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REVIEW: The Southern Devil by Diane Whiteside

Dear Ms. Whiteside:

Southern DevilI wanted to like this book. It had a nice cover (albeit very modern in feel) and it was a Western. I know that Jayne gave River Devil a poor grade but Jayne and I don’t always see eye to eye on books. A perfect example of this is the fact that I love Dream Man by Linda Howard and Jayne couldn’t finish it. I should have listened to Jayne.

You know how they say authors should start with the action? I believe that wholeheartedly. The book should start with the action. It shouldn’t pretend to start with the action with a two page teaser which then plunges into several hundred pages of backstory. It was Chapter 5 before we were back where we started in the opening two pages. And those first four chapters were such snoozers that I can barely remember why I continued reading the book.

What did I learn in the backstory? That Morgan and Jessamyn were promised to each other. That Morgan betrayed Jessamyn’s trust early on. That Jessamyn married someone else and had good sex with him but not great sex because really good sex ONLY comes with the hero. That Morgan got a taste for bondage on night with Jessamyn when she held him hostage. Ha ha ha ha. I am sorry, but that just seems ridiculous. I mean, maybe it is completely true but I felt it was used solely for the purpose of creating a plausible reason for Morgan to have perverse sex tastes. As an aside, I keep wondering why romantica/erotica authors keep writing as if S&M/Bondage is perverse if they don’t really want people to think its perverse because after reading about 5 of these books, I get the feeling that it is weird ass shit.

It’s perfectly fine for characters to have different sexual tastes. There doesn’t need to be a reason for it. Saying that its because of x, y or z reason seems ridiculous to me. There’s never any explanation for why characters like oral sex (i.e., their mother made them suck on their thumb for 3 days straight). Or why characters like to have sex in the shower (i.e., first time they jacked off was in water). But whatever, that was the least of the problems in the book.

The plot was part search for gold and part dairy farming. Why do I say that? Because your heroine creamed so many times she should have been a cow. Was there no other word you could have used? Were you paid by the Wisconsin Dairy Farmers for every usage of the word “cream”? According to word search on my ebook reader, you used “cream” 18 times.

The villian was a cartoon. Let’s not spend time creating a multi dimensional villian. Let’s just think of all the evil, disgusting characteristics that a person could have and give that to the villian. (Spittle, impotence, cruelty, deviance, bad table manners). There’s a ton, A TON, of telling in this book. Just because a character tells us something in dialogue, doesn’t make it showing. That’s still telling. Showing is having your character act in accordance with the traits you are trying to imbue. I.e., if you are telling me your characters are being clever, show me that they are clever. Don’t have them have this exchange which is completely devoid of cleverness:

Her husband pursed his lips (I think men should never purse their lips unless they are Carson Kressley), considering his general manager. “You can repay me at cost.” He put his hand over his wife’s.
“Cost plus–”
“Cost” william said flatly.
Morgan laughed. “Deal. I should have known better than to try to outwit you.”

The hell? Not negotiating is “outwitting”?

There is so much sex in this book that there isn’t much time for plot advancement or character development. In between the search for gold, we are treated to some stunningly awful sex scenes in which Morgan asserts his dominance over Jessamyn to pay her back for a) tying him to the bed so many years ago and b) for marrying his cousin and c) for actually having eyes that might accidently land on a man other than himself. The trouble with these books with all their sex scenes is that romance seems to be lost. Do Morgan and Jessamyn really love each other or do they just like a roll in the hay/dirt? I am guessing the latter. Suffice to say that this book, your writing, is not for me. And apparently not for Jayne either. D for the western historical with the modern cowboy on the cover.

Best regards,

Jane

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

11 Comments

  1. Wendy
    Sep 18, 2006 @ 17:19:01

    It’s funny, but the sex was the last thing that bothered me about this book. I was more confused over the fact that the heroine had “Unionist” sympathies when she grew up in Tennessee (a slave state) and Daddy fought for the Confederacy. I’m sorry, but merely telling me the girl was allowed to have opinions and discuss politics just isn’t good enough. I need a reason dagnabit. And I could understand her being upset with the hero for placing her father in danger, but she seemed WAY more upset that he was a REBEL spy. Huh?

    Also, the slavery issue was really glossed over. Daddy owns a horse farm (again, in TENNESSEE!) but apparently doesn’t believe in slavery. Yet, there are people of color living with the family. Are they servants? Are they paid wages? What?

    I still contend this book might have worked better if it had been written as a throwback to the sagas from 20 years ago. Sort of like a sexed-up version of The Thornbirds or something. As it was, I was kinder – but not by much. Would rank it around a C-.

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  2. jaye
    Sep 18, 2006 @ 18:06:11

    c) for actually having eyes that might accidently land on a man other than himself.

    C – me laughing my ass off after reading this comment. :-P

    I read her “The Irish Devil” . It wasn’t a perfect read, but I liked enough of it to keep it and look forward next ‘Devil” book, but the excerpt, when it was made available, didn’t work for me, and then a string of ‘less than favourable’ buzz pretty much put the kebosh on that purchase plan. Haven’t really looked into her since then….

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  3. Rosie
    Sep 18, 2006 @ 18:27:24

    Jaye, lucky you. I liked IRISH DEVIL and went ahead and purchased RIVER DEVIL and then SOUTHERN DEVIL. IRISH DEVIL was far and away the best of the three. I wanted to like SOUTHERN DEVIL so bad and ended up SO disappointed.

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  4. Cece
    Sep 18, 2006 @ 18:32:02

    Because your heroine creamed so many times she should have been a cow.

    Pet Peeve :(

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  5. seton
    Sep 18, 2006 @ 18:47:16

    Jane, you are so funny!!

    With names like “Morgan and Jessamyn”, I couldnt tell who was the man and who da woman at first. I am not one of those who need some fancy-schmancy name. Sometimes John and Mary will do the same job, thank you very much.

    I think IRISH DEVIL is on my TBR list. I will check it out!

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  6. Jayne
    Sep 18, 2006 @ 18:47:26

    I hate to think of how much you suffered while reading this. You did buy the print form, right? (Does it come in ebook form?) You could take it back? That’s still one of the few things about print vs ebooks that I like! ;)

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  7. Janine
    Sep 18, 2006 @ 20:51:04

    Oh, this book sounds terrible. Thanks for taking one for the team.

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  8. Jane
    Sep 18, 2006 @ 22:07:38

    Wendy – you are totally right that the slavery issue was glossed over. There needed to be some explanation for the abolitionist tendencies.

    Jaye – I got the sense that Diane Whiteside really knew her time period but her way of portraying the era seemed lost amongst all the other problems.

    Rosie – I wanted to like this book too. Western. Sexy. Historical. Way disappointed.

    Seton – Fancy names do seem like a throw back to the 80s books.

    Jayne – nope, no return on this one.

    Janine – your turn is next.

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  9. Rosario
    Sep 19, 2006 @ 08:45:15

    Is it just me or did anyone else think at first sight that the guy is wearing a mask like Zorro?

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  10. Jane
    Sep 19, 2006 @ 22:16:19

    It’s just you Rosario. Just kidding. I can see the shadow casting the zorro like image.

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  11. Sybil
    Sep 20, 2006 @ 08:02:17

    le sigh…

    I liked The Irish Devil. Adored The Switch. Bought The River Devil (new, trade size) and put it down after a few pages never to pick it back up.

    I really hoped this one would rock. And well the cover is awesome.

    Western Erotic Romance… I LOVE that! too bad it sucked… have you tried Sarah McCarthy’s Promise books yet?

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