medical knowledge that no child could be impregnated at 11, despite thousands of years of documented cases, I’ll just go ahead and provide this link for just the past century. 5 years old is the youngest mother currently on record, and this occurred in Lima, Peru, which does not have a good history of nutritional reinforcement.

    The second youngest in the modern age occurred in the USSR in 1934. When the girl was raped by her grandfather in 1933, the country had experienced its first non-famine wheat harvests in 2 years. So, you have both stress factors of losing 5-7 million people around you and starvation. Anyone who claims that pregnancies cannot happen to someone younger than 11 is fooling themselves, and because you didn’t do a simple Google search, you are participating in revisionist history. There are photo and video records out there of doctors assisting in C-sections for 5-7 year old girls. Not only was it possible for an 11-year-old to become pregnant in the middle ages, it happened.

    Now, onto whether or not you think “most women” would experience rape in this period. That depends on which side of the fence you fall on. Were you a part of an oppressed people that were frequently conquered or marauded? If so, then yes. A lot.

    Among the fascinating history of our “civilized” forefathers was the belief that women were to be treated as property during war. This was the policy of both the Greeks and Romans, who believed that their war rules set them apart from barbarians, and they used these rules on the peoples of Britain, Germany, etc. And these property “traditions” and rules of war were returned in kind. Cicero and others detailed rapes occurring in streets after a town was conquered, and if you’ve been or you know someone who has been in a wartorn country, even in the modern era, you should understand how the bloodlust spreads and normal people do absolutely brutal things.

    If you research historical battles during this period, especially sieges of towns, you will find a plethora of evidence that rape was not only allowed but encouraged to further humiliate the population. The British and Vikings had similar rules, and these are easily verifiable if some of you would simply search for them in related literature. Heck, even a Western Civ book would be a good start. You don’t have to find a niche history book for this to be detailed.

    Now, onto the effects of rape. Some of the commenters here do not appear to have frequent interaction with rape victims. I actually do. So, not only do I disagree with many of you, but I also find it deplorable that many of you here don’t do simple searches to find out if what you are saying is verifiable.

    One of the most common effects of rape is a lack of empathy. When the world is brutalizing you, and you have no control over anything, a victim may sever their connections and understanding of the outside world. This includes losing the ability to empathise with peers. In short, the victim goes numb and may even suppress rational thought processes, which leaves mostly primal instincts in place.

    In the quoted parts of the book in January’s post, the victim says she “hates” the men that are doing things around her and not just because of what they are doing, but because of the way it is affecting her physical reactions. To me, this shows a classic loss of empathy which is very common with rape.

    Now, many of you in this thread have not only lambasted the author for sharing a story that depicts a woman that exhibits a common symptom of violent rape (lack of empathy), but many of you have also claimed that this verifiable, documented symptom does not exist. I don’t care what your intentions were in responding to this thread, but what you have done is participate in a mechanism of revisionist history. “This doesn’t make sense to me because I don’t think people are capable of this. Obviously, it didn’t occur.” It also means that victims of rape that have experienced a lack of empathy and sexual arousal from primal instincts will just blame themselves further.

    As I said, I have a lot of experience talking to women who have been raped from an early age. It’s ridiculously common in the U.S. and other developed countries. Lack of empathy is a common reaction and this is verifiable and documented. Consult psychology textbooks or even a physician. My heart goes out to anyone that has been raped, and I understand that not all rape victims respond the same, regardless of how I would hope I would respond to the same situation.

    To come full circle and reiterate, I think the main problem with this book is bad genre placement. The “romance” part is inappropriate, and the author should try placing this in general fantasy, imo. I would also say that the choice of halberd should be changed in the offhand comment in the armory because it really wasn’t as widely used until later in the period, and it may save you some heartache with these kinds of reviews. The flint-heads are actually fine with me. You could argue that Leo’s kingdom was short of funds to acquire the necessary reserves of iron, and that flint was used for the arrows to cut costs. In fact, this might even explain why Leo was raiding and plundering so much–he was cash-strapped.

    This was a brutal era, and women most certainly were considered property during the Arthurian period–which is one of the reasons why Arthur’s Camelot was held in such high esteem. It was supposed to be an exception to the rule–a beacon of hope. From what I can tell from the review, the author Phoenix Sullivan tried to present a different context that meshed with her own understanding of the period via her degree foci. I do not see any obvious reasons why the frequency of the rapes cited in the review with regards to towns being ransacked would be impossible, and I most certainly disagree with the perception, in this thread, that lack of empathy is not a side effect of violent rape for the reasons stated above. Lack of empathy happens and so can sexual arousal despite terrible events happening.

  210. KMont
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 12:48:18

    I’d seen the tweets about this book review over the weekend, decided it could wait for a Monday, when it only made sense to inflict it upon myself (just felt wrong to spoil the weekend). First of all, kudos to the reviewer for reading the book so the rest of us don’t have to, you deserve brain bleach (pass when you’re done, I need some, too), and as for the book – barf.

  211. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 12:53:44

    @Alice: Actually, if I recall correctly from research and all, people often DID live past 30. Life expectancy figures, I believe, also take into count the number of children who didn’t live past the second year of life and the figures are the averaged-out number. I’m no historian, though.

    And no, 11 yr old girls weren’t likely to have been considered women-not unless they were menstruating.

    From a medical standpoint, I think it’s unlikely the typical 11 yr old girl would have started menstruating.

    A female who is undernourished hits puberty later. Most people in that time period didn’t have access to the nourishment we do, so puberty would have hit the females later and that means her period wouldn’t have started until later.

    Unless she was getting her period? The society she lived in wouldn’t have seen her as a woman because, in the most sense, she couldn’t ‘function’ as a woman does-that would have been to bear children.

    Currently, the estimates are that 1 in 6 women have been raped or are the victims of sexual assault-it’s likely the number is higher, since many victims don’t come forward and it’s a disgusting highly number, IMO, but it’s not a majority-and thank God.

    “Majority” by defintion would mean more than half of all women. ]

  212. Jackie Barbosa
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 13:03:42

    @DA_January: I think it’s VERY dicey to go by Amazon review averages, especially for self-published books. It’s pretty common for self-published authors to be friends with a bunch of other self-publishing authors, and all of them “swap” positive reviews. This means that it’s very common for a self-published book to have nothing but glowing reviews, especially in the first few months it’s out. I’d say any review average that includes less than somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-30 separate reviews is utterly unreliable. (And none of my books has that many. So basically, I’m telling you NOT to rely on those averages to judge my own books.)

    You asked how to choose self-published books for review, and my answer is this: read the sample. It sounds like the WTF-ery in this book began in the early chapters. Reading the sample could have spared you reading the entire book, although of course, you wouldn’t have reviewed it then and I honestly feel like this book should come with a warning label, so you’ve done the world a service. Thank you.

    Of course, sampling doesn’t AlWAYS help. For short books, the sample can be so short that it’s not enough text to tell you anything. In other cases, the sample has been polished within in an inch of its life for contest submission, while the rest of the book is a trainwreck. BUT, in general

    This book actually appeared in one of my suggested lists on Amazon (maybe based on viewing history), and I immediately dismissed it as not my cup of tea (Arthurian stuff just doesn’t get me going), but I would never have guessed at its content without reading this review.

    All of that said, I admire authors who choose to tackle difficult/taboo subject matter in their books, including rape and pedophilia, but they have to actually TACKLE it, IMO. A book in which everyone lives HEA despite wanton violence and brutality without anyone actually DEALING WITH that violence and brutality is a huge fail. Just because it happened hundreds of years ago or is commonplace in a society does not mean it’s without consequence or overcome by pretending it didn’t happen.

    Also, I don’t care if “fagging” and “probbing” are real words. They are so unfamiliar and closely related to other, familiar words that they LOOK LIKE misspellings of those words. Just because you CAN use a word doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

  213. Barbara
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 13:52:41

    I’m going to blindly assume that the worst of what’s in the story and is being discussed is historically accurate in some nebulous time that the book may have taken place. I’ll even go with the idea that the hero would be the one who ordered a lot of it done and the heroine could still fall for him. More idiotic things have happened.

    The author gets a giant fail because she apparently doesn’t get that while she’s writing about historical events (however fictionalized or “real” she thinks they are), she’s writing to a contemporary audience with modern sensibilities and morals. However historical the theme, you still have to at least have a veneer of romance likability to your characters a modern reader will accept. Repulsive pedophilia, necrophilia and what sounds like a whole lot of rape glorification? Not so much something that flies in 2011.

    There’s a sort of reading gag reflex for different topics for different people and this author seems to have hit them all. Now that someone’s pointed out the cover art, all I can see is how underage the girl looks. Yet another fail on the part of the author who I’m sure approved it.

    Jennifer Blake? I’m shaking my head. Niece or no niece, this was a mistake on her part.

    Re: Amazon reviewers for Indie/self-pubs – I never trust any review at Amazon made by anyone with less than 50 reviews under their belt and even then, I look through their last several to see if they look related to the same pub/author/friend. Sometimes you can see a reviewing circle pattern. I caught an author I like copying blogger reviews and posting them on her own books under her own name. No clue how she got away with that for so long, it was weird.

  214. Trash the book, not the author! « Kay Elam Writes
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 15:52:18

    […] Her sales had been steady, then . . . over the weekend, Spoils of War went viral on Twitter and various blogs. It all started with a scathing review by January on a popular website called Dear Author. […]

  215. Estara
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 15:53:29

    I would like to object to one impression I got from the review – the implication (as it comes across to me) that this sort of book could not have been published by a publishing house, so if we still only had publishing houses we would be sure not to come across things like this.

