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REVIEW: Making a Scene by Trudy Doyle

Warning – this is an epic review. And by epic, I mean long. And also full of terms like “joy juice” “muff” and “spunk.”

Dear Ms. Doyle:

making_a_scene_496b92ec81403Thank you for sending me your book for review. I obviously have had some concerns about the quality of books that are being issued by Ravenous Romance given my last encounter, but it would be unfair of me to tar the entire catalog by the same Ladyfingered brush without exploring more of the RR catalog. This is going to be a good news/bad news post. I’ll give you the good news in the first paragraph. I thought this book was indeed better than Knight Moves.

The bad news is that the rest of the review will not contain any more “good news” kernels.   Making a Scene is told in the first person present tense from the point of view of the female protagonist, a writer of cliched detective stories, three of which have made it onto the extended New York Times bestseller list.   Her agent is in the midst of negotiating a film rights deal but the film people want the relationship in the next book to be spiced up.

"Nevertheless," Consuelo said briskly, her cultured voice snapping, "in her own crudely descriptive way, Renee’s absolutely right. It’s essential for the protagonists to rise to the next level if we want to make this series more commercially viable. Frankly, Pamela, in addition to the movie interest, we’ve even been discussing franchise – product endorsements, video games, podcasts – the possibilities are endless. So it’s absolutely to our benefit – to your benefit – that we take the creative initiative. Sex sells, Pamela, and you’re ready to take off with this. This is your big chance. Run with it."

Pamela Flynn is given 1 week to write a really hot sex scene for her detective duo. Who knew that detective novels with sex had that kind of marketing potential.   I hope Nora gets a new agent because I’ve yet to see an Eve/Roarke product endorsement, video game, or the huge money maker – podcasts.

Unfortunately, Pamela gets sex scene writer’s block after she witnesses her young lover cum house servant get it on with an old friend who is crashing at Pamela’s abode.   This is our first sex scene and is a prelude to most of the other sex scenes.   That is, almost all the sex scenes involve someone other than the two main protagonists in this supposed romance story.   At best, this was shaping up to be some kind of Walter Mitty-esque erotic fiction novel but given the attempts to shoehorn in a romance, the genre classification of this one is up in the air.

For some reason, I’m supposed to feel badly, or even perhaps outraged, that Pamela’s live in slave is having sex with someone else.   After all, in exchange for rent-free space, Josh is allowed to keep her happy.

At the time I just felt sorry for the poor, struggling grad student, so for the past two months, as a trade-off for rent, I let him keep me sated, fed and focused while I wrote. He’d clean my apartment and wash my clothes, in between attending master’s classes at the University of Pennsylvania and pouring drinks part time at a local bar two blocks over.

That Pamela, she’s a winner and a sexually inexperienced one at that because while she watches Josh, the houseboy, sex it up with her friend, Karen, she’s surprised at some of Karen’s moves:

I watched, breathless, as Josh’s ass tightened and relaxed, the muscles of his sleek back rippling with each thrust, his balls lightly tapping her chin until she sucked one at a time into her mouth. Good golly! I thought – she put me to shame; I never thought of doing that.

In any event, because Josh was insulting to Pamela after Pamela had hauled off and cracked him hard enough across the face to bend his glasses, she is now unable to put fingers to keys to type out a sex scene for her dashing pair of detectives.   

I call it a supposed romance story because much of the story consists of Pamela sitting in Roark, the main male protagonist’s, coffee shop for two days before Roark decides he is in love with her. Roark and Pamela eventually have lots of sex in an effort to drive houseboy out of Pamela’s mind and unblock her writing.   Fortunately, for Pamela, Roark   comes well equipped.   So well equipped that she is chafed after bouts of sex.   Also she is filled to the brim with spunk. Oily spunk at that.

I slip my fingers into me and imagine it’s Roark, his mouth on mine, his hands kneading my breasts, and suddenly I’m coming, the last of his spunk oiling my fingers and sliding me home.

I admit to being surprised at the number of fantasy, self pleasuring scenes there were in the book. I would say that the scenes of Pamela by herself getting off were about 2:1 with her having any physical contact with Roarke.   As referenced earlier, many of the sex scenes are fantasies that Pamela has watching random people at the coffee shop or ones that she entertains whilst self pleasuring.      