    Especially in the late 80s I have read “romances” or “family sagas” were similar things happen – not having a wide selection of reading material and not being sure how to recognise it.

    I do believe in gatekeepers in general, not just for indie-published books though. Due to some really good tipps on various review sites I have come across the work of Ann Somerville, Moriah Jovan, Andrea K. Höst – to name authors who have indie-published books out (although Ann Somerville is also published by Samhain). I don’t regret those at all.

    So the point probably remains labelling and good gate-keeping to avoid stories with tropes you don’t really want to read.

  216. Ridley
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 16:26:31

    @Rex Jameson: tl;dr

  217. DA_January
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 16:41:39

    I actually do believe that this book would have never passed a publishing house’s gates – if nothing else, for the completely random and incorrect sense of history. Even after reading all 200 comments on this thread and the author’s statement, I still have no clue what timeframe this book was supposed to have taken place. Nor has it been clarified for me. If this was to be historical fiction through a NY office, that would have at least had to have been cleared up, and they would have been far more stringent on the facts than I was.

  218. DA_January
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 16:45:04

    @Jackie Barbosa
    My question was rhetorical. I choose the books I read based on my own personal interests and a variety of sources – Goodreads, Amazon, sampling, etc. I did read a few pages of the sample and saw that it left off at a disturbing place, but the author had a disclaimer that she handled such things in a sensitive manner, so I felt confident reading on. Rape is not my favorite theme but it will not automatically make a book a DNF for me. Rather, it was the quantity and the context that sent the book quickly into “F” territory.

  219. DA_January
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 16:53:57

    @Rex Jameson

    Rex – I do not believe this was “simply” a poor choice of genre. Had I discovered this book on the fantasy shelves (and I read there as well), it would have received an equally foul grade.

    I cannot speak for the other commenters (and will not even try) but I will re-state my own personal stance on the rapes in this story. My problem was twofold: that every major character except for the man designated as the hero, rapes the heroine. I’m not sure what this is trying to convey to the reader, but I feel it’s a rather revolting – and lazy – plot device to use the heroine as an object to propel the plot forward, rather than someone who propels the plot. In addition, I felt the author did not address the psychological standpoints of the repeated rapes. The child Ruth is raped and is vacant and listless (and later tries to kill herself with a hot poker). The heroine – who went through the same scenario – simply looks in the courtyard the next morning and is happy she was not hurt, and hey, it happens to everyone. I’m sorry, but that does not seem like the response of a rape victim; that is sloppy writing and the author forgetting that her character needs to react appropriately. Even if there had been a brief paragraph about her suppressing her horror or anger, or how she felt dead inside, that would be fine. To completely ignore addressing any of the rapes that happened to her? That was where the author failed. And failed four times in the book. Not once, not twice, but every time the heroine was raped. She would be upset while it was happening, and then continue to go about her day as if nothing else happened. If the author wishes for us to believe that she is suppressing, she needs to lead the reader to it with context or with blatant statements. Doing neither brings me back to my prior comment: sloppy writing.

    I read the book. I did not like the book. I found the reactions unbelievable. You may not agree. Feel free to write your own review.

  220. FD
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 16:54:20

    @Ridley: A textbook example of ‘mansplaining’ y/n?

  221. Jackie Barbosa
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 16:56:03

    @DA_January: I’m sorry; I didn’t realize it was a rhetorical question! I know that the sample isn’t always a reliable indicator of the content of the book, and I totally understand why the quantity and context was a problem for you.

    I do, however, see a fair number of readers complain that a self-published (or even house-published) book was atrocious from nearly the first page, yet they apparently never sampled the book. That tends to leave me scratching my head, as I almost NEVER buy a book without having read at least an excerpt (and with few exceptions, this goes even for authors I’ve read and enjoyed before), And that’s why my first response to complaints about having paid for a terrible book tends to be “Sample, sample, sample”.

  222. Christine M.
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 17:02:14

    @Ridley: I did. We’re apparently a bunch of st00pid arses trying to rewrite history to our advantage and spreading false information.

  223. Amanda
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 17:04:52

    Wow. I don’t know how you managed to finish that mess. It sounds more like horror than romance.

  224. Dhympna
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 17:06:39

    @Rex Jameson:

    Rex are you an expert in medieval history? Did you happen to notice that the children who gave birth in that wiki chart you cite are all from the modern era? Do you know why? Do you know anything about the demographics for what you are calling the “Arthurian period?” If you are an expert, I am sure you are aware that your above analysis is whiggish and therefor flawed.

    I have not read the book yet, so will not comment on that, but I will point out that the evidence you cite is problematic in the case of this particular era.

    If the most authoritative source you can cite is wikipedia…well….

    The author has cited her own “expertise” in this subject and has also claimed that it was carefully researched. To me, this means the work can no longer hide behind the “it is just fiction” wall.

  225. Linda Hilton
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 17:06:57

    @Rex Jameson: I think you missed the point entirely, but you obviously know EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING so I won’t argue with you.

  226. Linda Hilton
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 17:26:18

    @Amanda: Were you referring to the book or Mr. Jameson’s post?

  227. Lora
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 17:48:24

    I am surprised that so many have taken offense to this book and it’s contents in which the author and even at least one review made clear had dark and adult content, when school libraries nationwide are asking children around the age of 13 to read “Gateway” books which are packed with rape, molestation, dismemberment and death throughout each book. Those books, by the way, all went through publishing houses and were even awarded the well-known “Gateway” seal of approval so now our schools can push them on children. My son was so offended he went to the librarian himself and complained, as did I. It is hard for me to stomach all of the above comments regarding a book very obviously directed toward adults but how many of you have made a stand against the “Gateway” books?

    By the way, rape was then, as is now, very common and, yes, even deemed unimportant by many. In the 80’s a rape happened every 8 seconds wasn’t it? What is the stat now? Also, child brothels were being found all over Washington, D.C. just a couple of years ago.

    Even dogs go through it. Have any of you ever purchased a dog from a breeder? Ever heard of the Rape Rack breeders use? If you have purchased a dog from a breeder, it is very likely you have paid to have a dog raped!

    Rape is not only historically accurate, but it is “presently” accurate and even though we like to say we are an evolved society, how many people turn their heads when their bosses, politicians or even sports “non-heroes” (no sports personality is ever a “hero” sorry folks, just for playing sports and being famous) are caught red-handed raping someone? Who was that guy Hollywood stars were praising just a few years ago who drugged and raped a 13-year old girl just because they wanted to be in his movies? Wasn’t her rape deemed “no big deal” to millions because he was famous and so were his friends? Not even a king, just rich and famous!

    Time to get off your soap boxes regarding a historical book and start volunteering in organizations to fight the evil of child, adult and even, yes, animal rape. Rape may offend you, but don’t blame the author, blame the rapists and those who ignire it. I love this author for bringing such a harsh subject in to all of your hearts; maybe now more people will get off their bum and DO something to help prevent it!

    Please turn off the tv (or put a book down in this case) and start volunteering at Rape Crisis Centers and Animal Rescues where they help victims who have been left permanently maimed mentally and often physically for life.

  228. When King Arthur comes to Gor
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 17:49:27

    […] on at Dear Author, where a self-published historical Arthurian-era “romance” called “Spoil of War” by Phoenix Sullivan has just been reviewed. The book apparently isn’t just a common variety […]

  229. FD
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 17:59:33

    @Lora: What makes you think some of us don’t already do such work? Funnily enough, one can be an activist in the day to day world, AND have concerns about portrayals of rape in popular fiction/tv/etc, as they can reinforce ‘rape culture’ which is what is at play when people like Roman Polanski get away with their crimes. These issues need to be dealt with both on the macro and micro level for change to happen.

  230. Jennifer
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 18:05:44

    I’m so happy to see Annabel Joseph mentioned here (full disclosure – I know her casually from a writer’s group we both attend on occasion) but shudder that she’s been mentioned within a conversation about this book. At any rate, Annabel is a solid writer who deserves attention. Thanks to the person who rec’d her.

    Sorry if this was mentioned before. I read so far and then was just too saturated with the topic to continue comfortably.

  231. Joanne Renaud
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 18:19:56

    What a fascinating thread this has been. Thanks for reading this trainwreck of the book and reviewing it. I discussed your review on my blog here, and mentioned some of my reactions to it.

    I especially loved what you had to say about the apparent lack of historical accuracy in the book. I have to add my own two cents and say that the use of the names “Elspeth” and “Ruth” in a story set in late antiquity/early medieval times makes me cringe.

  232. Linda Hilton
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 18:26:54


    You have no clue what ANY of us do when we aren’t commenting on discussion boards. You have no clue whatsoever what any of us have gone through regarding rape, sexual assault, victims’ rights, crisis center, etc., etc., etc.

    And you apparently don’t have much clue what’s been said in this very long and very literate and very informative thread.

    Not one of the critics of this book has said rape didn’t happen or doesn’t happen. NOT ONE. Words of one syllable — NO ONE.

    No one has said the instance of rape in warfare is not real. No one has said the depiction of rape shouldn’t be in books, or even in romance novels. No one has said rape is historically or comtemporarily inaccurate. NO ONE.

    The complaint is with the way this particular author chose to deal with the issue of rape, rape, rape, and rape. We are allowed to complain about it. We are allowed to criticize it. We are allowed not to like it. We are allowed to think it is bad writing.

    Someone posted on this thread that she had been raped as a young child and was still dealing with the effects 40 years later. You have no clue how many other posters on this thread have dealt with rape, with sexual assault, with domestic abuse, with any of the many varieties of abuse that people deal with. You have no clue how any of those posters deal with the effects of their trauma. YOU HAVE NO CLUE.

    Once again, in simple words — No one has claimed rampant violent brutal rape of women, children, the dead, the dying is historically inaccurate. NO ONE.

    I also don’t think anyone here has defended Roman Polanski, Kobe Bryant, Jason Kidd, Mike Tyson or any other public figure who has been acknowledged as an abuser.

    And I will tell you right now that this book has absolutely not put anything into my heart except loathing for it, its defenders, and increasingly for its author. If anyone should be accused of not having respect for the victims of sexual assault it should be she.

  233. Ridley
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 18:34:16

  234. Christine M.
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 20:09:23

    @Ridley: Thanks for the laugh.

  235. Meoskop
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 20:32:32

    My takeaway is that supporters of this book think objecting to the use of rape to advance plots or titillate is wrong, because rape happens. Don’t hate the hero, hate the (subjectively viewed) history.

    Supporters of this review think defending the use of a child’s rape as a sexual stimulant to the heroine is pretty sick, yo, regardless of what does or does not happen. Also, they think they don’t want to spend their hard earned cash on the same.

    The more you know!

  236. Linda Hilton
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 21:03:54

    @DA_January: In replying to Estara you wrote “I actually do believe that this book would have never passed a publishing house’s gates. . .

    Apparently the author believed so too because after no publishing house actually did let it past the gates, she chose to self-publish.

    She has, after all, attempted to label it “historical fiction” and one presumes then that she marketed it to publishers of historical fiction rather than publishers of historical romance.

    However, I believe she also said somewhere that she was urged either to “tone down” the romance or beef it up with a “hawt” hero and she chose to do neither. My take on that is that the rejecting editors felt it was either too “romantic” for straight historical fiction, or not romantic enough for romance.

  237. Lora
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 01:01:16

    @FD You are absolutely right. I so very much wish more people would get involved in standing up against sexual violence towards any victim.

    @Linda Hilton

    “You have no clue what ANY of us do when we aren’t commenting on discussion boards. You have no clue whatsoever what any of us have gone through regarding rape, sexual assault, victims’ rights, crisis center, etc., etc., etc.”

    True and True. Although, if the previous stat I read on here this evening is true, 1 in 6 of us commenting here is a victim. However, the one victim who was opening herself up to the discussion seemed to be harassed by many for her take of not only her experience but also her take on the book, yet is seems you are deeming me the insensitive one??

    “And you apparently don’t have much clue what’s been said in this very long and very literate and very informative thread.”

    Actually I question your use of “literate.” The first 100 or so comments were mostly bashing the writer because she didn’t write about rape the way the commentators deemed “correct” and then most of the comments after that seemed to move in the direction of opening a dialog about sexual assault, which I agree with you there, was “informative” but eventually went back to “bashing” again, losing the informative angle that was being created.

    I do admit, there are a few comments here and there that actually do have valid “literate” interest. Such as, I would LOVE for someone to finally define the difference between an indie author and a self published author. I admit to being naïve; I never knew there was a difference but am very open to hearing more about it here if anyone is interested in filling me in.

    I also found the use of “flint” in that period of time interesting; I would’ve never caught that.

    “The complaint is with the way this particular author chose to deal with the issue of rape, rape, rape, and rape. We are allowed to complain about it. We are allowed to criticize it. We are allowed not to like it. We are allowed to think it is bad writing.”

    Um, so is it my imagination or are you saying YOU are allowed to have an opinion, but I am not??

    “Someone posted on this thread that she had been raped as a young child and was still dealing with the effects 40 years later. You have no clue how many other posters on this thread have dealt with rape, with sexual assault, with domestic abuse, with any of the many varieties of abuse that people deal with. You have no clue how any of those posters deal with the effects of their trauma. YOU HAVE NO CLUE.”

    I wouldn’t attack someone (author, victim {fictional or otherwose}, etc) for writing or dealing with it in their own way, which seems to be much of what this thread is doing. By the way, weren’t you attacking earlier the same person you are using as a reference point now?

  238. Lora
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 01:24:52

    I commend January and Phoenix Sullivan
    for, though probably accidental for both parties, opening a discussion regarding sexual assault, the horrors of it, the many ways in which people deal with it, etc.

    I’m sure when Ms. Sullivan put pen to paper and January clicked her key pad, neither had an idea what they were setting in motion.

    Though I know this thread was originally intended as a very negative review, I hope as it goes further along that it opens avenues for a very open conversation on this topic, including further education, prevention and healing.

  239. Lora
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 01:30:40

    I will openly admit that the day before I initially read this review was the first day I’d ever heard of the dog breeding “Rape Rack” and saw the permanent damage inflicted by it, including paw amputation. I was infuriated and I still feel helpless. I can’t get the images out of my head and can barely sleep. (which is partially why I’m up writing this when hopefully many of you are sleeping)

    How can we prevent this if most of the time these breeders are backyard breeders and hidden puppy mills? If you can’t even find them, how do you shut them down?

    Many may think I’m being overly sensitive or even insensitive because it’s an animal, not a person, being injured. It is still violent abuse, is still horrifying and it is a person who straps them to the machine repeatedly.

  240. Ariel MacConnor
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 01:42:15

    So I was the one who gave Phoenix Sullivan the heads-up about “Spoil of War,” and now she has blogged about it. I have just finished reading the comments. Many people are saying that January, and other people who strongly object to the novel, just want “puppies and sunshine” and Ms. Sullivan is just being realistic… and that other bestsellers have included pedophilia, so what’s the big deal about “Spoil of War”? Is it just me or are they missing the point?

    Anyway, I also asked Ms. Sullivan what year her story is set in, but she hasn’t answered me yet…

  241. DM
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 01:58:21

    Okay, my curiosity got the better of me and I broke down and read the book.

    Kids, it’s bad. Just plain bad. It’s the in-bred, anemic baby of the lesser bodice rippers of the 70s. You know the ones. The ones that wanted to be Wicked Loving Lies and Stormfire, but ended up propping the screen door at your garage sale, not even good enough to go in the ten for a dollar bin with Rangoon.

    And it’s not just the rape or the child molestation that makes it bad. There are books that depict lives of heartbreak and misery in brutal eras with nuance and emotional depth. Try Dorothy Dunnett’s King Hereafter if you want to see myth and history combined into something page-turning.

    Or break out your yellowed copy of Stormfire, and try to stop reading it. You’ll feel like you need a shower by the end. The hero is a jerk. The heroine suffers vilely. You want them both to die horribly…but you just finished a doorstop of a book.

    Because Monson and Rogers, for all that their books spoke of the conflicted female sexuality of their age, understood character, and structure. The hero of Stormfire has a backstory and motivation. The hero of Spoil just doesn’t mind rape or rapists, who are often quite jolly chaps when you get to know them. The heroine of Stormfire fought back. Again, and again. The heroine of Spoil is pushed around by the mechanics of the plot, and NEVER reacts to anything that happens to her. She has the emotional depth of a footbath. The book is entirely devoid of cause and effect, the mortar of satisfying fiction. Every time the heroine is raped, it is a cause with no effect. And the hero’s change of heart is an effect with no cause. At the end of the book he decides, for no clear reason, that maybe the heroine was telling the truth after all.

    And the real truth about Spoil is that it failed to find a publisher not because the subject matter was edgy, but because the execution was sub par.

  242. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 07:16:09


    Lora…frankly, that’s judgmental, because I don’t recall a query on whether or not anybody here does anything to help rape victims.

    I wonder if you’re very familiar with the typical romance reader-you’re talking to lawyers, nurses, teachers, moms, librarians, and that’s just a vague summary of the typical romance readership.

    It’s been my experience that certain groups, IE: nurses, teachers, lawyers (and this is just a vague reference again) etc are actually pretty active in speaking out, donating, volunteering for victims.

    Unless you’ve spoken with every last one of us and got a negative answer- “No, we don’t do any sort of advocacy, offer any sort of support..” ?

    Should you ask that question, you won’t get a huge whopping, “NO.” I’m certain of that.

    Since you didn’t bother to ask such a question, it appears you’re making a blanket assumption, so your impassioned rhetoric there falls rather flat.

    Assumptions are rarely accurate.

  243. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 07:32:09

    regarding the ‘mansplaining’… I’m going with Ridley’s response.

    Not worth the effort to read. He can’t wrap his mind around our concerns without attempt to explain them away, so why bother?

  244. Linda Hilton
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 08:35:02


  245. Maili
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 09:22:38

    @Joanne Renaud:

    I especially loved what you had to say about the apparent lack of historical accuracy in the book. I have to add my own two cents and say that the use of the names “Elspeth” and “Ruth” in a story set in late antiquity/early medieval times makes me cringe.

    Same for me with those as well as ‘Ryan’ and Phoenix Sullivan’s historical note about Ryan/Rion/Riain/Rian, which is, unfortunately, incorrect. I suspect she may have been a victim of badly researched baby name books or sites, though.

  246. Cliff Stanford
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 10:12:19

    @Maili: Phoenix Sullivan’s historical note about Ryan/Rion/Riain/Rian, which is, unfortunately, incorrect.