In further scenes of WTF-ery,   Pamela fantasizes about Roark disrobing, peeing, flushing, showing his flaccid cock, and the rolling over and going to sleep. That’s the fantasy! Peeing and going to sleep! Actually the fantasy is much more detailed. I’m probably doing it a disservice. Pamela fantasizes about Roarke coming home, about him taking off his socks, throwing them into the hamper, going into the bathroom “where he takes a piss and flushes.” Note, her fantasy does not include the washing of hands post flushing. Does no one at Ravenous care about hygiene?

After she fantasizes about him brushing and flossing, he comes back into his bedroom where his strips off the boxers. She then fantasizes about ogling his flaccid cock which she sees for just a minute before he climbs into bed and goes to sleep. Erotic fantasy? I suppose if you have a laundry fetish or maybe a dog. The dog might be fantasizing about the owner removing the socks so the dog could later eat them. Or maybe a . . . shit, I got nothing.

Moving on. This book is long; over 180 pages and most of it is given over to inane detail about nothing. Like why do I have to attend Pam’s Pap Smear appointment with her? What is the point of that?

She taps the inside of my thigh, something she can do when she’s got a speculum up my crotch.

She stands up, pressing down on my abdomen, her other hand inside me as she feels around. "Okay, everything’s where it should be. You can sit up."

….I yank my feet out of the stirrups and gather the paper gown around me.

It’s not like a woman’s gyno appointment is so fantastic that we want to read about it detail for detail in some book. There are just things a woman should not be subjected to in erotic romance. Along those lines, I don’t need time lapse imaging of her getting shaved. Her nether regions transform from being a “bush” to “reduced muff” to “newly trimmed muff.” I get to read about Roarke “gathering a hank” and “gliding the razor over the top of my bush like clipping a hedge.” Later, her genitals are referred to as an “Afro”. No, I am not making this up.

And when I’m thoroughly sudsy, my pussy a big castile Afro, my tits two cup sizes bigger with foam, he uses me as his own bar of soap, sliding into my ’Fro to whistle-clean his big cock,

The sexy euphemisms do not stop with bush and muff. No way, we get extra helpings of “jiz” “spunk” “joy juice” and descriptions like “my crotch juicy with heat”, “lowering the shiny globule [of KY jelly] to my crotch”

And I love the post coital blow by blow descriptions:

I pop out my diaphragm, wash it and give it a reload, smiling the whole time. Damn, if this piece of latex isn’t becoming a part of my anatomy. I brush, pee and poof, inching out of the bathroom.

I appreciate that as the narrator we are supposed to identify with her, but I don’t need to know her so well, that I am serving as her f-ing gynecologist or her best friend although even best friends should be kind enough to keep the details of their paps to themselves.

I twittered that this book might have been passable if all the sex scenes were removed.   Like the ones in Knight Moves, these scenes were at best antisceptic and boring (fantasizing about the flaccid cock) to gross (globule of KY Jelly) and to ridiculous (when she fantasizes about a couple having sex with food and the male says “Darling, brace yourself. I do believe we’re ready for the meat course.”)

But beyond the sex scenes (and truly, as one person replied to my comment that the removal of the sex scenes kind of defeated the purpose of erotic romance) was the poor editing. Besides the occasional layout fail (more than one character’s dialogue on the same paragraph), there were several sentences that made no sense whatsoever:

  • “Above the semi-wall of my laptop screen, I can see she looks not only at the downslide of her hottiness, “
  • “I lean back in the chair, my computer set to Word and ready to receive my genius, but I can’t look at it now, as neither can I Roark.”
  • “He slid one hand across the creamy globes of her ass as the other reached to his desk. ” (the other globe has escaped?)
  • “I bend to the sink, grab my toothbrush and paste, brush.”
  • “against the Plexiglas wall. I can hear his cock ramming in and out of me, as juicy as oiled”
  • “And how, more than likely, I’d have to stand in a really, really, really long line to find out. But that wasn’t the purpose of this fantasy anyway?”

There were moments of decent writing.   Some of the later sex scenes involving Roark and Pamela weren’t all bad, on sliding scale of badness.   Some of the dialogue, when it wasn’t cheesy or cliched, read with authenticity.   However, the lack of a realistic plot, the failure to have any kind of connection between the two protagonists, the bad sex scenes, and the  very poor editing leaves me with a negative impression. D.

Best regards,

Jane

This book can be purchased in ebook and audio format from Ravenous Romance. I left out a choice scene in which the heroine plays “ping pong” with the balls of the hero. I could only fit so much into this epic review.

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

48 Comments

  1. Laurie
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 11:37:33

    “…the downslide of her hottiness”

    Oh my god I am crying.

    (It will be left to the reader to determine whether they are tears of horror or laughter.)