    I’d be interested to see your reference for that. I understood Rían to be a Gaelic diminutive for rí, king.

  247. Linda Hilton
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 10:42:58


    While “Ryan” may in fact be a form of an ancient Irish Rian, the meaning is “little king.” The ard ri is the high king of Ireland.

    As Lin Carter and others have written about the “naming of names” in fiction, it’s important not just to have a name, but to have the RIGHT name for a character. “Ryan” comes across as anachronistic and flippant, even if it does have some historical validity. (Who was it that said the difference between fiction and truth is that fiction has to be believable?)

    But the underlying meaning contradicts this character’s kingship. Even in a time when kings might not have been hereditary and thus given kingly names at birth, a warrior king would probably have chosen to rename himself something that resonated with his people. “King Little King” probably isn’t going to get it with his troops, and it would leave him vulnerable to jibes and political graffiti.

    One would think, of course, that if the author took the time to research the history of the name she would also have recognized that its meaning would be important. But given that she has other names that jar the reader regardless of their authenticity, a reader might speculate that she either did the research later or just looked for a name, any name.

  248. Kim
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 13:04:43

    Jennifer Blake has responded and thinks this review is quite unfair. She also stands by her endorsement. You can read her blog post here:

  249. Sheryl Nantus
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 13:22:28

    I never consider it a good sign when Auntie has to make an appearance. Maybe it’s just me but both the author and her aunt seem to be quite annoyed at this discussion despite their claims to the contrary. True, they haven’t come out swinging and screaming but the continued defense of bits and pieces without dealing with the overall criticisms of the book re: historical inaccuracy but they might as well have.

    Given she makes a point to mention the blog comments are moderated I doubt we’ll see much discussion on that webpage.


  250. Minx Malone
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 13:23:52

    Even though this book doesn’t sound as if it’s to my taste (and everyone has the right to their own taste), I have to give the author MAJOR kudos for her classy response. I’ve seen so many author meltdowns lately and her response was the most professional I’ve seen.

    Genre fiction in general doesn’t get the same opportunities for serious debate and critical review and I really appreciate this type of forum to discuss genre books.

    People always assume that when women participate in a lively debate about an issue that we’re “fighting”. It’s not fighting to have a spirited, detailed discussion about a piece of fiction. This has been the best book discussion I’ve read in a long time!

  251. Linda Hilton
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 14:32:02

    @Sheryl Nantus:

    I guess the question then is whether author and auntie have successfully refuted any of the claims made by the critics? Have they identified the specific historical period during which this novel takes place so the specific historical details can be determined to be accurate or not?

    It’s very easy for a critic simply to say a book did or didn’t work for them. Traditional Regencies aren’t my thing, nor Inspirationals, so it’s gonna be hard for even the best of those to tickle my fancy. But it seems to me that the initial reviewer here, January, and the subsequent back-up DM, both cited specifics about the writing that made the book a fail for them. Not about the story, not about the setting, not about the actual history/legend on which the plot was based. The areas they pointed out were pretty much the same areas a (good) contest judge or teacher or other qualified and honest critic would have noted and are essentials to the crafting of fiction. Things like character motivation and reaction and consistency, historical accuracy, ability of the reader to identify with the protagonist, appropriate cause and effect, proportionate reaction to events (“the ouch should equal the pinch”).

    Are author and auntie ordering readers to like this book just. . . because? Are those of us who don’t like gruesome rape and brain-dead heroines supposed to just STFU because the author is BNA’s niece? I don’t think so.

    I’m not going to their blog and risk getting my head bitten off, because I don’t care to argue with the stubborn. (I raised two children, including a red-headed boy, so I know the meaning of futility.) But please, please, please, is it so wrong to expect someone who brags about their historical accuracy to be able to explain how/why they have Stone Age weapons being used at the same time as late medieval ones? (Because that’s all they could afford????? GMAFB) For crying out loud, I’m no weapons expert, far from it, but even I knew enough to suspect flint arrowheads and halberds didn’t come from the same era. I mean, wouldn’t someone who set out to write an Arthurian novel that involves a lot of brutal warfare at least, at the very least get the damned weapons right? And, seriously, all snarking aside, if indeed Gunther’s men couldn’t afford iron arrowheads, shouldn’t that have been explained in the text so the reader didn’t go WTF?

    The whole issue of rape-as-romance has been a controversy since The Flame and the Flower. Radway addressed it, Hazen addressed it, Faust addressed it, Thurston, Krentz, Modleski, Feidler, Fowler, Mussell, and bunches of others. We may not agree with all their conclusions, but at least they addressed it. This author, and her auntie, seem to be saying we should put all that behind us and just write whatever makes us feel good and tell everyone to like it and love us. I’m sorry, but until they can point out that the factual claims of the reviewers are in error, until they can present evidence that the characters react appropriately to events, that the details are historically accurate to a specific time and place (including names), and that the critics claims are wrong, I don’t think A&A have a leg to stand on.

    There’s no way I’ll read the rest of the book, not even if it were given to me free for the purpose of review. I’ve never recovered from Frank Yerby’s The Devil’s Laughter which was a finely written book but had one scene that has left me with nightmares for 40+ years. No way in hell am I going to subject myself to a feast of gore and rapine, and one that appears to be really badly written at that. (Someone should compare this book’s description of the effects of rape on a child to Antoinette in Yerby’s The Saracen Blade.)

    I’m sorry, truly sorry, if I’ve upset anyone with my comments. The deeper I got into this discussion the more it hit home in ways I can’t — for the sake of people near and dear to me — express. I’ve written and aborted the worst of the posts, and yes, they were lots worse than this one.

  252. Isobel Carr
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 14:50:01

    FYI, re dog breeding and “rape racks”: those are something used by the same despicable people who fight dogs. They are NOT a normal accoutrement of dog breeding (and yes, I grew up around dog breeders and showers, all giant breeds, had never even heard of a rape rack until I saw one on Animal Planet on one of those pet rescue shows). If you’re buying from a reputable breeder (NOT a pet store or a BYB who doesn’t show and won’t let you meet the parents) then you can be pretty sure that no such violence was involved in the creation of your new pet.

  253. Chelsea
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 15:08:00

    First off, I’m not sure where that guy got the idea that the sex with Ruth was consensual. Definitely it’s possible that, during that time period, a girl of marriageable age would be married off against her will and the sex she had with her husband could be considered consensual. But there are certain problems with that, like:

    1. We are living in this time, and we all can agree that you can’t have consensual sex with an 11-year-old. Sorry.

    2. Ruth is not a girl of marriageable age married off against her will. She is a pre-teen considered a “spoil”.

    3. The text is very clear that Ruth is being assaulted against her will!!!

    Which brings me to my main point. I, like January, actually read the book. And I fully understand that the concern here is not the inclusion of rape in the story, but rather the treatment of it.

    The point I want to make is that so much of the difference between my and January’s opinions of the book come down to interpretation and inference. I never for a second inferred (or read) that any of the rapes were meant to be titillating. In fact, the only time any confusion of that kind could ever come up is with the way Elsbeth physically reacted to Ruth’s assault. And I personally read that reaction as something born of intense, overwhelming loneliness coupled by the fact that yes, Elsbeth had been assaulted, and yes the body can react after one is assaulted, without the mind’s permission. Elsbeth wanted companionship. She had lost everything and was completely alone. I did not get the impression that she was aroused by Ruth’s assault so much as by the thought of the physical companionship of someone who would be kind to her. Was it still an alarming situation in which to become aroused? Absolutely. Is it alarming to be wrenched from your home, watch your father be killed, your home go up in flames, and be locked in a tower like so many princesses in a fairy tale? Absolutely.

    But never once did I think either Elsbeth or the author were condoning the rape of Ruth, let alone considering it titillating. I am honestly kind of aghast that people thought that.

    I thought Elsbeth was reacting and responding to an impossible situation. In fact, I thought that’s what the book was about. I never thought Elsbeth was being dismissive of the effects of the rape. It’s been said here that people wanted to see her working through the assaults internally, but I thought those conversations in her head about how it happens to everyone WERE her psychological means of talking herself down and getting herself through the day.

    That was my interpretation.

    I’m also a little concerned at how many people are talking about how Elsbeth is dismissive of rape (especially people who haven’t read the book—but that’s another conversation, one better had with Meghan Gurdon Cox, who also learns about books by “talking to people”.) Throughout her time in Leo’s castle, Elsbeth is CONSTANTLY arguing with him, trying to get him to free Ruth and trying to get him to free her. She is horrified by Ector’s treatment of Ruth and tries to reach out to the girl, to offer her some comfort in this horrific situation. And although Leo dismisses her concerns about Ruth, and although other characters impose victim blame on Elsbeth in different circumstances, I never once thought that was the author saying victim blame is okay. In fact, I thought the exact opposite. Spoil of War, from its very title, to every chapter, is a story of women living in a time when they were nothing but property, and everything that happens to Elsbeth—the assaults, the loss of family, being locked in a castle—all are a condemnation of a society where women are stripped of freedom and equality. It is a warning story of what will happen if we don’t continue to fight for equality on every front. It is BECAUSE of her society that Elsbeth is assaulted and then blamed for it. That was the author’s point. (Or, that is what I took to be the author’s point while reading.) It seemed a bit like January was taking Leo as the protagonist and his points of view as the ones we should agree with. I didn’t see this at all. Leo could be terrible, infuriating and cruel, but I think the point was that Elsbeth could choose him or no one at all. There are several passages in the novel where Elsbeth considers what would happen if she were to run away. Both she and the Queen do. In the end, she chooses the life where she’s a prisoner but isn’t being raped and beaten on the streets. She also chooses the companionship of a power hungry king over nothing. Would other women choose differently? Or course. Would those of us in the modern day, living in non war-torn countries believe we would choose differently? Definitely.

    But anyway. Let’s wrap this up, shall we? From what I gathered, here was a story of one woman’s search for self in a world where people didn’t believe she had one. Was her journey often ugly? Yeah. I’m pretty sure that was the point. And while I totally understand not wanting to read about such horrific things—a lot of people don’t, some do—I never once got the impression that the author was condoning this treatment of women. I thought the author was making the point that we CAN NEVER GO BACK TO THESE TIMES, and in those places where women are still being treated this way, we must do everything we can to change things. Which, of course, includes HERE.

  254. DM
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 16:21:28


    Elsbeth is dismissive of rape.

    Near the end of the book Leo asks her about the two men who have raped her most recently. This scene takes place in the room where Elsbeth has been tied to a mattress and raped and beaten for days. Leo has just freed her. He asks:

    “First Patrise, then Uther — God’s wounds, Elsbeth, how do you bear it? How do you bear me?”

    Elsbeth’s reaction:

    Elsbeth shrugged.

    Her ordeal, being tied, raped, and beaten for days, is never mentioned again. It serves no purpose in the story. It does not change her as a person, it does not give her insight, it does not cause her or any other character to act and it does not have consequences.

    This is the definition of titillation.

  255. Unbiased Observer
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 17:12:21

    @Linda Hilton:

    “I’m not going to their blog and risk getting my head bitten off, because I don’t care to argue with the stubborn.”

    I nominate this as the most self-unaware comment of 2011.

  256. Linda Hilton
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 17:18:12

    @Unbiased Observer: Which is precisely why I never argue with myself, because I know I’m always correct.

    But seriously, Observer, can you point out where I’ve been factually incorrect and have clung to a belief in something that has been shown to be inaccurate or untrue?

  257. Unbiased Observer
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 17:25:35

    @Linda Hilton:
    Ha! Stellar response.

    Ack…it was snappier before you added the second part.

  258. Linda Hilton
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 17:43:57

    @Unbiased Observer: I wanted to make sure I got the first part in quickly and right after your comment.

  259. History and the Work of Narrative | Something More
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 19:57:31

    […] spent entirely too much time in the past few days following the comments on January’s F review of Phoenix Sullivan’s Spoil of War at Dear Author and Sarah’s D review of Georgette […]

  260. Alice
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 22:02:48


    yes, rape is not unusual. it is unusual to the first world western civilization. in many parts of the world still it is reality.
    and I am not talking about statistics, when people don t live much over 30, then children tend to be considered mature earlier on. I am talking about the things that archaeological findings tell us – up until recently the expected life span was short – people tended to grow up, work for their families, have sex and grow a family of their own much much sooner than we do. many of them do that today as well (the first that come to mind are the romani gypsy people, but there are others all over the world – it s a big place and lots of things happen yonder).

    and to expect a hero not to be a representative of his own time (whether that time is historical or fictional historical) is expecting a fairy tale. not all heroes (main characters) are heroes (“save the day” cardboard characters). and they shouldn t be.

    while everybody has a different taste in literal matters, I feel that you should review the work itself instead of having an unnecessary issue with things that don t really define it. a lot of great literary work deal in one way or another with rape, sex with children and what not, it s not something we haven t seen before in art.

  261. DM
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 22:42:41


    See my comments above if you are interested in a review of the storytelling quality of the book. The book isn’t bad because it contains rape. The book is bad because it contains rape that has no impact on the story, because characters do not react to stimulus, because the protagonist is passive and does not have a need or want to drive the action.

    And for the last time, life expectancies prior to the 20th century were not vastly different from today. A high infant mortality rate brought the AVERAGE lifespan down, but those who lived past their teens could expect to reach old age.

  262. Linda Hilton
    Aug 17, 2011 @ 00:19:57

    DM —

    I’m not sure that merely surviving one’s teens was sufficient to let one expect a long life. There were still many pitfalls of the middle years, especially wars and accidents and childbirth, which was a big killer of women until modern surgical techniques and antibiotics. The poor and working classes still didn’t generally live as long as the upper classes, but when you consider Eleanor of Aquitaine lived to be active until at least 80, it was certainly possible. Issues were disease and nutrition, just as they are today, in which the well-to-do are better cared for and better fed than the peasants. The human animal hasn’t changed that much in the last 2000 years or so.


    Regardless of life expectancy, being considered mature and actually being mature are two very different things. As Sunita stated, her grandparents were married at an age prior to sexual maturity but they did not become a married couple and begin to set up housekeeping — and one presumes begin having children — until they were sexually and physically mature in their mid-teens.

    In the U.S. we still have debates over the “maturity” of children as young as 8 who commit heinous crimes, and whether they should be tried as adults at that age. “Considering” them mature is one thing; whether they are physiologically or psychologically or emotionally mature enough to be held responsible for their actions is another thing entirely.

    The culture of this novel might very well have considered an 11 year old girl “mature” but that is actually irrelevant to the discussion because it’s not relevant to the events in the novel. She was not treated in the context of the novel as a “mature” woman. The author specifically stated that the man Ector liked his girls before they became women. He had a preference for physiologically immature females, not ones who matured at a young age. This is stated in the book. If the author really meant that Ector liked young women who were slim and had small breasts and looked kinda like boys but were sexually mature, she could have done so. She said that Ector liked his females before they reached maturity. That is pedophilia. Ruth was not “considered” mature in the novel; what any other culture “considers” mature is irrelevant. Ruth was not mature and was not considered mature in the explicit context as the author wrote it. Ector is a pedophile.

    No one has said pedophilia cannot be used in a novel. What’s been complained about in this review discussion is that some of the reviewers felt the pedophilia was not written well in terms of how it fit into the novel, how it drove the plot, and how the other characters reacted to it and to Ector. All of those elements are entirely and completely and absolutely under the control of the author. If the writing failed to meet the reviewer’s standards, then that is the author’s fault and no one else’s. The author cannot dictate what the reviewer shall and shall not like. Neither shall the author’s friends, supporters, defenders, and aunts. The reviewer is autonomous at her end; the author is autonomous at hers.

    We are not disputing any of the facts regarding the prevalence of rape in historical or contemporary times. We are not disputing the validity of using rape as an element in a novel, even in a romance novel. There are still many readers out there who dearly love the “Old Skool” romance novels of Rosemary Rogers and Bertrice Small and wish more writers were writing them. There are lots and lots and lots of readers who defend the actions of the heroes in two highly controversial novels in which the hero rapes unabashedly the heroine — Putney’s “Dearly Beloved” and Gaffney’s “To Have and To Hold.” I happen to adore the former and intensely dislike the latter and I have my reasons. Other readers have theirs for liking the other, liking both, or loathing both. They are entitled to their opinions.

    And while they may discuss their opinions and explain why they feel the way they do – and be as stubborn as Missouri mules in the process – they are not entitled to tell others how they must think or feel.

    What we are saying is that the execution of these elements in the context of this novel is poor. We’re very sorry that the author didn’t succeed, because I think all of us would like all authors to succeed. But this one didn’t. And we have tried to cite specifics from the book to validate our responses.

    As some of us have already pointed out several times, there are the issues of historical accuracy. If there is no specific historical period stated, how can anything be considered accurate? Is the story set in 500 CE or 1200 CE or 755 CE? When is it set? The names don’t match the period. The costumes aren’t right. The weapons. The politics. As a historical novel, it has to have some basis in history, in a specific time and place so the details make it historical. When you write about World War I, you can’t have jet bombers. When you write about the Spanish Inquisition, you can’t have Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. If you’re writing about late Roman Britain, then you have to include those things, and ONLY those things that would have existed at that time. No houppelandes, no halberds.

    If you’re writing about a fantasy time that’s not connected to real history, then you can mix up things all you want. You can have your hero wearing a houppelande with fishnet pantyhose if you like, because it’s fantasy. But if it’s fantasy, you can’t claim historical accuracy.

    Am I making any sense here at all? It has to be one or the other, not a la carte.

    Chelsea said here that she took a very different reading from the book than January or DM did, but she admitted it was her inference and her interpretation that were different. She didn’t debate the facts, because those were quite in evidence, including the fact that the author specifically stated the 11 year old girl was being raped against her will and it was not consensual sex. If that’s Chelsea’s interpretation, she’s welcome to it. She’s entitled to her own opinion, as is every reader. But she’s not entitled to her own facts and neither is anyone else. Not if the evidence is to the contrary. And as far as I know, Chelsea didn’t dispute the facts.

    Here’s another example — the scene January cites with the heroine riding sidesaddle and being turned on by the motion of the horse and the hero’s arm touching her breasts. Do you know how pathetically easy it is to find a nice color photo of a Roman saddle from Caerleon in Wales, which was at one time one of the candidates for the “real” Camelot? A Roman four-horned saddle is not made for carrying a second rider sidesaddle. It’s a military saddle, and the scene as written is probably physically impossible. Riding “sidesaddle” would have been impossible on such equipment, and the more familiar saddle for a women to ride wasn’t invented until the late middle ages, a good 700-1000 years after Arthur’s time.