  2. Emma Petersen
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 11:50:38

    Spunk? Muff? AFRO? Seriously. I am calling shenanigans on this book. This was not written by a woman, at least not one that was born a woman.

  3. kate r
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 11:53:20

    Bah. Doesn’t sound nearly as bad as I’d expected. (but then I don’t mind books that are funny about things like ob/gyn appointments.) Apparently–no, I’m not making it up–there is a whole world of shaving fetish. People get off on getting shaved or shaving other people or watching people get shaved…. so maybe she’s playing to that audience.

    I’m looking forward to the kiwis and other food products.

  4. SonomaLass
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 11:54:46

    Jane, from the excerpts, the narration seems to switch between past and present. Are the past sections memories, from the pre-Roark era, perhaps narrated in flashback? I’m hoping, because narrative tense changes would otherwise be another big problem.

    And can I just say that I wish the main male was named something, almost anything, else? Some of us J D Robb readers have our own Roarke fantasies, and it sounds like this would put me off for that alone. (BTW, I notice that the excerpts spell Roark with no “e,” but in your review you put the Robb “e” on there. Freudian slip?)

    This book would be distasteful to me — I liked the “sex writer’s block” premise in Victoria Dahl’s Talk Me Down, but here, I don’t think I would enjoy it as much.

  5. Kathleen MacIver
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 12:46:58

    I’ll give Ravenous this…they’ve got a fantastic cover artist!

  6. Fae
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 13:04:59

    You’re totally gonna review the potbellied, kiwi-fruit nutsacked married guy Ravenous book, too, right?

    Please? XD

  7. Michelle
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 13:47:32

    Sorry it is just wrong to use the name Roark/e if you aren’t J.D. Robb. Just saying.

  8. Shannon Stacey
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 14:00:13

    Good golly?

    Somebody forgot to tell them there’s no peeing in romance. Entirely too many urine-dripping, flaccid body parts at RR.

  9. joanne
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 14:36:50

    Jane….are you up for some type of secret Courageous Reviewer Award?

    At a glance this book seems like it’s a play toward so many fetishes that it can’t be categorized so R.R. stuck it in the romance section of their site. I’m sure someone (or many someones) finds some (or all) of this stuff arousing — ewww –but sweet baby Jesus, don’t call it romance or romantic.

    What time are the trolls due to say how this book isn’t being viewed and/or reviewed correctly?

  10. kaigou
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 15:18:18

    And you actually managed to finish this, uh, travesty text? You don’t just deserve a cookie. You deserve the entire freaking BOX.

  11. K. Z. Snow
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 17:32:08

    Sounds very much like a longer, somewhat better-written version of the stuff that routinely appears on Literotica — an exuberant conglomeration of fantasies and fetishes.

    That whole pudendum-shaving ritual utterly mystifies me. I can’t imagine why men would dig it unless they were closet pedophiles. I can’t imagine why women would dig it, period. Stubble catching on underwear and lingerie; the itch of grow-back . . .

    But fantasizing about a man getting undressed and crawling into bed, “relaxed” penis or not? I can so give you a list of names!

  12. Julia Sullivan
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 17:44:22

    WHAT IS UP with the constant body function subtexts in this and Knight Moves?

    That is not my thing, but I had assumed that the people whose thing it was were into it in the context of a sex scene–golden showers or whatever. Are there really women out there who want to read about people using the potty? Or is that someone’s idea of “frank realism?” Because it seems to me like something a Very Naughty Five-Year-Old would think was racy.

    And the euphemisms–is “malphemism” a word? because these things are much, much more nauseating than “come/cum” or “semen”–they seem to come right out of 1950s “stroke books” and I think they need to stay there.

    “Joy juice”? Really? “Joy juice?” ARGHBLEAGH!

  13. Mary B.
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 18:33:23

    Let me get this straight. She’s fantasizing about a man in dirty socks who pees, brushes his teeth and crawls into bed with a flaccid cock?

    I’m living with her dream man.

    Who knew?

  14. Jane
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 18:35:25

    @Mary B.: It’s the new “accessible” fantasy.

  15. kaigou
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 18:45:54

    @Jane: wow. Okay. So where do I sign up for the INaccessible fantasy?

  16. Lori
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 18:50:26

    “Darling, brace yourself. I do believe we're ready for the meat course.”

    Aaahahahahahaa!!!

    Great, now I have to try to explain this one to hubby…

  17. kate r
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 18:50:52

    Mary B FTW!

  18. SandyW
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 19:09:30

    I had to look up the exact wording from the discussion last August:

    but those of us with the inside info on this publishing house are convinced they will blow the competition right out of the water from very early on.