    Do you begin to see what we’re getting at? It’s not that the material in the book is in and of itself bad. It’s that the writer didn’t execute well. Repeatedly accusing people of saying rape isn’t historically accurate and therefore their criticisms of the book are wrong is nonsense, because no one has said rape is historically inaccurate. The logic simply doesn’t compute.

  263. Debra D.
    Aug 17, 2011 @ 01:05:46

    @Sarah Laurenson:

    I was raped repeatedly as a child, and I agree that sometimes you cannot have a ‘reaction’ so as to save yourself.

    But I can darn well assure you that I wasnt sitting around as my sister got raped and thinking…”Oh that sounds wonderful in there…or…Gee, I would like to be touched and cared for like that…or even…hmmm, I am so turned on by the sounds she is making in there.

    Abso-fucking-lutely ridiculous.

    No reaction or emotion to save yourself? Fine. Getting all hot and bothered by a child not to much younger than yourself being RAPED in the next room? DISGUSTING.

    And no amount of spin you or the author put on this is going to change that honey.

  264. Linda Hilton
    Aug 17, 2011 @ 01:09:02

    @Debra D.:


  265. Debra D.
    Aug 17, 2011 @ 01:38:54

    @Rex Jameson:

    So what you are saying is that women who eventually lack empathy from repeated rapes will then get turned on by another woman or child, as the case may be, being raped?

    Cuz really, out of this whole review and discusion, this is what I am taking from ALL of this:

    —Historical Romance has Hero who rapes Heroine, who eventually lacks feelings and/or empathy, but still has enough feeling to get hot and bothered when 11 year old gets raped in next room.—

    No explaining that she was losing sight of her feelings cuz she was raped so many times, or no thinking to herself…Hmmm, I am getting turned on by child rape, I may be having a problem here that I should consider more carefully.

    Nope, its ALL OK cuz its historically accurate. Well yeah, and so is female genitalia mutilation, but honey that dont make it right, and that doesnt mean anyone wants to read about the HERO doing it in a fucking romance for christ sake.

  266. Debra D.
    Aug 17, 2011 @ 01:46:41


    How condescending you are Lora. I work with many child rape victims as a volunteer, as I was a child rape victim. I also volunteer at my local animal shelter twice a month…AND…I am a foster mom to 6 dogs, 3 cats, 1 chicken, and a rabbit. And God knows, I hate that fucking chicken. But I still love him and will still take care of the little bastard, till he dies, or finds a home. Whichever comes first lol.

    And even if I didnt, that would not make me any less knowledgable about this subject, or any less able to speak on it.

    As far as the Gateway Books, I havent a clue what your talking about. I homeschool my daughter…But, if you give me a link, I will be more than happy to research it AND see if our school district uses it. If they do, as a taxpayer I will be more than happy to let them know how unhappy I would be if they are using the books.

  267. Indiana Jim
    Aug 17, 2011 @ 07:58:08

    Thank you January for giving us all a good lesson in what makes a good book… and a bad one.

    Coming from someone who plans on testing the self-published waters (with plenty of peer-review and a good, PAID editor), I think there’s two sides to that coin. I have found plenty of traditionally published books where I have been disgusted with a) typos, b) weak characters or c) a terrible plot. Sara Douglass’ The Wayfarer Redemption series comes to mind.

    That there are self-publishers releasing their dross upon the world in a somewhat saturated marketplace comes as no surprise. And I don’t know what to do about five-star reviews for terrible books. Overall though, word-of-mouth is still the best publicity for any book, regardless of its publication method. That this… THING… somehow received favorable word-of-mouth should be seen as an aberration, not the norm. Most of the time, bad books will get bad reviews.

    But as all of us know, sometimes you pay $7.99 for a paperback and it’s still bad. So $2.99 seems a bargain to me.

  268. Robin/Janet
    Aug 17, 2011 @ 11:21:29

    @DM: I haven’t read Stormfire, but I have a definite soft spot for Rangoon. Whatever the WTF-ery of the romance and cartoonish violence in that book, not to mention Lysistrata’s stereotypical virginal feisty Americanness, I was impressed at the way Monson approaches the cross-cultural issues in the novel.

    She doesn’t treat colonialism as a cultural/national necessity or Lysistrata as benevolent force (Rangoon is one of the few Romances I’ve read, actually, that indicts the Anglo heroine for her clueless privilege), and I think Monson really tries to negotiate the cultural, racial, and national complexities of the time and of her hero with sensitivity and, dare I say it, subtlety.

    I’ve been too afraid to read any more of her books, but Rangoon definitely made me curious.

  269. Rex Jameson
    Aug 17, 2011 @ 15:37:12


    Yes, I’m aware of the modern era of these because I even said “from the past century”, but it’s a long post and I don’t expect you to read it all (even if it is in the same sentence). I also don’t expect you to read about why I feel these are relevant cases–since they all happen in underdeveloped countries and I even correlated famine to it.

    I am not a professional expert of the era, but I am posting my sources. I do regularly read history books (not fiction) from the eras in question, and I have taken college courses in the era in question.

    Again, Dhympna, the specific cases I note are from impoverished countries that were often experiencing famine. Peru and USSR are NOT the developed countries you are looking for. A country experiencing famine for two years in a row is not going to have a healthy cocktail of vitamins and minerals to speed along the maturation process of a five-year-old girl to motherhood. But famine is something that was very common during the period in question and it seems unlikely that the human body has evolved within the past 500-1000 years to the point that we are all-of-a-sudden able to have pregnancy occur before the age of 11. In fact, it is not uncommon to find records of women having 6+ children before they turned 27 in Roman times (even before the period in question) and being married by 11 and performing the duties of a wife.

    The breadth of history that we have from the era indicates that it was common for a women in Roman times (even before this time) to become a grandmother before she turned 30. This would mean that the mother and her daughter would need to average about 14 before becoming pregnant (total of ~18 months spent in pregnancy for the two women combined before grandmotherhood).

    I do not buy into the completely hearsay evidence in this thread that an 11-year-old girl could not get pregnant in medieval times. So, rejecting the book based on this “fact” seems to be revisionist history, especially since we know that even 5 year olds today can and have gotten pregnant. The human body has not evolved to the extent that was claimed in this thread earlier.

    I think the author should not have placed this book in historical romance because readers of historical romance want a hero–the kind of templated hero that has existed in our romances for centuries.


    @Debra D.:

    I have no idea how you could have taken that type of context out of my reply. I did not say all women who develop problems with empathy become turned on by the rape of a child.

    What I am saying is that the woman in the novel is displaying one of the common effects of rape–empathy–but to an extreme. Empathy comes in a wide-range of psychology scales. One of them would involve a complete disconnect from reality and the ability to empathize with any other human being. The woman in the story appears to empathize to an extent but part of her humanity has been ripped away from her. I am very sorry to hear that you were raped as a child, and I am glad to hear that you are dealing with this. However, I am not saying the words that you put in my mouth, and I do not appreciate you putting them there–regardless of your circumstances.



    Like I said earlier, I very much appreciate your review and the comments of other concerned readers in this thread. It has been a fascinating read, as are most conversations involving “experts” on the internet.

    I do not question that you would have given this an F even if it wasn’t historical romance, but as I said before, it is obvious that this book was not in your tastes. Period. Others may find its gritty reality (and I’m sorry, but my experience in studying this period tells me that the frequency and brutality of rapes as described in your review are more reflective of what was likely the reality of the period) disturbing but still appreciate this woman’s goals in writing the book. I think you gave a very thorough, unbiased review of how you felt about the book, and I certainly respect that.

    And thank you, everyone, for your comments and reactions to the book. I cannot fathom ever venturing into this area of writing!

  270. Dhympna
    Aug 17, 2011 @ 16:03:25

    @Rex Jameson:

    Actually Rex, I did read your entire comment and I still find your argument faulty. I, unlike others, was not really arguing against the probability of Ruth or an 11 year old becoming pregnant. My real issue is the lack of any real historicism by an author who has repeatedly set herself forth as an expert in this field and ergo authoritative in this particular era of early medieval history.

    That does not mean that I am not allowed to call into question your conclusions based on problematic sources and faulty evidence. I still have problems with your sources and the new ones you cite, and I say that as an expert in this field–I am a medieval historian, by the way.

  271. coribo25
    Aug 17, 2011 @ 16:44:38

    Just want to make the point that small indie presses also plant glowing five star reviews for their authors. I suspect the big boys do it, too. They’re a little more clever at covering their tracks. But we all know this, don’t we?

  272. Jackie Barbosa
    Aug 17, 2011 @ 17:05:14

    @Rex Jameson: In a former life, I was a Classicist. I also studied quite a bit of anthropology.

    One thing we know from both the historical record and comparison to existing pre-industrial cultures is that the onset of menarche is the dividing line between childhood and adulthood for females. In most such societies, females typically marry shortly after menarche, which we also know occurs later on average in subsistence cultures than in modern ones. I believe menarche typically occurs between 13 and 15 in such cultures (13 is apparently the statistical average TODAY). Put together, this means that yes, it would be quite possible for a woman in Roman times to be a grandmother by the time she turned 30.

    Was it possible for some girls to begin menstruating earlier? Sure.

    The problem with the description of Ruth in this book isn’t that she’s too young to be menstruating by historical standards, but that she’s supposedly “before her womanhood.” But if she is “before her womanhood”, she should not be menstruating, since that is the very definition of “womanhood” in the period we’re discussing. Moreover, the development of secondary sex characteristics nearly always precedes menarche by 1-2 years. If the 11yo Ruth is capable of becoming pregnant, she should also be in possession of breasts and some pubic hair. In other words, by the standards of her era she presumably would have been viewed as a woman, not a child. Those standards aren’t particularly palatable to us, of course (I have a 12yo daughter and I sure as heck don’t think of her as a woman despite the fact that she’s well into puberty), but it’s the disconnect between these two data points that tosses any claim of historical accuracy into the junk heap.

  273. El.G.
    Aug 17, 2011 @ 18:25:36

    The author sounds like someone who reacts really inappropriately to rape and violence and has no empathy, hence the complete lack of ability to write in such a way that makes any kind of sense in dealing with those issues. Maybe she’s a sociopath.

  274. DM
    Aug 17, 2011 @ 18:25:59


    I’m with you on Rangoon. Deft and nuanced in its treatment of cultural complexity…and tone deaf in terms of its romance. I can’t recommend Stormfire. I read it because I wanted to understand why the most famous and enduring of those doorstopper books were so compulsively readable. My conclusion was that it all comes down to craft. Some authors understood character, suspense, scene and structure so well that they could make you swallow the bitter pill of some truly distasteful content. Jennifer Blake defends the turkey that is Spoil on her blog with a pretty good summary of the WTFery that passed for plot back in the day, claiming that the heroine, “accepts her fate with stoic endurance and uses her silent rage to best her enemies.” What Jennifer doesn’t realize is that neither we, nor the heroines we read and write, are willing to rage silently anymore.

  275. Linda Hilton
    Aug 17, 2011 @ 19:01:27


    As someone who actually read the whole book, DM, can you (or January or Chelsea) tell us which of the heroine’s enemies she “bested” (according to Blake) if all she did was stoically endure and silently rage? Which enemies, and in what way were they “bested”?

    @Rex —

    What Jackie Barbosa said.

  276. Jackie Barbosa
    Aug 17, 2011 @ 19:09:50

    @Linda Hilton: Well, she “bested” the (anti-)hero by marrying him, I suppose.

  277. Linda Hilton
    Aug 17, 2011 @ 19:16:41

    @Jackie Barbosa:

    But, but, but . . . . if she didn’t do anything, how can she be said to have bested anyone? Was it just the power of her existence? That’s not good storytelling. But you know that.

  278. Jackie Barbosa
    Aug 17, 2011 @ 19:23:33

    @Linda Hilton: Yes, I was being facetious. As in being married to the heroine must be a form of punishment. That’ll learn him.

  279. Melanie the Constant Reader
    Aug 17, 2011 @ 20:52:33

    Dear Ruth,

  280. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 17, 2011 @ 21:10:33

    It would appear no matter how many times we point this out to @Rex Jameson, he’s not getting it.

    The book describes Ruth as BEFORE HER WOMANHOOD. Now typically speaking, that would be… BEFORE PUBERTY.

    As @Jackie Barbosa has rather clearly explained, as many of us have rather clearly explained, the writer chose to describe Ruth as a CHILD… before her womanhood.

    I can tell you, medically speaking, and yes, I’m a nurse-I can pull up that data for you should you need to read up about female puberty, a girl doesn’t go from flat-chested, slim-hipped, childlike and that straight as a board appearance and to capable of bearing a child in a matter of days, or weeks.

    It starts slow and last over a period of many months or years-we’re looking at 12-18 months of physical development, very often before the period starts.

    A girl hitting puberty will develop breast-buds, typically, first. And pubic hair. Had Ruth been in any stage of development, she wouldn’t have been described as before her womanhood . A budding woman, perhaps. But not before.

    Breast buds. Pubic hair… then typically the period, and generally, to be able of conception, that period thing-part of the ovulation cycle is rather important.

    But it’s not the first thing to happen during puberty. If you’d like to read about the stages of female puberty, here’s one site.

    The period typically starts in the latter stage.

    Let’s recap…she’s described as before her womanhood . For argument’s sake, lets just say that means… before puberty . I think that’s fair, considering we’re going by the author’s description.

    For many of us, it boils down to this.

    The guy rapes a child. Heroine hears and it excites her.

    Was there anything the story to explain why Ruth’s abuse and subsequent death were important? Did it drive the heroine to grow a spine and go kill every last man in the book?

    No. From all appearances, it just happened…because the child was a spoil of war.

    Never mind the fact that what utterly appalls us is the fact that the heroine is getting off by hearing the child get raped

    Lets set aside , for the sake of argument, that she was described as a child.

    If the heroine was getting off at hearing anybody being raped, I would have been disgusted. That it was a character the writer chose to describe as a child only mankes it that much more disturning

    And we don’t need history books, explanations or anything else to tell us what we’re entitled to feel.

    The book depicts a child being raped-by the writer’s own words, before her womanhood . And that bothers us. A lot.

    Attempting to explain our feelings away, or rationalize them is crap, IMO. Unless, of course, we’ve suddenly turned into the ‘borg and we’re all required to think, view, feel, act, respond the same.

  281. Caillin Rua
    Aug 18, 2011 @ 09:04:09

    Was this book written by Antoine Dodson?

  282. Rex Jameson
    Aug 24, 2011 @ 02:34:33


    Again, youngest recorded mother in history conceived at 5 years old. Not 11. Not 13. Not 15. Five.

    The LA Times reported about this on May 16, 1939 (requires registration with the LA public library system to search through the archives), and I have no reason to believe it’s a fake story. There are pictures in the above link showing breasts that have developed over her pregnancy. I can’t for the life of me believe that a 5 year old had already gone through puberty. This came as a complete surprise to her parents, from all accounts, and bleeding tends to draw notice to a 5 year old much earlier than when she’s 7 months pregnant, folks.

    The medical community literally has x-rays, biopsies, and photographs of her in the hospital before and during this 5-year-old’s C-section. Not hearsay. Not credentials thrown out in a Dear Author thread. Documented cases. These were hugely publicized stories in their time. As were some of the 6 and 7 year olds mentioned above.

    Don’t like Lina Medina? Seem too farfetched? Then let’s look at an article from Time magazine back in 1959. In Peru, Obstetrician Rolando Colareta witnessed four pregnancies of girls under 11 in his own country during his 30 years of practice. And those were just the cases that were brought to him from his home country. Are we calling him a liar too? And the doctors in the other dozens of cases I linked earlier? Big conspiracy to try to undermine Dear Author commenters 70 years before the review is even posted?

    This novel obviously has issues. No one is debating that, but debating a conception occurring at 11-years-old? I don’t know this author, and I have no intention of reading this book, but people should research this for themselves. You don’t like reading about rape? I can’t blame you. I don’t either. But why invent a separate sidebar that claims an 11-year-old couldn’t be further victimized by being impregnated during the time period? This has medical precedent and not just one case. In Peru alone before 1960, there were four girls under 11-years-old. It’s rare but it’s probably so rare because rape is rare at this age range. THIS IS NOT THE IMPOSSIBILITY YOU ARE LOOKING FOR.

  283. Jane
    Aug 24, 2011 @ 06:59:37

    @Rex Jameson What is your point exactly? Who cares if the youngest recorded person giving birth is five years old? How does that a) make the story more historically accurate or b) less about the casual response to rape portrayed by the main female protagonist? You are arguing a straw man here. Ms. Sullivan’s grasp of medieval history is weak and drumming up statistics from 1960 doesn’t help to shore up her credentials.

  284. Linda Hilton
    Aug 24, 2011 @ 09:32:00

    @Rex Jameson:

    NO ONE has said the pregnant 11-year-old is an impossibility. NO ONE, get it?

    What we have said is that the “facts” presented in the novel are internally inconsistent.

    I don’t care if you’ve got video of a three-year-old delivering octuplets. That has nothing to do with the issue, which is the internal consistency of the novel in question.


  285. Maili
    Aug 24, 2011 @ 11:58:08

    @Cliff Stanford:

    Sorry about the delay. I completely missed your response. Let me explain why I disagree with Ms Sullivan’s comment:

    @Phoenix Sullivan:

    I’m also not here to go point by point through the research, but I will mention that “Ryan” is the anglicized version of the many variants of a name that is ancient Gaelic in origin (Rian, Rion, Riain, etc), much like the name Arthur itself is an anglicized version of any of several variants from Roman or Welsh origin.

    Rían, Ríon and Ríain aren’t variants of one name nor do they have anything in common, except for one thing–this prefix: rí.

    ‘Rí’ on its own does mean ‘king’ (or in contemporary sense, ruler), but it doesn’t mean it’s just that when used as a prefix. Please, Irish – certainly old Irish – is a lot more complex than that. As a prefix, it implies anything that suggests high position or influence.

    As it stands, there is nothing so far that can confirm the meaning of Ryan is ‘little king’. Four reasons: a) the supposed etymology of Ryan/little king doesn’t fit in with the traditional Irish naming system – same with the (Scottish) Gaelic naming system, b) some say that in Irish, it’s grammatically incorrect, c) it doesn’t fit geographically, and d) every intensive search so far had failed to make a solid connection between Ryan and ‘little king’ and/or ‘Rí’. Any decent Irish or Gaelic name etymologist can and will tell you all this.

    Those who still like the ‘little king’ possibility anyway tend to use ‘may’ or ‘probably’ in their definitions as a cop-out in case they’re challenged. :D It’s certainly the most romantic, which is probably why so many baby name sites and books went with ‘little king’.