    ‘Right out of the water' is taking on a whole new meaning. Honestly, has anyone read an actual romance from these folks? Or even erotica that doesn't sound like a boys' locker room?

  19. Shannon
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 19:36:40

    Um…I like their covers? That’s all I got.

  20. K. Z. Snow
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 20:25:19

    Just wanted to apologize for the double (kind of) post. My server had “connection” issues this evening. I had no idea if anything had gotten through.

  21. she reads
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 20:33:12

    I would like to thank you for the comedy portion of my Saturday night. Seriously- this is crazy. While I’m ok with some info, all of that (Gyno visit? flacid penises? shaving her? afro? spunk?) is totally in the TMI category. A glimpse of reality in my romance here and there (like admitting codom use, etc) is cool- but damn! Insane.

    So well equipped that she is chafed after bouts of sex. Also she is filled to the brim with spunk. Oily spunk at that.

    Again, your review makes my evening so thanks for the good times.

  22. Jane
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 20:33:30

    @K. Z. Snow I can delete one if you like.

  23. she reads
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 20:34:29

    So well equipped that she is chafed after bouts of sex. Also she is filled to the brim with spunk. Oily spunk at that.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for providing much entertainment and giggles this Saturday night.

  24. Moth
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 20:34:35

    Bleck. Just bleck.

    My favorite part of this review?

    “I do believe we're ready for the meat course.”

    I think I actually threw up a little in my mouth.

  25. KeriM
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 20:38:49

    Well now, don’t dismiss the entire “shaving thing” out the window. If it is done right with the right person, it is a serious turn on. Just sayin… But this book stinks to high heaven, flaccid penis not withstanding and sounds like the only thing that could save it is a dose of lighter fluid and a lit match. :-)

  26. Lori
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 20:41:40

    I left out a choice scene in which the heroine plays “ping pong” with the balls of the hero.

    Not fair!! I want to know what she used as a paddle. Was there a table?

    You know, your reviews are worth Ravenous staying in business for.

  27. sometimes shaver
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 20:45:11

    @KZ #11

    I guess there’s a small contingent of pedo fans who dig it, but (particularly since leaving a landing strip/bush above is common, and not pedo looking) it’s more about exposing the skin of the outer lips so that the … various stuff occurs without the bushy buffer. I’ve tried just about everything both ways, and trust me, there’s plenty of enjoyment reasons from the female side. No picking hairs out of his teeth, feeling various things directly against your skin rather than against hair, it’s pretty cool both ways, but bare makes you very aware of touch in very different ways than bush-covered (or even trimmed bush) does. Try stroking the top of your head, then your cheek for a fairly tame object lesson in the benefits. I wouldn’t date a guy who insisted on it, but it’s a fun variation, and with practice/proper care, it’s not that hard to upkeep and avoid stubble (until you choose to grow it out).

    It’s not for everyone, and that’s cool, but it’s not (for most people) about trying to look prepubescent. It’s about enhanced sensitivity for both parties.

  28. she reads
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 20:55:22

    It's not for everyone, and that's cool, but it's not (for most people) about trying to look prepubescent. It's about enhanced sensitivity for both parties.

    I’ve got to agree with sometimes shaver on this one. Don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it ;-)

  29. Jane
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 20:58:30

    @she reads: I don’t have a problem with the shaving, just the description of it. Susan Johnson has a gorgeous shaving scene in her historical, Forbidden.

  30. Lisa
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 21:34:43

    @Lori

    I left out a choice scene in which the heroine plays “ping pong” with the balls of the hero.

    Not fair!! I want to know what she used as a paddle. Was there a table?

    Great, now I have all sorts of weird and disturbing pictures in my head. Given the lack of hygiene I’m hoping if there is a table it isn’t in the kitchen.

  31. Lex Valentine
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 23:25:26

    I’m not sure what to say. I think the sloppy editing gets me more than the bad writing does. And now I’m positive I don’t like first person present tense.

  32. K. Z. Snow
    Mar 21, 2009 @ 23:40:59

    @Jane #23: Hell, just delete the longer one. My mind’s packed with virus fuzz, so I was probably rambling.

  33. Eirin
    Mar 22, 2009 @ 03:25:49

    “I lean back in the chair, my computer set to Word and ready to receive my genius, but I can't look at it now, as neither can I Roark.”

    “Help, help! I can’t roark! It’s killing me!”

    Hairball, anyone? Did the quote originate somewhere in the vicinity of the shaving scene, perhaps?

    SandyW:

    ‘Right out of the water' is taking on a whole new meaning. Honestly, has anyone read an actual romance from these folks? Or even erotica that doesn't sound like a boys' locker room?

    I have to second this. Seriously.

  34. Eirin
    Mar 22, 2009 @ 03:35:01

    Also, the female protagonist (I refuse to call her the heroine) sounds repulsive. A live-in toyboy?
    What would we call a guy who generously “allowed” a young female student to stay with him for free in return for sex and housekeeping, hmm? It wouldn’t be complimentary I’m afraid.

  35. Sela Carsen
    Mar 22, 2009 @ 08:47:25

    I’ve read first person present and, although most times it’s horrible, it seems to work best in UF. Not in traditional romance, though.

  36. Karen Scott
    Mar 22, 2009 @ 09:01:31

    And can I just say that I wish the main male was named something, almost anything, else? Some of us J D Robb readers have our own Roarke fantasies, and it sounds like this would put me off for that alone.

    My thoughts exactly.

  37. Jane
    Mar 22, 2009 @ 09:23:45

    @Karen Scott i think it’s time for you to read a Ravenous Romance.

  38. Karen Scott
    Mar 22, 2009 @ 10:17:50

    That’s ok Jane, I think you’re doing a fine job. (Read: Not if you paid me good money) *g*

  39. Ruth
    Mar 22, 2009 @ 11:08:12

    Also, the female protagonist (I refuse to call her the heroine) sounds repulsive. A live-in toyboy?

    What would we call a guy who generously “allowed” a young female student to stay with him for free in return for sex and housekeeping, hmm? It wouldn't be complimentary I'm afraid.

    I find that a turn-off as well. But my husband says that it sounds like a dream setup to a guy. You get room and board and all you have to do is some housework and have sex with a hot woman? Win.

    I’m just glad I’ve got a guy who’s willing to do housework even though it doesn’t get him free room and board. ;) Actually, he’s also a (working) graduate student who keeps me “sated, fed, and focused.” I wonder if I’m the protagonist…no wait. *shudder*

  40. sandy
    Mar 22, 2009 @ 11:41:53

    Hilarious review! I cannot wait to buy this book! It sounds like a great lark.

    I am really glad you have started reviewing erotica on this blog. The time to be prude is passed us.

    Cheers to you Jane! Keep them coming!

  41. Dents to my wallet, Neil Gaiman, and review snark « I ♥ Paperbacks
    Mar 22, 2009 @ 11:53:45

    [...] The lovely people at Dear Author have recently reviewed two books that I will not be reading anytime soon. Go there, read the reviews, and try not to [...]

  42. Pai
    Mar 22, 2009 @ 13:44:10

    I’d be willing to bet money that women aren’t writing these stories. At the very least, they defiintely aren’t people who know what the ‘Romance’ genre is even about.

  43. Claudia
    Mar 22, 2009 @ 23:39:15

    These latest bad erotica reviews me think back to Cathy Yardley’s 2008 rwa erotica plotting workshop. She mentioned her Avon Red editors were asking for more sex scenes in books that were already nearly 50% sex or sex related scenes. ~9-12 scenes out of 36 total for the book and editors wanted more.

    I’m awed by erotica authors that can create fresh, engaging reads despite staple plots (sex shop owner, sex therapist, strippers,etc.) and line constraints.

  44. Ann Aguirre
    Mar 23, 2009 @ 12:04:26

    I have no comment on the book, but…

    Mary B made me cry laughing.

  45. Chicklet
    Mar 23, 2009 @ 12:08:17

    See, there’s “filthy-but-hot” and then there’s “filthy-and-repulsive,” and I can’t figure out why RR is dead-set on providing the latter. They should just cut to the chase and offer a contract to John Ringo.

  46. JM
    Mar 23, 2009 @ 12:22:03

    This makes me glad that my erotic short story was turned down by RR for being too boring and vanilla.

    Of course, I had neither flaccid penises nor pee dribble, so I can understand their concern.

  47. April Morelock
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 07:42:28

    O.M.G. There’s nothing to say. Just… Yeap I got nothin’ I’m laughing too hard to think of a good reply.

    PS. Shaving scenes… heck peeing scenes (could be? yeah, what was I thinking) may be hot. I have not problem with people being all over that… but let’s make it tasteful (can you make peeing tasteful… oh yuck… I need to stop now).

  48. ed
    Aug 06, 2009 @ 21:58:27

    I went to grad school with the author in CT. She is a terrible writer

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