    Traditionally (and basically), most Irish surnames originated from first names. Son of name, daughter of name, grandson of name, etc. evolved into surnames, which then were Anglicised during 15th or 16th century or thereabouts, which were then either modernised or produced variants from 19th or 20th century onwards. There are many that were Anglicised much earlier, as far as 6th century or thereabouts, but those are apparently well documented. ‘Ryan’ isn’t listed among those.

    Some etymologists believe ‘Ryan’ is a contemporary/updated version of Anglicised ‘Rian’, which some believe is from ‘righin’ or as some believe, O’Maoilriain (which also has variants and all roughly translates to ‘descendent of a noble disciple’). Some believe it’s a variant of ‘Regan’ (similar pronunciation and it shares the root: ‘righin’). Some believe it’s from one of other names (too numerous to list here). The general view is, which I personally support, that ‘Ryan’ is probably a product of 17th or 18th century and it didn’t become a given name on the mass scale until much later, e.g. 20th century, but for the US, I believe it’s 19th century. Even so, it’s still all a theory.

    The point is, no one really knows the origins of ‘Ryan’. While everyone has a favourite theory, most agree it doesn’t mean ‘little king’. There are a couple who do believe that Ryan does originate from a lineage of ‘Rí’, but they couldn’t back it up. Hence, them giving implications, instead of assertions, when outlining etymological entries of ‘Ryan’.

    Welsh, Irish, Gaelic and similar names are certainly among the most misunderstood, mistranslated and horribly mauled groups of names on the internet and in baby name books. Probably because of those certain and wildly popular baby name books over last two centuries (baby name books published during the Victorian era are probably the worst and likely the source of many contemporary baby name books today), which still makes most name etymologists cry. :D

    It’s always tough for any author to choose historically suitable names for their stories, but I think it’s much easier to say “I chose this name because I felt it was right for my character/story”. With this, author has nothing to apologise for because, after all, it’s part of an universe of his or her own making for a book or series.

    Sorry for being so long-winded, but I hope it explains where I’m coming from.

  286. Rex Jameson
    Aug 24, 2011 @ 12:21:54

    I apologize that neither of you feel the need to read the thread. This started at or around the 121 mark.


    It seemed some commenters were determined to find more errors in historical accuracy, and this developed into a push to claim that an 11-year-old could not get pregnant (due to arguments about menarch) by @Shiloh Walker:

    Despite presented evidence, it was repeated:

    @Shiloh Walker:

    And some commenters decided that human beings had evolved since the middle ages (apparently) or without any evidence of any kind to support their statements, women were only getting pregnant after the ages that society deemed a woman to be a woman. I won’t list all of them. Just read from the preceding link onward. And I guess forget that women captured during raids or captures of towns were considered property by many “civilized” cultures before and during this time period (more on that in a moment).


    Or that I am a know-it-all and just don’t understand the genius going on in these replies because I “OBVIOUSLY know everything”, instead of accepting evidence that 11-year-olds can become pregnant.

    @Linda Hilton:

    Or that this was a case of “man-splaining” because I can’t understand what commenters are going through.

    @Shiloh Walker:

    And then we had the credential poppers. Medieval historians. Classicists. Etc. The claim is apparently that no woman can become pregnant before menarche or maybe 1-2 years before menarche, and this is where my previous comment is aimed. That women were treated as property in raids (and “womanhood” was in no way considered) even up to the Genghis Khan period (seriously, try reading about what the Mongols did to captured cities) was given no real credence, despite their apparent knowledge of the period, because apparently it was considered unacceptable by all societies ever to treat an eleven year old as property. I’m afraid I don’t see how the credentials dropped here are refuting any such possibility.

    @Jackie Barbosa:

    As I said, this has been an irrelevant sidebar, and I really wish I would stop getting emails about this. But since new articles keep getting posted and linked to this discussion, I doubt I’ll ever here the end of it. I’m one of the only ones in this thread even providing sources, but I’m still getting labelled a liar and worse in personal correspondence.

    And between last post and this one? Well, now I’m accused of building a strawman by mapping a simple truth. An eleven year old can get pregnant. It’s not a strawman. There is medical precedent. Or apparently no one is claiming that an 11-year-old can’t become pregnant, despite the links provided above?

    So what’s my point? For you “tl;dr” folks, I’ll repeat it.

    This novel obviously has issues, and I believe many if not most of the concerns expressed here are valid. No one is debating that. I don’t know this author, and I have no intention of reading this book. You don’t like reading about rape? I can’t blame you. I don’t either. But why invent a separate sidebar that claims an 11-year-old couldn’t be further victimized by being impregnated during the time period? This has medical precedent and not just one case. It’s rare but it’s probably so rare because rape is rare at this age range.

    So, stop sending hatemail to me (I can only imagine what the author has gotten) and flinging more insults at me because you think I’m defending the novel. Yes, pregnancy at 11-or-younger is possible, but I wouldn’t want to read about it in a historical romance. Which is why I’ve said all along that this should not be placed in any romance genre, because it will elicit a very emotional and overwhelming response (such as this review was).

  287. Rex Jameson
    Aug 24, 2011 @ 15:01:19

    My other comment was finally posted. Seems it might have been in conflict or something with a simul-post. Apologies. Edited out.

  288. Unbiased Observer
    Aug 24, 2011 @ 19:55:10

    When you argue on the internet, everyone loses.

  289. Rex Jameson
    Aug 24, 2011 @ 21:53:11

    @Unbiased Observer:

    So true ;D!

  290. Laura Jennings
    Sep 05, 2011 @ 10:52:14

    This was hilarious to read. More authors need to realize that this is the readership that awaits their crap: mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore. More books sell by word of mouth, and word of mouth is faster than ever these days. I guarantee you this author was fostered in some fanfiction slash environment before he turned his sights on attempting to do a legitimate book.
    All hail traditional publishing, folks. It’s not going anywhere, because of crap like this.

  291. DUAL REVIEW: Spoil of War by Phoenix Sullivan - Dear Author
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 04:00:44

    […] has been considerable debate about whether this book should be classified as historical fiction or historical romance, but I honestly don’t see how it could be categorized as […]

  292. Introducing the “mistorical,” and The Uses and Limits of History in Romance - Dear Author
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 10:24:50

    […] Romance” is an important element of its construction. This was certainly the case in DA January’s review of Phoenix Sullivan’s Spoil of War, in which the author explicitly defended the historical representations of her book: As an indie […]

  293. Karen
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 11:02:24

    Funny thing about Phoenix Sullivan is that she is now moderating the comments on her blog before publishing them. *sighs*

  294. DUAL REVIEW: Spoil of War by Phoenix Sullivan - Dear Author
    Sep 07, 2011 @ 14:46:23

    […] has been considerable debate about whether this book should be classified as historical fiction or historical romance, but I honestly don’t see how it could be categorized as anything but […]

  295. Rebecca
    Sep 08, 2011 @ 23:04:28

    I had to read this review after seeing the dual review and ick, I definitely will not be reading this one! I have to agree with those who said it’s less about historical accuracy and more about the author choosing to write the story this way. Of course there have always been children abused in war or randomly abused by evil people, but I don’t know of any society that considered it normal/okay to bring home from war a prepubescent girl to be a sex slave. Even in a time when children were often seen as property, I’d guess that children of defeated enemies in war were much more likely to either be killed or be used as regular household slaves.

  296. Spoil of War: Or, Kiddie Rape and a Komodo Dragon in Arthurian Britain
    Sep 25, 2011 @ 06:16:19

    […] Several other brilliant and scathing reviews have been written about this book– first by DA_January on Dear Author, and then a dual review by Dhympna and Sunita. All of them address the many problems that this book […]

  297. Recent Surfing Results: Bad writing, Medieval dudes, and the reality of fiction | VacuousMinx
    Sep 27, 2011 @ 07:00:57

    […] from the serious to the silly, that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad book is the gift that keeps on giving. Joanne Renaud was persuaded by Dhympna […]

  298. Furrama
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 17:14:40

    Pffft, this isn’t “historical romance” it’s the plot for a porno. Probably animated and from Japan.

    Seriously, I can think of at least two famous henti games that this is similar to. Lots of European fantasy and rape in that genre.

    I think I’ve been on TV Tropes for too long. Guuuuh, things I didn’t want to know about.

  299. free online classified advertising
    Dec 27, 2011 @ 04:18:02

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  300. Karen Knows Best » Phoenix Sullivan & Jennifer Blake, You Should Be Fucking Ashamed of Yourselves
    Feb 06, 2012 @ 22:37:29

    […] assume that the majority of you will have read the review of Phoenix Sullivan’s book over at Dear Author by […]

  301. GUEST REVIEW: Celtic Storms by Delaney Rhodes | Dear Author
    Feb 16, 2012 @ 18:32:49

    […] and the setting was such a ridiculous historical mishmash it called to mind the trainwreck that was Spoil of War. There were iron age roundhouses next to Italian domed palaces… not to mention an Indian rug […]

  302. Anachronist
    Feb 19, 2012 @ 05:25:23

    Thanks for this review. I won’t read/buy/borrow this one. I don’t want to repeat why because most of my reasons have been listed above.

    To the author: you need some therapy pretty badly. I hope you will get it soon.

  303. Why STGRB Promotes Cyber Bullying Rather Than Stand Against It | missreadthis
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 02:18:01

    […] Okay, that just seems like constructive criticism. She also claimed the author of Spoils of War promotes rape and pedophilia. Again, even if this is the content of a book, the author does not necessarily condone what they […]

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